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Posts Tagged ‘commitment’

It was around the 1940’s, while World War II was in full-swing, hopefully to be over soon. In America, soldiers would go to bars to flirt and have some fun before they got sent off to their next assignment. The ladies enjoyed themselves as well, but if a guy got too fresh with them, they had pointed hairpins that they could use to set him straight.

At one such bar, a young man named John Thomas was socializing and having fun. He had his eye on an attractive lady with great legs. Claire Ewalt was sitting next to him, minding her own business as best she could in a noisy bar, until that clumsy guy accidentally spilled his beer on her fancy new green skirt. His attention tore away from the other woman, and he profusely apologized, offering to have her skirt cleaned. Claire declined his offer and said she would wash it herself. Unfortunately, in washing it by herself, she ended up ruining that skirt. But it did bring John Thomas into her life.

One thing led to another, and they ended up falling in love. He wasn’t Catholic, so Claire’s parents didn’t quite approve. Love won, and they ran away together to get married in 1950. John and Claire Thomas began their new life together filled with the utmost love and devotion. He did end up converting to Catholicism which blessed their marriage with faith and love.

Over the years, they moved several times as a military family, living in Illinois, London, England, elsewhere, and eventually settling in South Dakota. They had four children, one daughter and three sons: Cynthia, Lawrence, John, and Stephen. While they didn’t have a lot of money, they still maintained a life of simplicity, love, and a close family bond.

As their children grew older and settled down with their own families all over the United States, Claire and John ended up moving themselves to Texas where they finally put down roots to remain. Throughout my life, they lived in the same house in a great retirement community with a golf course in their backyard. I always loved visiting them and can even remember the welcoming smell in their house. My family and I lived in Saint Louis, Missouri, so it was a lengthy drive, but I always looked forward to visiting with them.

There’s even a family video recording of my grandparents meeting me for the first time after I was born when we flew up for a family reunion in South Dakota. My grandma had tears in her eyes as she welcomed me. As a child, my brother and I would play dogs with my grandma and grandpa. I can remember with fondness how compassionate and loving they were. It was always a great treat when Grandpa and Grandma Thomas came to visit. Throughout my adolescence they were always so supportive of me and were always so proud to hear about my accomplishments in school, band, choir, theatre, and beyond. They were even able to attend my Senior Vocal Performance Recital, which was the culmination of my Bachelors degree in Music at Webster University.

The love between my grandparents was always visible. They were always holding hands, placing their hand on the other’s leg, stealing kisses, and being affectionate with each other. I remember one time while we were driving somewhere with my Dad and Grandpa in the front while Grandma and I were in the backseat. Grandpa reached back to caress his wife’s leg, but he didn’t look behind him, which caused him to touch my leg instead. I cleared my throat and said, “Grandpa, I think you’re touching the wrong leg. That’s mine.” It was a funny moment.

My Grandpa always had a positive attitude. He was silly, laughed all the time, and created different voices and sounds to put everyone in a good mood. In all my time with him, I never saw him complain once. He was completely devoted to his wife. He was an admirable man with quiet strength. When my father played the guitar during their visits, my grandpa would always chime in singing.

I last visited my grandparents in 2012. It was after that time in August that my grandpa’s health began to steadily decline. They moved to a nursing home where he could receive more care. In December of 2013, he was hospitalized for serious issues, and we thought that we would lose him. But he surprised everyone and held on. Over time, he gradually lost the ability to speak coherently. My family would FaceTime Grandma, and she would include him in the video calls. One Christmas, we called them, and I sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” for him. He opened his eyes to listen. It hurt to see his health declining so much.

Last Sunday, on the day before my father would go into surgery for a major spinal fusion, we received word that my grandpa, his father, had passed on to Heaven. We were in the middle of Costco shopping for our dinner that night. We all just formed a big group hug and cried together in the middle of the store. And that night we grilled some great New York Strip Steaks with salad and red wine, toasting a great man.

His body was blessed, and he will be cremated. He will be buried in a major cemetery for veterans in the Dallas area. That internment ceremony will be next year when my father is able to fly to be with his family. I’m very glad that they will be waiting for him to be there along with everyone else. I wish I could be there too, but France is very far away, and I won’t be able to afford the plane ticket.

I haven’t had the chance to really and truly cry and grieve the passing of my Grandpa Thomas, but I wanted to take the time and write a brief account of the love story between my grandparents that lasted 65 years. Their story and enduring love is an inspiration for the entire family and everyone who knew them. I can only hope that my marriage will endure all those years into the future as well. I never knew my maternal grandfather because he died the year my parents married in 1984, but I had the privilege to know John M. Thomas throughout my 25 years of age. I will miss him dearly, but I know that he is in a much better place at peace and able to run, jump, laugh, and speak in Heaven. He is no longer suffering and in the arms of his Father.

We love you, Grandpa.

Easter 1991

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(In Spring 2009, I took a Critical Thinking course, and our final project was to pick an issue and defend it with a research paper and a speech. I chose the wonderful and sensitive topic of premarital sex. This will be a sensitive topic for some, but I’m just sharing what I wrote. Don’t be offended. I think I approached the ideas and viewpoints pretty well.)

