The Dirt on Peggy (there being none on me)

Peggy (age 11) 1962

When we met at Mississippi College in 1971, Peggy had just turned twenty and was shy, honorable, intelligent, soft-spoken, and had no bad habits. She was 5’3,” and had clear skin, brown-eyes, a medium complexion, weighed 115 pounds, had straight auburnish hair, wore light eye makeup, dressed quietly but appealingly, and laughed easily but never immodestly. Sherry, a girl I had gone steady with for four years, had recently broken up with me because I wouldn’t commit to marrying her, yet here I was wanting to marry a woman I had never spoken to and had only seen from across the school cafeteria. When my best friend said he was dating her, I asked him if I could ask her out. He said yes but then told her to turn me down. That alone gave her an incentive to go out with me. 

We had three dates before summer school ended and she took a Greyhound to San Antonio where her father was stationed at Randolph Air Force Base. A day later, I left with a friend for his home in Alberta, Canada, my plan being to hitchhike back to Mississippi. As we drove, I missed Peggy so much that I couldn’t bear the thought of getting another mile away from her, so I got out of his lime-green Gremlin in Trinidad, Colorado, and hitchhiked to San Antonio where I awakened her father at 11:55 p.m. He flatly refused her request to pick me up alone, and when the two of them arrived at the truck stop where I was waiting, the man with whom I had my last ride was trying to sell me a set of encyclopedias off the hood of his car. The San Antonio River Walk was a romantic place to date, and three days after my August arrival, Peggy agreed to marry me during Christmas break. Our entire courtship lasted four months.

At age 72, Peggy’s hair is still mostly brown; she weighs 138; wears no makeup; and gave up shaving her legs years ago (not that anyone would notice). She is a good judge of character; thinks clearly under duress; is soft-spoken but strong in her convictions; and speaks intelligently when dealing with doctors, mechanics, furnace repairmen, etc (she is currently atop the house getting an estimate for a new roof). She’s no longer shy; can’t be pushed into doing things she doesn’t want to do; and has never made a fool of herself—which is a lot more than I can say.

Lowell (age 7) 1956
Bad habits. Despite being a mild procrastinator, Peggy’s behavior is ruled by moderation and discipline. She has never used drugs or alcohol, while I’ve used quantities of both. She has a fondness for cookies, but bakes them with one-third the sugar.

Education. Peggy has a BS in science and a BS in nursing. I have a BS in elementary education, an AD in computers, and have completed several graduate-level courses in education. I’m also a certified nursing assistant and a private pilot. We are both licensed as emergency medical technicians.

Careers. Peggy has worked as a waitress, lab technician, high school science and math teacher, and registered nurse. I’ve worked as a writer, salesman, stock clerk, carpenter, handyman, phlebotomist, ambulance driver, funeral director, elementary school teacher, respiratory therapy technician, office furniture assembler, newspaper delivery man with a 110 mile route, and liaison between the University of Oregon and a building contractor. My extensive job experience was due to a lack of direction and a resentment of authority.

Morality. I consider Peggy rigid at times, whereas she regards my situational ethics as unethical. We are both outraged by criminals but Peggy
’s loathing is such that I worry about her getting killed while attacking a mugger or  burglar. We are mostly vegetarian (I eat fish), and we view nonhuman life as having the same value as human life. However, we have carnivores for pets, and we eat dairy and eggs, foods that result in the killing of young males and creatures who are past their peak productiveness.
Lowell and Peggy, 1971

Politics. We favor strict gun control laws, are environmentally conscious, vote Democratic, and support assisted suicide, abortion rights, and the death penalty. I’ve always voted, but Peggy first voted at age 36 in support of a ballot measure to legalize marijuana, a drug she never used. After Trump announced his presidential candidacy in 2016, she began voting regularly and staying abreast of the news.

