In her shoes, in that town, with that amount of opposition and countless people ganging up on her and laughing in her face – I might have wanted to shoot the lot of them.
The bitch was smirking, both of the women laughing at her, the wife, everyone knew her husband was running around on her. He had been the most eligible bachelor in the Tennessee Valley. Good looking, charming, had any and all the women he wished.
Her sister kept trying to tell her to go along, look the other way, it does not matter if they stray.
But of course it did matter.
The woman was not delusional. Her husband did come home with lipstick all over him, drunk, disheveled and there were plenty of witnesses. Her sister saw him, so did her first cousin as well as her niece. And the entire community knew. But worse, the promises of hope that all this could be fixed was what took this from a tragic, horrid divorce, that needed a clear end. Instead it was years of dragging out in public in agony, in embarrassment, until there was nothing left but a heap on the floor screaming, “they are even using my china.”
What difference does it make to her niece 60 years later? It hurt me too. It hurt my life. It upended my life, and affected me personally for years to come.
I, you see, was called a liar by some because, when I was asked what happened, I told what I witnessed.
The worst of the worst time when I saw pain exude in the air was the night in the driveway. Cousin Sue had come to visit, and I was there, and he was out. The woman, the wife, was maybe 6 monthsish pregnant. Sober as a judge and not a sedative of any kind.
He wanted a divorce, fine – but do not rub it in her face in front of all her friends and family until… Until what?
Sue said, the bitches said, he was never “out of circulation.” Maybe like Prince Charles he married the wrong woman. Who knows.
My memory was of him being driven home because he was so drunk. She, the other woman, and I do believe through the years there was certainly more than one, drove him home. The other woman was followed in her own car with her friend driving? Was it her friend, her mother?
Then there was sitting in the driveway for a while? Talking? Not wanting to go in his home?
I remember a night, an impacting night of him being in the driveway a long time with no one getting out of the car. Then finally when he came in, I can still see him and I understood enough to know how impacting it was for me and I can’t imagine what the feeling must have been like for the woman, the wife, the mother. The woman about 6 months pregnant seeing him walk in the foyer with lipstick on his face, neck, collar, shirt. Shirt half out and in and rumpled and drunk. Glass eyed and staggering.
The other woman wanted to make sure the woman wife saw it.
This was mean.
And then to gaslight her and tell her she is delusional.
(I don’t care if from that day forward, those mean people crawled on their bellies for Jesus; they could never make up for the meanness done to that woman, wife, mother, sister, friend, aunt.
And I had to pay too. That delusional woman was named when I objected to living next door to drunken motorcycle gang members. And I am still hurt that, at the time, it was said, I left for no reason, just turned off like a light switch and left – for no reason at all.)
That night in the driveway…
The man husband walked in the door and looked away from eyes. The woman, wailed from the depths of her soul an agonizing, nooo, and she collapsed in a pile on the floor. Coming in this way and in front of her family. I had not mattered I was too small to have a voice, but he had not known cousin Sue was coming and she saw too and she also wrote and talked about it and she was asked, like I was asked.
Sister came two days later and in all her wisdom, kept saying, put up with it – and shut up.
Even suggested the woman, wife, mother should be the one to apologize.
But the man husband had not stayed at the other woman’s house, could not, she had a reputation and children. And he had not gone to his mother’s, she must never be confronted with the truth, although it was clear she knew it.
The woman wife was angry. I remember when she was even told that, no, she could not get her old job back. It was beyond the pale. Even when she could calm herself in her hurt and admit, OK this is a divorce so lets move on. But she was not going to be allowed to. She could only be a kept ex-wife with children and would certainly not be allowed to return to excel in her career.
The DAR, the dear daughters of the American Revolution wound up playing quite the role in public humiliation for our woman wife. It was important to have direct ancestors that fought in the American Revolution. I remember the meeting reception of one we went to. Daddy Paw, Harry, our hero had his grandparents until he was 16 and all the stories Baylis told that he heard from father John Jr and grandfather John Sr
Long story short, she certainly did have direct ancestors that would place her and long lines of American cousins qualifying for memberships. But at the meetings in those days she was told to let it go, she could have a linear membership through her husband. When I even told of our, Daddy Paw, Harry and Mamma and me, driving around north west Georgia looking for the graves, it was laughed at. It wasn’t just implied there was no “breeding.”
The last time we spoke, that woman, wife, mother and me, there was little she could talk about left in current memory, but when I told her about her ancestors who had been in the War of the American Revolution and whose descendants, the woman’s cousins, were part of the DAR and SAR, her memories of that trauma were still there – she said, “Tell… (she named her mother-in-law).” I said I would.
Her life, stolen. Her memory defined by people who did not know her. The woman, wife, mother’s life was taken. Maybe that is one of those things where it might be said, “all is fair in love and war.” But, it never stopped hurting – to this day. It hurt the children, it hurt the children’s children. It hurt the niece, it hurt the niece’s children, it hurt the niece’s children’s children. Fiction reinforced by people who will always feel guilty. (See, coming – cousin Sue’s letters, in Anne’s papers.)
Col. John Earle (the woman/wife’s 5th great grandfather)
General John Baylis Earle (the woman/wife’s 4th great grandfather)
Major John Lewis (the woman/wife’s 4th great grandfather)