Influencing a Life: Two Strong Women and a Man

Influencing a life, what does it take?  For me it was two strong women and a man.

Over the next three weeks, I will tell you where these three people affected my life.  You have heard me talk about my mother and her effect on my life.  There was a second woman, my grandmother, who was very powerful in my life even for a small woman of 5’2” and less than 100 pounds soaking wet.  Let’s not start with them.

Let’s start with the man in my life, my dad.  He was the balancing influence in my childhood between these two women.  He was the one from whom I learned to dream and was always there to help me look to the stars for my course.  He was a Marine and a Naval Petty Officer just prior to and during World War II.  I would have been a Navy brat if the Marines had not lost his medical records and he had gotten into Annapolis.  You see, he had what is called a “below decks” rank.  He wanted to be an officer on the bridge and to navigate his own course.  My dad was the one who helped me to decide to pursue a military career.   I was one of those who did not want the traditional job of the 1970’s, being a nurse, a teacher or a secretary, even though I became each of these eventually.  I wanted to manage people!!

As I went into my junior year of college, I explored the possibility of checking out a career in the military.  I found that both the Navy and the Army had a program between the junior and senior year in college.  The Army program was the College Junior Program for 4 weeks in the summer which led to the Student Officer Program in the Senior Year.  During the senior year, I would be a hard stripe Corporal with all the pay and benefit that were entitled to that rank.   I would be commissioned when I graduated as a 2nd Lieutenant.  I would have no military responsibilities during that year at all.  The Navy program was 8 weeks in the summer.  There were no benefits during the senior year and in fact, I would have to repeat some of the summer program when I was commissioned.

With my dad being Navy, I wanted his opinion on what was the best choice.  He did his usual “banker’s T” and the pros/cons led us both to the same conclusion: Army.  I was shocked, but followed his advice.  To say the least, this was the perfect decision for many reasons:

1)      When in Europe during my senior year, I was able to cash checks for all my fellow travelers at the Post Exchange in Munich.

2)      I was paid $300 per month for doing nothing and got credit for the time in grade and in the service.

3)      I was stationed or lived in all 4 of the areas that I had chosen as my preferred duty stations: Ft Devens, MA; Ft. Carson, CO; San Francisco; and Ft Monroe, VA.  The only place I was not happy to return to was Ft McClellan, AL.

4)      However, I met my husband at Ft McClellan.  Who could ask for anything more?

5)      I gained experience that has served me over my entire business career in administration, in training and presenting, in event planning and in hospitality.

Throughout my life, my dad was the rational one, the calm one, the “do it for my ladies” one, the one on my side of the argument.  My dad loved the ladies in his life and always wanted them to have the best they possibly could have.  He formed my belief about money (If you want it, buy it now.  It might not be here when you return.) that has served me at times and not at others.  He wanted to buy my mother and me our first home in the suburbs.  However, this dream was compromised by my grandmother who paid most of the down payment and would never let him forget it.

While my mother was alive, his friends were the ones she chose.  Yet, this was a very personable, social, fun kind of guy who loved being around people.  He told me after she died that he had not realized how much she controlled their social life until she was gone.  They went where she wanted to go with whom she wanted to be there.  When he came out to California to live, his life was so very different. I saw him blossom and shine because of his extended circle of friends.  This was the man who made me smile and who trusted his ladies to do the best for him as he did.  He could not imagine a friend or family member doing something to hurt him.

I, like my dad, did not realize what control my mom had over relationships.  My closest friends throughout my life have been men because they were like my dad.  If I had realized just the extent of the control my mom wheeled, I would have broken this belief window sooner.  I now have some very powerful and strong women friends because I have come to embrace my dad’s philosophy about relationships: The best time to make and have a friend is long before you need one.  Keep them close and take them into your heart.  My dad was my best friend all through my life!

Who has been your best and/or longest friend?