Personal Lives. We are frugal, orderly, live quietly, love our home, have few friends, spend most of our waking hours together, are intensely devoted to our five cats, and keep our house clean and our yard groomed. Our TV preferences lean toward the news of the day; biographies; nature documentaries; history documentaries; movies from the 30s, 40s, and 50s; and TV shows from the 50s and 60s. Peggy is a huge fan of the game show Jeopardy. The deed to our home and our investment accounts are so structured that either of us could clean the other out. When she goes traveling, I have humorous fantasies about her returning home to find her house sold, her bank account empty, and the cats and me gone. Surely, trust and intimacy are better represented by financial vulnerability than by hot sex, especially when the savings of a lifetime are on the line.

Consideration. I am by nature more aware than she of other people’s needs, and I count it a privilege to attend to her comfort and welfare without being asked. Peggy is less attune to the needs of others, and so I have to ask for what I want. Like most men, I feel diminished by asking for things. A month ago, I had a full shoulder replacement, and she has since excelled as an
attentive helpmate.

Peggy (age 21) 1972

I would give my life for Peggy, but I wouldn’t want her to do the same for me because I don’t consider it a woman’s place to die for her husband. However, my willingness to die for Peggy doesn’t mean that I would die with her. For example, if she were to fall into a fast moving river or be washed out to sea, I wouldn’t go in after her because I can barely swim. Fifteen years ago, our blue heeler, Bonnie, jumped into the Willamette, and as she was being carried downstream, Peggy yelled for me to go in after her. I would have died had I done so and because Bonnie was a strong swimmer I believed she would make it out on her own, which she did. Shortly afterwards, a woman drowned in the same river while trying to rescue two dogs. As did Bonnie, her dogs survived but, unlike Bonnie, their Mom was dead and they were homeless. I’ll be forever haunted by the knowledge that she gave her life for less than nothing.

Lowell (age 23) 1972
Hobbies. I was happy when Peggy started collecting clothing buttons in 1988 because I thought it would be an inexpensive and space-saving hobby. Now that she has entire legal-size file cabinets filled with thousands of buttons mounted on display cards, I see the situation differently. Likewise, every cabinet in our living room is stuffed with buttons, plus she has numerous wood and glass display cases that she designed and the two of us made. She belongs to five button-related organizations and is prominent at the local, state, and national levels of her hobby. As for me, I’m an avid reader of hundred-year-old novels and books about cats, rocks, and houseplants, most of which I buy for $3.29 at charity-run thrift stores.

Exercise. Peggy works out with dumbbells three days a week and takes long uphill walks on other days. My exercise consists of yardwork, housework, and an occasional two-hour walk on the slopes of nearby Mt. Pisgah.
Lowell and Peggy, 1973
Family. Peggy is close to her sisters who live in Mississippi and North Carolina, but finds it impossible to be close to her 93-year-old father who is respected in his church and community but incapable of intimacy. I have a sister in Mississippi and a half-sister in Florida with whom I exchange an occasional email but never see, and I have a half-brother in Texas with whom I never lived and have no relationship.

Travel. I have no interest in traveling more than fifty miles from home. Peggy takes three trips a year: one to visit family in Mississippi and North Carolina; one to the National Button Society Convention; and one to the Oregon State Button Society Convention. She’s afraid to fly but feels she must given how far she usually goes.

Phobias. Peggy is so scared of spiders that I worry about her wrecking the car if one should drop into her lap while driving. Upon seeing a spider at home, she screams for me to get it, and keeps screaming while I capture it with a Kleenex (damp Kleenexes work better) and carry it outdoors. What follows are her words in the order given: LOWELL! ...A spider! ...Come quick! ...Hurry! ...Get it! ...Don’t let it get away! and finally, Are you sure you got it?! Upon my assurance that she is finally safe from the multi-eyed betrayer of beautiful women, she shivers with dread at the thought of seeing the next one. I also take insects outside for her, not because she’s afraid, but because she might vacuum them up if I didn’t. Unlike Peggy, I have no phobias, although I worry a good bit about floods, earthquakes, and her safety every time she walks out the door.
Lowell (age 66) 2015

