October 10, 2016 — Either now or sometime in the future, questions will emerge about my marriage to Susan Dionne in 1965, subsequent divorce in 1991, and a second marriage to Carolyn Vasquez in 1994 … Peter Hoover, a Hutterite theologian, contacted me a decade ago to ask what Philadelphia taught about remarriages. Now that I have returned to using the computer I was then using, I probably can find on this machine’s hard drive what I wrote in response to his questions. But my answers only addressed physical reasons for a marriage to stay together. I wasn’t then addressing the symbolism that Head and Body represents spiritually, with this symbolism outweighing the physical.
This essay was one of many written between 1999 and spring 2000, these “many” intended to be assembled as a collection titled, Owl Hoots falling from Tall Pines. But after publishing seven books in 2001, books that were figuratively abandoned after being drafted to reread prophecy in January 2002, I never returned to this second collection of essays. These essays have sat for fourteen years untouched. Some seem worthy of being read by a larger audience, but this particular essay is an explanation from my perspective of what went wrong in a marriage between an 18-year-old emancipated minor and a 19-year-old woman who could have, nearly thirty-seven years later done the work my present wife has done without pay and with very little acknowledgment for the past nearly fifteen years. But Susan had grown tired of listening to me two decades before I was called to reread prophecy. She could have but she wouldn’t have done the work that Carolyn has done. As a result, events occurred that brought to an end my first marriage, not something I wanted but not something I could prevent.
Bent By Thoughts
On the afternoon of July 10th, 1965, I married Susan Kay Dionne (now deceased) in the Friends Church at Sherwood, Oregon. I was eighteen years old. I had two years of college behind me, a summer job showing raw property to buyers from California, six rifles and a shotgun, a steelhead rod and reel, and a car in Reno with a blown engine. I had very little else other than optimism. But I had no thoughts of ever marrying a second time, nor of not making this marriage work. I might not have fully appreciated what I was doing, but I expected that I could make it up as I went. After all, I had been ad-libbing life for nearly two years, taking each day as it came and getting through until tomorrow. So, yes, I carried with me in a small bag fractured mirrors of uncertainty, but also in that bag were a few strands of honor.
Honor is such a stiff word, almost phallic in its erection. It smacks of the Marine Corps and duty and a host of disagreeable obligations. It is much bandied about during times of national crisis: it was bandied about by two presidents, both my peers, when the first tried to convince us lying about an affair was an act of true family values, and the second insisted there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If lying about an affair represents true family values, then all of those good vibes of the 1960s were from a vibrator gratifying lusts.
When I married, I was filled with hope and some lust and many apprehensions about whether I could provide for a wife. I had just spent a winter eating poached venison, and my intention was to stay another year at Oregon Tech, take an Associate degree in Small Arms Technology, then with that degree—I didn't know what. Find a job, probably. I couldn't imagine having money enough by then to buy an engine lathe, the heart of every gunshop. But I was willing to let tomorrow take care of itself. I had enough problems each day for that day, with or without a wife; so there was no compelling reason not to marry. And honor said I should. Pregnancy wasn't at issue. My taking her virginity was.
Beyond my six rifles, I didn't have much that spring of 1965. I was an emancipated minor. Mom's estate, which was small to begin with, was completely devoured by a Salem attorney. At the time, no one but myself knew where my stepfather was—he had shacked up with a woman shortly after Mom committed suicide, and had disappeared after the Adventist Church threatened to disfellowship him if he didn't reform his ways. My aunts thought his disappearance was good riddance. But Mom's sterling and bone china and most everything of value also took off at the same time. I found him while hitchhiking through southern Oregon when I should have been taking my Calc final at Willamette. If he ever had Mom's sterling, he didn't then so I never told anyone where he was. My aunts would have filed civil suits against him.
In addition to those six rifles, I had honor, which is a form of respect for oneself. And honor doesn't really change. Cultures do. People do. But what was honorable thirty-five hundred years ago still is honorable today and will be tomorrow. Honor is that unbendingly stiff and phallic.
