Last Hurrah of the 20th Century – The 1990’s
When I look back at my Seven Decades in America, I can’t ignore the impact Tom had in the 1990’s on his life and future. After all the years of struggling to make things work on one salary, my child found the solution to his future.
My incredible son discovered a program through the schools that allowed him to attend college classes the last two years of high school. With the Postsecondary program in Minnesota, the credits he earned counted for both high school and college graduation. The prayers for my children to receive a good education worked beyond my dreams for Tom.
By 1990, the cost of a new house rose to $123,000, and the average income was a whopping $28,970.00 per year. (Much higher than the $4,500 I earned my first year at Theradyne!) Gas for the car rose to $1.34 per hour and became a significant cost traveling in my sales territory at the National Association of Credit Management (NACM).
I had recovered from the car wreck as much as I ever would. To this day when I’m over-tired, my words can come out scrambled, my left leg and arm rebel, and I constantly have to check my written words. (Not only can the old traumatic brain injury cause me to speak backward, but I can also type words from back to front when I’m stressed.)
We watched as Nelson Mandela walked away from prison and Eastern and Western Germany reunited after the fall of the Soviet Union. Margaret Thatcher resigned her position as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. I missed her colorful presence on the world stage.
Life Continues to Change
We’d turned a room in our house into an office, and I used a new computer set-up and printer to write my book and to make it
possible to link into NACM’s computer system downtown. At least I didn’t have to get in a car every single day. I spent most of my time on the computer and phone.
The early 90’s were a time of growth, success, and new beginnings for me.
Bill had graduated from high school too, and I helped him prepare an application for a scholarship to a post-secondary program that taught graphic arts. I’ll always mourn the fact that I couldn’t make enough money to support both boys through college. But with the scholarship and a student loan, I knew Bill’s natural artistic talent would flourish in the business world.
The kid went to school in the cities for eight hours each day. He’d come home, change clothes, and go off to his job at a convenience store for another eight hours. Bill’s schedule was grueling, but he appeared to be flourishing.
The Last Straw
The phrase, “The straw that broke the camel’s back.” was one I heard from Mom often when I was growing up.
One afternoon, Bill raced home from classes and told me he needed to run a quick errand before he went to work. It was only minutes after he left when I heard the front door slam.
Roger cursed his way through the living room and stormed into my office, demanding to know where Bill went. He was angry because the lawn needed mowing. After banging around the house for a few minutes, he went back across the street to work on some upholstery job for the neighbor.
Bill returned a bit later. I called him into my office, explaining how angry his father was and asking when he thought he might be able to get the lawn mowed.
Bill sat down in the chair next to my desk.
From the Mouths of Our Children
“Mom, as close as I can figure, Dad sleeps until about ten. When he wakes up, he drinks coffee and watches television. Then, when Dad gets around to it, he goes over and helps the neighbor with her upholstery business for a few hours. He comes home, eats dinner, and then sits and watches television until about midnight. As far as I can see, he has far more free time than I do. If he wants the lawn mowed so badly, perhaps you can suggest to him to do it himself.”
The kid hugged me and then went to change clothes before heading off to work.
My heart was racing. I knew my child was right. Sadly, I also knew the explosion which would happen when I shared the message with my husband. I knew Roger’s reaction would rock my son’s world.
More Changes in the 1990’s
I prayed that afternoon through the tears. God has always been with me. When things appeared hopeless, he helped me find hope.
A few weeks before that fateful day, I’d picked up a call thinking a customer was returning my call. The voice on the other end stopped me dead. It was Mike. He was now living in the Twin Cities and wanted to have lunch.
I agreed and picked a very public restaurant smack in the middle of my sales territory. There couldn’t be anyone who might think I had any intention of doing something wrong. Still, I wanted to see him for myself and know that his life was good.
We both told stories of our beautiful lives that day at lunch. As he waved and drove away from the restaurant, I wiped a tear from my eye and whispered, “I’m glad you have a happy life, Mike.”
He’d given me his business card that day and told me if I ever needed anything I could call him.
Now, a few weeks later, I reached for my Rolodex and pulled out his business card.
When he answered the phone, I thanked him for picking up the tab for lunch that day.
His response was, “Where do we go from here?”
I mumbled something about perhaps getting our families together.
He paused for a minute before sharing, “Look Peg, I could see through your lies at lunch. You’re miserable, and so am I.”
I started to cry and told him everything. We arranged to meet for lunch downtown the following week to talk again; more honestly this time.