Religion. We were raised by religious parents in fundamentalist churches. Peggy was taken to church three times a week, and I attended four times—which was three times more than my parents. When I realized that I knew more about Peggy’s childhood religion than she did, I asked her how she spent all those thousands of hours in church, and she said she daydreamed. After leaving for college, she would have stopped attending church altogether had I not I encouraged her to join me in becoming an Episcopalian. Now that religion in America has become violent, xenophobic, pro-Trump, anti-democratic, anti-LGBTQ+, anti-science, pro-prosperity gospel, and anti-environment, we have become intensely hostile to any system of belief that elevates wishful thinking above objective evidence. However, Peggy and I differ in that the subject of religion bores her and fascinates me.
Profanity. Peggy seldom cursed before we
started playing 500-game backgammon tournaments, and her profanity increased when Trump became president. She now curses regularly, especially when she loses at backgammon (she also marks my arms with the red pen with which she keeps score, and on one occasion, rapped me on the head with her clipboard).

Health. Peggy is a diabetic, an insomniac, and a migraine sufferer. I take narcotics to alleviate chronic pain caused by injuries, arthritis, and a compressed vertebra.

Peggy (age 62) 2013
Sex. We haven’t had sex for years, and we sleep separaely; she in her green bedroom where she is surrounded by knick-knacks and button displays; and I in my pink bedroom which is decorated with rocks, potted plants, images of cats, and books about cats. My bedroom is my favorite place on earth, but because Peggy has a double bed, we cuddle in her bedroom for an hour and a half each morning before playing four games of backgammon and having breakfast at 2:30 p.m.

In conclusion. For most of our marriage, Peggy was the primary wage-earner (my disapproving mother called me “Peggy’s kept man”) while I did the cooking, cleaning, yard work, bill paying, investment management, occasional work for wages, and home improvement projects. Now that Peggy is retired, we share the workload according to what each prefers to do. We have never found it necessary to discuss who does what, and we seldom complain about how things are done. Our worst conflicts arise when we take on projects together, the reason being that Peggy is happiest when she
’s in charge, yet some of the things she wants to be in charge of are things that I know more about than she does, having done them professionally.

Our 52-year marriage has had many rough patches, but we remain strong in terms of trust, loyalty, commitment, and shared values regarding diet, cleanliness, orderliness, flexibility, money management, commitment to pets, and a mutual willingness to do our fair share of the work. Although Peggy is arguably more stable than I, she sometimes benefits from my steadying hand. It
’s a very good thing when one spouse can remain calm while the other is falling apart.


ellen abbott said...

we had a friend who was also a button collector, same thing...cabinets and filing cabinets full of cards of buttons. we lost track of him though we he retired and we moved out to where we live now.

there are many similarities between your and Peggy's relationship and mine and my husband.

Strayer said...

You two are unbelievable, enigmas in our throw away culture. I am in awe of people who live together so long. The role reversal, with you doing the home work while she worked outside the house---you're both interesting and independent.

Emma Springfield said...

From the pictures I can see that Peggy is a beautiful woman. From your description of her I can tell is a more beautiful woman. You are a fortunate man.

Snowbrush said...

Most collectors are women, but men are well-accepted--and often active--when they join. This wasn't always the case, there having been a time before Peggy joined her local club that a man and his young daughter were refused membership simply because he was a man. Since that time, men have served as president on the national level, and one prominent male member on the national level is an American who lives in France and is so knowledgeable that he does well-attended educational presentations on Zoom.

"there are many similarities between your and Peggy's relationship and mine and my husband."

I thought of you while writing this and imagined that there might be.

"I am in awe of people who live together so long"

I, in turn, am in awe of people who have the strength and courage to do well living alone, which is something I have never done, going as I did from my parents' home to a college dorm, and then to marriage at age 22. Especially as I become old, I wonder how I would manage alone, for example after this recent shoulder replacement. I had it five weeks ago yet I'm still not allowed to lift my right arm, which is especially burdensome because I'm right-handed.

"you're both interesting and independent."

Thank you.

