Margaret and I arrived back in Alabama in the autumn of 1979. We pretty much gave up on religion. I reverted to my theistic agnosticism and she reverted to something which I did not discover for several years. I went back to work at the sawmill for a few months and then back to the greenhouses for a few months. In the spring of 1980 I went offshore to work on oil rigs as a painter.
While I was offshore working Margaret was playing a different game. I worked three weeks offshore and then got a week off to go home and rest. We worked about 110 hours per work when we were offshore so the week off was really necessary. One return trip home I was met at the bus station and was told even before we reached our apartment that she had found someone else that she loved. Of course we had a big blow up and that week off was not a pleasant one.
We made up during the week and when I returned offshore she returned to Orlando. I was to meet her there in three weeks. That three weeks turned into only one week. I was unable to keep my mind on my work. Although the work was hard it gave you lots to time to think and I was thinking about what had happened while I was home.
I went to Orlando at the end of the first week quitting my job offshore. From 1980 until 1984 when we moved back to North Alabama Margaret and I had an on again – off again relationship. She had affair after affair. How did I stand it? I hung onto my belief in the words of Paul, the anti-Semitic creator of the Christian religion, where he said a person should stay with a non-believing mate as long as he was able. And I was able. I was very, very able. After the last affair I decided we needed to get away from Orlando and back to the country life we had enjoyed in North Alabama. We left Orlando in 1984 and moved back to Cullman, Alabama.
We went to work at a chicken processing plant. Margaret worked on the production line and I became a water plant operator. I really enjoyed water treatment and ended up staying in that trade for about fifteen years.
During our careers at the chicken plant we met a preacher who invited us to church. We began attending Victory Baptist Church and, as always, I got very involved. I decided I had never truly been saved since my first saving was when I was an ignorant child. I wanted to serve God and thought I had to do it the way the church had said. I was very wrong but did not discover how wrong for another fifteen years.
I began teaching a Teen Sunday School Bible Class and then later an Adult Bible Class. When the preacher had to go out of town for meetings, conventions and so forth I even preached. I was really into the Christian scene and if it were not for an incident someone might think evil (but which actually freed me from the church) I would have gone on and eventually gotten ordained, continuing the lies that had crippled southerners for hundreds of years.
One Sunday some money came up missing out of the collection plate. The pastor was certain Margaret had taken the money and was convinced I knew about it. He did not come to me and tell me his thoughts. He merely did not call on me to teach or to pray. I confronted him outside the church and he briefly told me of his beliefs. I called him a liar and when he said he would pray for me I told him to keep his prayers, I did not want them!
Within the year Margaret and I had separated and then divorced. During the divorce she admitted to taking the money. I was devastated both by her confession and, still, by the fact that the pastor had not followed proper procedures. He had not given me a chance to defend myself and, in fact, spread rumors about the theft placing me, as the husband, as the one responsible.
A couple of years later the preacher that had invited us to the church came by where I worked to visit me. He was not the pastor but he was the assistant pastor. Since then he had left the church to become a missionary to the Navajo Indians. The church was, of course, his main benefactor. I told him the way the incident was handled was wrong and he agreed. I asked him to speak to the pastor and tell him that he had done me wrong. I wanted to get back into the service of God but had a very big grudge against the church. He refused to say anything against the pastor. I accused him of being afraid of losing his missionary money and, without saying a word, he left. I have not seen him since.
In 1990 I left the water plant at the chicken processing plant to take a job as the manager of the treatment plant for a small municipality. I still smoked a little weed on occasion but began to get more involved in my work and making a life. I married a wonderful local girl who had two children. I worked for the city for about five years before getting a better job with a company in Birmingham doing trouble shooting for treatment plants. Things were going great.
The children grew up. The boy joined the Marine Corps in 1999. The girl graduated high school in 2003 and began attending college at the University of North Alabama. I quit the route work because of all the traveling and went back to work at the chicken plant’s water treatment plant as the night manager. We bought ourselves a used mobile home and life seemed to get better and better. During this time I occasionally thought about God but I had become even more entrenched as a theistic agnostic. Every few months I would go to North Florida and visit my Mom and other family. We often would play some golf, drink a few beers and even smoke a joint or two. I was weaning myself from the weed but still enjoyed the occasional toke.
In 2004 I was asked to return to the city where I had worked earlier at a substantial raise. I was to manage both the water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plant. The waste plant was in a lot of trouble re compliance and operations and they needed a strong operator to get things back in shape. I took the job and went about my labors with great joy.
After a couple of months of steady work doing repairs on equipment that had not worked in several years, getting the lab back into compliance and getting records up to date I finally got to a point where I could take a week-end off and go to Florida. I informed my boss I was going away and mentioned I might even enjoy a bit of “Farmer Brown’s” stuff. Knowing I enjoyed an occasional puff the superintendent nodded and smiled.
About two weeks later when I came into work on Monday we were all surprised with a urinalysis. This was the first time the Water Department had ever done such a thing. Not in the fifty years it had been in existence as an entity separate from the city had it ever even considered such a test. Had I known it was going to happen I would certainly have foregone the joints I had shared a couple of weeks earlier. I told my boss I would not be able to pass the test. He still insisted I take it and, of course, I did. And, of course, I flunked. That was the first test of any type I had ever flunked in my entire life!
Rather than put the Water Department through any long drawn out decisions I resigned my position. I had asked the superintendent about getting treatment but he would not discuss it. I learned that the State Environmental Department had lowered the treatment plant’s rating and that an operator of my level was no longer required. I felt I had been clipped but did not fight it.
For the next two months I was off work. I spent a lot of time on the computer doing research and reading. I did a search one night on Judaism, just out of curiosity (not knowing at the time about something called “Divine Providence“), and found a web site called Ask Moses. A change came over my life.