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I Married A Spy - Chapter 2
"They'll give me $10,000.00 to re-up!"
"I don't think so Popeye." That was my response when Steve suggested that he could stay in the Navy and keep drinking for the rest of his life.
Just the fact that the Department of Defense had even offered Spongebob a check to stay in the Navy, proved that they weren't that picky. He had enlisted at 18, stayed drunk through the elite Russian language school at Monterey, passed out and missed a few opportunities to take promotion exams, been busted in rank and put on report, and was about to be discharged as an E3 having accomplished absolutely nothing at all during his Navy career. And now they wanted to pay him $10,000.00 to stay and he was ready to take it. It is virtually impossible to be thrown out of the Navy. That's what I said about working for the government before, it's the best steady paycheck in the world.
Someone had to exercise rational judgment and find someplace else for him to go rather than the first line of national defense. It was my fault, and I take full responsibility for it. When I suggested that he enroll in college and use his GI Bill, he said he had no idea what major to pursue. Surprise me. Instead, I said how about go study Russian, maybe you can acquire a skill.
I was really thinking, how much trouble can he get in with a degree in Russian. I was thinking, oh forgive me for suggesting, "cultural exchange and philosophy, perhaps writing or teaching." That flew over his head like a Brown Pelican. He was thinking, "What an opportunity to brag about my Navy career." If I had known what a disaster this man was about to cause the entire free world, I would have suggested EMT. Then he could just drive his own drunk driving a&@ to the hospital instead of paying somebody else to do it.
I am very very lucky that I was never killed in an automobile accident with Spongebob at the wheel. He wouldn't let me drive because he was the man of the house. The terms were made clear to me when I met him: he was God and I was some woman who would follow him around and mop up after him. In fact, he called me "woman." "Woman, get me a cigarette." "Woman, get me a beer." And my all time favorite, "woman give me a neck massage." He was king of the dungeon. This was 1969 remember. No civil rights, no women's rights, no bra-burning, no Ms. Magazine, no Dr. Phil. Here were the terms: go home and live with your parents, or get married. Everyboy was married by the time they were 23.
He enrolled at Fresno State and we moved to rural America. I pushed a stroller to the Piggly Wiggly. I never saw him during the day, vampires only come out at night. His hair was still long. He grew his hair long in the Navy, not because he was a hippie from San Francisco or anything, or even that he listened to the Grateful Dead. He grew his hair long because Admiral Nimitz said he could. He also gained about fifty pounds and the seams of his uniform burst. Basically, he was a lazy slob who was too cheap to get a haircut, it would cut into his beer money. He sat around getting drunk and eating donuts,. The only whale he was interested in saving was driving our VW.
He was very proud of his handlebar moustache. He would sit and tweek it for hours analyzing Doc Savage and swilling beer. "Woman, make me a sandwich!" Normally under these same circumstances today, that would have earned him instant reward dollars in divorce court. The only thing standing between me and a divorce was a solemn oath I took before God to stay married. I thought many times, God really has it in for me. Divorce in the 1960's, was still a bad thing. I could never envision myself divorced. It was one of those forever questions you ask yourself, "why didn't I just leave?"
But how did he get into the Navy in the first place, when every other guy his age was being called up by the draft? His father had been in the Navy, and when he noticed that his son wasn't paying any attention to his draft number, Charlie Grimaud drove his son to the Navy recruiter to avoid having him shot to pieces in the jungles of Viet Nam. The Navy was filling up with eager recruits and their fathers in 1968. Four years of military service wasn't so awful if you were on a ship, or even better, behind a desk on shore. All you had to do was pass the intelligence test and be sent to Defense Language School.
DLI's Russian program was located at Monterey California, not bad duty if you can pull it. The post sits on a small hill overlooking Monterey Bay. It's conjoined with the Navy's elite Post-Graduate School. Monterey Bay and it's coastal wetlands are lined with expensive pristine homes the same say as it's Eastern partner at Annapolis. The proud tradition of the Navy and the cluster of Navy families, passed the legacy on to their progeny: "My grandfather was an Admiral, my father was an Admiral, and my family has been in the Navy for generations!" In Spongebob's case, Charlie Grimaud had been a machinist assigned to a mine-sweeper out of Pearl Harbor, just barely missing the attack. His brother wasn't in the fishtank at all. His brother Richard Grimaud had enlisted in the Air Force, and it was a long drop to the jungles of Viet Nam.