"From the pictures I can see that Peggy is a beautiful woman.

I'm surely prejudiced, and I certainly mean no offense, but Peggy is the only woman on earth whose beauty I hold superior to the beauty of my cats. However, upon looking at the photos I posted, I suspect that most people would rate her in the neighborhood of a six or a seven (out of ten) on the attractiveness scale, which is probably where they would rate me. I also think that she and I look like a good fit in terms of height, weight, complexion, and hair color. I remember a time when aged ladies would go gah-gah over the way we looked together, and I can now see why.

kylie said...

There's so much information here, I couldn't possibly comment on all the surprising bits. Do I understand that you both support the death penalty?

I am impressed by your ability to love and respect each other after so long.

Snowbrush said...

"There's so much information here, I couldn't possibly comment on all the surprising bits."

I would be grateful to you for sharing even a little of what comes to mind to you to say.

"Do I understand that you both support the death penalty?"

In preparation for answering your question, I went to your church's website so that I might hopefully understand the thinking that prompted it: "The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life. It considers each person to be of infinite value, and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved."

Having read this, I have some things I would like to say--and to which I hope you will respond--but I will first answer your question. Yes, we support the death penalty for numerous crimes, for example, rape, pedophilia, mass murder, animal torture, and repeated violent felonies. However, we are aware that the death penalty comes with many problems: it's divisive; witnesses are sometimes less willing to testify if they know someone might be put to death as a result; repeated executions are often devastating to those who carry out the sentence; innocent people are sometimes executed; in this country, the appeal process is so lengthy and expensive that it costs moreto kill criminals than to lock them up for life. Now, for my thoughts and questions about what I assume to be your position.

I regard as monstrous the belief that every Putin, Trump, and Kim Jong Un who ever lived is, "of infinite value... each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and preserved," whereas all other creatures added together are worth less than the life of even one of these because, unlike him, they lack "infinite value." When I look into the face of a cat, a dog, or a farm animal, I see looking back at me a creature of intelligence and emotion similar to my own. Furthermore, when I look into the face of a tiger, jaguar, or snow leopard, I am moved to tears by the wonder before me and by the horrible knowledge that my own species is needlessly destroying species that exist as far above us in dignity and presence as the sky exists above the earth. By comparison, when I look into the eyes of my fellow humans, I see greed, narcissism, dullness, and callousness, and although individuals among us are capable of impressive genius and enormous kindness, such virtues cannot atone for the actions of a species so depraved that we are driving other species into extinction and endangering our own survival. In regard to the opposite appraisals that you and I place on human life, I am as appalled by yours as I suspect that you are by mine. However, you have existed in my life for many years as a friend whom I cherish, and our present differences do not diminish that.

hannah jane said...

I didn't realize there were button conventions! I have about a dozen jars of buttons but would not consider myself to be a button collector. I use them here and there for embroidery projects and donate as many as I buy. I would love to see what a proper button collection looks like.

kylie said...

Hi Snow,
Last week I was hit hard by a round of covid and I've been waiting to have the capacity to respond to you. I'm still not sure I have it!
Let me first say that while I am aware The Salvation Army has policies and statements on all kinds of issues, I have never thought to reference them except to see if I approve of them :)

I see your point about the Putins, Trumps and Kim Jong Uns of this world and would find it difficult to value them, especially with the extravagant wording you have quoted. And I do very much hope that my belief in a God of justice is accurate. Hopefully divine justice is better than anything any court could come up with.
I will say that I am opposed to the death penalty because it is too final and there are too many mistakes made.
Do you remember the australians executed in Indonesia for drug offences? I guess there is no reason you would but one of them was well known to my ministers at the time. Those people will never be the same after attending the execution and the parents and siblings of the executed will also suffer for the rest of their lives. I don't think it's right or in any way helpful to impose this pain on people who were probably distracted parents or maybe too strict or something like that but not maliciously criminal.

As for humanity being uglier than animals and our lack of value on the animal world, I agree. We are the ugliest of all species.

