Like Abe Lincoln, I grew up in a log cabin. In ours, there were gaping holes between the logs. I could put my hand along the corner of my bedroom walls and feel the wind blowing through. Our home had white aluminum siding slapped on top to make it look like the other homes in town.
My bedroom was next to my parents’. I could hear them talking after I went to bed. Only they rarely ever talked. I would hear Mom’s voice – loud, insistent, demanding. Dad would give little or no response until all at once he would explode in a voice that seemed inhuman. I imagined it was like the voice of God – deep, echoing, full of wrath.
I was 10, maybe 11, when Dad came home one afternoon and asked me if I wanted to go for a drive.
We climbed in the Ford pick-up, the one with the camper shell and bed Dad had built in back. He installed an intercom so we could call him from the back. With the glass front and the sound of the traffic, the camper was more sound-proof than our house. It was a sound cocoon where I could lay on the bed and read, imagining I was just about anywhere while Mom and Dad argued about which way to go.
Dad and I climbed in the pick-up and headed north. He drove to the gravel road, just a couple miles from our house, and then turned to me.
“You want to drive a bit?”
I gladly hopped into the driver’s seat, placed my left foot on the clutch and turned the key in the ignition. I sat on the edge of the seat so I could reach the pedals just fine and still see over the steering wheel to keep it on the road.
I went through the gears… first…. second…
“Good,” said Dad, lighting a Winston cigarette. “Just keep it at a steady pace.”
We were alone on the road. It was a Spring day, though dark clouds were hovering in the sky.
Dad took a deep drag on his cigarette and, as he blew out the smoke, said,
“Your Mom and I are getting a divorce.”
My right foot came off the gas and the gears dragged. The engine died. Dad took the wheel and directed the truck to the brim.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get her going.”
I stared blankly at him. He was searching for something on the floorboard.
“What’s a divorce?” I asked.
Tears formed in his eyes, which he wiped away with his handkerchief.
He reached for the door and said, “I’ll get her going.”
We turned around and he drove us back home in silence.
That night we had roast beef and mashed potatoes. Nobody said a word.
After dinner, I went to my room and looked up “Divorce” in the dictionary. It said something I don’t remember, something like – “the action or an instance of legally dissolving a marriage.” It still didn’t make sense.
Looking back, I wonder how it was possible I could not know what divorce meant.
I was reading through the Bible and heard it read in church and divorce is mentioned there.
The song “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” hit #1 on the country charts in 1968 and was still played on the radio.
Though the divorce rate wasn’t what it is now, it still affected 1 in every 5 marriages.
My own aunt Sue had been divorced twice by then.
But here I was, caught in a cocoon of silence, separated from the reality of what my parents were going through, left alone in a room with a word in a dictionary that meant nothing to me. I tossed the book on the shelf and threw myself on the bed.
(image above: “A log cabin lurks beneath” from mobilene, some rights reserved)