Divorce was very rare at that time and there was a huge stigma attached to divorce. For one thing, we had to change churches. At school you were always faced with the embarrassing situation that your mother's name was different than you name. It would seem that the school administrators had schemed to figure out ways to keep this ugly fact embarrassingly evident to all! Many years later, Elaine was upset that her parent's names were different on her wedding announcements. Both of us did everything we could to keep the divorce a secret ... a totally wasted effort ... the whole neighborhood knew. Back then the neighbors not only knew everything about you and all your secrets, they even knew your dog's name. On the more mundane side, both Mom and her mother had cut our Dad out of numerous photos.
Elaine, being older, was on the forefront of the battle of the sexes. She says that one day, our mother was ironing and Elaine was playing near by. Mom said something like, "I think I'll divorce him, what do you think?" Elaine was speechless. Mom continued, "Well I guess that's it, I'll divorce him." Ever since then Elaine has felt guilty for not stopping the divorce (not that it was in her power to do so) ... and she had felt guilty for about everything else.
The worst incident ever for me was right out of the movies. Dad had summer visitation rights since he moved to Los Angeles. This is better than bouncing back and forth daily or weekly, but I really missed my dad during those two years. For the first visitation, Elaine and I went to California with my Dad and Uncle John in the car. We took a scenic route, so we saw the Black Hills, Yellowstone, Pike's Peak, etc. I never forget having our car checked for fruit going at the California border and especially cresting the mountains and seeing the Los Angeles lights When we got back, we stayed at the old house with Dad (Uncle Jesse and Aunt Theodore were living in the house). By this time, we were supposed to have been returned to Mother's. Mom was frantic. Elaine knew we were late (I had no clue) and didn't know what to do. She couldn't call Mom because she would get in trouble with Dad. If she didn't call, she was in trouble with Mom. A terrible quandary for a ten year old. But a window of opportunity opened! Dad sent us off to Sunday School on our own. About a six block walk on 30th street and crossing a busy street. We were 7 and 11 years old. Elaine decided that instead, we go walk to Mom's house and surprise her (a 13 block walk) and Dad would never know because we could make it back to the old house on time. Well surprise Mom we did. Here she is worried sick ... Mom wouldn't be just be worried, she was always worried sick ... about her kids and those two wonderful kids are standing on the front porch. A miracle! She is very happy to see us, it's wonderful, we are happy, .... then Mom gets mad and decides to call Dad and give him hell. Elaine's adrenaline kicks in, the jig is up!. Dad will know we went to Mom's house. Her game-plan totally unravels. After the phone call, Dad comes over to get the kids back. At one point, I'm standing in the front door with Dad pulling on one arm and Mom pulling on the other arm while they are screaming at each other. While I can't remember what happened next, that event was seared into my memory for life.
Another very bad incident ... for what ever reason, Mom, Elaine and I ended up in my attic bedroom all hugging each other crying and she was say, "I'll try to figure out some way to get back together". Hey folks, this wasn't going to happen, she had already remarried. But young kids never give up the hope that somehow their parents will get back together.
Recently Elaine told me that one tends to hold one partner more responsible than the other. Because we were living with our mother, we had the tendency to think that it was mostly our Dad's fault. But over the years, she has found reasons why he wasn't totally at fault. One question she asks, "Why did Mom marry him in the first place?" Apparently, Mom was having a date with another man. Dad dropped by, saw her with another man, got mad and said, "Either you leave with me now to get married or you will never see me again!". And that's why I'm here today because that's just what they did. That was a good clue that you are marrying a jealous, controlling person. My dad wouldn't let mom wear lipstick. Later, he didn't want her running a business. At one point, mom wanted to start a decorating business with my dad, since he had experience in the drapery business with attendant connections. He wouldn't hear of it. In the post-war years, home decorating proved to be a very profitable business. Mom had good business instincts.
Elaine got the brunt of Dad's jealousy. He was constantly waiting for her after school to give her a ride home. In the car, he would mercilessly grill her about what Mom and Max were doing. I can remember sitting on a piano bench with Dad getting asked questions about Max and Dad criticizing Max. I wasn't aware that I was being grilled.
Having gone through this ... I vowed to be faithful and loyal to my future wife, whomever she may be, and avoid divorce at all costs.
While the divorce greatly impacted our relationship with our parents, their general attitude had a greater impact. When I would call my Dad long distance, he would always say, "How come you never call me?" or "Why didn't you call me on your birthday?" But Mom would always say, "I'm so glad you called." Tell me, who would you rather call? Also, Dad had many unwritten rules that dictated how you should act in the relationship. Violate one of those and you were in trouble. Mom on the other had was easy to related to and a lot of fun. Further, Dad went through a period when he was alcoholic. When it reached the point that he was mean to my son over the phone ... I discontinued all contact for about two years. Upon continuance of relations, he tried some of his "mean" stuff over the phone. I just point blank said, "You aren't starting that shit again are you?" and that was the end of it. Elaine reminds me that I said to him, "You are a bad dad". I don't remember that, but relations were much better after he understood that abusive behavior wasn't acceptable. Overcoming his alcoholism helped greatly.
Regrets: My one regret over the divorce was not calling Max "dad". Max earned that right, but to do so would be disloyal to my dad. As kid, I idolized my Dad and disliked Max from time to time. Little did I know that every kid dislikes their dad from time to time ... that's normal. idolizing your dad is not normal. Max was a great stepfather. Living with Max was reality. Visiting Dad once every two years was Hollywood fantasy. Max had raised one son to an adult age before marrying Mom (Max was divorced). That son didn't work out. So in raising me, Max attempted to correct his errors. I learned a lot from Max about how to do things and developed an excellent work ethic. At ten, I could saw wood better than most men. Max and I really had fun fishing together. [I'll create a hyperlink to a Max page in honor of the wonder stepfather and husband he was.] Note: Dad's second wife will not be honored ... she was the arch typical dreaded stepmother.
When I visited my Dad, people would always say how much we looked alike ... when actually I looked more like my mom. But the best one is when we were living in the basement at Erpeldings (our home was being built and the other home was sold), they told Max and I how much we looked alike. We looked at each other and grinned ... not even close!