Free Wally

(Names and some details changed to protect the….hurting)

A guy , name of Wally, who I know…

I’ve known  for most of my 30 year career.  When I was a young engineer fresh from college I had accepted a job selling a very common petrochemical commodity from which many plastic and rubber products are made. Wally was a legendary buyer of that chemical. His employer was one of the largest buyers of the product in the U.S.  And he was known to command the very best price, terms, and conditions. His business was the kind of business that those of us making and selling this commodity chemical needed to have in order to load up our plants. But we’d better make profit on others because none got through Wally.

I was fortunate because I got to cheat. My boss, an equally legendary seller of this chemical, a tall Texan with two initials for a name, was close friends with Wally.                By XX’s (two letters, Texan, remember) introduction I was tolerated by Wally despite his reputation for not suffering young fools too well. Over the next 20 years Wally and his boss and me and XX became closer as a group, doing many things together. We attended an old plantation in northern Mississippi where we ate outstanding greasy food, drank beer and shot pool by night, and shot every configuration of skeet, trap and sporting clays at the places exclusive course. I grew up behind a tavern in a small town, so I took their money at pool, and they helped me learn to shoot their Benelli’s.

Twice yearly we stood, separately but together, beside water tanks scattered among oil rigs in West Texas, under blazing early fall sun. We were watching for dove to fly in for water at which point we would, wink-wink, take a limit by noon. We’d tear the breast medallions from them by hand, toss the carcasses to the side (knowing later we’d come back here and watch the coyotes tear into the discarded dove, it’s a way they teach their young about hunting, by mock stalking dead prey, the lights of our rented pickups would illuminate the coyote eyes and reveal startlingly large gatherings drawn by the dove bodies) then go drive past one of the funniest retail establishments Ive ever seen and on  to a BBQ place in Monahans where we’d eat. After lunch we’d put the cooler with the meat in it back at our hotel and we’d go back out and , wink-wink, take a second limit.

The funny retail place mentioned above is a  truck stop on I-10 outside Odessa called Texas Interstate Truck Stop, The first letter in each word was huge and bold, so, from a distance the sign read T.I.T.S. We returned there a couple of years ago, XX and George much longer of tooth, and me, the impetuous young fool, in middle age, and that truck stop was abandoned, rusted, windows broken, but the T.I.T.S. still beckoned (I hear they never stop)…red block letters on plain white background, 60 feet high, up on the mounted sign.  It’s a heck of a metaphor for the passage of time but the water tanks and the doves provoked no feelings like that sign did.

On two occasions one each in consecutive years, one of the rotating group of other participants actually shot another member of our group. The first year he shot XX from close enough to knock him down, some shot penetrated his cheek and he was spitting it out while cursing in his voice that sounded like gravel and splintered dry bones.  His sweatshirt and hunting vest stopped all but a few pellets from hitting skin. The second year, when the same guy shot another one of us, the sheriff of the county where Big Spring Texas is came into the regional medical center and saw us, the same group, pacing around in the waiting area and he said wryly as Texans uniquely can, “well I’ll be a sonovabitch; should I ask more questions this time?

We were not at war together, but we came close, what with all the GSW’s and such. It bonds men to be there, like that.

After 23 or 24 years selling that chemical, managing other sales reps selling that chemical, then speculating and arbitraging that chemical, I wound up unemployed when my employer bankrupted. I languished in depression for a long time. Then, the first call I made seeking employment was to Wally’s company. Wally’s boss specifically, who was by this time also a dear friend. I was looking for any leads on jobs in the industry, and the boss, Frank, tells me (providentially) that he is looking for someone. He said that he and Wally were getting older and they needed to replace themselves. I took the job and moved to where they were.

I was working side by side with Wally, the object of my admiration and respect from my early career. I told him often how strangely wonderful these twists had been.  And here I was, at 45, the young guy. After five years, Frank announced his retirement. Frank is younger than Wally, but Frank was well saved and ready to retire. Wally was to work another year. Providence gets stranger. The company then offered me Frank’s job and a few months ago I became Wally’s boss. It’s a nostalgic thing, heavy with emotion for me, that this all happened.  It is so so so very much more than a story about a job. The job is not the point at all.

