Monday, June 08, 2015

Virginia Hart Tiffan: Marriage Years (24-45)

Pre-Script:  There are many photo milestones missed in the following post due to a condo fire in 1994, when I lost almost everything I owned, including all the photo albums I took with me after our divorce.  Thankfully, loose photos were in shoe boxes in my storage unit in another building.

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Following on the heels of my last post, I really did leave Peru and my Wycliffe Bible Translators stint to come home and marry Bill Tiffan, from U. of Michigan days.  We had met each other in our Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship group on campus.  I was a year ahead of him and was very aware when he joined the group.  But throughout our dating years, I was very muddled about my emotions and made the decision to pursue my Wycliffe goal...with the understanding that if I ever "changed my mind," I'd let Bill know.  It took only 6 months.

I arrived home in early July, 1969.  Our wedding day was 6 September 1969.
In those two months I made the 6 bridesmaid's dresses and got ready.
Sister Nancy begged me to wear her wedding dress, changing the accent color from pink to yellow.
We were married by my dad in his Baptist church in Grand Ledge, MI.

Sadly, no pics of the wedding party, but this is my honeymoon outfit made by sister Nancy.
We lived in Ann Arbor, MI, our first year, the city of the U. of Michigan where we were students.
I was a desk clerk and a nursing aid at the Mercywood [psychiatric] Hospital that year.
Bill worked as a civil engineer with a man from our former Inter-Varsity days.

 My family of origin now included Bill.

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A year later we moved to Columbia, SC, where Bill took a year of Theology
at Columbia Bible College (CBC), now Columbia Int'l University.
Our plan was to join Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT) as a married couple.
While Bill was at CBC, I was a zip-cataloguer of rare books at the McKissick Library
(now a museum) at the University of South Carolina.

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But instead of returning to WBT, we joined Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF),
an interdenominational ministry to college/university students worldwide.
Bill began campus staff in the Fall of 1971, assigned to college campuses in San Diego, CA.
As his wife, I could choose outside employment but chose freedom to join him in special activities.

 Both of our children were born in San Diego (the La Mesa suburb, to be exact).
I was pregnant in 1972, left, with Amy, and right, with Mark, in 1975.

Amy Ruth Tiffan was born on 30 September 1972,
weighing 6lbs. 15oz, after 13 hours of false labor followed by inducement.

She was an absolute charm in every way!

Being a mother was one of the best things I ever did in those early years.

 Unbeknownst to us, this was the beginning of a million-dollar family.

And once again, my family of origin grew!

What is it about school pictures (in this case, Kindergarten to tenth grade)!

Amy's senior year at Norcross High School, 1989-90.

And Glamour Shots to boot, in 1992, 2 years after my divorce.
In 1994 she graduated from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL,
with a degree in Psychology.

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 Due on Amy's 3rd birthday, Mark Daniel Tiffan arrived 6 days later, on 6 October 1975,
weighing 8lbs. 10oz, ready to birth before I had finished signing the paperwork.

  He, too, was a charmer!
When I cut his hair after he turned one, I finally had my own hair cut, too,
in the Dorthy Hamill wedge haircut famous at that time.
From that point on, my hair got shorter and shorter.

At some point during this time, Bill and I had our first of 3 marriage-counseling series.
It was becoming an issue that I kept falling in love with women.
I don't remember anything about the counseling, other than that "You can't be gay and Christian."
So what was wrong with me?

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 After seven years in San Diego, we moved to Pasadena, CA,
because Bill had become IVCF's Area Director of Southern California.

While in Pasadena, we enjoyed the company of sister Ruth's family part of the time,
while they prepared for their own ministry in Turkey.
Here Ruth's youngest, Peter, enjoyed a good joke on Mark.

Amy and Mark had so many fabulous experiences because of Bill's work in IVCF.
Every year we went to college camps as a family in Michigan's Upper Penninsula,
Colorado's Bear Trap Ranch, and/or Campus by the Sea on Catalina Island.

 How could I not love them to death!

By now, we were a real million-dollar family!
And I had started to hang wallpaper professionally on the side.

At some point during this time, Bill and I had our second of 3 marriage-counseling series.
No matter where we lived, I kept falling in love with women.
The new therapist agreed with the first, that "You can't be gay and Christian."
But this time he had my mom join us from Michigan, to get more insight.
The "problem" with me was somehow connected to her, he was sure of it.

