Posted by: patwogan | August 7, 2009

A Bad Memory

Between my eighth grade year and starting the ninth grade in Independence, a lot of things happened in my life.  The main thing was that my parents got a divorce.  At the time this happened, divorce in our family was unheard of.  In my mind, I caused it.

I had a friend who was a boy who went to our church.  He rode his bicycle the three miles out to our home to visit me frequently.  On one of these trips, he told me that my father had been seen a few times with a woman.  They had been seen at lunch and also in his car outside the office where Dad worked.  I don’t remember too many of the details of this conversation, only the shock of hearing the news.  I did know that my parents had been having some discussions after they went to bed because my bedroom was right above theirs.  I remember feeling sorry for Dad because he would whisper and Mom would answer him out loud.  I tried not to listen and really didn’t hear anything distinctly. 

I kept the secret of Dad’s activities for some time.  And had no intention of doing anything with the knowledge.  However, at the time, I had long hair and Mom would shampoo my hair at the kitchen sink.  She would have me lie down on the ironing board with my head hanging down.  I remember so well that it was at this time that the words just rolled out of my mouth that Dad had been seen with another woman.  I know I did not use the word “affair”.  I didn’t have to.  Mom seemed as shocked as I had been to hear about it.

As I look back now, I know she had to have known.  If my friends were telling me, no doubt her friends had told her….or maybe not.  I never asked and she never told me.  So as far as I knew, and know, I gave her the first information she had.  Imagine the guilt I felt.  I felt that I had betrayed my father and hurt my mother in the same instant.   The details of what my parents did immediately after that is not clear to me.  Only that it seemed to lead to the divorce..which was quite bitter and even now as I write it, I get a tightness in my chest just thinking about it.  The bitterness went on for years and in fact, I don’t think my Mother ever forgave Dad for it.  It took me a long time to forgive and understand that sometimes people should never have married in the first place. 

Dad married the woman he was seeing and she was a sweet person who was my “step-mother” for more than thirty years before dying of Alzheimer’s.  He told me one time that she was not the first person he had been involved with.  He mentioned a woman who had been married to my mother’s brother.  I told him I didn’t want to hear any more about that.   I know now looking back that he always had women friends and I wonder about several of them.

There were several ways this divorce, my guilt, and the turmoil surrounding my life affected me.  The most visible was probably my anger at my Dad.  I didn’t want to see him or be with him at all.  I had to go to court during the divorce and testify about a quarrel they had.  I also had to choose which parent I wanted to live with.  Those are things a child should never have to do.  Especially a child who is already overcome with guilt about the whole situation.

Another way I was affected…and keep in mind that at that time in my life, everything was measured by how it affected ME….was that my grades in school really suffered.  I had gone from a somewhat sheltered environment on the farm attending a rural school to living in town and attending a big junior high school.  That plus the divorce left me overwhelmed.  I went from being the Salutatorian of Montgomery County to making Cs and Ds in the ninth grade.  I also made some bad choices trying to fit in somewhere.  Most of the kids in the Junior High had attended larger schools and already had a group of friends in place.  It was, as it always is, hard to break into those already established cliques. 

Because of the divorce, Mom had to find a job.  She went to work as a bookkeeper at a landscaping firm.  We moved into a little house in Independence at the edge of a neighborhood of wealthy people.  I didn’t fit in there at all!  There were two people my age in the neighborhood but they were  “country club” kids and definitely out of my league.  I had my church friends, but there weren’t a lot of kids my age in my church.  I felt totally insecure and lost. 

It actually took me many years to find myself but look at me today.  I am a positive person whose faith in God sustains me.  I have a loving family and many friends.  What I went through at that time made me a better, more understanding  parent and gave me a greater empathy as a teacher.  I thank God for leading me through that dark valley and bringing me out into the sunshine that is now my life.

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Responses

  1. I’m proud of you for writing this mom!


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