I told Wally, “Wally, I am responsible for all that happens in this department, and the other four guys, especially the new younger ones, yes they report to me, but not you Wally. It’s an honor that I am even on paper shown as your superior.” And that’s how it’s been. But more…

In Spring of 2013 Wally had a hip replacement. Late 60’s, he never made it all the way back, physically nor mentally/emotionally. So, as Wally slows I start, with his agreement, allocating some of the products he is responsible for to other guys in the group. I find myself also taking extra peeks at his work and hurting a little bit inside when I find, at first small, but increasingly larger mistakes. He has stewarded his work for more than 40 years, a master’s degree chemist and very clever in business he has left his mark, and another mark, and another. But he is slowing noticeably and I was concerned. I watched his animation drain and his eyes fade some. Wally is a Marlboro man of a man. Stoic and stern, gravelly even. But he trusts me and I him and eventually he shared something with me that gets me to the reason I am telling this long story.

He told me of his wife’s insistence, when they moved here, that they buy what is a massive house for two people and would even be huge for my family of six. He told me he had always payed cash for his houses since the first one, which he financed and paid off and never borrowed again. When they moved here, the previous house they had sold at a big premium to what they had paid. His wife wanted to put all the money, including the gains, into the home they now have.  He told me how prepared he is for retirement. He gave me specifics. And he is well prepared. He shared his dream of buying a modest home in the city where their 30 something daughter lives and has had their first grandchild. And then the light comes into his eyes as he says he wants to also have a small place put on some land they have bought in a rural part of the state, near a lake, and some mountains, and he can hunt and fish and be content.

He then said that his wife was moving out. That the big house she insisted they buy 19 years ago was not selling. He was actually looking forward to it. He said to me “Empath, I cannot keep up with her, she has all these projects and from ther minute I wake until I sleep that night I have her talking talking talking about her projects to sell this house and her plans for a new one.” First she had gone OCD in the way women can and said that if they just had different hardware, knobs, cabinet handles, faucets and shower hardware, all in the bronze antique look, that would help sell their out of date old home. She retired a year ago and had lots of time. So, she spent 18 hours a day taking those things apart, sanding them, and painting them, all the while incessantly calling him at work with needs needs needs. “Wally, come get these dow rods and take them to Home Depot, yes I mean now just leave work and come, they are the wrong size”. When she calls, he never gets to speak. he begins words, Uh, er, bu, duh, …….and she is speaking 90 to nothing. Then she hangs up. He has been nothing but dutiful. I have never heard him even once sound irritable with her.

Eventually, she was taking shower hardware off in a spare bathroom and ruined the hardware. It is not made anymore, they cannot find parts, and the configuration means they have to toss the entire shower enclosure basically redoing the whole bathroom. A few thousand bucks. And he dutifully and cheerfully organized all that. He tells me he is mentally and physically and emotionally drained by his wife and that he cannot keep up. He said “She’s killing me and she doesn’t even notice”.  Instead of noticing that Wally has one leg that is twice the size of the other from poor circulation, that he is winded in short walks because he has very early heart congestion, and instead of noticing he is growing increasingly depressed about retiring, she got  frustrated at the home not showing much, and has decided to move without him to be near the grandchild. I’m guessing he’s OK with that. But what he is not OK with is that she has glommed onto real estate in the new city and wants to spend every dollar they get for their house, and a few hundred thousand more, on a new grandiose home there that will be, yes, too big for two people. In fact, he said, she follows him all over the house with her laptop, yammering right to the side of the bed when he is about to sleep, showing him home after home saying “we need to see this one Wally, I’ll call tomorrow” . No rest from her talking about buying a house he doesn’t want. And he said, sadly, his thoughts of a country cabin or cottage are over.