When we hung up, I called Mom. We’d moved her up to Lakeville to help watch over and control her bipolar illness in the 70’s.
“All I know now is that the last thing in the world I want to do is to have an affair, Mom. I’m sorry, but I simply can’t stand another minute of anger in this house. What am I going to do? I have the kids to think about. I’ll always love Roger, but I can’t live with his anger and resentment any longer.”
The Spark of Hope
Mom and I talked for nearly an hour. She convinced me to pack a bag and move over to her apartment. We’d find a way to work things out. All of us cherished her periods of normalcy! She was my rock that day.
I packed my suitcase and the computer and loaded them in the car by the time Roger came home for dinner.
There was no dinner ready for the first time since the Christmas a few years before when I locked myself in the office.
I told Roger I was leaving. The shock of that tempered the message I shared with him from Bill.
At that point, I explained that I couldn’t live in a house filled with anger any longer. To the public, he was still a very ‘funny guy,’ but at home his anger was relentless.
The End of a Marriage
I stopped by Bill’s job and told him that I was going to stay with Mom for a while. He nodded, without saying anything. I’ll never know what kind of explosion he returned home to that night.
Several weeks later, Mike called and asked me to bring Mom by his company after work. He said he’d missed her and wanted to see her again. I couldn’t see any problem with doing that and agreed.
A Moment of Decision
Mom and I went to a little park not far from Mike’s corporate headquarters. She sat on a park bench, and I paced waiting for him to come out. My heart swelled when I saw the huge grin on his face as he came toward us.
He reached out and took my mother’s hand, “Virginia, I need to ask you something I should have asked you twenty-five years ago.” With that, he dropped to one knee and said, “Will you give me your daughter’s hand in marriage?”
“Absolutely!” Mom responded. It’s what the two of you should have done in the beginning.
What? Was this happening? I wasn’t ready for this.
She and Mike started talking and laughing together. It was like a day hadn’t passed since our days at the University of Northern Iowa before the fire.
The World Continues to Change
In the early 1990’s, we saw the beginning of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq and Kuwait.
Boris Yeltsin became the first elected President of Russia, and the Mall of America opened in Bloomington, MN. Mike is a huge Yankee’s fan, and we’d attended a game to watch Mickey Mantle play against the Twins at the old Metropolitan Stadium in the 60’s where the Mall now stood. With each step forward in American history, we mourn the things we lose in the past. I still picture the old Met Stadium when I drive past the Mall.
Czechoslovakia became the Czech Republic and Slovakia when they chose to separate. They signed the North American Free Trade Agreement into law, and Intel introduced their new microprocessor.
The world of electronics and politics couldn’t keep up with the public demand for goods and devices at reasonable prices.
We wouldn’t be able to watch baseball in 1994. The Player’s Association went on strike and the Major League Baseball season ended immediately.
Finances & Assets
Roger and I purchased a cabin on Lake Le’ Homme Deu in Alexandria two years before Mike came back in my life.
We used the settlement from a second collision for the down payment. (I was rear-ended by a man driving with a revoked license and sustained more back and neck injuries.)
As part of the divorce settlement, Roger would receive the house, the insurance settlement from the first wreck, the home furnishings, cars, and a monthly check from me to continue to take care of him. I got the cabin and the boat. The cabin wasn’t a year-round structure, so I rented an apartment Tom found for me.
I got the cabin and the boat. The cabin wasn’t a year-round structure, so I rented an apartment Tom found for me until the divorce was finalized.
Bill stayed with his dad, because in Bill’s words, “Someone needs to stay and look after Dad.”
Tom moved into the apartment with me.
We continued to go to the cabin on weekends.
Tom finished classes that year at the University of Minnesota and graduated with a degree from Mankato State University. He also worked his last two years of college. We split the total costs between us, creating no student loans. His education? Paid in full at graduation.
We split the total costs between us, creating no student loans. His education? Paid in full at graduation.
My father died a horrible death from brain cancer during this time. I needed to go to the funeral to close that chapter of my life. It wasn’t going to happen. We had a major snowstorm and all points of access between Minnesota and Iowa bore “Road Closed” signs. All traffic between the two states was stopped.
It wasn’t going to happen. We had a major snowstorm and all points of access between Minnesota and Iowa bore “Road Closed” signs. All traffic between the two states stopped the day of the funeral.
It was months later when I rushed home from work on a Friday afternoon. I grabbed the mail out of the mailbox before heading to the cabin for the weekend. It was my birthday.