My father enlisted in the Army after Pearl Harbor and spent three years in the Philippine jungles. My brother had done his time in the Korean War. That's why my father was so overly enthusiastic when I told him I was going to marry a man in the Navy. Whatever reputation the Navy had going during World War II and Korea, it had the very same reputation with America's combat veterans in 1968. "She's going to marry a *&&!!* sailor." Furious, absolutely furious. In fact, my father threatened to harm him. My father was a very wise man and a good judge of personal character. My father's idea of a good man for me was to take me to Las Vegas and marry me off to the pit boss at the Tropicana.
When my father met Charlie Grimaud he had very little to say, and likewise. Charlie Grimaud was really a fairly nice guy, unless you got on his bad side. Then he was rude. If you got on my father's bad side, he would just throw you down the stairs then drive you to the hospital, and buy you a drink afterwards. You knew where you stood with my father. Everything was clear. My father was never rude to anybody, he would just sick the dog on you. Rude and pretentious was something out of my realm of possibilities. I had no experience at all with rude or pretentious and suddenly I was face to face with it.
Steve's family actually sat down to dinner. His mother set the table, his father put on his best torn T-shirt and sat at the head of the table. They ate the food in order, I forget if the salad came first or last, but it was very important. It was please and thank you, and pass the salt. At my home, my father made my grandmother's chili, then asked you if you wanted any while he made his way to the TV set. The last place on earth you ever wanted to be was at the dinner table with my mother in charge, so we all avoided it. The only thing my mother could make was banana creme pie, the rest was deep fat fried or overcooked. And you didn't eat it in any order, in fact, you didn't eat it at all. Nobody ever asked for anything.
So it went over like a lead balloon in the waning years of our marriage when I asked for the butter, and Spongebob looked at me after eight long exhaustive years of mopping up after him, and said "what's the magic word?" I said "Give me the Godd*&^ butter!" His mother Jean had the long overdue cardiac she had been working on for 8 years, and Charlie died soon after. People were shocked when we got a divorce. The day we separated forever, an old woman even stopped to tell us what a nice couple we were. We were the ideal couple because I never cried out for help or sent a message in a bottle. Even Steve was shocked when I told him to get out. He got drunk and spewed incoherent sentences for two days before he packed his suitcase.
He brought me two dozen yellow roses, the only flowers he ever brought home in eight years. I think I stared at them for a while the way people stare after they're picked up by a lifeboat after their ship goes down. They eventually wilted and died and I threw them out. Steve got a job in Spokane Washington at a department store. I stayed in California with our 6 year old daughter. He went willingly. He put on a one-man 90 minute act with no applause and left.
What's wrong with this picture? Guy is married for eight years, has a 6 year old daughter, his wife says get out, he leaves town and never comes back? Who really wanted no responsibility? Who saw a good opportunity and took it? In fact, who was I really married to? Was he just pretending for eight years, because that is exactly what it looked like? The amount of commitment he had to an eight year marriage was measured by the time and effort he took to save it. None. No commitment at all. Never called in 30 years to ask about our daughter.
This same man was appointed to Director of Operations of the National Virtual Translation Center in 2003 and currently serves as an Executive Officer of the Department of Defense, and has had a 30 year career at the NSA. That's the mask that needs to come off. Who arranged this, because this man was entirely incapable of arranging anything. This man has no business whatsoever in the highest levels of national security. What clearly happened was somebody said "Young Man, how would you like to make $10,000.00" and his Navy record had no impact on the NSA's decision to hire him.
And no doubt he thought, because I know he did "If my ex-wife finds out I did this, she'll tell the NSA everything, and I'll be stuck in this department store forever."