Written by Connie Moore, Frank’s mom.
PART VI : 1970 / 1980
The ‘70’s have been the hardest decade I have yet had to go through. Our marriage came to an end in a dissolution and our family split in two. I have lived through hell but I have had some good times. It certainly has not been all bad.
Frank started his last year at Cal State and Jerry was going to Valley and they lived together. Frank dropped out of school after President Nixon ordered Cambodia bombing. Some of Frank’s friends had gone to Santa Fe and he went down to join them to see if he could make it on his own. That took a lot of courage but he had a lot of friends. He went to a crash pad run by a Catholic priest. Jim and I went down to take his things but he was out in the country visiting at a commune with friends. We drove out to see him and he was doing what he had wanted to do for a long time…be a hippie. He was happy and that satisfied me but Jim was thoroughly disgusted with it all. He was getting further and further from us. Frank moved in with a friend and her family on a ranch later and he was in. I was the one who had to face Welfare to keep his grant coming until he was established. They wanted to cut it off as soon as he left. That worked itself out and Frank was on his own, leaving us behind. Jerry, Jim and I cleaned up and closed the apartment and Jerry came back home to live. He later dropped out of school and went to work in a carpenter shop and moved in with friends.
Mother came to stay with us the day after Christmas, 1970. Reta and Emory brought her as far as St. George, Utah where we met them. Mother was getting pretty old, she had turned 89 in November. Reta and Emory were living with her in her house in Salt Lake with their adopted daughter, Bernice. They had a trailer and wanted to do some camping and scouting for old things in old towns. We picked Mother up in our ’68, air conditioned Chev wagon and brought her across the desert and to our home to spend some time with us. She had her little dog, Ponto, with her. She liked to come to our house because we treated Ponto like a person with our dogs. We had two then and Ponto liked us.
On January 15, I took Mother down to Newport Beach to visit Lois. Jim had gone fishing overnight with friends the night before and was not home yet. I had taken Mother to dinner at a local Mexican restaurant Saturday night. Mother was only to stay a couple of weeks and come back to us. We were planning to take her home in March. She was never to come back and this was her last visit with us.
Mother had only had a weekend visit with Lois and her family and Monday, January 18, she complained of a pain in her shoulder and arm. Lois took her to a doctor who diagnosed a heart attack and put her in intensive care at Hoag Memorial Hospital at Newport Beach. She was there 9 days while they punctured her arms and wired her to machines to monitor her vital signs. She was black and blue up and down her arms and probably felt worse than she had that Monday morning. She stayed in the hospital another 10 days or so and then was transferred to a convalescent hospital across the street where she was on February, 14, when Jim left me.
I was going down to see Mother as often as I felt I could and take care of my home and family too. Jerry was back home by that time. I was able to relieve Lois as she was riding her bicycle back and forth from the hospital and spending part of every day there. There was a lot of strain on us both, especially Lois. We were hoping that she would get well enough for me to take her home and we would figure out a way to get her back home to Salt Lake where she wanted to be. That was not to be. They sent her home to Lois’s house to die. It took her 10 more days of suffering before her body finally gave up and she died the morning of March 8, 1971.
This was a very stressful period in my life and it is very difficult to write about. I certainly am not very objective, but what I am about to write is my experience and reality. It is not nice. For me, very little was nice in that period. It was hell.
Things had not been well with Jim and me for some time. He was hard to live with and we all walked softly. Things had happened that should have alerted me. And they did, really, but I either was not willing to face the reality of the situation or be the bitchy wife. So I kept my peace when he went out to get some liquor so Ruth and Herbert Van from across the street could come over and have a drink with us on Christmas Eve. He didn’t come back. They finally left and I was very embarrassed. Jim hadn’t bothered to explain where he was and I didn’t press. He did apologize to the Vans, but I was not worth an apology or an explanation. That hurt as did the night he didn’t come home till after 2 and I got Jerry up to go out with me to find him. We found his car at the tavern but no one knew where he was or they didn’t want to tell us. As we were leaving, one of our friends drove through the parking lot and let him out. There was no explanation why he was with her. And the times when I couldn’t depend on him to be where I needed him while Frank was in the hospital; when he wouldn’t go to Santa Fe with me to take Frank’s typewriter and tape recorder the state of California had given Frank. He wanted Jerry to be where he was supposed to be. I should have been prepared when Jim came home on Sunday, February 14, 1971 (Valentine’s Day), and told me he was leaving me, but I wasn’t.
With Mother in the hospital dying and Jerry and Frank breaking away, this was a very bad time for Jim to break up our 30 year marriage. Yes, the signs were there, but Jim had always been a good family man. Our marriage had been good. It hadn’t been very long ago that he had sent me 2 dozen long stem roses representing his love for each of the 24 years we had been married. His friends from the bar had brought us an old geranium plant with 25 silver dollars pasted to it on our 25th anniversary. I knew Jim was going through a bad time with his family, but I really thought we had a good basis for working it out. When I was finally told what was happening, it was too late to work things out. I felt very cheated that he didn’t want to try. By then, as he told me the day he left, he had had 2 years of seeing Barbara and he was in love with her and not me. He wanted her. He didn’t want to live with us anymore. He didn’t want his family. He packed his things late Sunday afternoon and left me alone in the house. Jerry had gone to visit his girlfriend, Lynn, in Long Beach.
