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2PM October 31, 2007 BURY MY ANGRY HEART

Tomorrow morning the man of my dreams who I married November 28,
1968, the man with whom I delivered three healthy, well-adjusted, brilliant
sons, the man who I divorced over thirty years ago will be buried. He was
65 and lost his battle with colon cancer and alcoholism. These past thirty
years have been torturous to put it mildly. The day he abandoned the family
ship our youngest son was 11 months old, the middle son, 2 1/2 years, and
the oldest a mere three months shy of his fifth birthday and kindergarten. That
day, May 4, 1976, will be forever etched in my soul.

Let me digress please for a brief history of this gorgeous man I married, this
wonderful father and active member of the community who succumbed to
the disease of alcoholism and thus destroyed his life a day at a time for more
than three decades. We met in college in the spring of 1968 and became
husband and wife on the following Thanksgiving Day. I had just turned 19
a few months before, and was mesmerized by his wit and charm. Head over
heals in love with an older man who had just come home after three years in
Germany in the US Army. A pretty safe place to be considering everyone else
in the military was getting drafted and shipped to Viet Nam in those years. He
loved to party, loved sports, loved to have a good time and everyone loved him.

Shortly after our wedding we bought our first house, a lovely little bungalow in
a quiet neighborhood just two blocks from his mother and father’s place. In the
summer of 1969 his parents took us and the whole family on a cruise to the
island of Jamaica. In the summer of 1970 they took us to Europe for a month.
In 1971 several of us in the family were pregnant and due to deliver any day
that summer, so we all stayed close to home. In the fall of 1972 my husband’s
job transferred him and me and our new son from Wichita, Kansas, to Estherville,
Iowa, a farming community of about 10,000 situated in the northwest corner of the
state. In November, 1973, our second son was born. We had a lovely ranchstyle
home on the edge of town where we entertained new friends every weeked.
We found others who liked to play bridge and who liked to drink with my husband.
I didn’t do much drinking in those days as I was too busy worrying about the
children and taking care of them. Around the time of the second son’s birth
I noticed my husband leaving for work on Monday morning with his rum and
coke. Soon I was getting phone calls from his boss wanting to know where he
was. He hadn’t heard from him in weeks. My heart sank. In the fall of 1974
he told me he had left his auditor job with the railroad and taken a job his dad
acquired for him in an itty, bitty farming community of 2500 smack dab in the
middle of the Flint Hills back in our home state of Kansas. He told me to sell
the house, find a mover, and bring the boys and follow. I was hurt that he didn’t
consult with me before making this decision. I didn’t want to leave our friends,
but knowing that I really had no choice and that I was expecting again I did
sell the house and moved during one of the worst blizzards on record in January

Six weeks after our third son was born in June of 1975 we moved into an old
13-room Victorian house once owned by a doctor who spent lots of time and
money remodeling it. I loved it and our new friends, but my husband spent
every other night and nearly every weekend partying at the local country club
or losing money in a poker game or playing pool and drinking with his bachelor
friends. I didn’t think a person could get as depressed as I was, and my
relationship with my husband literally disintegrated before my eyes. I thought
he acted very strange in those days. He constantly talked to himself, and I don’t
remember a time he didn’t have a drink in his hand. Even though I had grown
up in a beer-drinking German Catholic family where the suds were in the
refrigerator all the time and/or being brewed in the basement, I knew there
was something odd about the way my husband drank morning, noon and
night, day in and day out. I felt so much love for my children and that reason
alone kept me from taking a drink in those days. One of us had to be responsible,
and I was the best for the job.

