My parents, a Catholic mother and Methodist father, eloped in July, 1958. Those were the first two mistakes of many in their 13-year marriage, which ended in painful divorce in 1971. Their first mistake was that they married outside their respective faith traditions, and the second was that they eloped instead of having a traditional, sacramental wedding ceremony.
My father was an alcoholic back then. My mother knew that before they married, but didn't understand the dangers of his addiction. She was "old" at 23; many of her friends were already married by that age; and she wanted to be married, so she and my father were wed by a Methodist pastor at his Arlington, Virginia parsonage, far from either of their hometowns. My father never asked my mother's dad for her hand in marriage, because he just didn't like those types of traditions and wanted to do things his way.
There are so many things I could tell about my parents' troubled marriage and divorce, but space and time limit a full recounting.
Basically, I feel that my father never truly loved my mother, even though they bore four children together within five years, with me being the eldest, two younger brothers, and one developmentally-disabled younger sister.
My father, back in 1960s, during the years of his and my mother's marriage and our childhoods, was a mean and angry alcoholic whom we feared more than loved.
When my parents' marriage broke up, we kids were about 10 years of age and younger. The scars of their acrimonious breakup remain with me to this day. Not a day goes by that I don't think of how much I wish my mother and father had stayed married.
From the time of my parents' 1971 divorce until one of my brothers married in 1997, Mom and Dad did not speak to one another. The first time I saw them in the same room together, after more than 25 years, was when my brother married. I cried tears of joy that day, so happy to see them both together again, sitting in the front pew.
My mom regrets all the harm done to me and my siblings by the divorce and has apologized for it many times, but my father, who recently passed away, never to his dying day admitted to any wrongdoing. He blamed all the problems on my mom. He remarried in 1978 and stopped drinking shortly afterward.
In these past 39 years since my father married my stepmother, I have seen how my stepmother has enjoyed all the benefits of my dad's sobriety, career, money, and affection. During their marriage, my dad and stepmother traveled the U.S. twice a year, and also throughout the world, including several trips to Hawaii, and excursions to Europe and Australia/New Zealand. They shared a beautiful house, had an entire Lenox Christmas china set, bought clothes at Nordstrom's, etc.
My mother should have enjoyed all those perks. Instead, she now struggles to make ends meet on Social Security and income from other paltry investments, and it so angers me.
When my parents divorced in 1971, divorce was still a shameful thing. I will never forget dining at a local restaurant with my mother and siblings one night back then, where my fifth-grade teacher and her husband were also dining. My teacher came up to our table and asked where my father was, and my mother told her that she and my dad were divorcing. I hung my head in shame.
I am now 56 years old and never-married. I used to wish to be married, but was always rejected by men I truly loved.
Now, looking back, when I'm well-past my prime, I think that the bad example I received from my parents' marriage confused me and made me unable to discern the factors and attributes that would lead to a good marriage. I believe I loved men who were not good for or interested in me, because of the bad and confusing example of my parents' marriage.
And now, I'm so old that my womb has stopped working, and I don't hope for or foresee marriage in my future. I'm just a single working woman, trying to get through this life until I retire or die, whichever comes first, with no descendants to leave any possessions or legacy to.
I envy other women who have made good marriages where they don't have to work, have had children and grandchildren, and can stay at home, tend to their families, and pursue their own interests at leisure.
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