“I Became the Man I Always Wanted to Marry”
“My Gutsy Story®” by Inge Bird
A while ago a friend told me that my childhood experiences probably gave me the tooIs to deal with cancer. I have been giving her comment a lot of thought lately. Looking back, I can say my life journey (so far) as been one hell of a ride. I have no regrets. There have been points in my life where I seemed to always be swimming against the tide though.
My mother was an addict. Her drug of choice was codeine. Back in the 60s doctors (or maybe it was just our family doctor) wrote prescriptions anytime a patient asked for them. My mom ate codeine pills like they were candy and washed them down with good old-fashioned whisky. When I turned ten, she wanted me to join “the party.” I never liked the taste of alcohol so I pretended to go along, to keep from getting a beating. My dad worked a lot. He was pretty much an absent parent. I don’t blame him, when he was home he was the brunt of my mother’s anger.
Two months shy of my eighteenth birthday, I had a chance to get away from my abusive home-life and hit the road in a compact car, with two boys and set out for North Carolina. At night I slept in a sleeping bag outside closed businesses and looking back, I probably looked like a bonafide Hippie. I had no life skills and was pretty naïve, but I learned to be street smart pretty quickly. For the next few years I dated abusive men, before settling down and marrying a drunk. I believed I could change him. Don’t we all?
We had a son and that’s when I changed. I would not allow my child to grow up in the same environment I did. The cycle ended with me. I became independent. I left my husband. A few years later my dad had a serious heart attack and me and my son moved back to California.
I was working at a women’s clothing store, when one day I saw an ad in the local newspaper for a delivery person. It was the early 80s and women didn’t take delivery jobs, especially delivering “auto parts.” I got the job because I was the only person who brought a resume to the interview, I had zero experience delivering stuff and knew less about cars.
My manager at the clothing store thought I was crazy to take such a “menial” job and insisted it was not lady-like. She gave me all kinds of grief over my decision, but I was about to double my pay, get health insurance for me and my son and become a Teamster.
I would be delivering auto parts to local repair shops for a dealership. Learning my job was easy. Working with the male employees was another story. Some resented that I was doing a job that “rightfully” belonged to a man who needed to support his family. “
“What’s wrong with you?” they would ask. “Couldn’t you find a man to take care of you?”
Sexual harassment on the job was a common occurrence in the 80s and working in a male-dominated auto industry was no exception. The company’s break room walls were lined with centerfold pictures from Penthouse and Playboy. If I wanted to buy a drink from the soda machine, I had to push the “tits,” ass,” or “bush” buttons. One day I brought in a centerfold picture of a naked male and taped it to the break room wall. All hell broke loose! The guys were “creeped out.” and it was immediately removed. When I complained about the double standard, I became the company “bitch.” The men’s pictures of naked women stayed.
Mind you, my mother had called me lots more creative names than the men so I learned to tune those guys out. I was also gone most of the day, delivering auto parts. I rarely got help loading my small Toyota truck, except with the heavy auto engines. If I was going to do a man’s job, then I would have to do it alone.
I think working in that type of environment made me stronger,not just physically, but emotionally. It taught me to never give up.
Then I remarried. My dad died soon after and I found myself in “crisis.” Not giving in I went to group counseling and read self-help books. Not giving up I started college, wanting to learn more about the world. Soon everything I thought I believed in was challenged and I became what Rush Limbaugh likes to call a “Femi-nazi.” My new husband was overwhelmed by the “new me” and decided it was better if we parted ways.
Still I continued my education and new-found activism, like organizing and participating in marches against the war. I fought to save the planet, the whales and whatever else needed saving. I became the man I always wanted to marry (just kidding). I was happy with my independence. I would never be a victim again.
Then cancer smacked me in the butt. I had a new husband. My son was now grown. They became my support system. I owe them a great deal for helping me. I don’t know if I would have had the same successful outcome without them, but I do know I was not going down without a fight.
So my friend is probably right. Not only did my childhood prepare me for the fight against cancer but all of my life experiences laid down the groundwork for that battle.
I am not alone. I have met plenty of others who have had a “rocky” period in their lives, and it is those persons who seem to do the best. Not all of them survive, but they never give up trying. They keep showing up.
Wasn’t it Woody Allen who said, “The key to success is to keep showing up?”
INGE BIRD: I am a stage 4 rectal cancer survivor (cancer free since June 2011), speaker, healthy food advocate/activist, vegan, practicing Buddhist, ostomate, and well-being coach. I volunteer at UCI Medical Center Infusion Center, where my main goal is to offer hope to patients getting cancer treatments. My story is also featured on the American Cancer Society’s Website “Stories of Hope.” Website: www.rectalcancermyass.wordpress.com
SONIA MARSH SAYS: You are one “gutsy” woman Inge, and I love your style, and proactive approach to life. The statement you made says it all:
“ I became the man I always wanted to marry.”
You are amazing, and I admire what you have done with your life.
July 21st, “My Gutsy Story®” by JAVA DAVIS
July 28th, “My Gutsy Story®” by RITA GARDNER