On the morning he drove off with all his clothes I went into complete shock.
Throughout the days that followed I received more earth-shattering news:
he had been embezzling from the place where he worked. He took every penny
we had saved together in three different savings account and one checking
account. I had not one red cent to feed those babies. Somehow I pulled
myself together and applied for welfare and food stamps. That was the
second worst day of my life. On the night he left one of my friends came
over to console me and the boys. I showed her the three half empty bottles
of Bacardi light rum under the kitchen sink. Together we collected twelve
more bottles hidden inside and outside the house. More surprises came
when I found a note containing my last will and testament in his handwriting,
and started getting calls from an insurance agent wanting to know why the
premiums on a life insurance policy on me, about which I knew absolutely
nothing, had not been paid. About a month after he left he and his father
tried to sell the house without my knowing and without my signature.
When my lawyer looked at my husband and his father and asked them what
“that girl and those three babies were going to do.” My father-in-law said
we could live in the street, and my husband said nothing. The man who
wanted the house backed out of the deal and stopped by to tell me of
the awful things my father-in-law said. I couldn’t understand then why they
hated me so much, and I don’t understand it today. He and my husband’s
mother took turns screaming at me and shaking their fingers at me and
threatening me if I filed for divorce and blaming me for all of their son’s
problems. I couldn’t believe my ears, and I wept like a baby. Only many
years later did it dawn on me they had been blaming everyone else for
his mistakes ever since he started getting kicked out of Cub Scouts long
before I met him and well after I bowed out of the picture. He was never
held responsible for anything.

On April 19, 1977, we were divorced, and I moved with the boys 45 miles
north to a university where I borrowed the money and completed my studies
in Business Administration in May of 1980. From the day the boys’ father
left in 76 until the youngest one turned 18 almost seventeen years later to the day,
their father hardly paid one dime of child support and visited them maybe once or
twice a year. His father set him up managing a store in Marietta, Georgia, and
after six months or so he disappeared again without a word of explanation.
A few months’ later he showed up in Fargo, North Dakota, where he continued
his vanishing act a year later. Always drunk. Never knowing where he was or
how he got there, and always expecting people to believe what he was doing
was normal.

Cunning, baffling, powerful they say the disease of alcoholism is. That’s an
understatement as far as I’m concerned. Nothing and nobody could stop that
man from drinking himself to death—not for me, not for his mother, not for
anyone in his family, not being homeless, or jobless, or penniless. Not knowing where he was most of the time or how he got there, not the squalid living conditions in some cheap hotel where he lived most of the time, not being without a car
most of the past 30 years, N-O-T-H-I-N-G could keep him from alcohol. He
sank to a bottom few people ever see, and he stayed there. He had no clue
he had a problem. He never sought treatment in any kind of facility. Never
called Alcoholics Anonymous for help. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. Twenty years ago he
looked like a walking skeleton with a white afro hairstyle. He couldn’t carry on
a conversation. In fact, to me he sounded like he had no mind at all. He told me
then he had liver damage like it was a war injury or something, and that didn’t stop
him from drinking.

On the day he left only his first son cried. The other two boys were too young to
understand what was going on. From then on he would drift through town
maybe once or twice a year. Forget child support. Last I knew he owed $52,000
to me and his sons. Believe me raising three boys that close in age was no
easy manuever, no financially free task, and not without its stacks of doctor bills,
grocery bills, dental bills, glasses, shoes and clothes. Their father helped with
N-O-N-E of it. In fact, no member of either family helped with anything ever.
I worked two and three jobs at a time to keep them fed and clothed and some
type of a roof over their heads. I loved them. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

About four or five years ago the boys’ father showed up at our youngest son’s
door. He was homeless and looking for a place to stay, and that son let him in.
I never uttered a word of argument to my son. He was single, making a
good living, stable and over 21. He could make his own decisions. It seemed
like such a slap in the face to me though. I couldn’t believe this son was taking
the very man responsible for all our pain and suffering all these years into his
home and into his life as if nothing ever happened. It didn’t make sense to me.
I kept my mouth shut, but as far as I was concerned he owed this man
nothing. His father didn’t deserve his son’s generosity or respect or even his
love in my opinion. ((TO BE CONTINUED))

2PM October 31, 2007 BURY MY ANGRY HEART


Durham, United States

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