I asked him, has he ever said no. He told me that he sort of had. He said he told her, “Dear, I am not going to enter retirement with a million dollars in new real estate”. Even I know what that means. It means the the sum of what she wants and the cottage or cabin and land (already bought, but now will be sold) would be over a million dollars.  Wally didn’t have to tell me that his wife’s failure to even answer meant that she heard what he said about the million dollars like Charley Brown hears his teacher. Just like that. His comment to me then is a metaphor for the life of the American married Christian man. He looked grave and serious, and some of it I already knew but it’s so very sad…he said “Empath, seriously, I do not expect to live past 75 and that’s a stretch, she will likely live to 90, so who am I to deprive her of where she wants to live after I am gone”

As I left his office his final comment, muttered to himself, was , “I never dreamed retiring would be so hard”.

I cannot get this off my mind.

This story encompass the totality of the Christian manosphere’s claims about the nature of Christian marriage and women in the United States and the ridiculous expectations placed on men. Many hide it well. The case here though is an open book, and it is what happens when women have unrestrained entitlement.

Please pray for Wally. God knows who he is.


19 thoughts on “Free Wally

  1. Thank you for this story. It gives perspective. It’s a little thing to tuck away for someday, of what not to do as a wife.

  2. Wally is doing what church and the culture have told him to do: Be a SERVANT leader. Not, a servant LEADER.

    I am no better than Wally. For the first 19.5 years of my marriage I have let my wife run free. Only in the last 6 months am I slowly amping up my dominion and headship. Why do I have to amp it up slowly? Because, this was never my frame when I courted, got engaged, and married my wife.

    The goal of male headship in marriage is to use it, in love, to disciple your wife so that she will grow in sanctification and holiness on this earth. This will involve verbal correction, or reproof from the husband to the wife. (Reproof is not “verbal abuse.”) This process is one of the reasons why “mutual submission” does not work in a Christian marriage.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

  3. Bee

    I saw your comments at the Stepping Up blog, where in one response the moderator said the following:

    We believe God has charged each husband to fulfill the responsibility of being the “head” (servant leader) of his wife. We believe God created a man incomplete, and as a husband, he needs his wife as his helper. We believe a husband will give account before God for how he has loved, served, and provided for his wife. We reject the notion that a husband is to dominate his wife. Likewise, we reject the notion that a husband is to abdicate his responsibilities to lead his wife. Rather, we believe his responsibility is to love his wife.

    The folks at FL are not stupid. They are not after money. They are not overt liars. And they are not willfully pandering to women. When they read the remark above they do not read what you and I read. They miss the fact that leadership is not mentioned at all, except the word “leader” in the man made phrase “servant leader”. The husband will give account to God for how he has SERVED? ive never seen them go into how service can mean rebuke, how protection can mean saying no, how provision may require he take the family and move. What I do see is more and more reference to Jesus sacrificial death and the ONLY aspect of Jesus that has anything to do with men’s role via “as Christ the church”.
    Note too the same urge I confessed to having, to apologize and make dang sure no one thinks Im one of those overbearing men who command obedience.

    Not sure if you caught that there is some breakage from the ranks where Lepine writes “Three Steps to leading your wife” where he says:

    Because many men have abused their authority as husbands and as leaders, we have tended to emphasize his role as a servant. Slowly, men are shaking off the passive detachment that has defined a generation of husbands. Men are beginning to assume their biblical responsibility to serve their wives, demonstrating their service through sacrificial action.

    But in the process of emphasizing service, we may have oversold our case. Unless that sacrificial love is expressed by bold, biblically-ordered husbands who assume both leadership and responsibility for their homes, we will have simply traded one grievous error for another less obvious one.

    Wow, he is pickin up what we are tossin down it seems.

    He is spot on about why they teach as they do (because some men have been jerks), he doesnt say so explicitly but seems he realized suddenly that whoa, that problem is sort of a red herring these days and we’ve the baby has a scraped butt from getting tossed with the bathwater.