I couldn’t watch Jim pack and leave, so I left and went to visit a friend, Dorothy Timms, who was dying of cancer and who had been a regular visitor at the bar and knew what was going on. She told me what she had seen going on and we talked for a while. Then I came home to the empty house. My world had fallen apart. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep that night. The next day was a holiday for Washington or Lincoln’s birthday and Jim didn’t have to go to work. That was my first holiday I had to spend alone. I got up early and went down to Newport Beach to be with Mother and Lois. Mother never knew what happened as she was beyond caring about the world out there. I met Lois at the hospital and we walked outside while I told her. I stayed down there that night but I didn’t sleep. I was really in a state of shock. I hadn’t really been able to take the impact of the situation in and my body was numb.
I called Jerry at Lynn’s house Tuesday and arranged to pick him up and we came home together. I told him the news at Lynn’s house. It really hurt him. I drove home as I was afraid he would take his anger and frustration out on the road. When we got home, I knew Jim had been there. He didn’t know where I was and I think it worried him. Wednesday night, he came by to tell me he may come back. I know it was very hard for him to do what he had done. He must not have been very good company for Barbara as he told me she told him to come back to me. I told him he had to make the decision but it was what I wanted. He and Jerry talked a little about why he had left but they were antagonizing each other. Jerry was coming on a little like the man of the family…a role he had just assumed. Jim resented that and there began a power struggle which was destructive to both of them. Thursday, he came by to tell me he was coming home Friday. He was having difficulty handling the fact that they were breaking up two marriages of long standing. I was very happy and thought I had won that one. I hadn’t won anything, only prolonged the misery.
One of the reasons Jim came back, I think, was because I was expecting Martha and Eldon to arrive Friday. Jim was very fond of them and we had done a lot of things with them like camping and fishing. They came down to see Mother and I had to tell Martha when she called. They didn’t expect Jim to be there when they came. I had gone shopping and done some for Dorothy and wasn’t home when either Jim or Martha and Eldon arrived. So Jim’s homecoming was crowded and hectic. It all seemed so good to all be together again and I was willing to let it go at that. Martha and Eldon had brought Russell with them and Jerry was home. Martha, Eldon, Jim and I planned a fishing trip for a few days and left Russell home with Jerry. We were enjoying the trip and things were good, I thought, between Jim and me. We called home to see how things were there and Russell answered and said Jerry had gone someplace. Jim was livid. I don’t think I have ever seen him so angry, really out of proportion to the event. It really worried me.
Martha and Eldon stayed a couple of weeks. We went down to see Mother who was now at Lois’s and we went out to dinner a couple of times. It was very enjoyable. But before they left, I was getting little messages that it was not so good. I voiced my concern to Martha. I was beginning to think Jim had come back to be with them and that he would leave at a better time. I think she was feeling it too. She told me to do what I had to do and let the chips fall. I can’t think why I was down helping Lois and they were up here, but Martha had a little time to talk to Jim and she asked him how it was going. He didn’t know but he said I was hovering. I had precious little time for that, but as the saying goes: I was damned if I did or damned if I didn’t. I couldn’t do anything right. Things got worse. I became aware that Jim was seeing Barbara and then he got blatant. He didn’t care how he hurt me anymore. Probably, he was trying to make me call it quits this time but I wouldn’t help him a bit. I bit the bullet and hung in.
On March 8, 1971, Jim and I went down to Lois’s to see what we could do for her and Mother. Lois had an appointment with Welfare to see about getting Mother on Medi-Cal. Utah officials were bulking about paying bills for her while she was in California. She had been here too long. Jim took her over and I sat beside Mother writing a letter and reading Sherri’s book, “Love Story”. Mother dozed off and I turned the oxygen down while she was breathing normally. I saw her jerk and then it seemed to be all over. I called the doctor and he came out and confirmed death. My remark was, “Thank God!” Her last words were, “I wish I could go”. Jim came back while the doctor was there and I told him. He said he was sorry and seemed to reach out to me but when I responded, I really needed his support, he held me off. That hurt terribly. Others were getting his support, but he could show me no mercy. How did he ever get so far away? He was helpful, though, and went back to get Lois. I called Reta and she gave me instructions as to where to call to have her prepared to ship her body home. Jim and I drove out to the mortuary to make the necessary arrangements and then we started home. We stopped for dinner at March Air Force Base NCO Club. There were a lot of black people there which upset him. But all he wanted to talk about was Jerry not going to school or leaving home. I never really understood his antipathy toward Jerry. He seemed to be the scapegoat for everything Jim couldn’t cope with.
