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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

(16) THE NEWS OF YOUR SEPARATION WAS SHATTERING

January 20, 1969
Westwood

To Vonnie
      Where did you get the notion that Dad and I aren't proud of you?  We think that most of the time you conduct yourself in a very grown-up and intelligent way.  A setback now and then happens to everyone and doesn't alter the basic Vonnie, who is a compassionate, loving, talented young woman. 
      Here's something you'll appreciate from the new Playboy advice column:
      I'm stationed in a battle zone and don't think I should feel guilty about indulging in sex now and then.  On the other hand, my wife is at home with all the amenities and pleasures the U. S. has to offer and I feel she should abstain during the one year I'll be away.  Some of my buddies disagree with my double standard, what does Playboy think?  B.Z. APO San Francisco, Cal.
Answer:
      We think that since your wife is the same distance from you as you are from her, the same standard of behavior -- whatever it is -- should apply to both of you.
       Next time Russ complains about your dating someone else, quote the above. .
August 7, 1969
Westwood
To Vonnie
      My thoughts are all negative this morning, but I must express a couple of them -- for Michael's sake if no one else's.  You have said you would want to take him, if Ted and Joyce break up.  Vonnie, how could you possibly be responsible for a three-year-old?  How could you provide him with a stable home?
      I'm not suggesting you should rush out and grab a husband.  A marriage wouldn't guarantee stability and emotional security.  But I am urging you to think about settling down and proving you can be responsible.
      Meanwhile we can only hope that Michael's existence will provide sufficient motivation for Ted to stay married.  I've always been skeptical about the value of prayer, but at this point I'm ready to try anything.  Dear God, please help Vonnie pull her life together.  Please help Ted and Joyce with their problems.  Please take good care of Michael.
August 11, 1969
San Francisco

From Vonnie
      Just now received your letter and much appreciated check.  As for your concern about Michael, you're absolutely right.  It was on impulse, I guess motherly instinct, when I said I'd take him away, rather than lose him altogether to my ex-in-laws.
      If circumstances forced me, I'd simply have to relinquish my child and let the Crosbys have him.  I see no future marriage for me, not having found the one I want as my husband and father to Michael.  It wouldn't be right to make another mistake just to get the most important person in my life back again -- out of selfishness, but in the end at Michael's expense.
      Even if things work out for Ted and Joyce, how can I take my son away from the only real family he's ever known?  I can only resign myself to the fact that I've lost the child I gave birth to, loved, and believe it or not, jeopardized my sanity for his well-being.  I want only the best for Michael, and if that means losing him to the Crosbys, he's better off, his grandparents are better off, and so is his father.  The only loser is me.  But what's new.  Is there a special hell for failed mothers?  Thank God (if there is one) for you.
August 12
      I have no idea what time it is, but I just woke up crying from a horrible dream.  Michael was out here with me.  He was running around some loose boards where he might fall down and despite my warnings, finally took a spill.  He jumped to his feet and ran into my arms screeching, "Mommy!"
      I thought, "Thank God he still loves me and needs me.  I'm still his mother."
      Michael sobbed, "I like you, but I love her (meaning Joyce) and I wanna go `home.'"  "All right, Michael.  It's okay.  If that's what you want, you can go home."  What else could I say or do?  He's spent more of his life in that family than with me.  What could I expect?  How can a stupid dream hurt so very much?
      BECAUSE SOMEDAY it may be TRUE!
August 21, 1969
Westwood

To Vonnie 
      First let me put your mind to rest with the news that Ted and Joyce are together again.  Ted looks and acts much more cheerful.  We weren't sure when we saw him at the Vineyard whether his gloominess stemmed from the unflyable spell of rain and fog or from his marital troubles.  Far be it from me to ask.  I make it a rule to be seen oftener than heard.
      I guess I bent the rule in my last letter to you, but just as all your San Francisco substitute Mommies and Daddies worry about you, your real parents can't help doing the same.  I thought your reflections in reply were rational, realistic, calm, sensible . . . until I came to your words about a special hell.  Then the bitterness bled through between the lines and I realized you were writing with teeth clenched against the pain.  Vonnie dear, a mother as brave as you is far from a failure.
      But now all is well and you can relax.  No more nightmares.  When you come home, Michael will, as always, return your love a thousand fold. 
September 1, 1969
San Francisco

From Vonnie
      I'm so relieved about Ted and Joyce's reconciliation I can't find words to express it.  I cried all the way through your last letter -- not only from relief but from the sheer exhaustion of worrying for so long. 
      There are times I feel so sorry for myself it makes me sick.  I can blame no one but Von-Von for my predicaments, so why don't I do something about it?  I try so hard to understand why I do the things I do and always come up with the same answer:  I don't know.  Sometimes I think I should go to a shrink but don't believe anyone can really help.  My only salvation is the right man -- a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, a heart to be happy with.  Someone to give Michael and me a family.  But where is he?  Am I destined to spend the rest of my life being lonely, confused, unhappy?  Pretending I'm independent and like it that way?  I not only need someone but I need someone who needs me. 
Don't we all want to be needed?
                                                                            
March 27, 1970
Quincy

From Vonnie
I've got nothing to relate but good news.  I've finished typing Kathie's paper, finished working on my apartment, haven't been drinking at all.  I think I'm going to make it.
I do feel bad about Dad paying $30.00 a week for my visits to Dr. C.  I'm convinced that my problem is alcohol.  If I were a teetotaler, I wouldn't have totaled my car.  I will continue the sesssions until June, but only because I agreed to that condition in court.  It's a waste of my time and Dad's money.  I feel resentful the minute I walk into that office.  I'm expected to start telling him what I'm thinking about when all I'm thinking about is how much I hate the silence and the tension.
I feel as though C's trying to make a typical case history out of me, grabbing at straws, making something out of nothing.  I hate having my privacy invaded.  I turn into a completely different person when I'm with this stranger who is poking, prodding, pulling at me.  He doesn't question or converse -- he sits and stares at me while the quiet screams all around me.  Am I wrong or is it almost impossible to start babbling about everything personal to you, everything sacred, the pressures, the disappointments.  I've tried just sitting there, I've tried to explain I can't just strike up a one-way conversation, I've tried being nasty.  I hate it.  Maybe C. is the wrong man.  I'll give you some examples of the things that bug me when we get together.   Anyway, I'll keep playing the game until June.  Then maybe I can regain my peace of mind or at least "privacy of mind."
On Michael's birthday I splurged and gave him a Stingray bicycle.  Ted says I spoil him.  Maybe I do, but how else can I win his love when I can't get it in the usual way, by devoting my life to him?
February 1, 1971    
San Francisco

From Vonnie to her parents
     I was getting anxious when I didn't hear from you for so  long.  The news of your separation was shattering and disheartening.  You get so used to seeing and feeling things in the  family life around you, you take them for granted.  Then something happens that so completely changes things, there's  first shock, then realization, then readjustment.  It's painfully  disillusioning to discover that the perfect relationship isn't so  perfect after all.  But still and all, our family flourishes with  love ‑‑ we're still exceptional.  This I know & believe.  My  dearest love is with you both no matter what happens.

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