It is two years this week since I first stepped foot in South Dakota. Two years! Two LONG years… The day I stepped on the plane, I had my last class for my MA at Trevecca Nazarene University. It had been a long road, almost done; comprehensives would be in the Fall. Lots of hugs and see you at graduation, well wishes for the comprehensive and off I went to the airport. A short flight to Cincinnati, a sandwich waiting for the plane to Sioux Falls then boarded I sat in my seat.
An ominous feeling came over me. I had prayed so hard my husband would not accept the job in South Dakota. I didn’t want my life to change. Things were finally looking better in my life. It had been quite a while since I felt that way. I had a plan. I was transferring all my credits to Lipscomb, had been awarded a 60% merit scholarship and was going to transfer into their Masters of Divinity program. I was excited.
Then the call came, on our 30th wedding anniversary no less, offering him his long desired job. While South Dakota had never been on our radar screen, it offered to make his dream a reality. How could he not accept it? Nonetheless, I prayed he would not at the same time trying to be supportive.
Family meetings with our two children still living with us proved futile. Finally he said yes and left for South Dakota for attendance at unpaid meetings. Two years ago this week, he worked hard to prove himself as that right choice. That he did an excellent job then and through out his time here in South Dakota is beyond question.
A night flight is often very quiet. The lights dimmed. Many people sleeping. The flight was not crowded. Usually no one talks to me so I sat in silence trying to read a book. I now had some decisions to make. Decisions I did not want to be in the position to make.
I could stay in Tennessee and follow the plans that seemed so enticing. Two daughters, a son, a mother and a granddaughter made that choice very appealing. All more important than my plans for school or continuing to pastor the church I planted. Nonetheless, I wasn’t sure I wanted to give those up either. My husband was oblivious to my pain as he basked in the glow of his new position. Could I, did I want to, live in another state from my husband and only be a visitor in his life?
It was very dark. It was very cold. The bitter wind almost swept me off my feet as I arrived in Sioux Falls. The small airport in Sioux Falls was absent of life and sound other than the conveyor belt with my luggage. I asked him how his meetings were going. He was ecstatic. Yet, we didn’t talk much because most things out of my mouth were not surprisingly sarcastic. I was in pain. I was angry that I had to be plucked out of my life to satisfy his life.
Shadows of putting advance degrees on hold while he finished his. Shadows of waiting as one child, then two, three, finally five more children were born. All the time waiting, waiting for my turn to finish my dreams. Now so near, they were evaporating once again.
The first day in South Dakota it was still very cold. I heard on the news that a blizzard was forecasted. It was April! Never in any place that I had lived, even in the cold Northeast with its mountains of snow, had I seen snow in April. I went to meet with the then head of the Sociology department. The only PhD offered at South Dakota State that even remotely fit my interests and qualifications was that.
It was a very unproductive disheartening meeting. I tried my best to be upbeat and I succeeded. Nonetheless, the department head had no interest in my becoming a student in her department. Her cluttered desk and demeanor told me this was a waste of my time. She was scattered and focused on her own upcoming retirement. After being treated so well at Lipscomb, the difference was both stark and discouraging.
I looked out the window. It was snowing. Big, large flakes of snow were pouring from the sky. I joined my husband at his meeting. I was introduced as his wife, as a minister and as a Norwegian. The only thing that might have given me capital here was the Norwegian part. I have since learned that to be Norwegian from Brooklyn is not well accepted by the Norwegians of the Dakotas.
Since I have so much more to say about this experience of arriving in South Dakota, I think a several part series would be good. So I will stop here and finish in the subsequent days. It might be one day, it might be two or more. I don’t know at this point.
I do know that South Dakota made a very poor first impression. I am working hard to overcome that first impression. Nevertheless, first impressions are lasting impressions.