When Jim first left, I called Frank to tell him. He was visiting his friend in Washington DC again and he answered the phone. I told him what to tell Frank. He said, “That old Fart!”, which of course, didn’t help the situation. Later I wrote to Frank telling him Jim had come back and I had a second chance, and that Mother had died. The response I got to that letter addressed to all of us gave me quite a shock. To quote some of his comments when he got to the “grittygritty”, “Dad, good for you! You finally brought it out into the open…I’m only surprised that all of mock shock on Mom’s part…that is all bullshit. Dad splits, groovy. Dad gets tired Barbara, groovy. Dad come back, groovy IF YOU BOTH REALLY WANT IT THAT WAY. But if you-Dad-came back just because felt guilty, then it is fucked because Mom will beat you over your head with your guilt until you split again.” That letter tore my heart out. I wanted to hide it and not let Jim see it. I was really walking on eggs by that time. But I knew Jim saw the mail at the Post Office and I didn’t dare. One day I missed the letter and the next day it was in place. I found out why later when Jim produced the copy he had made in Conciliation Court to prove that I was a bitch that couldn’t be lived with. Our family had split down the middle.
Late in May, we met Martha and Eldon at Lake Powell for our last trip together. I was going to prove to him I could fish too, if that is what he wanted in a woman. I did. It was a beautiful trip but it was obvious to me that he wanted to be with Martha and Eldon but not with me. He wouldn’t touch me, though we slept together. He told Martha then that I was clinging and wouldn’t let him breathe. Barbara wanted him and obviously he wanted her and meant to have her. It was just a question of time.
Shortly after that trip, on June 5, 1971, Jim left for good and filed divorce papers in July. The papers were served to me by a deputy sheriff on July 11. I was alone and cried all afternoon. I got a phone call from a friend which cut it off. I just wanted to tear up the papers and throw them away. That wouldn’t have helped, as Jim told me the next time he came by, there was a no-cause law now and the divorce would go through without my signature. I think that is a good law, but then it seemed so unfair to me. I didn’t have any recourse but to let him go. He was the one doing the things that were cause for divorce. I had tried very hard to be a good wife and mother, which was all I wanted to be. But everything that I had thought was good and right, turned out to be bad and wrong. I felt so helpless. There wasn’t anything I could do to stop this nightmare. Someone suggested Conciliation Court and I was willing to try anything. But that was too much like marriage counseling to Jim and he became very hostile, with his copy of Frank’s letter. Jim really let the counselor have it with how bad I was; he couldn’t eat a meal with me without me picking a fight; I was tearing down his country that he had fought for. It was a disaster. After, he went his way to Barbara and I went home alone to cry. I went down to Lois’s for moral support. Jerry was home and supportive but would rather be someplace else. I was hard to take.
It was a long hot summer and I went down to Lois’s as often as I could to get away. I spent a lot of afternoons in Ruth Van’s kitchen drinking coffee or ice tea. But I fought the dependency I was creating. I sensed healing would be done by me and I had to get on with the job. I really needed Jim to lean on but he was gone and I had to stand on my own two feet ALONE if I was going to make it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to make it. I had seen the doctor when I knew Jim was spending his days off with Barbara and he had given me sleeping pills that I had intended to use all at once. I couldn’t do that, though, because it would hurt Jerry. I was aware that it was Jim I wanted to hurt, not Jerry. I tried to contrive ways to do it so Jim would find me. I couldn’t figure out how to do it without being too destructive to Jerry. I didn’t think Frank would care much. I would have done my thing and that was OK. So I went on living and had to figure out how to make a living for myself, though it seemed so pointless. There just wasn’t any good reason that I could think of for me to go on living. Jerry would probably be better off if I was gone. Maybe that would bring Jerry and Jim together. That was the “Crazies” I had to go through and I found out that it wasn’t all that different from separation by death. With death, the survivor does have family support and friends are sympathetic at least for a while. But, with a divorce, friends don’t want to get involved and you find yourself pretty much alone when you need so much help. I found myself comparing myself to a flower that had been pulled up by the roots and left to die; a boat cut off from the main ship and left to drift.
Jim wanted to get through the divorce with as little expense and trauma as possible and didn’t want lawyers involved. That would have been the best way if I could have handled it, which I couldn’t. I went to the Legal Referral Service and they referred me to Mr. Lunsford whose office was just across Brookside from me. He had also been our neighbor, which I didn’t know, and remembered Frank riding the school bus. I retained him and Jim had to pay for it. He couldn’t handle that so he got himself a lawyer to deal with my lawyer. The break up was bad, but having to go to court for the property settlement added to the trauma. I know it was hard on Jim as well as me, but he had someone out there to go to and I was alone and the rejected one. Jerry was here and Ruth Van’s niece who spent a lot of time with Jerry. Diane was very sympathetic which made Jerry more concerned. He was going through his own trauma breaking up with Lynn.
