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Bodark Creek - 30. Chapter 30

“What!” I nearly shouted at Walter, when he told me he was leaving Myra. “You’ve been married for almost thirty years!”

“Twenty-six,” he corrected. “So maybe it’s time.”

“You can’t just walk away from your family.”

“I’m not. I’m only divorcing Myra. I did it once before, with Stefanie. And everything worked out just fine. Besides,” he added, “my family is mostly grown.”

I couldn’t argue with that. Walter and Myra’s youngest daughter, Dorothy, was eighteen. She’d just finished school and was working at a women’s store in town. Their next youngest daughter, Lynn, was twenty-two and had just gotten married.

“But Stefanie was different,” I said, though I could hardly remember why she and Walter had gotten divorced. Stefanie still lived in town, and I saw her nearly every Sunday at church. But I’d never think of asking her that kind of personal question. Especially since she’d also gotten married again, right after Walter, and had a family of her own.

“It’s the same thing,” Walter insisted. “You live with someone till you can no longer stay with them. Then you move on.”

“It’s not that way at all,” I said. “You stay with someone because you love them. And you’ve promised to love them. And that goes on and on.”

“Well, maybe I don’t love Myra then. Not anymore. And I guess I probably won’t ever again.”

After that, he stopped talking. And nothing any of us said could get him to see reason or change his mind.

I went to Myra. “I know you still love each other,” I started. “In all the years you’ve been married, I’ve never even heard you fight.”

“Walter doesn’t argue much,” she admitted. “He never did.”

“Well, maybe not with you,” I said, laughing. “But he sure used to. When Walter was younger and Daddy was still alive, the two of them would fight all the time. I thought you’d changed that.”

“Maybe it’s different with men,” Myra said. “Or maybe he did change. But arguing’s not always the best thing, either. Not listening to someone when she has something to say is even worse. And Walter’s always made all the decisions in our family.”

“Martin’s the same way,” I agreed. “At least on important things for the farm. But he’d never just tell me he was getting divorced.”

“What if he did?”

“I’d tell him he was crazy.”

“Well, maybe that’s what’s wrong with Walter. Maybe he’s always been a little crazy, like Albie. Or maybe he’s just been that way since the last war. Either way, why would I want to stay with him?”

“Because you love him. You love each other. I know you do.”

Myra didn’t deny that. And she never said she didn’t want to stay married. But after a long while, she finally sighed and told me, “Well, it’s his decision. Whatever he decides, I’ll just have to go along.”

“What’s going on?” Martin soon asked me. He knew something was happening but didn’t know all the reasons. And when I told him as much as I knew, he didn’t like it at all.

“There’s never been any divorce in my family,” he said. “That’s not the way we were raised. We stay together no matter what.”

I’d always known that about Martin, and I felt the same way. And we both really didn’t like the idea that Walter could just wake up one morning and decide to completely change his life.

“It’s nothing I’m doing without thinking,” Walter told me. “I’ve thought about this for a very long time, and Myra knows all my reasons. This isn’t just my fault.”

“What does he mean?” I asked Myra. “He said you understood.”

“I do,” she allowed. Then she wouldn’t go into it. At least not with me.

But their daughter Dorothy would. “Now Mama’s told me this in private,” she said. “She won’t even tell my sisters. She said they have bigger things to worry about. But I’m the one who’s still lives at home, so I’m the one who hears what’s on her mind.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” I promised.

“Good. Because I’ve really got to talk to someone. This is all so hard. And I know I can trust you.”

“I won’t even tell Martin.”

“Good.”

What she told me was mostly about Frank. “Daddy just can’t get over his dying,” Dorothy said. “He wants to have another baby so badly. He wants another son. And Mama can’t do that any more. I mean, she hasn’t had a baby in almost twenty years.”

I couldn’t imagine Myra having another child.

“I know she’s only forty-two,” Dorothy went on. “So I guess if she really wanted to, she could. I mean she hasn’t reached... she hasn’t had... well, you know what I mean. But having another baby could kill her. I know that doesn’t happen a lot anymore, but it could. And I don’t want to lose her just for something stupid that Daddy wants.”

She stopped there because she was pretty upset, and I tried to calm her down.