I am not horrified by your stand although I'd probably feel more strongly if I had generally less respect for you. I pretty much assumed that because you live in a progressive part of the US, you would be liberal in all your views but even as I say that, I know that is not in line with the things you have said in the past.

Snowbrush said...

Kylie, dear, you give me so much to respond to that I'm sure I will need more than one frame.

"Last week I was hit hard by a round of covid..."

I'm very sorry to hear this.

"The Salvation Army has policies and statements on all kinds of issues, I have never thought to reference them except to see if I approve of them :)"

I respect your independence of thought. One reason that I don't go to the one church I know of that enthusiastically accepts atheists (the Unitarian) is that I wouldn't want to donate money because I morally oppose some of the church's positions. This leaves me to ask where you are in regard to giving money to the SA in view of the fact that you appear to think that some of their moral positions are wrong?

"Hopefully divine justice is better than anything any court could come up with."

It seems to me that true justice wouldn't consist of attempting to right wrongs after they occur, but in preventing wrongs from occurring in the first place. Human beings can't do this, but the Biblical deity could, and the fact that s/he doesn't suggests to me that (1) s/he either doesn't exist, or (2) s/he doesn't value justice. For instance, God allowed his servant Job to suffer terrible injustice merely to win a wager with Satan. When the wager was won, God attempted to do justice to Job by healing Job's body and replacing his wife, children, and livestock. I don't see that this constituted justice for Job, and I certainly don't think it constituted justice for the people and animals that God allowed Satan to kill. All those many years ago when I first started having serious doubts about religion, the story of Job struck me as proof that, even if God exists, he is too callous and self-centered to concern himself with justice. I went from that to the story of Christ in which God's view of justice moved from killing innocent animals to killing an innocent person for the sins of the guilty.

Snowbrush said...

"I will say that I am opposed to the death penalty because it is too final and there are too many mistakes made."

For a person to be found criminally guilty here, his or her guilt has to be established "beyond a reasonable doubt." What if for capital cases, the standard was "guilty beyond all doubt," which is surely something that could be done in cases involving camera footage and DNA evidence combined with a confession, multiple witnesses, catching the perpetrator in the act, a history of substantiated threats, etc.?

"Do you remember the australians executed in Indonesia for drug offences?"

I do. I wouldn't dream of traveling to such places.

"I don't think it's right or in any way helpful to impose this pain on people who were probably distracted parents or maybe too strict or something like that but not maliciously criminal."

There was a time when children as young as seven were given the death penalty in England, and even today, "blasphemers" are put to death in Muslim lands.

"As for humanity being uglier than animals and our lack of value on the animal world, I agree. We are the ugliest of all species."

I don't think hairless dogs and cats are any too pretty either, but then they are creatures of our own creation. Like other great apes, our species would be god-awful-ugly even if we had hair (this from a guy who, starting around age four, thought that human women were right up there with battleships, Colt "peacemakers," and B-17 bombers for being the most beautiful things in the universe.)

"I pretty much assumed that because you live in a progressive part of the US, you would be liberal in all your views..."

I think that both progressives (here, the word means someone on the Far Left) and Trumpians excel in bigotry, cruelty, illogic, hypocrisy, and narrow-mindedness. Some examples... Progressives demonstrate enormous concern for those human beings whom they view as victims of an unjust society, but show little to no concern for anyone else, including the victims of crime and the small business owners who are being driven from downtown urban areas by addicts, criminals, homeless people, and the violently insane. They are also notable for their lack of interest in environmental issues and the welfare of animals--domestic or wild. Some progressive DAs no longer prosecute shoplifters because they view them as "victims of poverty." Many progressives oppose the punishment of criminals and favor abolishing the police. Oregon lacks even the most minimal pollution standards for older cars due to concerns about the poor. I spend an hour or so each week, year in and year out, trying to get illegal tent and vehicle campers moved from in front of my house (on most days for the last several weeks, I've had a 25-foot camper in front of my house), yet my desire for a safe and attractive neighborhood causes progressives to accuse people like myself of being selfish and callous.