Now I had a lawyer to think about the divorce, I put my mind on other things. During the summer, I took a four day a week course in Medical Secretary and machines. I didn’t really think anyone was going to hire me at 51 +, but the work helped fill my mind during waking hours and gave me some place to go. It was the night time when I couldn’t sleep that the horrors poured back over me. In the fall, I decided to go back to Valley and take up nursing or something. I really didn’t have any real goals in mind, but I had to do something to move. I just pretended I knew where I was going but I couldn’t quite see a job at the end of it. I felt so old and worthless. It was late to get into classes at Valley, but my good friend Roger Woods came to the rescue and pulled the class cards for me and I started school again.
If I was going in for nursing, I had to start with sciences. They were a lot harder for me than psychology, political science etc. that I had really enjoyed before. My real love was philosophy which mystified Jim and I majored in psychology which frightened him. He would have been much happier with the sciences I was now taking and I could have used his help. I began with chemistry and spent hours learning symbols. That helped fill the evenings. Physiology and anatomy was harder with lab reports to make. But physics went right over my head. I didn’t fathom it at all and it was the first class I ever withdrew from. By this time, I had a job and really couldn’t handle it all, especially with 2 labs.
In December of ’71, Eleanor Yoeman from Dr. Carlisle’s office called me. Dr. Carlisle had been our doctor as he was close and I could get forms signed for Frank with the minimum hassle. He had died in October. Dr. Williamson had bought the practice along with the files of another dead doctor. I had talked quite a lot with Eleanor in the office and had taken a class with her in art. She knew that I was taking the Medical Secretary classes and she needed someone to fill in for the front office receptionist for Christmas week. I was so pleased as I was on Christmas break from school and I really needed the money. I had one day to get instructions and prescriptions, etc. in a very busy office. They were booked to the hilt. I was painfully aware of my hearing loss as sometimes I had trouble hearing calls. I was wearing a hearing aid again but that didn’t help on the phone. One call, I didn’t understand and I asked her to spell her name. She said w-i-f-e. It was the doctor’s wife and I knew I had blown it. It really shook me up and I knew they would not want me back. But I finished the week of 52 hours at minimum wage of $2 an hour and was happy to get my $104. Nobody was worrying about overtime. It was Christmas and I had just earned my first money. Then I went back to school thinking that was that.
But Eleanor called me again in January and asked me to work part time to straighten up the files of Dr. Browns. She had the idea of teaching me to do the insurance. The doctor didn’t think they needed anyone else but they did and the files just got me in the door. I sorted files and sat in the corner and learned how to bill insurance claims. I even came in early and cleaned the office as the doctor did agree they needed that done. The part time job usually was more than 40 hours a week and I was happy to work around my classes. Some months, I grossed more than the $600 he was paying his nurse and office manager. I got proficient with the insurance and moved around the office doing other jobs as receptionist, billing and simple blood tests. I could even give shots when I needed to. I took a couple of insurance classes and found I knew more than the teacher. I continued my school for a while until I felt I was really a regular employee and then I dropped it.
The divorce was proceeding pretty much without my attention. It was supposed to be final in 6 months but it took a little over a year. The court hearing was traumatic and stirred up the pain again. The first was the show cause hearing where Jim was supposed to show good reason why he didn’t give me enough money to live on. He had made the decision as to what it would cost me to live. That is pay the house payment, utilities and food. If I needed more, which I surely did, I would have to earn it. My lawyer was asking for support for Jerry until he was 21 and more money for me to cover car insurance and health insurance both of which I lost on the final date. I was to meet the lawyer at the court house at 8:15 and the hearing was 8:30. I was the only one there. That, I found, was par for the course with lawyers. Jim was waiting for his lawyer in his office. He had slept late and wasn’t in yet. I would rather have been in an office. I felt very alone. There was a break about 10:30 and then everyone arrived and we went on with the hearing.
Another court hearing was an attempt to settle the case out of court. My lawyer was there, Jim’s wasn’t but he did have a representative. Jim and I sat together in the spectator seats while our lawyers went before the judge to work things out. I couldn’t hear a thing but I knew Jim was agitated. I later learned it was because his man could not make decisions regarding the points they wanted to settle. So that day was wasted and we went our way to live our lives.
The last hearing was the final interlocutory judgment as far as I was concerned. We were the only ones there for Moore vs. Moore (that sounds like 2 prize fighters squaring off). Jim was going for a default “to bring the matter to an early termination”. I am quoting a letter from his lawyer to mine dated May 25, 1972. I can only assume that Barbara’s divorce was progressing to the climax and Jim was ready to come to terms. Much later, I was able to obtain my legal file from my lawyer’s office when he gave up his practice. In this hearing I signed my life away and began the painful process of a rebirth into a new life. I went to my car and cried and came home and cried with Diane and Jerry hovering and concerned. But it was good to have it over. I had had enough of courts for a life time. I think Jim felt the same way. The Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage was entered in Judgment Book No 253 page 342 on July 11, 1972, and my life of 31 years came to an end. I came face to face with what it was like to be single, or the life of the formerly married, especially a divorced single.
