By: S. Sadie Burbank

We went together to a marriage counselor who happened to be a man. He explained that I was the cause of all of our problems. After all, Charlie couldn't be at fault for being a husband who worked hard to give his family the finer things of life, fathering two sons who were healthy and bright and providing us all with a comfortable home.

Charlie agreed with the counselor of course who told me that I would have to do my part to change and become the grateful wife everybody knew I should be.

In a misguided attempt to accept this responsibility I tried to suppress my feelings of inadequacy and be a better person but things just got worse. I was soon smoking again and was deeply depressed.

Every day after I got the kids off to school I spent the rest of the day sitting cross-legged on our bed smoking and playing solitaire. I didn't realize what I was doing to myself until one day I looked in a mirror and noticed blue spots on the backs of my knees. They were bruises from sitting on the bed for hours on end. I put the deck of cards away.

I convinced Charlie to let me buy a cheap guitar telling him it would be mostly for the kids. I didn't know how to play it but a friend showed me a few simple chords.

I started making up songs that I could sing and strum along to. Some expressed my pain and confusion helping me vent my feelings that I was losing myself, drowning, disappearing. I needed to save myself.

One night when Charlie was still at work I got a babysitter and went to a club just to get out for a while. Steve was there. He showered me with the attention I had missed for so long. Unlike the ever-critical Charlie, Steve had nothing but praise for my every move.

Naturally I started to feel special again.

Spring, 1971

Private residence, Half Moon Bay Dr., Del Mar, CA:

We three sat in the family room enveloped by the painful silence that followed Steve's words, "Charlie, I love Sam and will do anything to make her happy."

"Will you to let her go so we can be together?", hung in the room like a foul odor.

I didn't know what Charlie was thinking. He just sat staring at the floor in silence. I wanted to say or do something; anything to lessen the sting of Steve's words but I doubted if anything could do that.

Finally Charlie looked up fixing Steve with his gaze, "It's up to Sam."

I was stunned! "It's up to Sam?" His words slapped my face. I couldn't think. I couldn't believe Charlie had no other response than that. I don't know exactly what I had expected him to say but some part of me wanted him to say something like, "Over my dead body!"

On the other hand it had been his home that had been violated by Steve and his blatant demand. Perhaps Charlie was just stunned.

I looked at him incredulously and spoke in a whisper. "Is that all you are going to say?"

"What else do you want me to say, Sam?", Charlie blurted out. "If you think I am going to get on my knees and beg you to stay, you have another think coming."

In fact that was exactly what I had thought. I had wanted Charlie to want me to stay so badly that he would toss his pride aside and literally beg me to stay.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Late Spring, 1971

Law Offices, San Diego, CA:

"Charlie, I feel it is imperative that I speak to your wife for just a moment if you have no objections", the well-dressed man spoke from his plush desk chair.

"Sure, if you think it's important", Charlie agreed sullenly.

The man turned toward me and said, "Sam, as Charlies' attorney I should not be saying this but as a man of conscience, I feel I must. I know you both felt it was unnecessary to have separate lawyers representing you in these divorce proceedings but I must remind you Sam that you will be giving up any rights you may ever have regarding the custody of you two children.

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