What I didn't have was love: when Mom leaned over my .30-06 and spattered herself all over a bedroom ceiling in October, 1963, I felt only relief. The insanity was over. I could live my life without worrying about what was happening around me. I felt free, and the courts so ruled. But for awhile it bothered me that I felt no sadness. I wondered if I lacked natural affection. I felt compassion for puppies, but I didn't hesitate to kill one. I just didn't feel attached to any life.
I had a ten-speed, English built Raleigh bike that I rode all over Salem that year I was at Willamette. I had dated Cecille Sax my last two years of high school; I thought I knew what love was. But when, at Cecille's bequest, I rode out to the city of Keizer to see Cecille's twenty-six year old, widowed sister-in-law, I wanted to make a pass at her. I had met her before, but seeing her in her house, the older woman, I was in lust. But that innate sense of honor wouldn't let me do what I so very badly wanted to even when she did nothing to discourage attention.
After that incident, I was certain I wasn't capable of feeling so-called natural affection. I was living in a dorm at the edge of the sexual revolution, which was more a returning to pantheistic mores than a liberating of libidos, and an innate sense of honor wouldn't let me join the herd. I wanted to. When I walked one girl to her apartment and was invited in, I, after she took off her blouse when entering her apartment, stayed less than five minutes. She was too fast for me. It took longer than that to stuff my honor back into that bag I carried.
At some moment when I wasn't paying attention, I had shutdown emotionally. Grandpa Kizer died when I was ten, and I don't remember feeling sorrow. Dad died when I was eleven, and all I felt was anger, lots of anger. Grandma Kizer died when I was twelve, and I felt nothing at all. Mom died when I was sixteen, and I felt nothing. My first roommate at Willamette died while being hazed, and I felt nothing. A traffic accident took a classmate in high school, and I felt nothing. A jailhouse fire took another classmate right out of high school, and I didn't even care. I don't even remember how many I have known who have died suddenly, and I had no emotional investment in them and felt nothing towards them. At one time it seemed like everyone I knew died unexpectedly; so I didn't let people get close to me, equally true for a new wife as for a hunting buddy.
The Army missed a good one when they wouldn't take me because of my size. Too big. Didn't have uniforms that would fit, not that I'm actually so big. I have very short legs and a long, muscular torso, so I carry lots of weight in relation to my height. Six feet and then, two sixty, two sixty-five, and in shape.
I was certainly cold enough emotionally to have served as a sniper. And the distance I placed between myself and Susie could never be bridged later. With a different person, or in a different era, construction of such a bridge might have been possible, but once she learned in a woman's course at University of Oregon that she was co-dependent there was never any putting us together again.
I didn't think about love as I pursued my interests after marrying: I bought a new Bronco in 1966, and opened a gunshop in 1967 while still working shift work at the pulp mill. On my long weekends, we would fish lakes in the Kamloops, British Columbia area. Or we might visit my aunt in Arizona. But my vacations were always hunting trips with someone from the mill. Most evenings were spent drumming up business, often with a stop at Don Lynch's where I would spend hours trading guns. I may have spent more hours in the company of Don's wife Jeanne than with Susie, again my behavior honorable but inconsiderate.
Then in May, 1968, Kathy was born.
When I first saw her I thought I was looking into a mirror. She was me. And as I first held her in the Newport hospital, I felt something almost like possessiveness but not quite. Involuntarily, I had an emotional investment in her. My coldness had cracked.
But my relationship with Susie didn't improve. If anything, it became worse for Susie could sense the attachment I had for Kathy, an attachment I didn't necessarily have for her.
Love is a decision that transforms various emotions into out-flowing concern for someone else equal to or greater than a person's sense of self-preservation. Love isn't that raw emotion of lust or possession or anger. It is the transformation of emotion into character.