Suddenly, I didn’t fit in the world I had known for so long. I no longer had base privileges: medical, commissary or Base Exchange. I had to learn to shop again. Since Jim was to remarry very soon, he had to pick up my base pass and scratch off the sticker on the car. I felt as if my chevrons had been ripped off and I had been given a dishonorable discharge and cast aside so that a new wife could take my place. I had no claim to his retirement pay from the Air Force or what he would get from the Post Office. My lawyer told me there was no way that could be attached. So, after 30 years of faithful service, all I had to live on was what Jim would give me out of the goodness of his heart. We all know how many men do not pay child support, let alone spousal support. I was scared. There were many ways Jim could avoid paying if he wanted to and I certainly did not have any faith in my earning ability at this late date and no recent experience. I was painfully aware that the poorest segment of society was older women alone, divorced, widowed or whatever. I knew some personally. My friend Dorothy died of cancer alone on Welfare and bitter. I could see myself ending up like that. I found out I could get my part of Jim’s Social Security because I had been married over 20 years but not until I was 62. What happens to those married 19 ½ years? That time has been shortened to 10 years since. In retrospect, I didn’t need to worry about Jim. The gentleman he is, he has been very faithful with the support checks, mostly on time. There were times they were a day or two late and I panicked until I got it.
Faced with the realities of my security and finding a job, I learned, contrary to the home, mother and apple pie mentality, the work women are doing in the home is not valued in society. Your Social Security is in his name and you get half to live on with the same household expenses when he is gone. His retirement plan is his and goes with him when he goes. He “gives” you what he wants to give you because it is his, not yours. And that usually works out to about one fourth of the income you had together, usually to pay the same payments for house and utilities. His health and life insurance is no longer yours. Tough if you get sick. Get Medi-Cal.
To add insult to injury, The Automobile Club called me to tell me I could not get car insurance because I was a divorced woman. Jim could even though he was a divorced man for a short time. The agent’s suggestion was that I ask Jim for the insurance we had and he could get another policy. I didn’t want to call Jim about that or anything anymore. The agent called him and I got the policy in my name. Talk about discrimination. But that was the way it was and some people accepted. I was going to learn that not all people, as the women’s movement had begun and some things have gotten changed. Anyway, I had the insurance but I had to pay for it somehow.
I lived in dread of meeting Jim and Barbara together. So far, thank God, I have not had that experience. I have run into Jim now and then but it tears me up and I avoid it if possible. I think about what I will do at family events like marriages or deaths. Maybe time has taken care of my anxieties, I don’t know. But, so far, we have taken care of situations neatly.
When I went out into the labor force, I learned that a “displaced homemaker” had no credentials. It didn’t cut any ice with getting jobs. I, fortunately, got my first job without going out with a resume in hand. I didn’t have anything to put on one. Nobody cared that I had made a home and helped a handicapped child through his school years. My voluntary work may have been helpful but even that was too far away. My school helped but I had not prepared myself for a vocation. I got it on the strength of my little summer class and the fact that another woman had known my plight and wanted to help.
By the time the divorce was final, I did have a part time job but I knew that my hearing was a handicap there and it irritated the doctor. I was told that by 2 different people. My counselor for the nursing program said it would hinder me in nursing and I should try to get a job as a ward clerk. I changed my goal to inhalation therapist that required the same basic subjects. I felt everything was against me. The poor uprooted flower was going to die slowly.
I have learned that a divorced person goes through pretty much the same trauma that a widowed one does. The advice is not to make any major decisions for at least a year. Time will heal the pain and that was projected to a year. I was glad I didn’t have to decide to sell the house and I had been so long getting one I could really call home. I really needed the roots it provided for the flower if it was going to survive. I am glad I made that decision as it has proved to be the right one so far. Maybe I was a baby, but, instead of one year, it took me a good five. And I don’t think that is unusual. The real difference between the loss by death and divorce is the attitude of people and the division of property. In that respect, the divorced person has the harder road. If you have any friends left, they really don’t want to get involved and you find yourself accepting the blame and guilt of your part of the breakup. You have to get out and make new friends in organizations that will accept you.
I started going to groups designed to help you live with yourself and others. The first one was a transactional and analysis group at a Congregational Church run by its minister, Harry Suttner. It was a good group where we learned to analyze human transactions based on the book “Games People Play”. I met Buffy Smith who experienced divorce just a year before and she was very helpful to me guiding me through the maze. We became very good friends and do a lot of cultural things together. We both sew and have many other things in common.
I joined a group called We Care which was organized for people like me, recently out of marriage. I went with a friend I had met at the little church I had started to attend. Her name was Billie Baysinger and we have become very good friends mainly in relation to church. I met a lot of good friends at We Care. It really was a caring place. We did weekend groups to build our personality potential. It was all very helpful in building my self-esteem that had dropped to nil.