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 After 5 years in Pasadena, Bill was promoted to IVCF's Campus Director of the entire USA,
which made moving to the Madison, WI, headquarters a necessity.
I continued my side business of hanging wallpaper,
even at the IVCF headquarters.

Mark was coming into his own....
until our divorce, starting his 10th year of high school, in 1990.

Mark's senior year at Norcross High School, 1992-93.
 In 1997 he graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens, GA,
with a degree in Computer Science.

At some point during this time, Bill and I had our third of 3 marriage-counseling series.
I was still falling in love with women.
This time, however, the therapist said to Bill, in front of me:  
"Ginnie gets her warmth, fulfillment and satisfaction from women.
What are you going to go about it?"
(Interestingly, the question was never posed to me.)

 Bill made the decision that he still wanted to stay married but with the "ultimatum"
that I would never fall in love with another woman again.
It was his call.  It never occurred to me that I also had a voice.
And thus began a 9-month suicidal mission I didn't know how to shake.
Every night I'd walk Vester the dog and try to figure out how I'd "do it."
I was crying off-and-on for days at a time.
Nobody knew.

During this time Bill also made the decision to leave ministry, after 3 years in Madison.
He found a job in Atlanta, GA, through a friend.

 After finding a church in Atlanta, I immediately fell in love with our church's choir director.
But we lived together as a family for three years before we both realized "it" was never going away.
I still remember walking the neighborhood, hand-in-hand, talking about our inevitable divorce.
This time, I was not suicidal.  The handwriting was on the wall and it was finally okay.

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Now I look back on those years at all our family photos:

1977:  Amy 4, Mark 1

1979:  Amy 6, Mark 3

1980:  Amy 7, Mark 4

1981:  Amy 8, Mark 5

1985:  Amy 13, Mark 10

1988:  Amy 16, Mark 13

I look at the last 2 photos above and see the sadness, especially on Bill's face.
I cry anew as I write this, with the memories washing back over me.
Amy, too, knew.  She "knew" since she was 12 that something was different about me.
But Bill and I both decided to wait till she went to college before making our move.
I think we both would do it earlier if we had the chance again, because of her.
Mark had no clue what was going on and was totally blindsided.

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I do NOT want to end on a sad note with the above family photos.
So I leave you with the photos that are the most soulful of this "middle" stint of my life:

At the end of 1975, shortly after Mark was born.

For me, this says it all:  a tear and a smile.

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Post-Script:  While many pages are left out of this synthesis, this is the only story I can tell.  Bill, Amy and Mark are witness to the same history, but each with their separate versions.  

This is MY Story.

It's a story of tortured sorrow, guilt and shame, even though I know it's not Bill's fault or my own.  It's a cross I still bear to this day, not because of the divorce from a man I loved and respected as much as the break-up of my/our family.

Why I was born and lived in one time and place rather than another (when perhaps damage control might have been possible?), I will never know.  Was it my destiny?  It was as it was.

In the end, these 25 years later, as I turn 70, it is a Cross and a Crown.  A tear and a smile.  I don't know any other way to see it.  In spite of or because of (?) immense sorrow, the Joy overcomes it all.  And I can now say it is as it is.  I can be at peace with the pain and loss...because Love really does win in the end.

(to be continued....)


  1. I've always loved that series of photos at the end with Amy holding me. I also recall that child-sized rocking chair in her room for many years too. Great posts Mom, I look forward to seeing the rest. - Mark

    1. Thank you, Mark. You have totally made my day! I wonder where that rocking chair is now??? :)

  2. Oh my dear sister, so beautifully you see, and are. I'm typing through tears too. I grieve for all the sadness you had, for so long, not being free to be yourself. All I can think though is that your happiness now was worth it all, at least that is how I see it. But I'm not you.

    So intensely wonderful to see this, to follow those many years that are familiar in the faintest ways (like your clothes; I remember so well Nancy making that outfit, but not until seeing it just now), because I was so young, and of course I could not know what you were going through.

    You are doing a fabulous job with this. You make it seem easy to synthesize down all this time and experience. But it has to be incredibly difficult, in many ways.

    Thank you for doing it. It feels very important to me.

    By the way, as I looked at the photos of Amy as a toddler, I couldn't help seeing a resemblance to Olive!