Susie and I fought about stupid things: her working crossword puzzles all day, undercooked gravy that tasted like wallpaper paste, me not taking her out to dinner. During this period our bills were paid, but all of our money was going into the shop or into collectable guns. (I had forty-one original singleshot rifles hanging on bedroom walls.) She didn't feel she could spend any on herself. That builds resentment with a long fuse.
We fought until one day I saw Kathy, then about two, cringe just as my younger sister Marie had cringed when Mom was behaving insanely. Our fighting stopped. As of that day, we never fought again. The only problem was we never resolved the issues of that period of time.
Ten years of marriage passed before I could truly tell my wife that I loved her. It took that long before the crack which began with Kathy's birth widened enough to let me through. And while ten years isn't long in the course of human affairs, or even in the affairs of a nation, in a marriage it can be forever.
Another nine years passed before the traffic accident of October, 1984, and I had long forgotten about how immature I had been when I married at eighteen … when I was eighteen I thought I was mature enough to vote, but the law hadn't yet been changed. However, it had by when I reached twenty-one, but by then I knew no eighteen year old was old enough to vote.
I got into a little scuffle at the Salem Speedway when I was seventeen. I broke one fellow's back and fractured the skull of the other in, maybe, fifteen seconds. Both were adults, and their ages kept me out of the legal system even though I was an emancipated minor. From then on, though, I put a curb on my temper, which fed off my pent up anger. That anger didn't go away until some months after I was baptized prior to Passover in 1973. In those years prior to 1973, I would periodically vent that anger, but never again at anyone.
I had so thoroughly put out of my mind how immature I had been during my first few years of marriage that it felt like I had been sucker punched when Susie asked for a divorce after the accident in 1984, after nineteen years, after the really rough times were behind us. I asked why. Her daughters asked why. Ministers asked why. And she couldn't give any reasons other than she thought I never loved her, and she cited incidents that had occurred in those first few years of marriage.
I was guilty of every accusation, her most recent incident having occurred fourteen years earlier. Yes, I was guilty of cuffing a bowl of soup across the kitchen in 1967—it sailed as if it were an inverted Frisbee across the kitchen before hitting the lip of the sink and exploding into a mist of chards and soup droplets, with the carrots bouncing back towards me. She thought I was trying to hit her with the bowl, but I had only been pounding the table with the heel of my hand. It was an accident that I caught the edge of my bowl of soup with my palm and sent it sailing, in nearly level flight, across the kitchen. I couldn't have duplicated the flight of the bowl if I wanted.
And yes, I was guilty of throwing a plastic lunch pail across the kitchen also in 1967. I came home mad about something, and tossed the lunch pail at the kitchen table, where it skidded across and seemed to launch itself off the far side with enough force that it flew the rest of the way across the kitchen and hit the backdoor knob with enough forced to break the end out of the cold plastic lunch pail. Again, it wasn't a maneuver I could have repeated, nor would have wanted to repeat.
And again yes, I was guilty of splintering a bathroom door in 1968. We were fighting. She locked herself in the bathroom, and I wanted to talk to her. I asked her to open the door. She didn't respond. So I put my foot against the knob and gave a little push, really. The hollow core door delammed. Every glued seam let go and the door was in pieces. But it wasn't shattered. I glued it back together: it took all of my bucketful of C-clamps. And the next day a person couldn't have told anything had happened to the door. But she remembered and never forgave me. It was as if I had violated a scared trust.
But no, I was not guilty of never having loved her.
I wanted to believe her desire for divorce had something to do with the accident, which left her with a dislocated hip and a shattered femur on opposite sides. The hospital reversed their A-P view of her pelvis and left her dislocated hip untreated for twelve days. When her hip was finally reduced, nurses knocked it out again by rolling her without the prescribed abduction pillow between her legs. She was in a lot of pain, and taking away too much pain medicine, and listening to too many mood altering tapes when the drugs wouldn't numb the pain. And after eleven months of hospitalization and five surgeries (six actually if the one a year later is counted), she received a substantial settlement.