I heard about Carl Roger’s weekend groups going on in La Jolla. I went there first with Harlan Maase, a man I met at church, and we took Jerry and Diane with us. I wanted that as Harlan was and is married and I really didn’t want to get into any entanglement that way. That was a very good experience at lot like We Care’s weekend groups in another setting of lovely La Jolla on the ocean near San Diego. I went many times after that with many other friends. I met some very interesting people there as well.
The groups served their purpose and I have stopped going. I attend workshops on subjects as one coming up soon about wills, probate, etc.
I went away whenever I could and had as many new experiences that I could. One of the first was Frank’s wedding. He was living in a commune by now in Warwick, Mass near Northfield. I had read about the commune and him and his bride to be in a recent Mademoiselle magazine. I went on this trip the week our divorce was final and Jim’s approaching marriage was imminent. The Nashes had invited me to come to Austin to visit them which I did en route. I enjoyed the visit with them but missed Jim terribly. It took me back to the war days when I could put it all in a letter. Now that was denied to me.
I spent almost a week in the commune with Frank and Debbie. On July 29, 1972, a bunch of us piled into a van and went to get the set of rings for a double ring ceremony. I bought the rings as a wedding present. Then we went to the Justice of Peace for the ceremony. He would only let the couple, the best man and me in for the event. Everyone else had to wait outside. He seemed to be afraid of all those hippies from the commune in his house. I described the bride in a letter to Jerry that day as wearing a lovely velvet jacket with a peek-a-boo plunging neckline over faded jeans and barefoot sandals. The groom wore faded jeans and old tennis shoes, a sleeveless shirt set off with a bright red pointer on his head. The mother of the groom, not to be outdone, wore dirty (by that time) white pants with a blue printed shell with pink barefoot sandals. It was a motley crew but we got the job done, much against Debbie’s mother’s wishes. She had been frantically calling everyone at the commune and Jerry here at home to stop it. I talked to her once and thought she was crazy. My opinion has been reinforced a few times since then. But I had to agree that she had a beautiful (6 foot tall) daughter who was very talented. She was the artist.
I took the newlyweds to dinner at a local restaurant where I had lobster while they ate things like sandwiches. We toasted them with a bottle of wine. That evening, we went to a concert with the band, who was the focal point of the commune, and then back home on the floor of the van.
I found the commune very interesting and was impressed with their attitude about the American Dream i.e. having more and more things. They were not concerned with big homes, cars, nice furniture or expensive clothes. That was refreshing. They pooled their resources and talents to build the houses and gardens. There were always people around to support anyone who needed it and the children had lots of attention and love. I felt Frank had found his place and I was happy for him. I was probably lucky that I could go and experience without Jim’s intimidating presence. It was a good experience all around except when I read Frank’s story of his life where he blamed me for consorting with the doctor, when he had the trans-urethral section, to make him sterile. I had no idea he felt that way.
I flew back to Salt Lake and finished my two week vacation visiting with my family.
I was really turned off by the idea that formerly married people were not satisfied until they were married again. I didn’t think it had to be that way. I did feel very unlovable being rejected by Jim, and I really needed to know that I was attractive to men. In a way, I was very pleased to have my first date again after so many years not thinking about things like that. He took me to the Roller Derby. I hated the sport and was so self-conscious about wearing my rings that I didn’t want to take off until the final date. His family was there and I didn’t want them to think I was married and going out with him. I also knew that his motive was to get me to bed. He was very open about it. All this was too much for me, I hadn’t been desensitized yet. It was a disaster. But, under all the pain and indecision there was a little voice saying, “Hey, you can still attract a man!” I was on my way up. I had a few more dates with other men. Two mentioned marriage and I am sure one was serious. But, as I told Jim as he was leaving, he was hard to follow. I found myself doing anything not to be home for the man who was wanting to be with me. I just didn’t want them hanging around. I haven’t met anyone who has changed that idea. I find I would rather be in the company of other women; I am more relaxed; we don’t play games, and I don’t have to fight them out of my bed. I have decided that is the way it is going to be. I live alone, when Jerry gets it together, and I like it that way. I have learned to like myself again and I think I am good company. I don’t mind staying home and puttering around the house and yard and sew if I can find the time.
During the hot summer Sundays after Jim left, I knew I would have to start going to church to get out of the house and meet people. That is against my principles for church attending, but I had to do something and that is all I knew about on Sunday. One Sunday, I got dressed and went out looking for a little church on the north side of town (the barrio) that I had heard about where the minister and the people were brave enough to stand up for what they believed. I knew a girl who went to high school with Frank was going there. I was driving around over on the north side looking for it and ran into Jerry and his friend Marie. We stopped to talk and they wanted to know what I was doing. I started to cry and told them what I was doing. I went on to find the church as they were having coffee after church. I talked a few minutes to the minister, Hal Hudspeth, and felt better but determined to go back the next Sunday. I have never joined Impact, which is a liberal arm of the local Presbyterian Church, because I have formulated my philosophy to exclude organized religions. I was there for fellowship and love which I got in abundance. They accepted this Mormon renegade with her weird ideas and they didn’t care. In fact, they often shared them with me.
