And Yet I Choose to Be Happy


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 Tammy Kister

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By Don Swinney | October 1, 2014

First let me tell you I’m not old. In my mind, a person is not old until he reaches 80. I am only 78. I won’t be old until two more years. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do the math. But, even though I’m not old, during the last few years I’ve done lots of reflecting. Right now, I’m going to tell you some of the things that could have made me a very negative and grouchy person. I almost forgot to tell the one I’m putting first. My wife and I didn’t really meet until the last two months of our junior year of high school. By the end of the year, I was in love with her. But her family had already moved 500 miles away. She and I both sent and received a letter every day. I could see no solution to our problem. From out of the blue her father decided to move back to our town. Turned out to be the only nice thing he ever did for me. During our senior year, our love grew deeper. I gave her a ring for graduation. Shortly thereafter, she informed me that she could not marry me until another year because she had promised her mother she would go to college “at least one year.” Fortunately, there was a two year college in our town. I didn’t like it, but I thought she was worth the wait and I waited. The last 60 years have proven I was right. During this year, her father began to lambast me for no reason. I had broken no curfews, I had not mistreated his daughter, and I had not made sexual advances. Nothing! My wife said I was the perfect gentleman. Why was he treating me this way? Years later we began to put the pieces together. I came from the wrong part of town. I came from a family of too many kids. I came from a family that lived in a ratty house and drove a new-ish car. I had only a high school education. All this meant I had no ambition. I think that he thought he could solve all these problems by making it so rough on me I’d leave. It didn’t work. All this could have made me so resentful that after we married I could have said “Now, I’m in control. I won’t visit you, etc.” But I didn’t. After three years of marriage the most exceptional child was born. He had a very serious birth defect. We had him eight years. It ended with a kidney transplant. I was the donor. This could have left us bitter, but it didn’t. We wanted more and more children, but didn’t dare risk another like our second, so we adopted. The worst decision we ever made. She was a problem physically, emotionally, in every way imaginable. In her early 20’s she gave birth to two illegitimate, bi-racial boys. Because she was unable to care for even herself, she gladly gave them over to us to raise. At ages 10 and 12, we officially adopted them. She is now 45 and still lives with us. She has never had a job. She’s had two short stays in mental hospitals. There are no places for people like her. Now to those boys she gave birth to, one is now 25 years old, a Marine, employed and precious in every way. The second has given us hell in every way. Got kicked out of high school, but got a GED. Couldn’t get and hold a job. Stole everything he needed or wanted. He is now in prison, but about to be released. And yet, in spite of all these things, I choose to be happy!