When we arrived at the cabin and finished unpacking things in the car, I sat down at the table to go through the mail. There were several birthday cards. One came from my father’s newest wife. As I opened the card, a picture fell out. I picked it up, turned it over, and gasped. It was a picture of my father in the casket. His wavy hair was gone and his body was emaciated.
All the years of struggling with the memories of my childhood abuse came flooding back. I dropped the picture and ran out of the cabin and down the stairs to the dock. I sat under God’s endless sky and cried for hours. There were tears for my lost childhood and children everywhere who suffer abuse with no one to turn to for help.
All the emotions I’d refused to allow to surface since I was seven poured out and were cleansed by the light of a beautiful fall day and the faith that held me each day of my life. It was finally over.
The 1990’s – New Beginnings
After all the sacrifice Bill made to learn graphic arts, Minnesota closed the school as a fraud only weeks after he completed the work and had his portfolio ready to begin hunting for a new job. He believed in his heart the training was sub-par.
Bill finally admitted to me that he knew kids in high school who could do more in graphic arts than he could. He had no intention of short-changing a prospective employer.
His future couldn’t be in the field of graphic arts.
So, I turned to the only thing I knew better than 80 percent of the people out there.
The Field of Commercial Credit
I’d learned commercial credit in the trenches, and I’d taught it to commercial credit managers from all over the state of Minnesota.
In addition, I’d done presentations to groups nationally.
Commercial credit was something I could teach him to do and act as his backup if he got in over his head.
The two of us got together every free moment. I gave Bill pages of documents and training to read. Within a few months, he got a job in the credit department of a company in Bloomington.
A New Life in the 1990’s
Mike and I married on January 2, 1995. We’d planned to marry on New Year’s Day, so we could always have a holiday to celebrate, and a day off work.
Our minister had the same idea. He and his family had plans on New Year’s Day. And, so the wedding happened on the following day!
By 1996 Princess Diana and Prince Charles divorced.
The Summer Olympics Games came to Martin Luther King’s Atlanta, and I found myself wondering if my cab driver there had retired yet.
We elected another new President. We said farewell to George H.W. Bush and watched as Bill Clinton moved his family into the White House. Clinton had some rough moments during his term. My son, Bill, learned a lesson in respect during Clinton’s Presidency. By 2017, I tried to learn the same lesson.
America Keeps Moving On
Women in America had another reason to celebrate our ingenuity and passion. I cheered when they appointed Madelyn Albright as the first female Secretary of State in 1997.
As a budding author, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter book enchanted me as much as those with a young heart throughout the world. I remembered how I escaped the real world in my fantasy books as a child and wished other hurting children were finding the same peace of mind in a good book.
By 1998, Google had arrived on the scene while Apple Computers unveiled their first iMac computer.
Our country had a surplus for the first time in about thirty years and everyone seemed to be enjoying the prosperity of the nation.
By 1999, Bill Clinton faced impeachment. No one knew how this mega-drama would end.
Life at Home
During all of this, we lived a quiet life, worked hard, and for the first time in my adult life had money going into a retirement fund. With two adults working, we not only saved for retirement, but I started making double payments on the cabin. It would be completely paid off shortly after the turn of the century. Life in these United States was as good as it gets.
I’d advanced to National Sales Manager at NACM, traveled the country as secretary to several industry credit groups, and enjoyed life more than I had since I was a small child. All my dreams were coming true.
We survived both the good and the bad times because we stood together in faith and love.
My world exploded in the 90’s when Mike received a diagnosis of a heart valve problem. Terror filled my heart. After everything that happened in my life, I might lose my greatest love again. Through prayers and the loving arms of friends and family, successful open-heart surgery was completed and we looked forward to many years of happiness to come.
The Good Life in the 1990’s
Mike and I took several trips to Naples, Florida to visit his parents at their home in the 1990’s. We loved going there. Mike’s dad was the fairest man I’d ever met, and he earned the same level of respect I reserved for Mike, Uncle Bill, and Grandpa Burton.
My boys adored Mike and his parents.
I’ll never forget the day Mike’s mom told me: “I’ve never seen Mike so happy and so much in love.”
We made our first trip to Maui in the 1990’s. I never dreamed I’d travel to the Hawaiian Islands. We delighted in spending our time there with Donna and Bill, the couple who stood up with us when we married. Donna was one of my customers at NACM and one of my dearest friends.
Life could only get better!
Seven Decades in America
See Part 1 Here
See Part 2 Here
See Part 3 Here
See Part 4 Here