Death of a Blythe Spirit
Mom and Dad were married in the middle of the Great Depression. They were lucky and did not become personally acquainted with bread lines because they always managed to scrounge a job somewhere.
During many of those early years my mother worked as a maid—complete with black dress and starched white apron!! As a matter of fact, she was a “live in” maid on the day she was married. Mother recalls the Samualsons fondly; she says everything she knows about keeping a house she learned there. Considering mother’s (deserved) reputation as a sloppy housekeeper, the cooking lessons must have been the most memorable. The cook, for example, taught here to braise her stew meat to “sear in the juices” prior to cooking. Mother was always an exceptionally fine “home cookin’” type cook with a wide repertoire which went from yeast rolls to sauerbraten (German pot-roast). She wasn’t one for sauces, and cakes never got icing in our house, but even during the leanest time the family was always well fed. And because she was a conscientious wife and mother, she even studied nutrition so that her meals would be well-balanced.
In 1934, however, when Mrs. Samualson found out mother had gotten married, she wouldn’t let her “live in” anymore—a wife’s place is with her husband. Mother commuted for awhile.
Thou shalt not idolize thine work to the exclusion of mine person.
It appears that the “essay” below is Father’s response to Mother’s “demands.” Notice how demanding he is—“trifles, “dripping water,” “open doors.” He is clearly in the midst of the tension-building phase of the batterer. The cyclical batterer does NOT react to external cues; he reacts to increasing internal pressures. So no matter how hard everyone trys to prevent an outburst, there’s no way to prevent it. During the first, or tension-building, phase of the battering cycle, the batterer will be increasingly moody and mean to his spouse. He demeans her, heaps abuse upon her, blames her. The abuser begins to ruminate, obsessing on the “thought pattern of blame, bad feelings and fantasized recrimination.” The victim’s initial (normal) response is "reason."
Know then, OH MY SPOUSE! I am thine one true love and thou shalt have no other love beside me.
Thou shalt respect mine work which is important to OUR welfare.
Thou shalt not intrude nor allow intrusion upon mine mental concentrations without just cause.
Verily it has been wisely said ‘tis the needle pricks that drive men mad, THEREFORE shalt thou refrain from irritating me with trifles.
Thou shalt remember that dripping water and open doors are sources of annoyance to me.
Thou shat not call me from mine labor in vain.
Thou shalt not fail to remove all foreign matter from mine workshop at thine earliest convenience.
Thou shalt not offend mine ears with illiterate or loud speech.
Thou shalt put mine welfare above all else at all times, even as I do thine.
Thus shall I love thee and honor and worship thee forevermore.
A dry, brown leaf caught in my hair
I versus Myself
The Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth
“For it isn’t enough to know what I do,
Thoughts on Philosophy
After dipping lightly into what is generally known as the Best in Philosophy, I emerged somewhat dazed and whole-heartedly agreeing with Socrates that—“One thing only I know, that is that I know nothing.”
But my curious mind, having once tasted of knowledge and accepting even so small a fragment of truth, was not content to relapse into its accustomed state of negligence. There must be more to philosophy than just the realization of Man’s immense ignorance. It is Truth we are after and it is truth we want. And only through closer acquaintance with those who think and clothe their thoughts in words can we in a small measure, gather wisdom and apply it to our daily lives as we see fit. To live is to learn, and we learn that we may be capable to live better, therefore Knowledge is Life. And endless circle, it is true, but an ever widening one. Consider the Truths these Philosophers have so laboriously sought out, and take only those from each as are needed to pattern our own conception of happiness. There is a world of consolation in philosophy, even if only for the pleasure of thinking logically. Logic—that is the keyword. To find a reason, to ask the why and the wherefore. To question and determine the cause of an action. WHY do I do what I do? To it? I ask with Socrates. What is it, why is it? To know what causes an action is to adjust it and understand it. (I may even add that I asked myself WHY I cling to your friendship with such tenacious intensity. But who wants to apply cold logic to terms of affection?!!)
So philosophy is, after all, not infallible, but to attain perfection in any form would mean to lose something infinitely more precious to us, the pleasure of anticipation.
To strive for perfection, for the best, yes, that should be the aim of all of us, but Perfection in its start reality would appall us. We couldn’t understand it, nor, I wager, recognize it. Philosophy points the way, let him who may follow in the path to Knowledge, it can do no more for us.
