Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Spinster's Tale, Part 1

Also published at Substack
Part 2 will be for paid subscribers only!

A Christmas miracle

Sometimes, God will cut you a break.

Many years ago, I experienced what I thought was the worst Christmas ever: my husband asked me for a divorce over the phone three weeks after I miscarried our child.

Ronald1 and I had been childhood friends; our parents were friends. We hadn’t seen each other in many years before we reconnected in 1991 and we got married that same year. I was active duty USAF and had been in for 10 years. During that time, I was stationed at DLI-FLC at the Presidio of Monterey, CA and attending the Russian Basic course. Ronald remained in LA before and after the wedding and we visited each other every two weeks.

When we discussed having a baby, I wanted to wait two years, but he wanted one right away. So, I went off the pill and we were successful immediately. But seven weeks later, we were in the hospital mourning.

That Christmas, I went to visit my family in Albuquerque – you can imagine how much I needed my parents. I wanted Ronald to come with me, but he refused, which I found strange at the time since it wasn’t as if he didn’t know my parents. I also sensed something else about Ronald: fear. He was afraid of my dad.

When I called him on Christmas Day from my grandparents’ house (pre-cell days), we were on the phone for a long time, though I don’t remember how long. I do know that I missed my family’s ritual holiday insult session – always hilarious -- due to being on the phone with him. He had asked me for a divorce, and I was trying to talk him out of it.

I reminded him that, before we married, he said that he didn’t believe in divorce and that it was one of the reasons I said “yes.” He claimed not to remember saying this. We ended the conversation not long after that and I cried in my dad’s arms.

Months later, I agreed to the divorce, but for reasons I didn’t understand back then, he was dragging his feet in filing. Then, one day, I was perusing a Monterey bookstore and my eyes “happened” to light upon an instruction manual: How to Do Your Own Divorce in California. It had all the instructions and forms that I needed!

Back then I didn’t have a computer or printer, so I went to a print shop to personalize all the forms. Everything was easy, since we had no children or community property. Neither of us wanted money from the other, at least not then; all I wanted my last name back. The lady at the store was impressed by my resourcefulness.

The entire process would cost us $180.

By the time I arrived at my next technical school, Goodfellow AFB, TX, Ronald still hadn’t filed, but I had my paperwork ready. I wanted to get this done because I was set to be stationed at Misawa AB, Japan and I didn’t want to have to deal with this matter from thousands of miles away.

So, I called him and told him what I planned to do. All he had to do was read the papers, sign them and send them back to me in the SASE that I would also send. Oh yes, and also a check for $90. I thought he’d be happy and grateful. Silly me.

He wanted to hear what the papers said, so I gave him a verbal overview, as stated above.

R: “You get more money for being married to me, so you should pay the whole fee.”

Me: “But you’re the one who wanted the divorce!”

R: “Well, I don’t have the money.”

Me: “Fine. I’ll pay it. I just want this finished.”

It was an inkling of what was to come in the conversation.

R: “What about your house?”

Me: “What about it?” 

I owned a home in LA before we married. We had never lived there. He hadn’t even seen it.

R: “California is a community property state.”

In an even tone, I explained to him the difference between community property and separate property, even as I felt my temper kindling.

Me: “You have no claim on my house because it is separate property. My maiden name is still on it.”

R: “What if I try to get a piece of the house anyway? What are you going to do then?”

I paused just for a few seconds, then spoke softly.

Me: “Well, California is also a state that favors women in divorce cases. So, if you find a lawyer dumb enough to take your case, we’ll go to court. Then when the judge rules in my favor, you’ll pay your lawyer fees, you’ll pay my lawyer fees, and you’ll give me $50,000 and whatever else I can think of.

“I will bend you over and butt-fuck you just for pissing me off.

“Now I’m going to put these papers in the mail. You do what you want to with them.”

I hung up. That was the last time we spoke to each other.

Three week later, the decree was back and signed. Six months later, I was Juliette Ochieng again.

A few years later after that, I was out of active duty and back in LA. If Ronald crossed my mind, it was only to hope that I’d catch him in a crosswalk and turn him into a hood ornament. But the fun of that fantasy faded and, after Jesus got ahold of me, the fantasy was extinguished completely. I knew from talking to my former sister-in-law that Ronald had remarried and that was fine. I suspected that he had been involved with this woman when we were married and that it was the real reason that he wanted a divorce.

But I could not prove it.

I was commanded to forgive him and that’s what I did. No, not all at once certainly. It is my experience that when you have been grievously harmed by someone, you have to walk in forgiveness over a period of time. Compounding the burden of the harm which my ex-husband did to me was this:

32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

— Matthew 5:32

Since that time, I’ve had more than one opportunity to remarry, but I didn’t take them. There were other reasons, but Jesus’ words about divorce was the primary one.

Fast forward to 2018.

The decade of the 2010s was one of great upheaval for me. Loss of money and property, treacherous friends – worse than my ex-husband – homelessness. Death of beloveds.

By 2018, most of that was behind me … but not completely.

1 Not his real name.

Part 2 will be for paid subscribers only!

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