PHYLLIS HAGER: PART I
Phyllis is a short woman, about five feet four inches tall. She is plump, round, well filled out. She tends to wear snug sweaters and slacks, clothes that accentuate her roundness. Some people might describe her as buxom, but I think that a better word would be “ample.”
Phyllis’ eyes are dark, warm brown. They are set in her face without the epicanthal fold, so her eyes give the slight idea of the Orient. Her hair is graying, now mostly gray, and she keeps it in a short curly style. She is healthy, and looks it. She is bouncy and full of life and ready to have a good time.
Phyllis is employed as a financial manager with a nursing home group. She has worked her way up from the office manager at the first nursing home, growing as the chain grew. She is well trusted in the organization. Soon she will take a temporary position as administrator at one of the homes, then move on to be the manager of benefits and compensation for the chain.
Phyllis has a son and a daughter, Scooter and Joan. She lives with Wayne in a rural area of Franklin County.
I was born in Bellevue, Pennsylvania, May 21st, 1947, the second child in a family eventually of four. We lived in a little town, a little city outside of a bigger city, Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was about ten or twelve miles away. We lived in a place where we could walk. My brother and I would walk to school, to the baseball field, the movies. I remember going to the movies on a Saturday morning with a quarter and spending the day there, until about noon. I had a little sister when we lived in Bellevue. She was born not too long before we moved from there to the country.
Real country, dirt roads, well, no city water. The school was a mile away, one room school house with two classes and a pot bellied stove in the middle, out houses for the bath rooms. I was in first grade when we moved, six. My little brother is about three years older than myself, my younger sister is six years younger than me. Then I have a little brother who is nine years younger than myself. Probably about three years after we got out to the country my mother got pregnant with my little brother. Not too many crazy things went on when we were little, just a regular normal family.
My father worked in the city. He would drive back and forth from where we lived to right ouPittsburghtsburg~ He worked at Allis‑Chalmers, a mill. He was a foreman. He loved the outdoors. That’s why we moved to the country. He loved animals, loved to camp out, loved to hunt, loved to fish, all those kind of things. My mother was kind of a city person. She liked to stay in the house. We would go out and camp in the yard and my mother would sleep in the house. All the kids and my father would go out and camp.
We had all kinds of animals. We had goats, crows, owls, wild ducks, chipmunks, wild rabbits, anything. My father would catch them by hand. He would go out at night and catch owls by hand, in the middle of the night. He was just neat. He was in tune with the animals. A wonderful artist: he could draw anything. Say, “I want this,” and he could just sit down and draw it. I used to get in trouble at school because I would always say, “My father will do it.” And then I’d have to go home and say, “Daddy, would you do this for me?” But he would always come through and get it done. He was a good man, for what I can remember of him.
~ en my little brother was two, and I was ten, my father died. He had a very serious illness and was at home when he died. He was only in the hospital for a couple of days. That was the biggest thing in my life, that really made an impression, because I was never told that he was going to die. We were always told that he was going to get better. He was only supposed to live for six months, but he lived for nine. He had what is called primary amyloidosis. It’s a disease that hit his kidneys and liver. His liver quit working, his kidneys stopped functioning, so it was progressive type thing. He gained all kinds of fluid and weight, nothing that the doctors or anybody could do. It was in 1958, so there was no dialysis. Just very specific people were put on those. So he was at home, and he died at home.
The only thing that I regret is that we weren’t told. But back then you didn’t tell people, you protected your children. It is something that took me a long time to deal with.
If I had known that he was dying, I think that I would have wanted to spend more time with him. Instead of rushing off to my friends, rushing here and rushing there. I was my Dad’s favorite person. When my Dad was sick and couldn’t work, but was still able to get around, he and I would take long walks. Just he and I, nobody else. We’d walk to the woods or the fields or whatever. And we had a lot of good times. I think if I would have known, I think now as an adult, I think I would have wanted to spend more time with him. It’s hard to go back and think as a child. I wanted to say goodbye. And I guess that was the thing I was never allowed to do.
But as I grew older, there were things that always stuck in my mind. The night he died, when I got up the next morning, I remembered a dream I had. My dream was that my Dad (his room was right across the hall from mine), that my father died. And what it would be like if my father had died. In the bedroom when he died was a priest, my mother and my grandmother. I got up the next morning and my mother said, “Your father is dead.” And I blamed myself that my father died, because I had dreamed that he died. For a long time I thought of that and couldn’t rationalize that, why I dreamt that way. And eventually I figured out that I had an out of body experience. I was there when my father died. I watched him die. But it must have taken me twenty years or twenty five years to really rationalize and decide that that is what happened. Because how would I know, why would I dream it that night and not any other night? And why would I see the people who were in that room, were actually in the room when he died? That’s the only thing that I can feel…. And then I did say goodbye to him. That’s how I did it, had an out of body experience and did it. But a ten year old child can’t think that~way. It takes a lot of growing up and education and…to be able to decide that that’s probably what happened.
So after my father died there was a lot of changes. My mother had four children to raise, the oldest one was thirteen, the youngest was two. She lived out in the country. There wasn’t a lot of possibilities for jobs. So she stayed at home and managed to keep the family together on Social Security and whatever my father had. My father built the house so there was no mortgage. So that kind of helped the situation out. As we got older my mother did go to work. My older brother was allowed to go out and get a job, but I had to stay home and take care of the kids. When I got home from school I had to cook the dinner and do the things that needed to be done because my mother was also out working. I took my little brother to his first day of school. I thought that was kind of neat. That was my responsibility.
But we had a good life. We were four kids who were very tight. We really care about each other, no inner squabbling in the family. My mother is a kick. She works with my sister now. My sister owns her own company, and my mother is sixty seven and papers and paints six days a week to help my sister out. When my sister goes on vacation, with the girls, my mother tags along and she’s just one of the girls. She just has a hell of a good time. We ~ally have a good strong family group.
So that was basically my childhood. I guess the biggest thing in my childhood happened when my Dad died. As far as Grandparents, my mother’s mother was a kick, too. She’d go into the woods with us, she’d climb mountains, she’d do anything we wanted her to do. She was right there with her grandkids. We had a hell of a good time. My grandfather died when I was quite young. I was in kindergarten, my mother’s father. He and I used to watch baseball games. My best, most favorite baseball player was Jackie Robinson. Because he was brought into the league the year I was born. And for some reason that was just great with me, and he was a black player and whatever.
My father was one of ten. My grandfather worked for Gulf Oil, and went out and worked on the oil rigs. He worked himself pretty far up in Gulf Oil. And my grandmother was one of the little German grandmothers with the long hair you could sit on who took care of the kids and cooked great big dinners every Sunday. And everybody came over. The kids might have been married with twelve kids but they were due to come home to Mother’s one of the guys who house for Sunday dinner. I guess a regular old‑fashioned type family.
I have longevity on both sides of my parents’ family. My father has a lot of people who lived into the hundreds. My mother has a few, not quite as many as my father. And I have al~ways wanted to live to be over hundred. I thought that would be neat.
But we really didn’t spend a whole lot of time with my father’s family, because they were so big and my father dying when I was so young. We kind of drifted to my mother’s side. My mother has two sisters and two brothers, do a lot of family outings together, go to weddings and that sort of thing. We’re pretty close with most of those people.
