Thursday, July 14, 2011
JOAN'S STORY PART 3 OF 4
George tended to come and go from the house, but his visits were as volatile as always. He was still cornering Joan -- one time in the kitchen with a hot iron. Joan says he would often clamp his hands around her neck, and that really frightened the boys. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when he bound her down on the kitchen table with his hands around her throat, yelling, “God damn you -- I have to get you under control!” Joan says, “That was it -- I had HAD it. By then I had plenty of Twelve-Step meetings under my belt, so I was strong enough, and I filed for divorce.”
When it came time for the divorce, George was fighting Joan all the way. She recalls that he took the charge cards and cut them up, which left her without any money. The boys were very helpful to Joan as the divorce loomed. “The boys were heavily involved in program, and we would have mini-meetings in our kitchen. In general, it was all program talk, and the boys would point out many positives that I couldn’t see.” They talked a lot about the divorce proceedings, and Joan would explain how their dad might win custody, but if she won custody of them, they would have a hard time. Joan says, “I could not drive or get a job due to active epilepsy. At that time, no one would hire me. We prayed hard, and we Let Go and Let God.”
The divorce became final on a Friday in 1979, and George won both the house and custody of the children (this with five Orders of Protection against him in the past). Joan says, “We didn’t create an uproar. We simply accepted the things we could not change.” Two days later, her former spouse offered the boys back. Joan said yes, but wondered where they would live. George said she could use the house until their youngest son was eighteen.
Joan says, “It was just myself and the two younger boys, and we were poor, but Rick today says, “I never felt poor.” One Thanksgiving, Joan and her boys had absolutely no money, so they decided to have franks and beans instead of the traditional (expensive) meal. The week before Thanksgiving, one of the gals in program came over with a basket of everything and explained that she used to have to steal food when she was young. Several days later, someone from the church brought yet another turkey. Son Tom said, “Mom, look what next door has: a Cadillac. Look what across the street has. But we got two free dinners, and we didn’t have to ask for anything. We better say some prayers of thanksgiving.”
Diligently that same son had been saving up to buy a car. Joan says, “God helped him get the car by bringing my aunt to Tom with a car she wanted to sell. It was the type Tom wanted, and the price was right, so he wound up buying it. Unfortunately, it was winter when he started working on the car during a very cold afternoon. He wanted to check the lights and the wiring, so he turned the car on and it was running , but the garage door was down. Joan says, “Ricky and I were in the house, preparing to paint the living room with Tom, who was always punctual. When Tommy wasn’t showing up, Rick went out to the garage and found him -- Tommy, who’d had no idea about carbon monoxide or accidental asphyxiation.”
At the funeral for Tom, Joan’s former sister-in-laws appeared, expecting Joan to be unwelcoming since their family had severed relations with Joan long before she divorced George. Instead, Joan opened her arms wide, later learning why her in-laws had severed relations for such a long time. “They had thought I was lying about George,” Joan says. “His mother simply could not believe that her son would ever behave as I was describing, plus George had been telling all kinds of negatives about me -- how I couldn’t stand them and remarks like that.” At one point, her father-in-law told Joan never to call their house again.
Reconciliation with George’s family came to Joan through the unspeakable tragedy of young Tom’s death. Another reconciliation occurred right before her youngest son, Rick, was to turn eighteen. Remember that deal after the divorce about Joan living in the house only until then? “Well,” says Joan, “the summer before Rick turned eighteen, George sold me the house for one dollar.”
The house was located on the water, and they had a bulkhead (a retaining wall between the water and the land) where you could dock a boat. The bulkhead was breaking, and they needed a new one, but the price was prohibitive. Then, weeks after the estimate was quoted, Joan’s mother passed away, leaving Joan an amount of money -- the exact amount that was needed for the bulkhead. Joan says, “The way everything kept falling into place may sound phony, but it really happened.”
Final installment next week...