    That realization alone will not cut through the fullness of the world view, but golly its a start.

    T^he other comments saying pretty much it is servant.XXXXXXX….and that leader means servant, and did I mention he shouldn’t lead unless its in service, and then that the divorce rate in the church is increasing (I have the stats, I’m shocked that FL does not) is explained away by the juxtaposition of secular marriage rates.

    The state of marriage in the church is dismal. he claims, like many, that no, not really, not among the REAL believers. Thats a solid claim in terms of it being irrefutable because its his guess. They tend to use church attendance as a metric to see if the people are real committed Christians. But I would ask to see the stats on that. I assert the opinion that that is a gut feel based on something they want to be true.

    In any case, good on Bob who seems on to something

  4. @Empathologism,

    I did not see the article by Bob Lepine. That is a good breaking of the ranks. Thanks.

    ” Because many men have abused their authority as husbands and as leaders, we have tended to emphasize his role as a servant.”

    Most adult on adult abuse, and adult on child abuse occurs in relationships where couples cohabit but are not married. These are not devout Christian couples. Theodore Dalrymple explains why so much abuse occurs in these relationships – when there is sex without commitment intense jealousy is unleashed. (A chapter in this book of essays: )

    I have heard or read Wayne Grudem and Michael Pearl say that we should not teach Christian men to have dominion because then they will become abusive! No confidence in Christian men and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

    Dalrock made a good comment; St. Paul never gave a lot of disclaimers and apologies when he proclaimed hard truths about men, women, marriage, divorce, etc.

  5. I’d just finished reading the last word of your post, and I cried for Wally. If prayer is the heart and soul of a man going out to another, then I also pray for Wally. If empathy is truly putting oneself in another’s shoes, then I too am Wally. May God bless Wally. Truth be known God does bless Wally. Thanks for making me really cry, Empath; I needed that.

  6. Empath:
    What I read into the story is what happens to men in a culture where men are seen as expendable. Though I’m not married and are closer to your age than his, I can relate to what he’s going through—because this is where most men today, myself included, are probably going.

    It’s an issue I struggle with personally. I look at guys like Wally and I see his present is my future. What was the point of all his accomplishments? Nothing. If he’d spent his life panhandling on the streets, the outcome would have been exactly the same. Such is a world where men are disposable. And most of us men are going the same way, like it or not.

    It’s no wonder that suicide rates among American men in his age bracket are what they are. I don’t believe in suicide, but I think if I were in his place, I would go to some civil-war torn part of Africa and join a guerrilla army so I could at least go down honorably. Honor is something our society would never allow a man—ever, if it could.

  7. By the way Bee, Ive read all of Dalrymple’s collections of essays and find them to be razor sharp. As disturbing as they are I couldnt stop reading any of the collections until I finished. I know he is loved and loathed in the UK, and has since retired off to France I think, and we dont hear too much from him anymore, but what a spotlight on culture and social pathology he was.

  8. I must say, I am sorry when I hear so many people speaking of the Christian teachings like this. I fully admit – I have little experience with Protestant churches and their homilies and it seems so – alien to me as a traditional Catholic.

  9. This story encompass the totality of the Christian manosphere’s claims about the nature of Christian marriage and women in the United States and the ridiculous expectations placed on men. 

    I’m not sure, based on your description, that I’d call Wally’s marriage a Christian marriage simply because Wally’s wife’s behavior doesn’t strike me as being even remotely Christian. Her obssession with materialism, in the form of her real estate “cravings,” would serve as Exhibit A in support of that assertion.

    My prayers are also with Wally. Were he a younger, healthier man, I would recommend that he assert some headship. However, I doubt it would help him now. His wife’s decision to unilaterally move to the city to be near the grandchild (probably just a pretext for shopping for her next dream McMansion) shows the extent of her rebellion.

    Clearly some of us have been/are/will someday soon be in Wally’s shoes and can well relate to his predicament.