I had a real good friend in grade school. I’m short, she’s over six foot tall, and we would walk to school together. She lived probably a half a mile away from the house and I would walk up. She had a pool and we would go swimming. And we would go out to her place and go sliding in the winter time. Her dad was really nice, he would have picnics for us. We’d go outside and have bonfires and whatever and then he’d bring me home. A lot of the men in the neighborhood who had kids we went to school with kind of adopted us, too, and help my mother out. They’d take us to ball games and kind of including us in family things, which was really nice. But I think that Linda was my best friend in grade school. When I got to be sixth grade there was a girl by the name of Juanita Crawford, who became my best friend. We were friends through high school. She my daughter’s godmother. We don’t keep in close touch now but if I needed something she would be there. There’s still that bond with us. When we in the latter part of grade school you become boy crazy. There were four of us who hung out together: her and I, Jack Schwab and Gary Roberts. Never dated each other, just became really good friends. We would take all the 45s and every weekend would be at somebody else’s house. We would drive only one of the mothers crazy one day a month, with the stereo blaring and making pizza and having all this pop and having people over and having a ball. It used to be so much fun.
There were other guys that you became friends with, that you eventually dated when you got into high school. You grew into that relationship. But the four of us never did, we just always hung out together. If one of us was there, then the rest of us had to be around somewhere.
One of the teachers in high school, her name was Marian Buffin at the time. When we were in eighth grade we had a basketball team. So if you have a basketball team then you have to have cheerleaders. So Marian decided she would take on instructing the cheerleaders. So there was me and Juanita and a couple other people who got to be cheerleaders. And all the guys we hung with were on the basketball team. Well, she was dating this guy named Paul Sawyer and he decided he would transport the basketball team because he had to go with her anyhow because she had to transport the cheerleaders. So it would be those two in two different cars, the girls in one and the boys in the other. After the games were over we’d go down to this place not too far from where we lived that would sell root beer from a frosted mug and french fries and we thought that this was the biggest thing in the world, to go out and have this after the games. Those two have gotten married a long, long time ago and we are still quite good friends. When I go to Pennsylvania I go visit them and see how they’re doing. They weren’t that much older than me. I went to school in a Catholic school, and she was going to college at the time but they let her teach. She didn’t have her degree but because it was a Catholic school they let her. I’m trying to think how old she was. I’m 42, and she must be late fifties, mid to late fifties I would think. To me at that time she seemed a whole lot older but now she doesn’t seem that much older than me. All the other teachers were nuns, and you couldn’t have a good time with Sisters. You just didn’t want to do the things that you wanted to do.
From grade school I went to a Catholic high school, that was a little further away. We had to go by bus. There was twelve of us. Instead of having a great big bus they had a van that we would go back and forth to school with. That’s when I started getting a little crazy, started to be allowed to be dating boys. I was allowed to date boys two days before my fifteenth birthday. This one kid asked me out, and I dated him and I dated him. And then I met my ex‑husband through another friend that I had dated once or twice. Probably dated three or four people from the time I was fifteen to the time I started dating my ex‑husband when I was sixteen. And then I was six teen in May and I was pregnant by November and then I was married by January or February. So I was married when I was sixteen. We ran away after we told my mother when we knew for sure. At that time she said that she didn’t want us to be together. So I wasn’t allowed to see him, he wasn’t allowed to see me.
But we sent notes back and forth to each other. It was a very romantic thing. And we decided that there was only one thing that we could do. My mother wanted to, and my uncle, who has now gotten involved, who is my mother’s brother, was to put me into a Catholic home and give up the baby for adoption. Then I would come back home and everything would be fine, no problems. But my ex‑husband wanted the baby and he wanted to make sure that we could keep it so we decided that we would run away. He was twenty one and I was sixteen. So because of the age problem, he knew that my mother would have the police out. So he made sure that they thought that we were going in another direction. He left kind of a trail that said that we would be going to Detroit, Michigan, and instead we headed off for Georgia. So she had all the cops, the state troopers, out between Pennsylvania and Michigan. Nobody bothered us as we went through Georgia.
So we got married on the way down to Georgia. Probably we were there sometime in March and when everything was cooled down enough he decided to contact my mother, and for me to talk to her and for me to tell her that everything was fine, that we were married, that we were planning on getting married in the Church. We still didn’t tell her exactly where we were. We told her where we were when she had calmed down and wasn’t going to have us arrested.
So we got married in the Church two weeks before my daughter was born in July. My daughter was born in August. It was nice down there, but at my young age I didn’t appreciate it. I wanted to be home. In September my ex‑husband got fired from his job so we decided then to drive back to Pennsylvania. We stayed with his mother when we came back, went over and showed my mother my daughter Joan and everything was fine. She accepted my ex‑husband into the family. Everything was OK then. We’d go over to my mother’s house and have dinner on Sunday. My ex‑husband got a job and eventually we moved out into an apartment that was on the second floor. We didn’t have a lot of money, but was able to get by. I remember that we used to get a quart of ginger ale and some ice cream and we’d watch TV. We thought this was really fine. We’d do this about twice a month. I remember going to the store and getting groceries for the week with seven dollars.
Eight months after my daughter was born I was pregnant again and my son was born after eight months. He was a real quick kid, and tiny. He just made it over being premature. So there’s sixteen months’ difference between my two children. Not too long after that my ex husband’s sister moved in with us. She was also pregnant, had made plans to give the baby up for adoption. Chuck said that he would take her into our house to relieve his Mom and Dad from the strain, that he’d take her to the hospital when the time came. She stayed with us for a while. It was nice to have company. It was nice to have someone else to talk to. At that time my ex‑husband was working two jobs, and it was kind of hard. He had to work two jobs in order to make enough money for us to live but you really didn’t have any time with each other. Maybe if we would have had time with each other we wouldn’t have stayed together as long as we did.
The first couple of years were nice. I had time with the kids, we had time with the kids together, we could play well together. We just never had enough time to be one‑on‑one together. As things got easier the one‑on‑one got more, we had more time one‑on‑one, and the problems started to arise.
When I was nineteen, we bought a house out in the country. It wasn’t so much out in the country, but more in the country than we were then. It was a three bedroom house. Everybody had their own bedroom. We had a yard; the kids could go out and play in the yard. We were well off the main road so there was no major problem there. He got a good job at Westinghouse Research, and he only had to work one job. He made enough money to pay all the bills with that.
In 1968, things started to get a little crazy. I was a very dependent person, I didn’t do anything on my own. If I went to the store he had to take me, he took care of all the bills, he did all that kind of stuff. I took care of the kids, I made all their clothes, I made all the bread, I cooked all the meals, I washed the clothes and ironed them and did all thwifeey things that got done. Couldn’t make any decisions on my own. That wasn’t how things were supposed to happen. I was supposed to be subservient to the husband. I don’t know where I came up with that idea, but that was how it was supposed to happen. In 1969, on Easter Sunday, he sat me down and said, “We’re getting a divorce.” And I says, “OK.” He said, “You’re going to have to get a car and a job and an apartment, because you can~t afford to keep the house. So you’re going to have to move out and get something cheaper.” So I said all right. ~hat’s how dependent I was, I wasn’t able to say anything different.
So I went out and got a job. I went through an agency. I’d never graduated from high school, I’d only gone through ten and a half years of school. So I got a job with a company called G. C. Murphy’s, which is like a K‑mart or a Zayre’s. I told them that I wanted to work in the business office, I didn’t want to work weekends or nights. So I got the job, but the store wasn’t completed yet. So we went down and put up shelves. The day before the store opened, they told me where I was going to work, which was on the floor doing stuff where I was going to have to work weekends and nights. This was the first time I ever stood up for myself, and I went up and said that this is not what I asked for, this is not what I signed up for. I signed up for the office, and if I don’t work in the office, I was going back to the agency and I’m going to cause a problem. So the next day I came back to work and I had a job in the office. Everything was taken care of, it was wonderful.
This went olittle ~ ittle bit of time, not too long that I was out of the house. My ex‑husband decided that he didn’t want to go through with the divorce, he wanted me back. This was days before the divorce was going to be in court. So we stopped the divorce, put a hold on the paperwork and I moved back, into the house with him.. This was in 1969.
For the next two years, I worked on me. I met people, I saw people that weren’t his friends, people that were my friends. I saw people who were educated, I started reading some books on what you wanted to do with yourself, on what kind of a person you wanted to be. So I started doing these things, and after two years we talked and I said, “This isn’t going to work. I’ve worked two years on me, to change me. You haven’t done anything for yourself. You’re the same person you were two years ago. This marriage is just not going to work out. I want a divorce. I will tell you when I want the divorce. I want the house. You have to move out. I have two children and they need a house. I’m making enough money now that I can afford it.” So he moved out. I guess this was in August, and by November he had gotten an apartment and moved out.
A very amicable divorce. No problems with custody of the children. ~e said I could have custody so long as I gave him free rein to be able to come and visit and take them. There was no abuse problem with the children. There was some abuse problem with me near the end of our marriage, at the end of our living together. A couple of bruises, hitting. Not in front of the children . We’d have some really bad screaming arguments, and he would turn around and instead of hitting something he would come after me and hit me. I’d have bruises on my hands and my arms and my legs. Probably only three or four times at the most. I’d make excuses when I had to work, because the bruises were there. And the~I knew that this was it. There was no “another month.” He had to get out. And he knew it, too. He was always sorry after he did it. But the rage was there, and I didn’t want to go through that rage any more. And he couldn’t control it. It was good that the time had come that he was leaving. The eight years that we were together, that rage had never come out. I’m glad it didn’t come up in the first eight years. I didn’t want to have to live in that kind of abusive family. And I don’t know if I could have had the strength if it came out in the beginning that I had at the end. I was starting to work on my self and starting to be an individual. I don’t think that I would have known how to get out.
Everything happens for a reason. And maybe that was it, maybe the abuse at the end made me realize that this definitely was not what I want. And the decision has to be made and I can’t go back. I can’t say, “Well, he is a really good man. He is the father of my children. Let’s have another chance.” I’ve got to make a cut off.
So he moved out and I had the divorce go through in March. I didn’t want an instantaneous thing. We remained good friends, for a long time. We would go out on dates every once in a while, when I didn’t have any one to date and he didn’t have any one to date. We knew we had a rapport that at least we could have fun together.
It was hard on the kids. At first you don’t see it. At first you are so worried about your self. Even though it’s an amicable divorce, you’re still alone. It’s still a defeat, that’s in your life. You may not have done it yourself, but you are part of the thing not working out. He didn’t tell me why he wanted the divorce until a long time later. We were probably divorced seven or eight years before he finally sat down and told me. He wants an idealistic marriage. He comes from a very bad family, horrendous family life. His father is an alcoholic, his mother is the martyr syndrome, his sister had two illegitimate kids by her father, she had three more illegitimate kids by people, God knows who they are. My ex‑husband used to be beat when he was young~. He was kicked out of the house at twelve and told not to come back unless he had a job to earn his way. His father and him used to have fist fights until someone had to pull them apart before they’d kill each other. It just was a horrendous life that he grew up. He was looking for the total opposite, and if he couldn’t give the total opposite, he couldn’t do it. He was never taught how to love, how to be intimate and open. If anybody started to get too close to him…anybody who got close to him in the past hurt him, so the walls would come up. And I was this very vulnerable, open person who was always taught to love people, because of the family I came from. He said he owed me more than what he could give me. He couldn’t give me an idealistic marriage, which was I deserved, he wasn’t going to give me any. Nothing to do with me. It was not my fault whatsoever. It was his fault. He is now in a relationship where there is no intimacy. He has a relationship with a woman who is a Southern Baptist, who will not walk into the bathroom when he is there. Neither one of them go to bed naked. They always have clothes on. It is just the kind of relationship that he can deal with. Because she asks for nothing. They don’t have a relationship. They have two children, and probably the only reason they have two children is because her religion you’re supposed to have kids. But I don’t think there’s any kind of a sex life going on. I know he’s running around with other women to have that part of it. So that’s the kind of relationship that he grew up in. So after seven or eight years of us building a friendship, and trust, was he able to tell me the reason we got divorced, was because of this idealistic view that he had that he couldn’t give me.
We were getting to be really, really good friends, so I thought. And I guess we are. It’s just that my idea of friendship and his idea are two different things. Because when I finally left Pennsylvania, he was angry. He was so angry, he said I haalrightht leaving him. I must have been more of his support than I ever thought I was. And I was leaving him in the lurch, I was leaving him there alone, because I finally found somebody to live with, that I was moving away. When I left without his permission, or without taking care of that situation, he was angry. I mean, really angry at me.
My daughter was sixteen and my son was fifteen. They had lived with me all the time. But my ex‑husband had free visiting rights and he could take them every weekend. He could take them in the summer time if he wanted to. There was no fighting between he and I over the children. When we did get divorced, my daughter was in second~ grade and my son was in first grade. They were little. And I was hurting a lot, because you always feel defeat, that you must have done some thing wrong, it must be your fault. So I was more working on me and just hoping that the kids were OK. My son was deathly ill for a couple days and it was his reaction to the divorce, to my ex husband moving out. It was the moving out that caused the problems. I didn’t have any problems with my daughter. My daughter was fine. Until she became about ten years old. And then there was horrendous fights, uncontrollable anger, uncontrollable rage, suicide notes, trying to run away, pounding her head against a wall, pulling her hair out. Anything she could do to hurt herself. It was really awful. I would be up to 4 o’clock in the morning trying to calm her down. And there was no way around it. In school she was causing trouble, just trying to get attention, I guess. So I talked to my ex‑husband, and we decided that we should get her help. So we decided to take her for therapy. I came home one day and my ex‑husband was in the house and he’s sitting in the bedroom on the bed and he’s crying. He said, “I don’t want Joan to be like me. We have to get help. I don’t want her to end up like I am.” That was the most open he has been with me.
He will never be that open again. After he said that, you could see the walls start coming back again.
So we went and got my daughter help with the psychiatrists at one of the children’s hospitals in town. One of the prerequisites was that her parents would go to therapy at the same time. So my daughter went to therapy and he and I went to therapy at the same time. Well, the first one fine, the second session he destroyed me. He just cut me up into little pieces, telling me I’m trying to manipulate his life, telling me that the only reason I wanted him there was so we could get back together, telling them that I did nothing but cause him problems in his life, that he was glad to be rid of me, the reason Joan was there was because of my fault, something I was doing wrong, he wasn’t going to have me running his life, I couldn’t do anything right. Everything was my fault. And got up and left. he said, “I’m not coming back.” And then I’m worried not only with whatever he told me, but will Joan still get help because he’s not coming? What can I do to make sure he gets here so I can get my daughter help? The therapist told me that there was no problem, since Joan was living with me, as long as I came it would be alright. So then we started working on me. My daughter and I went for eighteen months, straight. Some of the days I would come out of there and say, “Geez, it’s not worth it. I hurt too much. It was just terrible.” But after the time had gone through I could see just how much growing I had did by going to therapy. I started learning about the relationship between my daughter and I, between my father and I, between my mother and I. Things that I could finally verbalize to somebody because that person wasn’t going to get angry if I said anything. And it was really good. Now, every once in a while, I’d like to have a therapist again, because I think they’re really good. The only thing I felt uncomfortable with was my daughter~s therapist said Joan can quit when she feels she’s ready. She was eleven at the time. I’m saying how cal an eleven year old decide when she doesn’t want to have therapy any more? But right before Christmas, in the eighteenth month, she said, “Doctor Lee, I don’t want to come back. I think I’m fine.” I felt awful. My therapy stopped at the same time. I put a lot of that on her, because I didn’t want to say that I still wanted help. If it would have been up to me, I would have continued. I would have liked to have stayed. I wasn’t ready to finish, to have stayed another six months or a year or however long it took. And it was nice to have someone to talk to that you didn’t have to fear, that wasn’t going to use any of this against you. You would tell it to that person, and that’s where it would stay. But that’s not what happened.
So I found other ways to be in therapy. I read more books, talked to more people, started ~being more ~pen. Anything t~at I did or said was fine, that anybody could know about it. I’m not ashamed of anything I’ve done. I started feeling better about myself, and I think the eighteen months with the therapist really started that flame, to grow. I can feel a lot more comfortable about myself because of it.
I got Joan through that eighteen months’ worth of counseling and there was still bad times. She was very depressive person. She gets into some real bad, heavy depression. And it’s hard to get her back out of it. One of the times were going to therapy~, I’d gone and had my tubes tied. My ex‑huyband brought the kids to get me at the hospital, because he was going to drive me back home. Monday I got up to get the kids off to school, because I wasn’t going to work the first dav. Joan said, “I’m not going. I’m going on a ride.” And I’m here with ten stitches in me and I’m not supposed to be running around. She goes out and she sits in the front yard. I said, “Joan, you have to go to school.” “I’m not going to school. You didn’t tell me what was going on, you didn’t tell me you were in the hospital, You’re supposed to tell me these things.” She starts off through the woods. I’ve got to go get dressed, get my shoes on, and go running after her. And I can’t run too far because I’m all stapled together. I can’t even sit up straight. And I start crying. “Joan, don’t run away. I can’t catch you, I just can’t.” So I go back home and I call her therapist, my therapist, and say, “what am I supposed to~o?” And my therapist told me to just calm down, that she’d be back. If she’s not back in two hours to give her a call. I no sooner hang the phone up than my daughter walks back in. We sit down and we had a good talk. I said, “I’m sorry, I should have told you. I didn’t realize what this does to a kid when a parent goes into the hospital~, the only parent they live with. And I said there some heavy things going on. I just didn’t understand. I didn’t know that’s the way you would have felt about|me going into the hospital.” So after that things started getting a little bit better. We started getting a better relationship. We don’t have the best relationship, because we’re too much alike. I like to be right and she likes to be right. So if I say something, she’s going to jump on the other side. So we have a lot of bickering back and forth. But we never get angry at each other. We give each other permission to yell at each other, and everything’s fine. She’ll say, “This is what I’m doing.” I’ll say, “~Joan, I think you’re wrong. I think you should do it this way.” “Mother, I don’t want to do it that way. I’m doing it my way and I think you~re stupid.” And then we’ll get that over with and she say~what~s going on and whatever. No resentment, no vindictiveness, there’|nothing. This is just the way my daughter and I interact with each other. We like to yell and scream at each other. I guess we both feel better when we’re done with it.
This is the way I act with my mother, too. If my mother don’t see eye to eye, then our voices get louder and our voices get louder, and our voices get louder. And then we’re done hashing it out we go on to something else. ~and everything’s fine. There,s no you’re‑wrong‑and‑I’m‑right sort of thing.
I guess after we got Joan through therapy, there was never any problem with my son. My son could walk through hell and nothing would touch him. He’s very even tempered, can make do with .just about anything, nothing generally bothers him, too much.
So, as the kids got older, I started to date. Never had anybody too steady, never really found anybody that I wanted any kind of commitment with. I’d date a guy for a couple of months, maybe, then go on to somebody else. Just had a lot of fun. Started to do things on my own. Started taking one week of vacation for me. ~he rest of the time I’d spend with the kids, but one week I’d do what I wanted to do. I’d go to Jamaica, I went on a cruise on a windjammer, I went to Michigan to a dude ranch, party and ride horses for a week. Just have a hell of a good time. I guess regular stuff.
I went back to school. I got an associate degree in accounting. That was a big trip. I went to school full time at night, had a full time job during the day, and pad to take my kids to guitar lessons and trumpet lessons and baseball games and school plays and all that kind of stuff. I did this for eighteen months, and finally got my associate’s degree in accounting. Because I didn’t want to work. By that time I had a job in a laundry as a head bookkeeper, I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. I wanted to do something else. Had my divorce, I needed to make money, I wanted to get somewhere in life, so I couldn’t do that unless I had somewhat of a college education. So I managed to do that.
I took my GED test, passed that with flying colors, went to Pitt University and took a CLEP test. Out of sixty credits I got forty eight. Which I didn’t feel was too bad. None in English, but I’m not good in English anyhow. And took that, and they accepted thirty credits of that at the Junior College I went to. So I only had to take thirty credits there to be able to finish school to get my degree. So that was fun. I enjoyed that. I just wish that I didn’t do it so fast, so maybe I would still go to school now. But I got burnt out so bad I nevewanteded to go back into a classroom for the rest of my life.
My daughter always thought that was kind of neat, that her mothewasaa going to school. My daughter thought it was always neat that she could go up to her friends and say, ” My mother is only twenty nine and I’m thirteen. My mother was sixteen when she got pregnant with me. Isn’t that neat? I have such a young mother.” Because I didn’t hide anything. My ex‑husband would tell everybody I was five yearolderer than I was. But when my kids were old enough to know, they knew how old I was. I wasn’t going to hide. I mean, that’s stupid. I didn’t want to be five years older than I was. It’s hard enough getting old as it is.
In December o198080, I had a good job, making $25000 a year, that was pretty decent. I had two kids that wersixteenen and fifteen, had my own vehicle, had my own house. I’d take one week and I’d go anywhere in the world I wanted to go, I had four weeks of vacation at that time. I was dating all kinds of people. I was dating this one guy, mostly primary. He didn’t want a serious relationship, I didn’t want a serious relationship. But when we wanted to go ssomeplacece, we had a date that we could go with. He was good in bed, you know. Anything that I wanted. He was wonderful. This guy’s name was James Scott, called him Scotty. He was an iron worker. I always dated construction guy~ or policemen or that type. Tough guys. He had one eye. He was blind on one eye and had one good eye. If there was any kind of high iron work that was dangerous, Scotty would do it. That’s the kind of person he was. Probably every bone in his body was broken at least once. But he had a free spirit about him, just always had a good time. He was divorced, had his own house, probably lived about fifty miles away from me but it was far enough away we had our privacy but close enough it didn’t take that long to get back and forth. It was a nice relationship. He didn’t have any kids of his own, and he loved Scooter. In fact, Scooter was playing Little League baseball, and Scotty would come to the games. One game Scotty came to, and the umpire didn’t show up for first base. So the guys walked around and asked if there were volunteers for umpire. They went to Scotty, and asked, “Would you umpire?” Well, he said, ~OK, I’ll umpire. But if any body says anything about how I score, how I’ll call them, I’m going to get upset. ~nd if the|make fun of me because I only have one eye I’ll re~41y get upset.~ He was just kidding. After that he would umpire at a lot of the kid’s games. He just enjoyed that stuff.
So at Christmas the company I worked for always throws a big bas~. The country club, open bar, the best food in the house, just excellent. So I asked Scotty to go with me to that Christmas party. So we were sitting around the table with a bunch of friends, and I said, “This is it. This is how my life is going to be. I’m never going to get married. I like what I’m doing now. I have my freedom, I have a date whenever I want. I have my own house, I have a good income. This is where I want to be.”
A little more than three months later, I made arrangements for my kids to go with my ex‑husband, I had my house up for sale and I gave my notice to quit my job. I was moving away. Because I met a man about a week after I said that. I worked at an artificial kidney unit, and I worked for a doctor’s private practice also. At the artificial kidney unit, a new process was coming out. It was going to be re‑use unit. Which was to take the artificial kidneys and put them through a chemical bath so you could use them again. Which would cut down on the costs, and Medicare was started back on funding for what they were paying for dialysis. So this plumber and two of his crew came down to put this re‑use unit in, from Massachusetts.
So I met him at the door and showed him where it was going to be and this is where you’re going to work. I didn’t think any thing about this guy the first time I waw him. One of the women in the office, a Jewish woman wh|never saw herself for what she looked like. She saw herself as a size two, but she was a twenty two. But she was a lot of fun, and we always had a lot of competition with each other. So she saw these guys come in and she said, “Hmm. I’m going to get a date with this guy.” And I’m saying to myself, “Huh‑uh. I’m going to get a date with him first. We’ll see who wins.” Why should the women be the only ones who are up as the prizes in the game? We’re going to make the men the prizes of the gaame this time. I was three, and she was three or four years oldee than I was.
They came in the middle of the week, and by the following Thursday this guy comes up and says,” Well, tomorrow is Friday. We don’t know that much about what’s going on in town, any places to go.” And I had a newspaper out, and we were looking. So I said, “What do you like?” “I like country”, he said. “Well, this is a real good country place. I never went to it. It shouldn’t be hard for you to get there. It’s off one of the main drags.” Well, good,” he says, “Would you like to come with me?” I said, “Ha’ I won!” I said, ‘Sure! I’ll go with you tomorrow” He tells me that he’s staying on the south end of town and I live on the east end of town and I said I’d meet him at….He was in Greenville and I lived in Penn Hills, near Monro~ville. There’s a road called the Parkway that links Greentree aad the airport to Monroeville. It cuts around the city of Pittsburgb. So he was on one end of the Parkway andI lived on the other end of it. So I told him to meet me at the Howard Johnson’s in Monroeville, and it’s not far from there. So Friday night I get dressed up and go out. jmet him at the bar and we go to this country place and have a couple of beers and a couple of dances. He’s sitting across the table from me and he leans over and says, “You’re going to ~ 11 in love with me.” I didn’t say anything, thought we’d have a good evening. We drive back to the Howard Johnson’s to get my vehicle and he leans over and gives me a kiss like I’ve never been kissed before. I said, “This is it. I’m never seeing this man again. I want no parts of this guy.” At that timeI didn’t know why, other than I just didn’t want to date him. I knew this guy was going to change my life. I knew he was going to take control of something that I fought so hard for, to get control of. HE was going to ruin everything I had worked for. Things were going to change. I didn’t want that to happen. I didn’t want to get back into the situations that I was going to trust somebody again, like that.
So this was Friday, and he calls me Saturday, calls me Sunday, sees me at work on Monday, he calls me every day. No, I don’t want to go out with him. On Thursday I says, “OK. I will meet you at your hotel for a drink in the bar.” So I go home and by the time I go home my son said, “Wayne Nickerson called. You’re not to go anywhere until he calls you back.” So he calls me back. And I ask, “What time do you want to meet?”
“How about seven o’clock?”
“Ihat’s fine. Do you want me to call you?” I asked.
“I’m not staying where I was staying before,” he said. “I moved my crew and myself. I’m staying at the Howard Johnson’s.” Which is seven miles away from my house in the east side of town instead of the south side of town. He moved his whole crew to a new motel that was closer to where I lived.
So I went over there and he asked if I minded going to his room. I sai|no, I didn’t mind. So I came up to his room, knocked on the door. He was in there watching TV. He wears this chamois shirt, and I didn’t know he had a pair of beige swimming trunks on underneath. The room is fairly dark, just the TV. So I walk into the room and sit down and he says, “Come sit on my lap.”
I said, “I’m not sitting on your lap. I’m sitting here and we’re going to a movie.”
“Well, I don’t know if I want to go see that,” he says. He gets up to go to the bathroom and he turns around and he attacks me on the bed.
I said, “Wait a minute! This is not the kind of person I am! I’m not putting up with this! Get off me! I’m leaving.~
I get out to the other side of the door and I said, “Why’d I do that?” It’s not like I’~e never gone to bed with a man on the first date. So I went home. He calls me again. Every day.
So the following weekend I said I’d meet him in the bar and wouldn’t come to his room. So I meet him in the bar and we had a drink and it was wonderful. His crew was down there and we laughed and carried on. One of the guys is an old Irishman who knows all the old Irish jingles and jokes and we had a wonderful time. He asked, “Will you go out with me again? I promise to behave.”
Well, throughout the conversations ~e’d had he found out what I like to drink. So the following Saturday I met him at his room and we were going to go out. And he said, “Would you like to have a drink?” I thought we were going to go down to the bar.
And I told him, and he has it! He went out and bought all this stuff. Amaretto and Iron City Light are the two things I like the best. Iron City is a beer that they make in Pittsburg~ So he had glasses, ice, the whole works. So we had a drink. And that’s when the whole romance on my side started to break down. I can’t keep fighting this any more. I started to like the guy, started to let him in. We started having a relationship. So I said, to mysel~, “He doesn’t live in Pittsburg~. He’s going to have to go home eventually. When he leases, the relationship will be over.” We went through the rest of January and all of February to the point that I was seeing him every day. In fact, near the end of February I was staying with him in the motel, going home in the morning and changing clothes and going to work, and seeing him at work all day and doing the whole thing all over again. My kids thought I was absolutely bonkers.
While we were doing this I said that he needed to meet the kids. He was going to come to the house and we’d cook dinner. So I called Joan at home and said that she should get things started. So I made chicken and a raw broccoli salad and all kinds of stuff. Everything he hated. I went to pick him up in the motel to go to dinner, and he was in the bar. He said he had to have a shot, something before he met the kids.
We go home, we sit down, he eats his dinner. He eats everyhting that’s there, Scared to death, you could just see this guy is scared to death of my children. We go back to the motel and we talk.
The first of March he’s getting ready to go back to New Hampshire, where he lives, because the work is done in Pennsylvania. The fifth of March, my sister and I, my son and her son are taking off to go to Cocoa Beach, Florida, to spend a week with two bachelors. That was already planned before I even met this man. I had the worst vacation in my whole entire life. The worst vacation. I did not want to be there, I didn’t want to be involved with this guy ~own there. I just hated it. We lived right on the beach. Youllook out the picture window and the sand and the surf is right there. I hated every minute I was down there. It was awful.
We get home on the fifteenth of March. Wayne calls me on the sixteenth of March and he has a job in Lake City, Florida. His tools won’t be down there for a week but he has to be down there in F|orida, and I go down for a visit. I was back to work for four days, left Friday to fly to Florida for the weekend with him, came back home and did things around the house. I called him up Sunday and said, “This is it. I can’t handle this. I can’t handle this long distance relationship. Do we have a relationship or don’t we? What’s going to happen?~ He asked me to marry him, and I said, “What?” So he asked me to marry him again. I said that we can’t do this over the phone so he says to come back to Florida. So I worked for two weeks then I took two more weeks off and I went to Florida. And we got everything straightenend out about what we were going to do. I was going to move in with him in New Hampshire. I couldn’t go until the kids were out of school, so it would be in June. We got everything set up. I went back and gave my resignation, so they had enough time to replace me.
And I was sitting then and said, “What the hell’s happened? My whole life has changed in a matter of two and a half months, from the time I met this man. Everything is different. And I like it! It’s just wonderful!” And one of the things I liked about the relationship is that I still have my independence. Because he has always travelled in his work, I’m always home, and I can do what I want. He lets me do what I want, he lets me spend the money like I want, he lets me run the place the way I want. We have a real good, open relationship. We’ve gone through a lot of shit, we’ve gone through a lot of problems.
