Done Deal

Back in Germany, the situation with Larry was coming to a head. He had a severe sinus infection, and I called the clinic to get him an appointment. Before leaving work to pick him up, I talked to the Flight Surgeon. I asked if he would check on Larry’s emotional well-being while he was in the infirmary. The doctor diagnosed Larry with acute anxiety and severe depression. At the time, the terminology bi-polar was not often used. Several medications were given to him, all of which he refused to take. Larry declared he wouldn’t take anything that could possibly alter his personality, which he thought was fabulous.

He was coming home at night, smelling strongly of perfume. I didn’t care if he was having an affair, and did not know with whom he was out. Determined to defeat me at every move, we fought frequently. When I had our friends over for dinner, he would come home from work, put on his pajamas and go into the bedroom. With our friends at the dinner table, he would come out of the bedroom. He would prepare his plate and return to the bedroom. Coming home late, he woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me if I would have a three-way with him and his girlfriend. Obviously, he didn’t know me.

It was the Fasching season in Germany, which is similar to Mardi Gras with large parades and rowdy parties. On the day of the Fasching parade, Larry had been difficult to the point I decided to stay home. Rob was old enough to go downtown with his friends for the festivities. At the parade, Rob saw his father and his girlfriend in the obvious throes of being in love. Incensed, he came home and told me. At least, I knew who it was.

Knowing Larry had an emotional problem, I was torn and felt guilty for not helping him. I told myself that if he had a broken leg I would not desert him. I insisted we go see a counselor. We drove to Frankfurt to the 97th General Hospital for a meeting with a counselor. He was a civilian PhD in his early 60s. He talked to both of us and then to me. I explained my reluctance to desert Larry while he was ill. He talked to Larry for about 45 minutes, and then he asked to speak to me alone.

He flat-out told me that I needed to get a divorce. Stunned at his rapid determination, I asked him to explain his decision to me. He told me that he felt Larry was incapable of having remorse and was unable to love. He said the more I did for Larry, the more he resented me. Feeling like I had been struck with a two-by-four, I sat back in the chair and watched the man’s body language. After a two-hour visit my initial instinct was, “He doesn’t know us.” While I was still at his desk, it occurred to me that while I might not like his advise, he was mature with many years of life experience aside from being a doctor. His mature experience won out.

When we left, Larry questioned me what the doctor had told me. I told him the doctor reassured me about his emotional state, which strangely enough satisfied Larry. I took the medications that had been prescribed for Larry for the next month.

His girlfriend was a Mexican girl from San Antonio, Mary Degeus. She was married to a Dane who obtained his citizenship by serving in the American military. They had two children, a boy who was a year older than Rob and a little girl about 10-years-old. I called Mary who worked as the secretary for the Morale Support Fund center and asked her to lunch. At lunch, I explained to her that I was getting a divorce the minute I got Stateside. As a female I felt obligated to tell her woman-to-woman that if she left her family, she would be getting a pig-in-a-poke with Larry. She swore that they were not having an affair. She told Larry it was sour grapes on my part. In my mind, I had done the fair thing.

Aware we were getting close to our rotation date, we decided to take one last trip and decided on Italy. Our tour bus left at 6:30 am, and much to my consternation Mary was there to see us off. Larry insisted she came because she worked for MSF.

We went to Florence first. Florence is one of the most beautiful, ancient cities in Italy. Nestled on the banks of the muddy Arno River, Florence was important during the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, especially for its art and architecture. It is a very walkable town with moment after moment of delightful finds. It is a city filled with wonderful art works of the Della Robbias, Raphael, Botticelli, and the universal genius of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There were towers, museums, monuments, cathedrals, synagogues and the palaces of the Medici family. The marble statue of Michelangelo’s David and the whole city are too magnificent for words. The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is a Medieval Age, stone bridge which still has shops built along it. Today, the shops house jewelers, art dealers and souvenir shops. Near the bridge, an out-door central market sold everything from gold jewelry, fruits, vegetables, clothes to leather goods. I selected a pair of gold hoop earrings. After negotiating and haggling with the vendor when he weighed the earrings, I paid by the ounce.

Rob had just completed Julius Caesar in school. He was able to walk where Caesar had trod in our next destination, Rome. The Coliseum, St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican all attest to the expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” The “Eternal City” is filled with spectacular, ancient Roman ruins, masterpieces from the Renaissance, delightful Baroque fountains, and charming, medieval back streets. The Pietà, the masterpiece sculptured by Michelangelo is housed in a side chapel as you enter St. Peter’s Basilica. This famous work of art shows the body of Jesus cradled in the lap of his mother, Mary, after his Crucifixion.

The food, the Italians and Rome were all a joy. We ate in an inn away from town where supposedly Julius Caesar had stayed. The catered dinner was all right, but the wine was pure vinegar. Our tour guide and bus driver were Germans. Apparently, this was their first trip to Rome. While trying to find the hotel, the driver went up a one-way street – the wrong way. The street was narrow and curving with cars parked on both sides. There was barely room for the bus, and the driver clipped several side mirrors off parked cars and kept going.

Leaving the coliseum, an Italian police car came up beside the bus and motioned us to stop. I assumed someone had turned in the bus because of all the damage incurred as we drove to the hotel. When the police came on the bus, they informed the tour guide that the law required all tour guides must be Roman. Not having an approved tour guide, they escorted us to the police station. Close to an hour went by as we waited at the jail. I suggested that instead of arresting all of us that the Italians arrest the tour guide and to contact the German tour company. Larry told them he would call the American Embassy if they did not let us go. Finally, we were released.