The plastic manual throttle knob that Chevrolet mounted just under the dash in their mid 1970s Suburbans ended up inside my right knee; so I was laid up at home a hundred miles away from where Susie was hospitalized. I didn't have much to do. I wasn't going anywhere. But I felt I had to work, had to try to provide for three daughters. So I sat down to an old typewriter and wrote about Dutch Harbor and Kodiak and all those places where I wanted to be, but I wrote nothing about a marriage that had failed for lack of love. It was too painful; for I had invested a lot of emotional currency in the relationship once I anted up.
There are times when honor is all we have. It will get us through until there is something else.
When I realized her love was no longer present, I hoped her sense of honor would keep us together for at least long enough to finish rearing our daughters. That would have given me a chance to try and rekindle a fire I had neglected before I knew how important it was to me. But her Woman's Studies curricula at University of Oregon saw honor as much too phallic to perpetuate.
Polls showed that President Clinton had wide spread support among these same women for whom honor was such a dirty word.
An afterword of sorts: because the hospital—Merrill West Medical Center, Klamath Falls, Oregon—reversed Susie’s emergency room AP pelvic x-ray, and because her attending doctors didn’t notice the error even though an x-ray existed that showed the error, she received a six-digit insurance settlement. But our daughters returned to Alaska with me.
There is actually more to this story, and this “more” has to do with being called in January 2002 to reread prophecy … when I returned to the university as a graduate student without an undergraduate degree in 1988, I didn’t know that I would need the knowledge and writing experience gained in UAF’s Creative Writing program to do the work of deconstructing biblical prophecies and the whole of the scriptural canon. I didn’t know that I would need exposed to the work of Russian and Prague linguists to recognize the Book of Acts as a Second Sophist Greek novel. I didn’t know how close of a reader I needed to become to see Matthew’s “First Unleavened,” the period that symbolically represents the entirety of the Christian era. For I had been writing fulltime for nine years when I returned to the university because I knew Kristel, our middle daughter, would be a better student living at home with her father than she would be living in the dorms. Yet as I read back over my writing from before returning to the university (when I actually made money writing) to after returning, I see a stylistic change gained from my compression of prose, brought about by writing poetry.
Susie saw my return to the university as another irresponsible adventure that wouldn’t go anywhere—and she began to worry about her having committed blasphemy against the holy spirit by denying its personage. We were headed in opposite directions theologically, and that produced irreconcilable differences that prevented us, and would continue to prevent us from ever getting back together even if both of us wanted to return to the marriage—and she didn’t, and I no longer trusted her. After taking Women’s Studies courses at University of Oregon, she had become an adversary. There was no longer a marriage that could be put back together. Rather, our marriage was one that should never have been made; a marriage that came under the broad application of porneia, which was the ruling made by the denomination we both still attended.
The ruling was made spring 1992.
My marriage to Susan Dionne failed not because of adultery or spousal abuse, and really not because of the financial tensions that came with being continually destitute, but because she lost the perspective of distance that comes with the passage of time when, following the accident in 1984, she was in prolonged intense pain and being treated for that pain. What she remembered had, in her mind, occurred yesterday or last week, not fifteen, sixteen, eighteen years earlier. And what she remembered had actually occurred, perhaps not exactly how she remembered the event, but close enough to how she remembered the event that I knew what she was remembering. And I couldn’t go back in time and change what had happened. I would have if I could have.
I have now been married to Carolyn for longer than Susie and I were together (we were separated our last seven years of marriage)—and Carolyn is still excited to read what I have written; still willing to spend hours putting my writings on-line; and disappointed when few read and even fewer respond. So when someone wonders why I remarried while a first wife still lived, my response is, That first marriage should have never occurred. Honor is not an appropriate basis for marrying. Love is the only basis that will work.
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