July 16, 1934
Thanks for that lovely letter, my dear, you’ve been sweet. Please be nice and forgive the added delay, but then you know how it is, or don’t you! I tell you one thing, however, if I had a dollar for every one of those numerous “How’s married life” queries, I’d be able to retire. But you, of all people are entitled to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing else but. Therefore, let me assure you from the bottom of my heart that there’s no bliss on earth greater than the joy of being married to a fellow like—Jerry. Oh gosh, Mary, it’s Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, with me every conscious minute of my life. I don’t know how the eyes of the world look at him but he’s just aces high with me. He’s my life, my faith, and the justification of my very existence. But don’t stop me, let me rave on and on, or perhaps the subject is boring to you, since you must, by necessity, remain quite mute! Oh Mary, I’m so happy and even more so, and to think this wicked world (my world) tried to deprive me of this supreme contentment. Oh well, let me come down out of the clouds and go on with the tale. Life, Mary, plays you the most astonishing tricks. So far, as far as we two are concerned, everything has turned out just fine, but not as we expected or planned it. I’ve finally gotten to the stage where I’d just as soon sit back and let Madam Fate do her damdest, since she seems to put her oar in anyway and what’s more, to the best. In the first place Mrs. Samuels found out about this, through a “dear” friend and neighbor who has nothing better to do than to read the Argus inside out, especially death, marriage, and birth notices, etc. which seems to have turned out in my favor since Mrs. S. allowed me to have my husband visit me two afternoons a week, such as Tuesday and Sunday, and extended the privilege and courtesy to let me stay out all night three times a week. So much for that. As for the house, Oh Mary, much as I love to have it, I felt it would be too much of a burden and it wouldn’t make me happy unless I could stay in it. You know what I mean! Right now it is absolutely necessary for me to go on working. I want to see a bank account. And furniture costs money too, and ______. So Jerry took a room, the cutest dearest little room and bath for $5.00 right down a couple of blocks from my house, and it worked wonderful these two weeks, I was free to come and go there, had my own key, and in general, felt pretty much at home. It was my home. And now the sad part comes in, Jerry’s mother had a reverse in her finances, which necessitated her moving into cheaper quarters—and can you beat it—she picks on our house. Our house!!! Do you realize the tragedy of that! And Jerry’s going to have a room there. Oh Mary, I never let on, but I was heartbroken. To go in that dear little kitchen and knowing it’s not mine, just to have a room in the house I’d planned on, that I’d furnished so cozily in my imagination. It was almost too much. It wasn’t Jerry’s fault or his mother’s, but oh I don’t know—I hope, sincerely hope, it works out that way, and nobody knows but I and now you, how I feel about it, Jerry merely guesses it but I won’t admit it’s so so what can he do anyway. I’ll do my best and expect him to do it too. It won’t be for long until I quit my job, maybe it’ll be best after all. Maybe I’m just greedy, but I want him all to myself. I want to feel he has me and me only. As far as he’s concerned, Mary, I’m as hard as nails and immovable as a mountain, he’s mine. Why I even wash and iron his shirts and underwear and socks. That’s why these two weeks were so nice, it was just us two. I’d boss him a little as far as domesticity goes, and he bosses me a little as far as authority goes, and we love each other so very much it’s a pleasure to submit to the other. I woke up, Mary, and found myself all woman. When I look at it, it seems as if I stepped through a door, an actual door, oh well, words ail you, and you must experience it to understand and at that this understanding is very rare. I consider myself fortunate indeed to look at it with new eyes. And I thank Jerry for that, I show my appreciation of that by living only for him, and he in his turn is grateful for my companionship and tenderness and retaliates in kind, so you see the circle goes on and on. It gets deeper and deeper.
Oh I don’t know why I tell you this, Mary, you couldn’t…
What is the matter with me, what happened to us! Oh my God, I’m all at lose ends, I—I who put his happiness above mine, I who consider his peace of mind at any price, I go ahead and indulge in a spree of self-pity and egotism, I sweep myself into a state that in my saner moments never thought myself capable of. What in the name of heaven made me do such a stupid fool thing. It is like nursing a frail flower into bloom only until one careless gesture to nip it in the bud. Whatever the mental punishment that was meted out to me, it was just. It seemed unkind and harsh and loveless, but whatever he said or did he was justified.
I realize it now more than ever before, he has complete control over me—body and soul. I thank providence that he is as he is, I love him for his honesty and aloofness, I admire his irresistibility to bribery. But I swear here and now to myself by the love I bear him I shall never again belittle him. If it is an ordinary romance I want with its ordinary proceedings, I should have chosen an ordinary mate. That I did not gives me credit (and shows me hope!). I chose my lover for the fineness and character that I dimly perceived, dimly but dully accepted and [asked] for. My job is not finished, but I set myself back.
Now, I lost time.