After returning from Italy, Larry sent a floral arrangement to my office. Nothing he did surprised me anymore. After lunch I had to go to the MSF building where Mary worked. When I went into the office there was an identical, floral arrangement sitting on her desk. I conducted my business. I picked up her vase of flowers, and I sweetly said “Oh, these must have been delivered here by mistake; these were meant for me!” She was too stunned to say a word. I left with her floral tribute which I tossed in the first dumpster I saw.

In my office there was a contingent of Air Force personnel. They were going to the bi-annual Paris Air Show. They were trying to fill up the tour bus, and they offered me a seat to Paris for $75.00. I gave them the money, and I informed Larry that I would be back in three days.

Three whole days and nights in Paris, alone! What a great gift to myself. The tour bus took the Air Force group out to the air show, so I used the Paris Metro to get around Paris. I spent a long time touring Notre Dame, a wonderful Gothic cathedral. The gargoyles perched beneath the roof, the historical organ and the wondrous bells in the tower took me all morning to visit. I went to the Jewish Memorial near Notre Dame. I went to see The Thinker at the Rodin Museum and its wonderful garden of sculptures. I spent most of one day shopping and wandering in the Parisian department stores. Although I was content to be on my own, I would meet the group to go to dinner. When they left to party and bar hop, I went back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.

Aware that I had used poor judgment in staying married for Rob’s sake, I was still torn over divorcing. One evening, Rob said to me, “Mom, I do not understand why you stay with him.” Bingo, I had my exit ticket.

We returned to the States in July and stopped in Mississippi to visit Mother and Jay. By the time we arrived in Houston, the marriage situation had deteriorated beyond the point of my sanity. Taking Rob, I drove to San Antonio. We stayed with Belinda for three weeks, until I found a job and a used car. I rented an apartment, and for the next three weeks we slept on the floor.

It is next to impossible to obtain a divorce and keep one’s integrity and dignity intact. It is laughable to think I could. There are only two issues, I think relevant about the divorce. One was Larry’s retirement benefits and our 10 acre property, and the day of our divorce is the second. I filed for divorce in San Antonio to avoid having to go to El Paso where Larry was stationed.

At the time I filed for the divorce there was a case regarding military retirement pay pending before the Supreme Court. A general’s former wife had never had a career. She moved, countless times, when her husband was reassigned to a new duty station. When the general left her for a younger woman, she found that his military retirement benefits belonged solely to him. With no working experience and a limited future, she sued for a portion of his military retirement benefits. The law suit was eventually heard at the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court justices ruled that military retirement benefits are community property.

My lawyer knew nothing about military retirement benefits, so I was forced to research this issue on my own. I became active in a military ex-wife’s group, where I met a businessman who was running for a US Congressional seat in my district. Kent Hance recruited me, and I worked hard on his campaign. Kent defeated George W. Bush, who was making his first political foray. After the election, Congressman Hance called me. He told me that the law for former military wife’s benefits was being attached to the budget, and it would be enacted shortly. The federal guidelines required 20 years of marriage with at least 10 years in the military. The new guidelines would eliminate me as I had only been married 17 years. It would be several weeks before the new law would be published in the Federal Register and be public knowledge.

Armed with this lucky and advantageous piece of information, I called Larry. Negotiating a new deal, I informed him that I would back off of his retirement pay. In turn, he had to sign over the 10 acre property in San Antonio that we were buying. The first time we lived in San Antonio, Larry decided he wanted to retire in San Antonio. We found a 10 acre lot south of San Antonio near Loop 1604. When we bought the property, Larry asked Uncle Bunny to finance it. I had faithfully sent the payment to Uncle Bunny for over five years.

One day, I got a phone call at the apartment regarding my signature on the property. Stunned, I discovered Larry was refinancing the property. He intended to lift the equity we had accrued. I called Uncle Bunny asking what I should do. Bunny assured me that as the lien holder, he would stop Larry from sticking me with a new, much larger mortgage.

On March 3, 1981, nine months after coming back to the states, I went to the courthouse. I saw Larry standing on the front courthouse steps. He had recently gained so much weight that his shirt lapel gaped at the buttonholes. His lawyer had set the court date as they were anxious I would change my mind about pursuing the retirement benefits. Larry begged me not to go through with the divorce. Incredulous, I heard him out. Calmly stepping around him, I went in to the courthouse – love was no longer stronger than my pride.

I asked for primary custody of Robin, child support for him, that the agreement on the property be honored and for relief when the IRS came after me. The judge inquired why I had not insisted on filing the income taxes. I informed him that I had been more frightened of Larry than I was of the IRS. The following year when I filed my single payer 1040 Form, I received a $33.00 refund, and the IRS called. I sent the IRS a copy of my divorce decree which absolved me of all responsibility and liability. Honoring the judge’s ruling, they went away.

I left the court room with custody of my 15-year-old son and 10 acres which I still was buying. A little over two years after coming back to San Antonio, I sold the property, and I paid Uncle Bunny off. Using the remaining money, I made the down payment on my little, yellow cottage. Then, I married Bear.

Finis

I wrote this chatty narrative to afford my boys the opportunity to ask me questions. After Mother passed away, I often wondered about something from our past, and I could no longer ask her. I want to give my boys a sense of what the world was like 65 years ago and about mine and Robin’s childhoods. Some people will be quick to tag my family as dysfunctional, but that is a label – my family was imperfect.

My many experiences were much different from the average person’s or even of my own expectations. This story has been written to the best of my memory of the experiences and impressions I had of the past. I have been overly blessed with family, mentors and outstanding friends. All of which I am deeply grateful to have had in my life.

In reflection, I am aware that I am extremely lucky. I have learned that luck is not enough, life requires hard work. For my grandsons, luck is not equal to talent. Hard work = talent.

This is to nudge you to think of questions. I hope you will ask me, willingly. As a mother and a grandmother, my wish is that you accept this in the spirit it was written. If not – get over yourself.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 5:44 pm  Comments (3)  
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