I want to tell you about one incident that happened. Right before I got ready to leave, my sister threw me a party. We invited all kinds of people, relatives and friends and whatever. At that time Wayne was working in Philadelphia. So I talked to him and asked him to come to the party. It was on a Saturday. He said, “No. There’s no way that I can drive out to Philadelphia There’s no way that I can do it. I’d be too tired.” So after I talked to him, this guy i used to date, Scotty, called. I hadn’t talked to him in a while but he knew I was leaving. So I said, “Why don’t you come to the party?” A lot of my firends are here and you’re a friend and if you come we’ll have a good time.” So he said svure, he’d come to the party. The ~riday before the party my sister was at the house and we were getting things together, and I get this phone call. It’s from Wayne, and I can hear this noise in the background, so I said, “Where are you?”
He said, “Oh, I’m in a bar.”
We keep talking and I said, “The operator’s never got on. How are you calling me?”
He said, “with a dime.”
I said, “Where are you?”
He ‑says, “I’m in Monroeville where we used to buy chicken wings.” So he’d driven from Philadelphia to Pittsburg~to come to my party. So I went over and got him, brought him back to the house, and on the way back I said, “I’ve got to tell you something. I invited Scotty to the party.”
He said, “That’s OK”
I said, “You’re not upset?”
He said, “~o. You knew him before you knew me. I have no problem with that.”
So we had this big party and there’s people and alcohol and there’s everything and everybody’ having a hell of a good time. It starts like at noon. My mother and stepfather came out. My mother had’nt even met this man. I mean, I’m changing my whole life and my mother hasn’t even met the man I’m going to do it with, until this party. So they meet each other and my mother says it’s fine and she approves and whatever. I felt kind of better, though I was going to do it anyhow.
So the party starts around noon and ends about one. The cops came, but there was no problem. They’d come to see what was going on.
Well, I go to bed, and there’s still people in my house. Wayne already went to bed. Scooter comes in and says, “Mom, you have to get up. Scotty won’t leave. He’s drunk. He won’t go.” So I have to get dressed, come out and escort Scotty down to his car and put him into his car so he can sleep it off. The next morning he just wouldn’t leave.
He said, ‘yOu can’t leav|e. I really loved you.”
I said, “Why didn’t you tell me that three months ago? Why did we go through this whole thing about you wanted your own life and I wanted my own life and whatever and whatever.” So that was all taken care of. But I was really impressed with Wayne. That made me feel even a little bit better about the relationship.
We’ve gone through some really rough times. It’s been three years ago now,… In 1985, his mother died. Wayne comes from…not a hard life, but he never had a father. His mother had an affair with a married man and got Wayne. His grandparents raised him. He didn’t have a real good relationship with his step brothers and sisters. Both of his grandparents had died and he never knew his father, so th~s was his last living relative. He went into a depression after that. His mother died, he got laid off from his job, there was no work in the East Coast for him to go to. So he started getting really depressed. His ex‑wife got remarried. His daughter had a baby in California, and he couldn’t be there. So ha had all these things that were going on. His unemploy ment stopped, and I was paying all the bills in the house. One thing right on top of the other. He was starting to lose his self‑esteem, his ego, the whole thing.
I was making decent money, I could keep up the bills on the house and I just left him alone. I figured that whatever the problem he could work it out. We were talking, but I didn’t want to delve in too far until he was ready to talk to me, because I could see he was hurting. And I thought if I just left him alone he could just work it out, and we could talk about it.
In May of 1986, he sat down on the couch with me and he said, “I’m seeing somebody else.” I felt like somebody had just knocked the air out of me. And all I could say was that I’m not going through this again. I’m not going through another relationship like this again. I can’t have this relationship break up. I just can’t.
So I said, “Do you love this other woman?”
He said, “I don’t know.”
I says, “Do you love me?”
He says, “I don’t know.
I says, ‘Well, what are we going to do?”
He says, “Do you want me to move out?”
I says, “No. We’re going to have to work this thing through. I want you to stay. We’ll try and talk and try to bork this thing through. If you really love the other person, and you don’t love me, then we’ll split up. But I don’t want you to leave. Because if you leave, I won’t have control over the situation. I want you to stay.”
So he had just gone back to work. He had a job in the state of Maine, so he was home every night. He would come home, have dinner, then he would leave then he would come back at night. He would be gone three or four hours and come back. He would go visit this other woman. So this went on for about two weeks.
So he says, “Do you know who this person is?” I have no idea whatsoever, no idea. I’m thinking that he’s been playing volleyball in town, and the kind of women Wayne likes has got to be a professional woman, she’s got to have her head on straight, athletic, this kind of stuff. I can’t fight that kind of person. I just can’t. I don’t have the kind of skills to fight that kind of a person. If that’s what he really wants. And then he told me who he was running around with. It was a woman who lives within walking distance of us, and she was the biggest slut in the whole city. This is the kind of woman…all the opposite things. That I can fight. He is not in that relationship because he loves that woman. He’s in that relationship because of something else. At that time I knew I could win the fight. I knew it would be a hard one, but I knew I could win the fight. Because I knew what kind of a person Wayne is, and Wayne could not live the kind of life she lived. I just knew it.
We had a lot of days where it was really, really tough. I told him I was going to move out for a week. I wanted him to be alone for a week, then after that he’d get back together. I mean, we’d talk to see what we were going to do. So I moved out, and I saw him maybe twice in that week. He called me every day at work. He would call me on his way to work and on his way home. The place that I moved into didn’t have a phone. I moved back on a Sunday.
He wasn’t home when I moved back. He was at her house. I have to pass her house to get to my house, and his truck was in her yard. I started to cleaning. I stripped the bed and did all the stuff that needed to be done, so that if she was in the house she would be out of the house. He came back and we had a good afternoon. She called on the phone and he went down to see her and then he came back and he said, “I’m leaving. I’m moving in with her. I’m going to move in with Betty.”
“What do you want me to pack you? I’ll pack whatever you want to be packed.” I knew he was sleeping with her, because we had come back from a weekend at Moosehead and he went out and never came back. It was midnight, and I got into my vehicle and went down to her house and started pounding on the door. He came to the door stark naked, and he said that he’d gotten drunk and he was sleeping on the couch. I had told him to come home right now or get all his things and move out. That was the day before I moved out. He comes back and said he didn’t know what he was doing, and I said let’s go to bed. So I left for a week, but he came to see m~ just before I left for work. He’s so torn between what’s going on.
So when I moved back that weekend, he moves to Betty’s house for a week. But when he moves to Betty’s house, he still calls me on the phone every day, he meets me at the house a couple of times during the week and we have wonderful sex. And then he decides to move back with me, after a week with Betty. It didn’t work out. But we’re still having this conflict between he and I and her. We have this trio going on.
I keep saying,”I can’t handle this. Something has got to happen!.” He’s not strong enough to do it, she’s certainly not ~oing to do it, so I’m going to have to do so~thing.
I came home from work one Friday, and I was going to stop and have a talk with her. But his car is in the driveway, so I went home and called on the phone, I says, “Wayne, I wanted to talk to Betty. I didn’t koow you were going to be there. I finally got my courage up to talk with her.”
He said, “Fine. come on down.”
So I go down and I says, “OK. Wayne’s not strong enough to do something, so, Betty, it’s up to you. Do you want him or do you not want him? ×~o you want to ma~ry this man or not? You make the decision. He can’t make it and I can’t make the decision and it’s got t |top.” She can’t make the decision. He comes over and puts his arm around her.
