Monday, June 01, 2015

In which I write about my mother's divorce

Before I continue this story, I want you all to remember that this is one person's chronicle, and I don't speak for anyone but myself.

To continue... my family moved up to the Bay Area of California in the summer before I started 2nd grade. My mother and step father had probably only been married a year by that point and their marriage rapidly disintegrated. They split up in the spring of my 2nd grade year.

My stepfather was, to put it bluntly, an asshole. He never laid a finger on me but he treated my brother terribly.  He was snide and the lingo of the mid-1970s, you'd call him a male chauvinist pig. (I remember running up to him one time, crying, and saying "my brother said I was stupid!" His response to me, "well, that's because you are." I was seven.)

So my mother is far removed from her family, and in a marriage with a guy who turned out to be not a good guy, and she's part of a religious tradition which states that the man is the head of the household and has Priesthood authority. Meaning that the father is responsible for leading the family in religious matters and essentially has the final say. The father is supposed to rule with love and wisdom but this guy became a tyrant. My mother had the courage and strength of self-preservation to leave this marriage and turned to her church for help and support.

(A digression, children are baptized into the LDS church at the age of 8. It's a big deal and my parents took me and my brother out to dinner to celebrate. After my baptism, my SF (stepfather) told me that I was a real member of the church now, and if I never sinned again, I would be able to go to Temple. On the way to the restaurant, I got into an argument with my brother because I was EIGHT, and my SF looked at me through the rearview mirror and said, "You've just sinned. You are never going to go to Temple." I found out much later that this is totally wrong but hey, the church taught us the our fathers held the Priesthood authority so they knew what was correct.)

Remember, in the mid1970s, divorce was still uncommon and the woman still took the brunt of the blame. Okay, you want out of the marriage? Fine, but don't expect any comfort. After all, you CHOSE to leave your marriage. You want to be single. Fine. You are on your own.

My mother and SF had jointly bought a house in Hanford when they got married (meaning, my mother also contributed financially) and she worked outside the home throughout their marriage. They sold that house and bought another one in Campbell and when they split a few months later, they sold the house but couldn't agree how to split the proceeds and asked their church Priesthood for help in mediating this conflict. The Priesthood sided with my SF, saying he needed the proceeds so that he could support his future family. Also, a fellow congregate was a lawyer, and offered my SF legal assistance, pro bono. No one offered to help my mother. She came out of that situation in a very bad financial position...she never asked for alimony or child support but honestly felt that she deserved some portion of the sale of the house. She looked to her Sisters in the church for emotional support and the best she got was "it takes two to make a marriage work. Are you sure you did everything you could?" When she retorted that he was a tyrannical, abusive SOB, their response was "what did you do to set him off?".

My mother gave up. She didn't have the finances for a long legal fight, she was geographically far from her own family, and the only friends she'd made were at church. The men, who were all Priests, represented the church, which didn't support a divorce. And the women could at best give a type of condescending comfort, which really wasn't a comfort at all. She gave up fighting for her share of the house sale, which was a financial hit she never recovered from.

And next time, I will tell how the church failed me.  

No comments: