I spoke quietly, "Yes I know."
I was more keenly aware than he was but what choice did I have? I was an unfaithful wife. I had been unfaithful to Charlie off and on for the entirety of our relationship. He knew enough about my indiscretions that he believed he had the right to make it abundantly clear that he would not let me have the children without a fight.
I did not want to drag the kids into court where they would have to listen to all of the garbage between their parents and then decide which of them they wanted to live with.
I just could not put them through that and in 1971 women did not cheat on their husbands and then walk away with the cash and kids. Not unless they had a very expensive lawyer. I had no money, no resources of any kind and not enough brains to ask a legal professional for help.
"Sam, you will not be taking anything with you when you leave your home. Are you aware of the fact that by signing these papers you will be forfeiting all claims you might ever have to any property, cash or holdings the two of you may currently have? No court will ever reverse this decision once it's been made", the lawyer tried to press his point.
Of equal importance in the matter was the fact that I desperately felt I needed to be out of the marriage and away from Charlies' control. I was convinced I would not survive if I didn't leave and leave quickly.
I looked at the lawyer and said softly, "I am aware that Charlie will always have the boys and because of that, I do not want any of our property. Charlie will need all the resources he can get his hands on because he will be raising the boys from now on. I want him to have all of my personal possessions as well, my clothes jewelry shoes; everything. I only want my guitar and my bicycle. He can sell the rest in a garage sale if he wants to."
In the elevator Charlie said, "How could you do that? You were so cold. You just signed the paper without hesitation. You really don't give a damn do you?"
"Just because I don't cry Charlie doesn't mean I am not in pain", I said, but only to myself. He was already getting my kids and my possessions. I didn't want to give him any more.
The only other thing I asked Charlie for was to let me tell the boys that I was leaving. I wanted to be sure they were told how very much I loved and would miss them.
It was the most difficult thing I'd ever had to do.
Late Spring, 1971
San Elijo State Park, Encinitas, CA:
I borrowed a small tent, sleeping bag and camping lantern from Charlie. I took my guitar my bike and the clothes on my back and moved into a tent site at the campground near the Montessori school where I worked. It was only a few miles from the home Charlie and I had shared. The home where my boys now lived without me.
I learned to roll my own Blue Bugler cigarettes. I lived on pinto beans and flour tortillas which I made once a week and kept in the refrigerator at the school until I needed them.
Every Friday was payday so I went to the grocery store and bought a T-bone steak for a special dinner on those nights.
I wrote songs, played my guitar, worked, met a guy who gave me a body massage I will never forget and became acquainted with one of the park rangers.
I saw the boys at least every other day at their home.
Early Summer, 1971
Cardiff by the Sea, CA:
Steve and I moved into a small house that was just a few blocks from the campground where I had been staying. We lived there quite happily for the few weeks preceding his assignment to work in Liberia.
Naturally, I went with him.
I left my bike with Charlie but I took my guitar.
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