    1. You have been so patient with me over the years, dear Ruth, struggling to find my self and my place in this big world. I was gone from home long before you started having your own voice. I wonder what would have happened if we were closer in age and could have opened up to each other?

      But it really is as it is, isn't it. It wasn't meant to be any other way. I don't understand things like that. I wish the hurt to so many could have been spared. It's always the others' pain I feel the most, even more than my own.

      When I finished this post yesterday (and then slept on it last night), I released a humongous, primordial groan that came from the depths of me I didn't know existed. Astrid was there to hold me till it passed. There's been catharsis in this exercise. I didn't know I needed it...but now it's out there. And it's done. Can I ever let it go? Probably not. But I can at least allow the ebb and flow of the sorrow and the joy flow over me like a blessing.

      If the God Above does not give us more than we can bear, than I am "honored" to carry this Cross and rise once again from the ashes. Fly, fly away, oh Glory!

  3. Wow! I have tears in my eyes too as I read your post. I admire your sincerity – the simple way you write about momentous times in your life – I wish I could do that (can’t even tell on my post that my husband has Alzheimer.) Your husband was very handsome and your children – so beautiful, so sweet. I realized that we had to be in hospital about the same time giving birth as my Jessica was born on 26 September 1972. And your hair, when you show your long pony tail almost to your waist – mine was the same length, worn the same way and the same color! How about that… I have to find a picture and send it to you.

    I think that growing up for you in the US must have not been easy – if you had been in Paris like me, I don’t think you would have had as much problem with your feelings. We had gay family members, friends, neighbors, etc., and it was just natural to me. My parents would take me to transvestite night clubs in Montmartre when a child when someone was visiting us from out of the country. Also the church – that must have been so traumatizing I would think. I can’t relate as I never knew anyone who went to church when growing up but since I have lived in the US I understand how important it is in this country. Even my father’s Muslim friends and my Jewish friends were mostly agnostics then. I am so pleased that you finally found your deserved happiness as I know that for many, they stay and live in agony. As you say it is what it is and you relate it with emotion and beautifully. Well done my friend – you are beautiful inside and outside.

    1. You've nailed what I meant about one time and place rather than another, Vagabonde. WHY? But I will never know. It was just meant to be. Maybe it wasn't/isn't all about me? Maybe there are many others who know me who are important to the story, and I was the one to go through it for them? To show them it's okay...that love does win, against all odds? I don't know.

      You are very kind with your words. Thank you. I think many of us who are older have stayed clammed up about many things. What will people think? Especially those of us who grew up in conservative, "Christian" homes. We have so much to learn, don't we! I sure hope I live long enough to keep discovering it....

  4. I don't know how you can share this post with so much honesty and as matter of factly as you can. I'm just glad that you had found your happiness after all. Thanks for sharing this post and the photos are so precious.

    1. Thank you, Maria, for saying this. If I can't be honest...what am I here for?! I just hope the anguish of sharing this will reap its reward, though that surely was not in mind when I wrote it. I just don't want to die without telling my Truth....

  5. Dearest Ginnie, I spent a lot of time with your post this morning. Throughout the day, I would return to it here and there and enjoy it anew. Your thoughts on your family are so moving. I think this must be why I am drawn to you as a friend...I see the suffering you have known, the way you have integrated it into your Being, how you know what makes you happy now. People who have suffered are, in my experience, more authentic, more compassionate, more real to others. They judge less and love more. I believe this to be true of you. It must have been time and Place, more than anything. There is a book in there Ginnie—one that incorporates the stories of your husband, your children and above all, you. But only you can know if you want to write that book. I recall growing up—in California, a very liberal place at the time—that my mom's best friends were...get this: Fern Hazelquist and Mitzie Twissleman. Fern and Mitzie lived together in Hollywood and we never thought another thing about it. Fern had red hair shorter than yours and Mitzie had a blonde braid down to her bum. They were family. Later, when my cousin, Jenny, came out as gay, she came to Patrick and I first, but only because she was afraid of her father. It turned out to be easy peasy. What suffering we know when we can't speak our truth. I'm grateful for the incredible changes we are witnessing in our lifetime, it may help the suffering of young men and woman who are LBGT. Anyway, that is another big subject. I LOVED your post, your precious photographs, especially those with your children, and your vivid memories. What a life you are living.