Dare I tell him that in my heart of hearts I failed him even for one split second? His faith in my womanly understanding is shaken enough, perhaps later when I have fully regained his precious love and respect I shall confess that I accused him, if in my [extremely] nervous condition, during a half hour of heartbreaking agony of disloyalty, negligence, selfishness, in short, all the disagreeable things generally only found in the villain of an old fashioned stage play.
Oh Lord I don’t know what to do.
[letter from F to J inserted in diary]
Was ever a woman so sorely taxed! Dearest One, you must have realized, even as you drove me to the point of final and definite decision that the answer could never, under any circumstances be other than—yes.
That was settled, as you yourself said, a long time ago. If there is ever, or could ever be, a question of choice, it is you, and always you, first last and always. If you understood me quite as well as you expect me to fathom your whims you would have known that I agitated myself last night so only because I was trying to pit my will against yours. Quite futile, I admit, because I realized quickly the earnestness of the situation. But you stung me to the quick by saying I was soft and sentimental. Giving in so quickly to your [world] only [leave] strengthened that opinion. I admit Mother is a complication and the only cause of this estrangement between us. It need never have happened, dearest, but that’s neither here nor there. But I refuse to be dominated, even by you, and I love you. I should say, you least of all.
You shouldn’t have let it go as it did. I faithfully reported each letter and each morsel of conversation to you (don’t ever call me sneaky and underhanded again!) But since you made no move, either way I naturally presumed, you tolerated it as long as there were no further maternal interferences. My error, I should have known you better. However, let’s throw all our grievances and differences together into the past and forget it, shall we, darling! The villain is learning, my dear. I shall not so soon forget it either, not to mix my [ones] the next time. Be good again to your repentant sinner, and love me dearest, not just with your passion but your heart and mind as well. I want to feel I’m close to you again, not so much for the thrill of contact but the delicious joy in life a complete understanding brings, of contentment and peace.
Friday October 26, 1934
I listened to the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra yesterday… I don’t know, but there is something about music such as that that just strikes me dumb. I couldn’t utter a word about it, except perhaps a formal, hackneyed phrase, to save my life. What could the world ‘beautiful’ or even ‘exquisite’ convey of the emotions that play with you and through you, that intoxicate with the richness and fullness of tone, the splendor of harmony.
I can’t speak but my soul lifts its wings and dances with every lilt of the violin, while my poor clumsy carcass clings like a leaden weight to the soil. Every lilt is a painful break that keeps me breathless with suspension, every glorious outburst sweeps me along, up and up, and then leaves me limp and spent. I know of but one other emotion that is capable of carrying me to such dizzying height.I know too little about composition, however, to venture any remarks, I do regret hearing good music so seldom. Why, I hardly even recognize them, either by name or tune, can’t even reproduce more than a few bars in my mind, but I do know, I thrill to them every time. I feel them, deeply, they’re joy and peace, but I can’t give them words.
Jere can and does articulate. I remember he wrote to me once after listening to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. He spoke of it as ‘a man’s railing against futility.’ At that time I was unfamiliar with that symphony, but I’ve heard it since then “mit Verstand” and I know railing was never Beethoven’s way. He scorned fate. He may have complained bitterly about his unfortunate failings but such bitterness never penetrated the music he wrote. His music was greater than the man, it had to be. Beethoven exulted in strength and power and that strength and power leaps a hundredfold from his music. I am only one on the fringe of his listeners and profess to know nothing about it, but that exultance and perfect ego did reach out and grip me.
But that only goes to show that everyone reads his own soul into music, everyone listens for what they wish to hear.
But to get back to yesterday—it was restful to be all alone in that big house [seated] by the window and watching the wind tossed trees and drifting leaves. Strange that that leaden sky didn’t distress me, rather it filled me with a strange wild joy. A joy that rippled through my blood and made me want to throw out my arms and inhale deeply of that buoyant life out there.
It was only with great reluctance that I drew myself away to attend my duties, but that joy of living stayed with me, and made even the irksome joy of preparing supper merely a stepping stone. Oh Lord I’m glad to be young and alive, glad to feel and enjoy, glad to be sufficient onto myself.
Sunday October 28, 1934
Well, the children had their party last night and it sure did turn out successful. It is so easy to keep those kids amused, if [we] only give them half a chance. But, oh my, Laura! That girl is fast growing up. I don’t know, but I don’t like it, don’t like it one bit that she’s got such a taste for petting. But what else can we grown-ups do but stand by and watch with apprehension [such] young passion.
Lord knows life is long and mature years full of cares and [woes], it seems such a shame to see them try so hard to get away from their childhood. Why, oh why must young hearts wake up so soon! Their kissing is innocent pleasure now, but how much longer before they search for new excitement, how much longer before they discover the real temptation of sex.