I asked Hal for some counseling. I didn’t know where else to go even though I had trained for the crisis line while I was in college before Jim left. He came twice to talk to me. He really didn’t give me all that much advice except to get out of hot Redlands as much as I could. But he listened while I got a lot of it out. He has been a very good friend though I haven’t needed his counseling anymore. He is the nicest man I have ever met and the most courageous.
My religious philosophy had evolved by now to some pretty concrete ideas. The last time I tried to teach Vacation Bible School in Germany, I told the superintendent about my Mormon background. She didn’t want any part of me teaching those precious children and had to pray for guidance. I was doing a little praying of my own. It was really alright with me if I didn’t teach, but I objected to helping someone who had had a lot less experience. I was ready to tell the super that I could better spend my time at home when someone had to drop out and she had to let me take her place. It would seem that our prayers had been answered. Later she told me I did fine, but she has no idea what she did to me at that point. I had to examine my motive for wanting to teach. I was there mainly because I wanted Frank to go and it was easier if I participated. But it was getting harder and harder for me to teach the material. I decided, after that experience, not to volunteer again and then began to study what my real attitude about religion was.
I found there was a middle ground between theism or monotheism, the belief in God, and atheism. That was agnosticism which says, “I don’t know, there is no way of knowing”. I go further: Nobody really does. You can believe but you can’t know. A good definition of God I found was Paul Tilloch’s ground of being. It takes care of God neatly, and I don’t have to deal with Him. That suits me, God just is. At Impact, this is accepted so I can enjoy the fellowship and social life with the worship. But I draw the line when it comes to joining and serving on the Session as it gets into too much of the doctrines of the larger Church. It was here that I met Harlan and Gladys Maase and became good friends. Harlan and I spent quite a few group sessions together getting to know each other rather intimately. It was a good experience to be able to open myself up so fully to a man. I had not been able to do that with Jim. He was too judgmental. I can with Jerry and could with Frank but I can’t any longer.
Frank and Debbie left the commune shortly after I was there, and went back to Santa Fe. But in December ’72, they were living with a brother and sister in Albuquerque and Jerry and I went to have Christmas with them. Jerry met his sister for the first time. Jim gave me his last Christmas present of $10 for the trip and I bought a beautiful Indian necklace made of glass beads.
Frank went back to school in Albuquerque and got his BA degree. He and Debbie met JoAnn who moved in with them and they went to Santa Fe where they met Ray Reece. Ray and JoAnn got married in a civil ceremony and later all four got married in their own ceremony with a lot of friends and me in attendance. True to form, the four of them are spearheading group marriages. What an interesting idea. Instead of polygamy that the Mormons practiced with one man and two or more wives, they are doing it with two equal partners. It seems to have worked very well and for Frank it is a very good situation with more than one person to take care of him and his needs. JoAnn was from Australia and they are all fascinating people. They all went to New York to live for a while and both Debbie and JoAnn had baby boys. Koala was born to Debbie on January 29, 1975 and Kilynn was born to JoAnn February 2. They had planned the births on the same day and were to have a midwife and have natural childbirth. That worked for Debbie, but for JoAnn it didn’t. She was having trouble and 3 days later delivered in the hospital. When the boys were about 3 months old, they all came back to California to live and took their friend’s house in Muscoy. They didn’t like it there and only stayed one month and went to Berkeley where they are now.
Jerry has moved in and out of the house and used the living room to practice until about 1975 when they built a music room in one of the fellow’s garage and that is where they stayed. Jerry met Carolyn Bond in 1976 and fell in love with her. She was married at the time but got a divorce and they have decided to live together for the present. Both were disillusioned with marriage. They have been together longer than some marriages I’ve seen. They lived with me over a year and Carolyn helped me take care of the house and the situation. Carolyn had a daughter Lisa and two grandchildren, Michael and Angelina. They were at the house a lot and I fell in love with the children, especially the pretty little blond girl who I could make clothes for. They both love me and are like grandchildren for me. Carolyn and Jerry moved out to live with Carolyn’s mother when her father died. Now they have a house of their own in Yucaipa.
My job with Dr. Williamson had progressed to where I had my own office and several increases in pay. He was finally telling me I was doing a good job and seemed interested in giving me a good place to work. My last raise he had given me in May, 1977 and told me it was long overdue. At that time he let his office manager go and we all did a lot of overtime work to keep his office running. He hired several people and let them go in a couple of weeks. It was sheer chaos. He hired my medical secretary teacher to organize the place and ignored what she suggested. That added to chaos and she quit coming. One day he hired a front office helper who said she could do insurance. The next day, September 6, 1977, after I had worked a full hard day and 15 minutes overtime, he came into my office and closed the door. He told me he had to let me go because I was not cooperating with the other employees. That was news to me but I knew about the power play that was going on and it was my turn. Then he said it was so peaceful when I wasn’t there. I had just come back from one week vacation. That was ridiculous. That office was never peaceful except when he was gone and we could catch up with our work. What I heard him say was he was tired of me being around. I had been there longer than anyone else and he was paying into a retirement plan. So it was time for me to go.
It hurt a lot, it was a blow to my ego. But I really couldn’t expect anything else from the man. He didn’t keep help long and it was usually a nasty separation and it just had been with his office manager. I had seen him at work and experienced his dishonesty and lying when he tried to say I said something I hadn’t said. I told him so and he probably didn’t like my not keeping my mouth shut. But I really didn’t expect the vindictiveness he was about to display when I applied for unemployment compensation. The worker called him while I was in his office and he told him what he had told me so they wrote him a letter saying they had decided I was eligible for the payments. That did it. He was angry now and he was going to show them and me that he was perfectly within his rights to fire me.
His appeal listed several things that I had never heard before: I didn’t send Medi-Cal in on time per instructions. I adjusted ledgers and gave refunds. Patients couldn’t understand me on the phone. Insurance forms mailed too late to collect. Refused his orders in billing history and physicals for hospital patients. I wore dirty clothes with dog hair on them. I knew where all of that came from. The power play had won her a seat next to God. But not for long. Her husband made her quit and she was gone in a few weeks but not before she accompanied Dr. Williamson to the appeal to testify against me, both of them lying, but with his witness, he looked more credible and he was leading the hearing. I could only respond to what he brought up. Then he walked out before I had a chance to say very much. I thought that would throw the hearing my way and was pretty confident. But it didn’t. The judge thought he was more credible and that was that. I wanted to appeal that but it was close to Christmas and I was learning a new job with the County and I didn’t have the time or energy. So I let it drop. I didn’t need his money by that time, but I wanted to clear my name. As it was, I had to start again with that kind of thing over my head. And my day in court was another disaster.
I got a temporary job with Central Services in San Bernardino County doing the health insurance. I had thought, if I lost my job, I would go right to a hiring agency and pay to get another one. But first, I wanted to take Civil Services tests and see where that would lead. My friend, Helen Campbell, took me over to the County Personnel to get my name on the testing list for the following Friday. I passed the test and got my name on the list and began interviewing. I took the temporary job because they were promising it would go regular. My supervisor was a bitch and gave me a really hard time about hearing and inability to work faster while I was learning the complicated procedures and answer the phones which were pretty busy. I hung in as I was too afraid to walk out and it did go regular in 7 months. I have been there almost 3 years now and on much better terms with the supervisor and the other employees. Contrary to Dr. Williamson’s parting remarks that I couldn’t work with other women (I had in his office for almost 6 years), I get along fine with my coworkers. And after the first evaluation which wasn’t good, they have all been good and I know I am doing a good job. The doctor really did me a favor but he needn’t have been so harsh. I have benefits now that I didn’t have with him and have a much better job.
It began before, but in the last decade I have become an avid feminist and joined the National Organization for Women. The women’s movement has said a lot to me as I learned to make it on my own. It gave me encouragement and reinforced my self-worth. I haven’t been as active as I would like to working full time with house and yard not to mention the car. I have met a lot of interesting people there and drawn a lot of strength from them. I served one year as their treasurer.
I have found my own circle of friends who never knew Jim. I enjoy them and they me. It is not a bad life. Once I really believed it was alright to be single, I was OK. The world out there is treating us better all the time and laws are changing in our favor all the time. Jerry and I are close but Frank has moved away from me. There is no communication. I have accepted that and wish him well. I know he is happy and that is the main thing.
Jim has made a new life for himself with Barbara and none of his former family see him except by accident. I would never have believed he could turn his back on all of us.
The sixth decade is ending good. I have a promotion at work and I enjoy my job. We keep moving around from one building to another and I have made more new friends there. I am about as secure as I can hope for at this late date. I am old to start putting into retirement when others my age are retiring. If my hearing and health holds out, I may be good for another 10 years, and then can collect retirement. I enjoy my home and yard though it is a lot of work keeping it up which I don’t do all that great. At first, I needed the discipline the upkeep demanded. Now, I enjoy the room it affords me with the patio, the yard and the fireplace that I wouldn’t have in an apartment or trailer. What I enjoy doing the most is taking a good book out under the tree on my lawn chaise and read all day in the quiet solitude. It is good and I guard my privacy jealously.
Next month on November 20, 1980, subtract 20 and, yes, I will be 60 and I will begin a new decade. It looks promising. Jim was right that it was better this way. I didn’t believe him and it took me a long time to come to it, but, yes, I am probably better off. We can never go back to the good times we had and as unhappy as he was, it would not have been good for us. I can say goodbye now. The pain is gone.
Connie Moore October 5, 1980