I got married when I was eighteen and moved to Virginia because my husband had two years left in the Navy. He was at sea more than he was home, so it was a mystery why I could not live with my family. But he wanted me in Virginia, so I obeyed.
Another Navy wife befriended me and helped me acclimate. I joined a church and got a job.
My father had been against my getting married and had predicted troubles; his predictions came true.
After two years, I saw clearly what my life would be if I stayed married, and I told my husband I wanted a divorce.
He was shocked because I never stood up for myself. I had been timid, fearful and compliant.
After he left, I started thinking about moving home.
Then my father called and told me I was not welcome at home. He was angry with me.
Now it was my turn to be shocked because I did not understand his anger. I could not argue with him, though, because what he said was true—I had only been married two years, and I was the one who asked for the divorce.
My dad, with his dry sense of humor, claimed he had bought a billboard on I-94 that said, “I am still paying for the god damn wedding, and she is already divorced.” He told me I had made my bed, so….
There I was, stuck in Virginia with no family support. I felt I was being punished for breaking the rules.
I didn’t go home that Thanksgiving or Christmas, and by the new year, I was in a deep depression.
In February, my older brother cleared the way for me to come home for a weekend, and I jumped at the chance.
Frosty is how I described my dad toward me. He allowed me to enter his house, but he was unhappy about it. I was mystified by his anger. I knew he was disappointed about my not staying married, but this seemed so extreme.
When I got on the plane to fly back to Virginia, I was even deeper in despair. I remember thinking, “I hope my seatmate does not ask me who I am because I don’t even know my name anymore.” Then I started to cry.
Fifty years later and just days before my mother died, she told me that after he left Virginia, my ex-husband had come to talk to my dad. She did not know what was said, but I could imagine because I knew that my ex-husband had dished dirt about me to our friends.
Suddenly, my dad’s anger from fifty years ago made sense. He had believed whatever lies my ex had told him; he had thought the worst about me.
I was furious because I knew that my ex had not told him the whole story, he had blamed me and not admitted his part in the breakdown of our marriage.
I realized I had been keeping a secret, too—the secret of what my husband had done to me.