Oh, it’s mean of me to be so pessimistic, there’s really no call to conjure up the devil, the idea was to give those children a pleasant evening, and I think we succeeded.
Jere Love—I suppose I’m just a damned fool—but I am so anxious about you I just know you’ll get up and act as ugly and vicious as a wild boar…criticizing the turkey and the stuffing, yelling at the kids, grumbling about the house, etc. and all the while I know it probably is all my own fault. Darling I do hate to come over and hear all those complaints about your temper. I do wish you could see the humor in life in general and around you in particular.
Dear Jere, I’m really dreadfully sorry I provoked you, but in all fairness to me, can anybody be expected to be exhibiting the patience and sweet disposition of a saint, being woke out of a sound slumber and forced to undergo a severe cross-examination [floured] with a goodly amount of distrust!!! Before I can say the sensible thing I find myself dripping sarcasm and resentment. When I should have been exercising my capacity for soothing full well knowing how tired and disgusted you were. You had me so upset even your subsequent lovemaking (I couldn’t help but thrill to you!) couldn’t make me forget the [nasty] things that were said. Of course, I’m troubled when I’d give anything just anything to make you happy and contented—and I always find myself up against the same blank wall, always the same problem. You! Oh my darling, why don’t you help me why don’t you make it a little easier for me.
Jealousy and distrust are also hallmarks of the three-cycle batterer. Father is clearly and once again in the throes of a tension-building phase. Note that Mother accepts the blame for the disturbances. And note that he wakes her from a sound sleep to berate her; this, too, is a common phase I occurrence.
Mother is now exhibiting more of the
victim responses documented by Dutton. She "attempts to calm partner;
stays away from family, friends, support system."
November 10, 1934
Ah Kristin, are we then so very unlike? Kristin Lavransdatter—brainchild of a woman who has drunk deeply of Life to paint such a shining wild picture. So might she have painted myself and many others. Did I not come to know the power man can get over women’s soul, did I not taste the sweetness of surrender. Those words of hate and tenderness, are they so strange to me? God knows it seemed as if I’d opened the pages of my soul and read them.
You poor fair child of the [ ] you carried heavy on your fate. You forget too soon, let the cares of everyday drown out the headstrong passion in your blood. But what other advice had you—poor poor victim of an [ancient] times.
I might grow heavy of mind were I to wear out my body and soul in childbearing. That God that is spared me.
Is it a wonder though, that the dearest of lovers grow estranged as it a [ ] Erlend said to Kristian life with her was one succession of fast days. And what is more [worrying] to a man than to look at his wife and always find her heavy with child. And pity a good [institution] for love and neither realizes that love has grown, oh so cold, until they’re both so far apart they can never find the way each to the other’s heart.
Mother had an abortion during this time--a scary back-street abortion--and I wonder if the above entry is referring to the reason for it. Batterers are intensely threatened by their wive's pregnancies. Dutton writes, "The husband fears the baby will replace him in his wife's affections." Pregnancy is, in fact, one of the most dangerous times for the victim.
Sunday, December 2, 1934
God, I could just cry if that weren’t so silly. But how else can I find relief from this high tension! What a dreadful mess things are in. I swear I pay a heavy price for the privilege of living.
Complications just pile up and up with never a clear path ahead. But I must straighten myself out, I simply must get things [down] orderly.
There’s another. How can I describe in words just how that idea tears my heart. He will never, never understand it. Never see the debt of honor, of life itself, that I owe mother. Never see that I love her as my mother, no matter what she has done. He cannot understand the compassion in a woman’s heart. And because I am a woman I understand mother can’t help still loving her. True, we have nothing in common, she aggravates and bores me. I’m not choosing her for a friend, I don’t seek her society for the pleasure of her society, but because of that duty, which he is too blinded by anger and resentment to realize. He taxes me so sorely—that scene last night. Oh why did I permit it. Do I ever know them so little!
It isn’t that I don’t want to choose—oh no, if I could see the need of it I could sacrifice more, that’s just it—I don’t see the need of it. But he’s so stubborn so locked with that obsession there is no use trying to convince him. I have only to look back and remember—
Why does he say those things to me! I could never, that I know, never bear that from anybody else. And barely can I from him. There’s no use telling myself that it isn’t true, that I do have a sense of the [correct] in dress, that I’m not tactless or thoughtless. Now sewing is added to the list. Lord sometimes I feel I shall explode. Words fail me in white hot anger. What use is there in knowing that other people don’t think so, as long as he has the most convictions that what he says is so. That’s the hell of it. He is sincere, he thinks so and nothing I do or say will ever convince him otherwise.