    1. Because you read so many of my stories at Vision & Verb, dear Susie, you have "handles" on me that others don't. So I thank you for these kind, generous words. I have no desire to be anything else but genuine and truthful in my life and story, now that I am "out of the closet."

      I lived in two different worlds through 45 years of my life...longer than I have lived in the one world of my true self. I ponder these things in my heart and am thankful it's been much easier for me than for others around the world who suffer intolerable pain and agony...and sometimes death.

      With our USA Supreme Court getting ready to make nation-wide Marriage Equality decisions any day now, I am hopeful to see change I didn't think was possible in my lifetime. What a great 70th birthday gift that would be!

  6. I watched you up close when you created this wonderful post. I saw your grief, I felt your grief, I see your grief. Getting the boxes out with all the pictures, get them organized, have memories when they were taken. After finishing the post, tears came, many tears. All I could do was hold you and be there for you, for I understand. I can keep going with a lot of words. All I want is to support you with what you are doing and loving you for the person who you are. Nobody said that life was going to be easy. In a few days you will be 70, a big one. I hope to be with you for a long long time and support you with what you do.
    Looking back at the pictures, it is great to see the kids grow up, and to see that Amy and you do look a like when you both were young.
    Pictures, what a gift, to remember good times and sad times........

    1. The one thing I know after all is said and done, Astrid, is that you know, understand, love and care, no matter what. You've had your own journey and can share the experience and the well as the joy. Thank you for being there for me. I'm so glad it is YOU. I wouldn't want it to be anybody else at this point in my life. Thank you.

  7. With great interest and sympathy I have read your very moving memoirs - what a rich and fascinating life story, full of pains, but also full of pleasures and new experiences. Even looking only at the photos of your person from childhood on I can see the development you really did in the course of your life - and it is also a kind of revelation and confession, and I'm very pleased to read that also your children do accept the way you have gone. I also admire the behaviour of your husband Bill - he is likely to be a very sensitive man. Despite all changes - I think there is an essence in your personality which was there, is there and will be there for ever, a great sensitivity, compassion with others, curiosity, openness, a sense for spirituality ... How wonderful that you could save so many photos of your life - and thank you very much for sharing your life with us - by words, photos and gestures ... I think you can be very proud and very thankful for your life -and God may bless further on the way you have found!

    1. Your words deeply touch my heart and soul, dear Philine. You support over these past years goes beyond appreciation. I thank you, of course, but I also cherish our friendship. Cherish is the word.

  8. Another wonderful post, Mom! These are the years that I can relate to and have my own "story" that was occurring parallel to yours. As you struggled with being free to be who you are, I, as a young child, saw this struggle from a different perspective. Admittedly, I was very confused and didn't quite understand what I "knew," (especially at a time in our society when this topic was only beginning to be discussed in very small pockets) but through the years and as each chip fell into place, it all began to make sense. More importantly, it wasn't about acceptance, but rather about being ready and willing to move beyond the selfish side of how all of this impacted ME. Today, I am simply happy that you are finally free to be you, with the person you can't imagine living without.

    Now, about those Glamour Shots... (ugh)

    1. I know you have your own story, Amy, and...suddenly all the tears well up again. It's the greatest anguish of my life, what I put you and Mark through. Sometimes I didn't think I could bear it, but it's gotten better over time...and with my own healing. It's been a long time coming. 25 years. Man alive!

      I love you more than you'll ever know...especially now that you can look back on those Glamour Shots and laugh. It was one of those times when Dad and I decided to let you win the battle so that we could win the war. HA!

      Thank you for commenting here publicly. I didn't know if you could....

  9. This is all so incredibly beautiful...your story...Astrid's feelings...and those of your children. It just doesn't get any better. Brava gal, Brava. Enjoy every breath of are so deserving.

    1. Every time I read this post, Robin, my eyes well up with tears. It really is a tear and a smile...and a story I can't live without, when you come right down to it. Thank you for following it alongside of me.

  10. Oh Ginnie I am just catching up and what a heartfelt story of such confusion and pain in a time where it just couldn't be....and oh to see you go through it in picture and word broke my heart.

    1. Yes, Donna. It broke my heart, too, again, while writing it. But as I write this today, MARRIAGE EQUALITY now rules our land! It's been a long time coming.