Tom said...

Interesting and honest portrait of the two of you. I can't help but wonder, though . . . would Peggy's version of your lives, politics and phobias be slightly different from yours?!?

Snowbrush said...

"would Peggy's version of your lives, politics and phobias be slightly different from yours?!?"

Peggy offers editing suggestions to all my posts. In this particular post, she found a minor factual error, several word repetitions, and some punctuation errors. The only substantive change she requested was that I not say that we both support euthanasia because, as it turns out, she worries that it might lead to killing people involuntarily. If Peggy were to object to something I wrote about her, I wouldn't put it online. She has yet to do that, although she did strenuously object to a post in which I criticized Islam, her fear being that some idiot would kill us. I would have taken the risk (slight though I thought it was) because I consider it wrong to surrender freedom of speech to religious fanatics. However, I couldn't in good conscience expose her to such a risk so I deleted the post.

I have often wondered why so few people write about their spouses--other than to validate their existence--because I know I couldn't do it. As for those who feel otherwise, I know that in some cases, their blogs simply are not of a personal nature, but what is the reasoning of those whose blogs are of a personal nature? Is it because their spouses insist upon being left out; or because their blogs represent an escape from their spouses; or because they're worried about how other people in their lives might react; or because they're simply not as open as I?

Liz A. said...

What a lovely tribute to your life together.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

It’s a really interesting post, and I feel that I got to know both of you - and that I would like you. I suspect that few people are willing to tell all in this way. I know that I am not. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed the love story of you and Peggy. This is Sue from Michigan who hasn’t blogged in awhile and I am not sure how to sign my name except as anonymous
I also enjoyed the photos of you both at different stages of your life. I’m just 2 years younger than Peggy. I turned 70 this year and I find that depressing despite my good health and feeling much younger

Ruby End said...

Another wonderful post dear, I think you are more well suited, and live a more contented life together, than most people I know. Nothing is perfect, and I that's a good thing I reckon. This... "she also marks my arms with the red pen with which she keeps score, and on one occasion, rapped me on the head with her clipboard" is cracking me up. I'm back in bed with some longer term Covid after-effects, terrible chest, very weak. Lots of those I know are in the same boat. Pa included (I gave him your best and he sends his love to you both. X

Snowbrush said...

"What a lovely tribute to your life together."

Thank you.

"I suspect that few people are willing to tell all in this way. I know that I am not. Bravo!"

I have always been this way, so I have long known that openness can expose me to hurtful criticism. I have reacted by becoming largely impervious to it.

"This is Sue from Michigan who hasn’t blogged in awhile and I am not sure how to sign my name except as anonymous>"

I know the problem must be annoying to you, and I'm very sorry for it. I would like to start including your blog address (either in your comment or in my response) so readers will at least have a link by which to visit your blog., .

"I turned 70 this year and I find that depressing despite my good health and feeling much younger."

I'll be 75 on March 1, and strangely enough, the older I get, the less I fear death per se (I still fear the pain, loss, and disability that often precede death). What with the world situation becoming sadder and scarier by the day, I've begun to think of death as being like an exit door in a burning building.

"'she also marks my arms with the red pen with which she keeps score, and on one occasion, rapped me on the head with her clipboard,' is cracking me up."

Until we were in our sixties, we regularly chased one another through the house and roughhoused, but we were never mad when we started, and we were never mad when we stopped, even if one of us had been hurt a little. Her use of the clipboard and the marker pen are different in that she's angry when she attacks me, so there is no feeling of play in it for me, and I can't tell that there is any feeling of play in it for her. These things said, neither of us is a particularly good loser. When I lose, I get down on myself; when she loses, she gets down on me. As to skill, we are nearly equal, but the element of luck is such that one of us will sometimes lose more games than s/he wins for weeks at a time. When this happens to me, I feel REALLY down on myself, and when it happens to her, she feels REALLY down on me.

Anonymous said...

Snow, this is kj. Is everything okay? It’s been a while since you’ve appeared here.