  10. @Empathologism,

    “The folks at FL are not stupid. They are not after money. They are not overt liars. And they are not willfully pandering to women.”

    How do you know this?

  11. @Aquinas Dad
    I am not sure I see what you are talking about in terms of how someone is speaking of the Christian teachings. Can you let me know what specifically it is? Maybe I am misunderstanding. Its a sincere inquiry.

    I agree with you. I don’t know either if it is a Christian marriage per se. I do know Wally , and Wally is a Christian. There are things in his life’s experience that make me sure. One I cannot mention even with the anonymity of the webrz, But another was as his mother was dying I was close to him throughout. And in one of the most surreal moments I can remember, he and I were on a trip to Europe, and we were in the UK. We had the weekend free so we so we decided to stay in London because we found a very good hotel rate, turned out to be the reopening of the hotel where the Russian guy was poisoned with Strontium. Weird detail, I know.
    Wally and I were near the Tower of London and his cell phone rang. The call was to tell him his mother just died. I ushered him to the side of the bridge and he leaned on the brick rail and wept for a second, and we made it back to the hotel where I organized him a way home asap. During that 1-2 hours, yet another layer was peeled away to allow me to see Wally more clearly.

    I didnt mean to say they have a “Christian marriage”, because I do not know and tend to agree with your read on it. But I did mean to say that, perhaps not regarding real estate or even materialism, the dynamic is the same. It is the same in my in laws who absolutely have a Christian marriage and are winding up their 70’s soon to be 80.


    I dont know that for sure. But I have learned in my life that assuming things about the folks on the other side of an issue is a mistake. I do know people that are involved in local versions of the same type of ministries, either local presenters of FL type programs or what have you, and I have yet to find something truly nefarious about them. I choose to see deception, not intent
    I may split hairs about the pandering. While they do not set out to pander to women, they do avoid the negative reinforcement of unhappy women and embrace the positive reinforcement they get and that guides them, but more like being trained accidentally than intent

  12. What a sad story…and all too common. There is a poignant beauty there though, which doesn’t justify what he’s going through. He is (it seems) being a true Christian husband — laying down his life and his rights for his wife out of concern and care for her, even at the expense of his own health and well-being. Yes, that is Christ-like. What is missing is the other half of the equation — a wife who submits in love to her husband as to Christ. Who honors and respects him and obeys him. In other words, the problem with Wally and so many other Christian marriages is not that men are expendable — we are supposed to be expended in love for our families, to lay down our lives for our wives. The problem is that the wife is mercenary — -trodding underfoot, as it were, the sacrifice that husband’s make for them. If marriage is a type of Christ and the church then wives who behave in this way are in for serious consequences in eternity

  13. The Lord Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount, about where your treasure is and where your heart is. Mrs. Wally has contradicted the Master. We will see whose word will stand, hers or His. So will she.

  14. empathalogism,
    Here are some quotes I was responding to,
    “Wally is doing what church and the culture have told him to do…”
    “I have heard or read Wayne Grudem and Michael Pearl say that we should not teach Christian men to have dominion because then they will become abusive!”
    and of course
    “This story encompass the totality of the Christian manosphere’s claims about the nature of Christian marriage and women in the United States and the ridiculous expectations placed on men.”

  15. @Empathologism,

    “I saw your comments at the Stepping Up blog,…”

    I used ideas I learned from you to post my comments at that blog. I was trying to prod them to focus on preventing divorce in Christian families. From the moderators answers I infer that FamilyLife prefers to use the number of positive emails and letters they receive to measure their effectiveness.

    I would be willing to bet $100 that MORE THAN 60% of those letters and emails are from women (single and married).

  16. You are of course correct, in my opinion, that the letters are from women. They say they are singularly teaching men. Imagine then the testimonies from women coming in about their husbands, those count as successes. Typically men do not write in about things like that unless and until they are kicked out and wanting back in.

  17. Pingback: Wally revisited, and the tragedy of The Beav’s worse thing | Empathologism

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