For the first few years of our marriage, we just lived life the best we could in WV. As any newly married couple can attest too, life throws challenges your way every day and one’s character is often judged by how you react to those challenges. Jobs were hard to find and when you found one, the pay would be very low. However, the benefits of living in West Virginia are twofold. Number one: The people of West Virginia and those who are from West Virginia are very resilient. Being able to bounce back from tough times builds up your characterwest-virginia-forest-trees-mountains-sky-clouds and in the end makes you a stronger person. Number two! The state’s beauty! Growing up in West Virginia, I am sad to say that I took for granted her beauty. The rolling hills, the foliage in the fall, and the small but quaint towns which dot the landscape just add to the overall beauty of the state. I am reminded of this beauty now every time we go home for a visit.

Tammy finished her degree in accounting in the fall of 1997 and started working full time at the same bank as a teller in the Charleston Town Center Mall. Our jobs provided us with very minimal income and like most newly-wed couples in West Virginia who came from modest means, we struggled but we managed. I can recall several times that once all the bills were paid for the month that our checkbook would show a balance of only a few dollars remaining. We shopped at discount grocery stores and we went out for dinner only on very rare and special occasions; and when we did go out, we did so paying with a credit card. This practice of using the credit card to pay for things like dinner out hurt you more later in life. Credit cards, when used wisely, can be a great tool for your finances; however, when used to supplement one’s income, credit cards can be very detrimental later on in your life. These credit cards should come with a warning label.

After our honeymoon, we settled into our small one-bedroom apartment in Cross Lanes, WV. Cross Lanes is about 30-40 minute from our home town where our parents lived. We wanted to get away and be on our own for a couple reasons. One to prove we could do it on our own and two because we really needed to get away. Our apartment was not too bad up until I started having issues with my asthma again. I had not had any asthma issues since being a young child. I thought I had outgrown it and had no idea that adults who suffered from asthma as a child could have it return at a later time in life. Our apartment was partially underground and had some mold issues in the bedroom. This was most likely the cause for my asthma to resurface – and resurface did it ever.

Tammy learned quickly from my mom how to take care of me. We did not have the money to buy a humidifier so mom told us a couple tricks. Our water bill was included in the rent so we would turn the shower on, close the bathroom door, and I would sit on the toilet seat while the steam filled the room. This would ease my breathing a little however the best remedy was to get outside and into the open air. We only lived in the apartment for about a year when we decided for health reasons to move back closer to home. The year was 1998 and my dad had become increasingly ill and we wanted to be closer to him. Fortunately, we were able to find a house to rent quickly and even more fortunate that the house was on the same street where my sister and her husband lived. My niece and nephew were very excited that we were moving – my nephew especially since he was older.

This little guy loved to have parties, be it birthday parties, cook outs, whatever, as long as family was coming to together, he was happy. With us moving to a house within just a few feet of his parent’s house, we had several of spontaneous ‘parties.’ My sister would call over to the house and ask Tammy, “Hey, what do you have planned for dinner?” By the end of the phone conversation, we had thrown together what we had with what my sister had and also mom and dad would come up and bring something too. We did this about once a week and essentially, we just lived life together as a family.

When my dad had passed away in 1999, things changed quite a bit. Understandably so, my mom had become very depressed and had difficulties going back to her house afterwards. Me and Tammy were fortunate to have two bedrooms in our newly rented house so mom came to stay with us for a few weeks. She slept on the futon bed in the second bedroom and watched my sister’s kids while we were all at work. We moved on the best that we could but one of the saddest parts of that year came in June when we went on our already planned family trip to Disney World. Mom and dad had saved for and planned for this trip to be a once in a lifetime family trip. We were going to stay on Disney property at the All Star Sports resort and my dad was very excited to be going – so excited that he was willing to forego his annual trip to the Outer Banks. Since 1980 we had gone as a family to the Outer Banks never missing a single year. If you knew my dad and knew his passion for the Outer Banks, you would understand how unprecedented this really meant for him to forego a beach trip. He really loved the Outer Banks and wanted to someday retire here. However, with his passing just a few months before the trip, Disney now seemed to be a long shot at best until mom spoke up one day and said “We are going! Daddy would not want us to just stop doing what we are doing.” Mom and dad grew up in a time where is was tradition for the mother or father of the family to refer to the other as daddy or mommy when speaking to the children. This still seems odd to me even though I grew up with this.

Mom knew that it would be her only time to go and she really wanted to see our niece’s face the first time she saw the castle.

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