 

Sex is everywhere. In fact, it is highly likely that not a day goes by without each person thinking about some form of sexual idea. Growing older and especially since I have moved into the life of a university student, I discovered that concept of sexuality is exponentially gaining recognition and discussion. I hear about it in all shapes and forms, learning about sexual decisions, engagements, and pregnancies among my friends  . Recently, I myself have encountered the decision on whether sex is acceptable in a situation. Through extensive consideration and research, I have found that with today’s perspective, premarital sexual intercourse can be justifiable in a mature relationship in which the couple is in a state of genuine commitment.

Compared to 50 years ago and continuing on farther into the past, society today has gone through a major shift in ideals and practices, sexuality being one that is very prominent. In the past, the man would control and define the degree of sexuality with the woman exclusively as a humble servant (Johnson & Masters, 6). The double-standard that men were encouraged to gain many premarital “conquests” while women were strongly demeaned and reprimanded for promiscuity is significantly lessening (Hynie & Lydon 448). Now women can venture out of the traditional domestic nest and take charge of their own lives and bodies. In addition, the media fuels a large fire of widespread and public sexual content. We see it everywhere in books, commercials, advertisements, games, TV shows, movies, and more. Television shows in the 1950s and 60s  such as “The Honeymooners” and “I Love Lucy” portrayed couples having separate beds in typically unseen bedrooms with touching each other barely implied, if at all. Now two-thirds of American shows on TV include some form of sexual content. In current films, there is an increase of sensual subject matter found in PG and PG-13 ratings compared with those of the 90s (Friedman). All of this considered, “each individual is now forced to fashion a private set of moral and ethical values, which it is hoped, will sustain him over the years” (Masters & Johnson 183). With our culture changing its standards of what is acceptable where sex is concerned, it is natural that we see premarital intercourse practiced more often.

Even though it is seen everywhere, sexual relations before marriage are most ideal between couples that are mature and have significant life experience. Out in the world making a name for themselves through college education and onward, people beyond age 18 have more knowledge of society and its impending circumstances and decisions. In those years, they will have gone through a wide variety of relationships and interactions with the opposite sex. Knowledge and understanding of sexuality is an important prerequisite before engaging in it. Despite this, there is a steady increase of sex among adolescents. In 1988, 25% of females and 33% of males had sex by age 15 (Francoeur 109). A strong chance exists that an even higher percentage of young adults that age are experiencing it today. Adolescents participating in premarital sex are like 13 year-olds moving on to college after middle school. They have plunged into a new world of complex subjects, skipping fundamental life lessons in between that would have better prepared themselves. Standards and expectations change drastically. Parents and authority no longer have the same impact, leaving the young teenagers to build their own standard of living without guidance (argument by analogy). There is a notable difference between someone living on his or her own and another still residing with parents. “Teens should be taught character education, goal-setting, communication skills and consequences of premarital sex” (Friedman). When an individual is more informed and aware of the act, sex before marriage can be reasonable.

The most important aspect of a relationship that engages in premarital intercourse is found when the two people are in a state of genuine commitment with each other. Commitment is a beautiful connection between two people being assured in one another, agreeing to rely on each other, and making an effort to nurture the relationship further. Each “entrust[s] one’s physical and emotional well-being to that [other] person; it is an act of faith and acceptance of vulnerability” (Masters & Johnson 257). Caring is vital: concerning over, being solicitous of, and paying attention to the other’s needs in a loving manner. It is proposed that there is a progression of love in a relationship towards the ultimate goal of commitment. First comes passion and sexual attraction, then the partnership progresses to intimacy, and finally reaching genuine commitment (Hynie and Lydon 449). Often the line between intimacy and commitment can be blurred, and couples may believe that sex is acceptable in a state where they feel understood, validated, and cared for, which may not necessarily be real commitment. Nonetheless, the majority of people say that they wait until they find the right moment, the right reason, and the right person. These may vary from person to person, but giving oneself to another in the most complete way is a wonderful in celebrating the merging of two mates. Even if it is before marriage, sexual intercourse in a devoted and committed relationship is justified.

