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By: S. Sadie Burbank

BASED ON A TRUE STORY


Spring 1971:

Reflection after 3 years:

When I thought about them I saw myself as petty, small minded and spoiled. So I tried not to think about them often; the reasons that I could no longer, as my dad used to say, love Charlie enough.

I told myself I was lucky. Lucky to have a beautiful home, children, a loving husband, all of the best life has to offer. Things that so many other women would be happy to have.

So why was I so unhappy? I knew the answer was not as simple as me just being discontented. I hadn't wanted to face it but it slowly became apparent that Charlie did not love me.

How could he love me when he didn't even know me? I knew he didn't because I didn't even know myself.

During the time that Charlie and I decided to give our marriage one last try I made a very ugly discovery about myself. At nearly 30 years of age I was, in one crucial sense, still a child.

I was still as immature as I had been before we got married. I had not been faithful to Charlie even before we were engaged. I had never really felt the whole-hearted commitment and passion for Charlie that I thought I was supposed to feel for a man I was supposed to be in love with.

I dated a lot of guys behind his back looking for someone that I could feel that kind of love for but never found one. Charlie never knew.

I wonder now why in the world I felt such a compulsion to tie myself to someone so early in life. I was only 17 years old when Charlie and I had started dating but in the late 50's girls my age were considered to be on the verge of old maidenhood if they had no plans to marry by age 18.

After we were first married I worked and helped put Charlie through college but I was still looking for love as the song says in all the wrong places.

I had an brief affair with a married man that I was stupid enough to confess to Charlie. From then on Charlie held my indiscretion over my head; judging me from his sinless height, condemning me to a lifetime of penitence.

Charlies' idea of forgiveness was actually punishment. He didn't lay hands on me it's true but he punished me just as cruelly as if he had.

For years I let Charlie convince me that I was a pitiful excuse for a wife, homemaker and, after our kids were born, mother. I don't know why I didn't see his condemnation of me for what it was; a way of elevating himself over me. A position from which he was better able to hand down his judgment.

In the years that followed I began to believe that I wasn't really cut out for motherhood. I loved my children beyond belief but I was so self-centered that I started resenting them. Their needs were never-ending.

If only parenting had come with manuals it might have helped. I naively believed that having a baby was just like playing with living dolls.

I had no clue the extent to which I would have to go just to be what they needed.

I believed that Charlie was a much better parent than I ever I could be. He never seemed to be intolerant of the boys. Of course he was at work for most of the day while I was home with them all day. Even so, I just wasn't as patient or understanding with them as Charlie.

He always seemed to have the right answers for their questions. Even when he didn't have he was always able to make it seem that he did. It drove me nuts to think that I could not do that. My kids needed someone to look up to, someone who did have all the answers and that person just was not me.

I had always wanted children. I was beyond thrilled each time I had learned I was pregnant and was determined to be a good mother to them. I just could not bring myself to do what in my eyes amounted to lying to them by pretending to be a completely capable all-knowing mommy. Still I made the best effort I could.

Although I had spent years trying to teach my children that to learn to accept responsibility for their actions was to take a giant step toward adulthood, I realized I was not doing that; not where it counted anyway and as a result my emotional growth was severely stunted.

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About the Author

S. Sadie Burbank enjoys what are often referred to as her Golden Years. She's written a prize-winning published essay, scores of songs (music and lyrics), some short stories and a personal account of her time in Liberia in 1971 called, Red Hills, Green Vines and Dried Monkey Meat for Dinner.
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