“I really love this woman. I really want to live with her but she won’t take me. What am I doing wrong?~ He’s having a drink and he’s starting to get a little more drunker, and he leaves. “You two fight it out. I’m leaving.” So he leaves!
So it’s just Betty and I. So Betty’s saying something about when Wayne was seeing her and I didn’t know what was going on, they were keeping track of how many times they made love together and how many times we made love together. She’s starting to throw all this crap at me. I don’t know what she’s planning on, what’s she’s figuring on.
So I says, “Well, do you know where he’s been while he was living with you? Do you want me to tell you how many times he was at my house, making love to me?” After I said that, he walks back in the door.
She points her finger at him and says, “You Bastard! You cheated on me! I want you out of my life!”
So he leaves and I leave, and that’s done. The decision was made. She wants no parts of him. When we get back home, he is furious, about why I told her.
“How could you screw my life up so bad? My life is falling apart! It’s all your fault!”
Now you talk about something to be scared, Wayne is a big man. I’m nose to nose with him, and he picks up a plate, and if anybody was angry enough to hit me, if I could have gotten anybody angry enough to hit me, he could do it. He turned around and threw it and it broke. Never touched me, never touched me. If it was my ex‑husband, I would have been a bloody pulp by the time he was done with me. He never touched me. I was impressed. Everytime we go through a situation I learn more and more about this man.
Got him talked into going to therapy, and did a whole lot of work. It helped. The reason why I stood by him and stayed with his is because the affair that he had was wit~a person I knew ~e couldn’t have |elationship with. He was going through a horrible midlife crisis, where every unfinished thing that man had did finally came to where he had to deal with it. So there’s five or six things at one time that this man had to deal with. He couldn’t come to me to get help, because I had money coming in, I had a job, he felt that I was so much hightr up than he was that he couldn’t come to me to ask for help. He’s supposed to be at least equal with me. We’ve always tried to have an eq~al relationship, and he couldn’t give any of that. I think that he got into this situation with this person who was so much didferent than him is ego back, to try to get his machoism back. Whatever he has that he feels makes him a man. So the relationship he had with that woman, to me, wasn’t like a relationship he would have if he wanted to go further in life, to have a life with. Right now, when he goes past that house, he asks how he could have gotten involved with soemone like that. Only because if he had gotten involved with someone different, we wouldn’t be together now. Because that person really would have broke us up.
We have a very good relationship, but it’s work all the time. It’s noth~ng that’s easy. He travels a lot. I’d marry him. I think in my heart that I’m married to him. When I ~talk to anyone about him, he’s my husband. We just don’t have that piece of paper. When he talks to anybody about me, I am his wife. People that we’ve known for years don’t even consi~er us as any thing but hus~and and wife, because we’ve been together so long. It’s just a natural thing. He’s a ltttle bit worried that if he gets married, he will change. He’s seen too many people who have lived together for a long time, tie the knot and get divorced within months afterwards. And he doesn’t want that to happen. We don’t want to have children together. SG there’s no real reason to get married. He has no problem with me having my ex‑husband’s last name. I wanted to change my name back to my maiden name, but he said there’s no reason to. I don’t think that I could be anymore married than I am. And I don’t think he could be, but he’s somewhat fearful of whatever that Pt~ce of paper does, changes. And he says we’ll beat the system. We’ll both have our own Social Security checks when we retire.
We want to move to Canada when he retires. We bought the house that he grew up in, and the land over there. So when we do retire, we’ll have a place in the States and a place in Nova Scotia. He wants to fish. I want him to retire when he’s fifty five, and h~s forty five now. I want him to work in the union probably onl~ six or seven, and retire from the travel and work in Maine until he’s fifty five. He would like to work not at all. With the income that we have, he only works six months a year hnd is laid off the othr six months. I want him to work longer this year so I can put an addition on the house. So I hope that he gets a job in Maine this winter.
Traveling five days a week and only being home on the weekends will wear on you after a while. You don’t have a whole lot of home life. But the time we have together is real prime time. We have our schedule set up so that I meet him on the turnpike on the way home, so we at least have half of Friday to be together, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. So we try to arrange to get as much time as possible in both of our lives. I’m trying to get a seminar in Boston so that I can stay with him while I’m down there.
We very rarely fight. We argue about things, beca~se I have my ideas and he has others. But we don’t fight about anything. There’s just nothing to fight about. And he lets me have my head.
If I was going to do anything different, I’d like a better relationship with my kids when I was little. I wish I knew more about the relationship that you can have with your children. I was so young when I had my children that I didn’t have all that maturity and knowledge that I wish I would have had. I think that’s ihe only thing I would have changed.
If I hadn’t married Chuck, I wouldn’t have the children. And I wouldn’t qive them u~. And I didn’t have that bad of a relationship, other than the last part. The end of it was a little yucky. And I wouldn’t have don~anything to not have the children, because I think they’re wonderful. My daughter’s a little crazy, my daughter’s a lot like me. She j4~t got married to a very nice man. I think we’ll have a bettter relationshi~ the older she gets. The more mature she gets, the more she can understand where Ilm coming from.
My son is real nice. A wonderful kid. But there’s a lot of things he want to do that he’s not capable of right now. He will eventually. He’s a hard worker. He’s not into women yet. I mean, he likes girls and stuff, but he hasn’t found that one person yet, to really settle down with. And that’s fine. He’s having a good time. He races motorcycles, rebuilds them. I don’t want him to stttle down any sooner than he has to. By the tim~he’s in his thirty’s is a sufficient amount of time. He should have his fun first.
I don’t feel like I was cheated by getting married at sixteen. I don’t even ~eel cheated because I didn’t get a “college” education, like my brother did or like I could have had if I hadn’t gotten married. I had other things to fill in for it. I think I would have rather had my kids than have gone to school. That tradeoff wasn’t bad. I even went back to school and got an education. I didn’t need the parties, I’m not into all that.
I have enoug~good memories of things I’ve done, that I don’t feel cheated.
I don’t go to church. I don’t hate the Catholic religion, I think there’s a lot of good that comes out of religion. I believe in God. I believe that there’s something up there that makes this whole thing tick, that started it in the beginning. I don’t believe that any one church is any better than any other church. I think that if you’re a good person., and if you don’t hurt any body, and you don’t lie and cheat, that God loves you no matter what. I think that God loves you no matter whether you’re bad or whether you’re good. But if you’re good, that’s when you’re a good Christian, and that’s when you’re a good person. I don’t think that the Catholic religion has really damaged me. I don’t go to church. My kids were raised Catholic as long as they lived at home. When they were with their father, he’s married to a Southern Baptist and they went to the Southern Baptist church. I didn’t care if they went to church, I didn’t want tbem to go to Sunday School. But if they sat with them in church, that was fine. I don’t care what church my kids go to, so long as they have some semblance of religion or God or so d sort of religious following or religious feeling.
My relationship with my mom is very good., She lives in Pennsylvania. She’s gone through two husbands. MY stepfather died. My mother is not a social butterfly, but we try to get her fixed up with some guy. My sister got her fixed up with a seventy year old man‑my mother is sixty seven‑ and she said that he’s just too old. She’s neat.
I ‘ d like to have this in the archives . I don ‘ t want io listen to the tape, but I want a copy of the transcript . It ‘ 11 be my autobiography .
PHYLLIS HAGER: PART III
Phyllis’ life is comprised of a series of parallels, common threads that appear and reappear in the fabric of her life. The first and most striking is her role identity as a woman and as a member of her family. Carol Gilligan’s idea that women’s identity is interdependent certainly finds support here.