“I didn’t mean to say that about Daddy,” she soon told me. “About his being stupid and all. I love them both, a lot. But it’s terrible having to choose between them.”

I understood that. Though I told her that I’d never been in a situation where I had to choose between two people I loved.

“Besides, Mama’s not ready to raise another baby,” Dorothy went on. “She’d be happy just to be a grandmother.”

“And the new baby could be a girl,” I pointed out. “It’s not like our family’s known for having lots of boys.”

Dorothy disagreed with that. She said, “Daddy said it would absolutely be a boy. He says, ‘Jesus will make sure of that.’”

That scared me a little, and it made me wonder if Walter was just a bit crazy. He’d never been especially religious, surely not as much as Sonny. Walter never spent any more time in church than he had to, and I suddenly wondered if he really knew what he was saying.

“That’s just hard to think about,” Dorothy agreed. “Let alone say to someone. Even someone as close as you.”

I really wanted to talk with Rosalind about it. I knew I couldn’t risk going to Sonny. But I also knew Rosalind would only ask Dock, and then, even accidentally, he’d make Walter as miserable as all the lawyers were making Charley.

I thought of breaking my word and telling Martin. He was good at keeping secrets, and I told him almost everything. But I also couldn’t imagine us talking about having babies. That was just something that happened between us. We never talked about how. A lot had changed in our marriage, both in what we did with each other and what we said. Martin had definitely gotten more comfortable. He could even undress in the daylight. One time, one time when it was summer and especially hot, I found him just lying on our bed, on top of the quilt, with nothing on.

“It’s okay,” he said. “It’s late, and everyone else is asleep.”

I wasn’t sure about that. Del and Neal had a habit of staying awake pretty late, even when we thought they weren’t. I’d sometimes hear them talking quietly between themselves. And all our children came into our bedroom without knocking, though the door was hardly ever closed. Like all the doors in our house, it didn’t even have a lock. Joann was five or six at the time, and she was almost always the first one up. I wondered what she’d think if she came and woke Martin up, and he wasn’t wearing any clothes. I don’t think she’d even seen her brothers that way.

Still, there were things Martin and I didn’t talk about, so I just kept this secret to myself. In one way, I was happy that Walter still wanted Myra to have a baby. Because Walter was the same age as Martin, and there were some things I didn’t want to give up just yet. But in another way, I could completely understand how Myra felt. I was five years younger than she was, and I didn’t want another baby. Though if I had to decide whether to have one or give up Martin, there wouldn’t have been a question.

Of course, things were different with us. Walter and Myra’s children were almost grown, where ours were still young. So we could fit in another child. I also couldn’t live without Martin, while Myra didn’t have to think about that. If something awful happened to Walter, she could keep on living on my brothers’ farm and keep on working at the mill. Of course, Charley and his wife had children as young as Martin’s and mine, and they’d gotten divorced. But that was different. Marion lived in a city, and Charley had a different kind of job. And Marion had her mother and sisters to help.

Also, like Marion and Charley, Walter soon found someone else to marry. It didn’t even take a year.

“Did he know her before?” Martin asked me. “Is that what this was about?”

“No, she just moved to town. And Walter met her at church.”

“That’s something to be grateful for.”

And this time, Walter picked a woman even younger than Dougie’s second wife. They quickly had a daughter, then a son, and then another daughter.

“Now you’ll never be able to retire,” Dougie kidded Walter. He and Sonny just accepted the fact that their younger brother had remarried.

Walter only grinned. He’d always been a handsome man, and he still was. But since the first war, he’d mainly been quiet.

“This is so good,” he told us. “So good.” He seemed so happy that I suddenly couldn’t feel bad about anything that he’d done.

2021 by Richard Eisbrouch
  • Love 2

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"The times, they are a changin'"... Where in times past, people married and stayed together through everything, regardless of "feelings", mostly because women couldn't support themselves otherwise, one women started working, they were able to support themselves.  That is not to say that they earned as much as men - that doesn't even exist 70+ years after the end of WW II - the beginnings of more freedom for women are there.  Divorce was seen as a shameful event for women - seems they bore the brunt of the negativity more often than men. 

Thanks again for a glimpse into life at that time!

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There wasn't a lot of divorce in my family, and even into the early 1960s. I think it was still hard to get.  But I'd have to check the New York City and state laws.

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