However, there is a popular argument against premarital sex made by the Catholic Church, and that is marriage is the only true form of commitment in which sex is justifiable. Matrimony is a holy sacrament, binding the souls together in a permanent and spiritual way. It says, “I give myself to you forever, and I unite myself to you. I want to join with you and with God in creating, raising, and educating children” (Bonacci 33-34). When engaging in sex, a hormone, oxytocin, is released and creates a sense of commitment, “blurring the vision” of irritations and “super gluing the heart to another person” (33). The first time a woman has sexual intercourse, the image of her partner is “imprinted” on her mind in a very strong and permanent way (86). What happens if the other person doesn’t become the spouse? It is more important to wait and exercise control, being faithful and respectful to the husband or wife yet to be discovered. That way there will be no comparisons and memories; virgins can learn and explore the beauty of the act together. Also, when the couple is not married there is a possibility that they will not remain together. Leaving someone behind creates a sense of loss, betrayal, being used, inadequacy, abandonment, and depression. Breaking off a romantic relationship involves leaving the other person. Therefore ending a partnership causes a sense of loss, betrayal, being used, inadequacy, abandonment, and depression (argument by causes). If premarital sex is involved, these feelings are magnified even more. When married, you don’t have to worry about STDs or single parenthood. A teenage girl having to endure pregnancy complicates life, making it difficult to achieve previous personal goals and creates physical, emotional, and spiritual risks (46). Her education and career are put on hold to accommodate a new life. With another perspective, premarital sexuality can put tremendous pressure on a relationship. Disagreements and hurt feelings can become even more magnified. When a couple is joined in the sexual bond, it distorts the perspective and “the brain is no longer in charge; feelings take over, drowning out logic” (77). This can be hazardous when the relationship is abusive. There will be tremendous difficulty to see reason and escape the situation when sex is involved. To put it bluntly, “a ‘committed’ unmarried relationship means basically that ‘I promise not to date anyone else until I dump you’” (79). Therefore, sex outside of marriage isn’t true commitment and shouldn’t be practiced.

That is a perfectly valid argument against premarital intercourse. However, there are additional points that accept it. In third-world countries, women can be in such a state of impoverishment that they are forced into sexual relations and prostitutions, dangerously exposing themselves to the high risk of AIDS. Everywhere but the Church promotes the use of condoms as a main way to help prevent the disease. Ideas are changing somewhat in the Catholic Church, finding that in certain situations where life is being threatened, condoms may be deemed appropriate. Pope Benedict XVI may even consider easing the policy (Katel). Marriage may be vows of commitment and fidelity, but there is still the chance of divorce. All relationships can end. Matrimony may be more secure than an unmarried relationship, but people can still change and wish to leave each other. In a way, partnerships involving sex but without the marriage contract can be beneficial in the sense that discovering and breaking off incompatibility. That way the trauma and suffering possibly involving the children need not be necessary (engulf and devour). On another stance, consider the partnerships that have previously cohabited and engaged in premarital sex and now desire to commit more permanently through marriage. The Church really has no business or right to pry into their personal decisions and condemn them. Instead, they should celebrate the courage of the couple to commit in this new manner. Canon law actually forbids denying the sacrament of Matrimony. In these times, marriage is being delayed through the 20s to incorporate establishing life and career, and young people don’t tend to wait that long to engage in intercourse. Therefore, these two people ready to take this next step “need understanding and encouragement rather than draconian rules” (Greeley). For the right reasons and consideration, premarital sex shouldn’t be so condemned but sought to be more understood.

In conclusion, due to the change in society’s standards and views, when a couple has reached maturity, significant life experience, and in a state of genuine commitment between the two, premarital sexual intercourse should be reasonable. “Intimate relationships should be based on love, that love justifies sexual activity, and that sex with love is a more fulfilling human experience” (Francoeur 106). Sexual intercourse is “our most intimate way of relating to another person…reflecting all the things that mean warmth, love, affection, and security to us…in a real way, some of the purposes and meaning of life” (Masters & Johnson 29). This can occur when outside of marriage. If you think about it, is marriage truly necessary for this commitment to take place? With more exploration into the realm of sexuality, more discoveries will be made in this complex aspect of life.

Lovers

 

Works Cited

Bonacci, Mary Beth. Real Love. San Francisco: Ignatus Press, 1996.

Francoeur, Robert T, ed. Sexuality in America: Understanding Our Sexual Values and Behavior. New York: Continuum, 1998.

Friedman, J. (2005, September 16). Teen sex. CQ Researcher, 15, 761-784. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from CQ Researcher Online, <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2005091600>.

Greeley, Andrew. “Let’s stop harassing couples who finally commit.” U.S. Catholic 66.6 (June 2001): 24. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=4464239&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Herold, Edward S., and Marilyn Shirley Goodwin.. “Adamant Virgins, Potential Nonvirgins and Nonvirgins.” Journal of Sex Research 17.2 (May 1981): 97. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=5687078&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Hynie, Michaela, and John E. Lydon.. “Commitment, intimacy, and women’s perceptions of premarital sex and contraceptive readiness.” Psychology of Women Quarterly 21.3 (Sep. 1997): 447. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=9710106103&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Katel, P. (2007, January 19). Future of the Catholic Church. CQ Researcher, 17, 49-72. Retrieved April 17, 2009, from CQ Researcher Online, <http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre2007011900&gt;.

Martin, Paige D., et al. “EXPRESSED ATTITUDES OF ADOLESCENTS TOWARD MARRIAGE AND FAMILY LIFE.” Adolescence 38.150 (Summer2003 2003): 359-367. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Emerson Library, St. Louis, MO. 17 Apr. 2009 <http://library3.webster.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&AuthType=ip,cookie,url,uid&db=aph&AN=11066250&site=ehost-live&gt;.

Masters, William H., and Virginia E. Johnson. The Pleasure Bond: A New Look at Sexuality and Commitment. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.

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