One aspect of her identity as a woman is Phyllis’ attachment to the males is her life. She describes herself as her father’s favorite person (p. 2); she recounts his talents and ab ilities with drawing and with animals. He loved to be outdoors, engaged in active, manly things. And spent tine with her. In her father I think Phyllis saw a bulwark of strength and a haven from the world.
Contrast the description of her mother at the same time period: short comments about her reproductive history and her preference for being in the house. She speaks fondly of both her mother’s parents, but describes more detail with the grandfather. Interestingly, he died when she was young, too.
Phyllis’ story about her friend Linda centered first on their physical disparity, but shifts quickly to Linda’s father and other men of the neighborhood. Phyllis maintained friendships with two boys and one girl throughout high school.
When she was 16, Phyllis became involved with a man five years older that she. Within six months of meeting him she was pregnant; within 8 months she left her home and family with him, knowing full well that her mother would be opposed to this move, enough that she would enlist the aid of law enforcement authorities to stop it.
Phyllis continued to date Chuck after the divorce. She dated others, but not too much with any one person. She describes the men she dated as “construction guys,” tough men. She describes Scotty in as much detail as she describes anyone, and as a man who liked danger. Wayne is now the dominant factor in her life. He is a big man, a plumber.
All these men are large, by appearance physically well possessed, rough and tough, manly men engaged in manly pursuits. They sound a lot like her father.
Another dimension to Phyllis’ role performance as a woman is the nearly life‑long deference to the wills of men. With a couple of notable exceptions, the men in her life have made the decisions. Chuck decided he wanted the baby, to go to Georgia, get married. He decided when Phyllis would call home. He decided that his sister would live with them, that they would be divorced, to stop the separation. The divorce was ostensibly Phyllis’ decision in the end, but he knew he “had to get out” (p. 8). Custody of the children was hers because he gave it to her (p. 8); Joan’s therapy started with his decision. It continued, however, even though he backed out. Scotty decided that they would not have a serious relationship (contrast their wishes for no serious relationship, p. 12, with the after‑party conversation, p. 17). Wayne’s desires about the ongoing relationship ruled in Florida (p. 16) and in the 1985 episode with Betty. In each situation, Phyllis stood by, waiting for the male to make the decision. The decisions about the existence of relationships are most interesting.
Phyllis wondered where she got the idea about a wife’s role (p. 7). But looking at her German grandmother, she took that role (p. 3). When her father died, Phyllis’ mother and brother went to work, but Phyllis’ resp~nsibility was the home (p. 3). Phyllis’ ~wn mother stayed in the house while the kid and menfolk roamed the woods. Her mother deferred to the decision of an uncle when the issue of Phyllis’ pregnancy was being handled.
Her identity as Wayne’s “wife” seems to be the most important to her. She was willing to leave a good job, her family and friends, a home and her kids when they left Pennsylvania. To the casual observer, it seems that the traveling member of the partnership could have traveled from Pennsylvania as easily as from Hew Hampshire. And she was more concerned with the lo~s of the relationship than the continuation of a relationship marked by infidelity (p. 17). ~he makes only incidental comments about work and her career, an identifying characteristic important to many.
She describes the insults to male egos when the female partner is in a superior position (p. 20). She takes the traditional Western woman’s inferior role, happy that Wayne “gives her her head.”
Her role as child (to her mother) and mother (to her daughter) also hold parallels. Her relationship with Joan is rocky, because they are “too much alike” (p. 11). She and Joan yell, “like to yell and scream;” Phyllis says that they bicker but never get angry. Phyllis says that she and her mother behave similarly. Whether or not the issue is one of who’s right seems to depend on who is the child. Phyllis expressed a lot of resemtment when Joan decided not to continue with counseling (p. 10). Perhaps Phyllis has traditional role expectations for children, too, though this isn’t. as clear.
Education has been important to Phyllis primarily as a means to an end. While she says she enjoyed school, she also says the too rapid pace burned her out. It ~eems that she would have made a permanent trade of education for her children in the opportunity for further education had not presented itself (p. 21).
Phyllis’ spiritual development is marked by a lack of formal religious structure. She still holds to some Roman Catholic ideas (no Sunday school, p. 22), but she states she has a more global view of religion. She is probably in Fowler’s synthetic‑conventional faith stage regarding the Catholic church, but is personally advanced to the individuative‑reflective faith stage.
Phyllis’ journey through therapy, either formal,or informal and self directed, is a sign of real growth. She seems to have gained some insight into many aspects of her life. In reading the transcript, though, I noted many occasions when short cut off sentences were used to close off subjects (“everything’s fine”, p. 11; “So that was OK, then,” p. 6; “so that was all taken care of,” p. 17). There may be more exploring and growth to do with the subjects discussed, especially about relationships and conflicts, than the clipped answers indicate.
Other parallels I noted were the similatities of her father’s death, and her lack of accurate knowledge of her father’s condition, and her daughter’s lack of knowledge when Phyllis went to the hospital. Another was her German gaandmother’s expectaiion that the kids would all come home or Sunday dinner; when they returned from Georgia, ~hyllis and Chuck went to Phyllis’ mother’s house for Sunday dinner. Chuck’s home life and Wayne’s, as young men, bear striking similarities. Both Chuck and Scotty were angry, using similar words, when Phyllis’ plan to move from Pennsy~vania was made known to them. Chuck’s statements about controlling his life at Joan’s therapy session were echoed by Wayne after the Betty incident.
Phyllis’ attitude about age seems to be one of someone at least a little fearful of getting older. She describes Joan’s comments about having a young mother (p. 12), and her own wish that Scooter not settle down until he’s in his thirty’s. Marian Buffin’s relative age difference (p. 5) seems to be not as well settled in Phyllis’ mind as the continued friendship would in dicate. She wants to live to be very old (p. 4).
“Love” is a word that Phyllis did not use at all. She did not describe any of her relationships to have occured as the result of falling in love, nor did she indicate that she felt love towards her children, parents or partner. She used the word “intimacy~ several times, but it seems that its meaning is restricted to physical intimacy (Chuck’s marriage, p. 9). Sexual openness is important to Phyllis and the act of intercourse plays a key role in developing relationships.
And yet, what could be more loving that the acceptance of Wayne’s actions? The working through, patently, of his problems, with her support, demonstrated love of the agape type. Perhaps she speaks of it little and demonstrates it much.
The acceptance of the physical abuse is a little concerning. I think that Chuck probably hit her more than three or four times, and that the incidents were probably physically quite damaging. Contrast the description, p. 8, with p. 20. It was a pleasant surprise to her that Wayne did not hit, and she seems to hold herself responsible for the instigation of the hitting (p. 19). This indicates some real self worth issues, over and above the role of the traditional woman.
If I had to quantify Phyllis’ psychosocial development, I think that Erikson’s stage VI Intimacy vs. Isolation stage would be about right. Phyllis has some characteristics of stage VII, Generativity vs. Stagnation, particularly in regard to her children. But the driving force in her life is her primary relationship. Beside that, all else pales.
If I could choose to explore certain aspects of Phyllis’ life with her in greater detail, I would want to know more about the decision making process she uses to enter a physically intimate relationship as quickly as she does. I’d like to compare and contrast her role ideas with her raising of her two children. I’d like to explore some of the apparently unresolved issues surrounding her father’s death. I’d like to examine her attitude towards her own life’s end, and her unreconciled differences with the Catholic church.
Phyllis describes herself as being very happy with herself, at peace and contented. I’d like to explore the feelings ~f this, to get more details about her self‑love and acceptance. I’d like to press her to talk more about her feelings about work and her job and their parts in her life.
Phyllis is a complicated woman, but generally well developed, and working on the continuation of her own development.