Now sewing—that’s a slap in the face and shows how much he knows. Just “because I buy my clothes!” Oh you incredible males. It is almost funny. And I guess so it is with everything. But I can’t laugh dammit, I can’t laugh that off. My sense of humor deserts me when it comes to his opinion of me.
Every once so often, when I’m least prepared for it, he get’s that awful mood. There’s no reasoning with him. No use coaxing he only gets more aggravated, if I keep silent he is provoked, if I speak I lose my temper. God, answer me that riddle, what am I to do. But I swear I’ll learn to manage him, if it takes all my strength, my love, and my life to do it.
The time will come when it is for me to forgive—then I shall remember. I shall remember how I pleaded and he was mute—how every tear that I honestly tried to suppress was like a drop of red hot lead. I’ll remember that, in spite of all my entreaties, he allowed me to go to work without a word of hope or kindness. I shall remember this day—long as a lifetime and as full of pain and fear—a day when I needed all my faculties for my work and could not help but keep three quarters of my mind on him.
Yes, I shall remember—and forgive! For such is my love. If I were to match hardness with hardness and indifference with indifference we would never have celebrated our first Christmas together. He will never weaken, never, never, and I cannot, dare not, do ought else but I must surrender to him and that Gethsemane is punishment in itself.
If I seem careless and lighthearted or even lazily indifferent,
be pleased to remember it is because I can’t permit myself to be serious.
If I let myself think seriously I could never bear this nor him. I couldn’t
love him as I do. If I laughingly pass our differences off it is because
I know that is our only safeguard. I have taken a lot and will continue
to do so, not for lack of spirit, far from it, but because I have sense
and vision. I have taken a lot from his mother, more than I thought possible
of taking from any living soul. I’ve been hurt and insulted, angry and
resentful but I forgave, for love of him. I have always put his happiness
before mine and will always do so. I’m not complaining, it isn’t my nature
to beat my forehead against a wailing wall. I can’t see the sense of wasting
time and energy in useless regretting and penance. He can’t see that,
he insists on crushing my spirit, and it takes so much courage to bear
it. Oh, Jere Love, I adore you so.
“He insists on crushing my spirit,” she wrote. How apt. That is exactly what the batterer must do—because “These men have a need to shame and humiliate another human being, to finally obliterate their own shame and humiliation.”
(handwritten love letter from F to Mr. . Jere Casagrande, Jr. , 133 North 8th Ave. City--no stamp, letter wasn't mailed but it was sealed and open)
March 13, 1935
Dearest One ! !
I know I haven't written you a love letter for ages and ages---but with my mind and soul so full of you today, I just have to pour it out to you! I can't keep this ecstasy to myself any longer (and you considered last night's experience more or less a failure!!!) I'm simply walking around with my head in the clouds-living again and again those precious moments. You're in my arms and in my heart. Darling, my body just aches from you, but every ache is an ecstatic pleasure--a token of your reciprocation. The flame of desire that burned so hot and bright and high last night consumed itself into a cozy and comfortable warmth, the sort of feeling you'd get coming away from a cold, hard winter night into a soft bed and snuggling up against a beloved body . Ob my own darling was mortal woman ever so blessed, to lose one's self in another is to attain such unbelievable heights. The wealth and power the mind unlocks with such a simple key. -----
You have crowned my womanhood with such glory as could not possibly be conceived of this sordid planet.
You have given me so much--so very much and the wells of your understanding and love seem never to run dry, no matter how large my demand. You've become so much a part of me--a wish, a thought half [formed] in my subconscious and it's already dedicated to you and accepted by you.
Dearest there is but one earnest and constant prayer in my heart, not to keep our happiness intact, but to be capable of lifting you also out of the baseness, the meanness and narrow-mindedness of this life. If I can infuse but a part of my feeling into our relationship, but a part of the power that has me in its grip.-then it is complete, then, why, dearest, our love is immortal. Best beloved, all these my spoken words, all that agony of longing can only be quenched in the consummation of love, in you. I miss you so, oh how I miss you,
Yours ever and ever
...urge to bluff things out, is just no go. I hate a bluffer, and though, like most people don’t care to pursue and nail it down, I’m not impressed by it, so I can’t expect to do it to others. For my own sake and the sake of the regard of the only person on earth I care about, I simply must smother this crazy impulse.
This has been most pronounced and apparent in my contact with K. She has a knack of rousing my antagonism and contrariness. I feel I ought not to permit her and the fact that she often does get under my skin drives me mad. She spoiled it from the very beginning; I simply will not permit anyone to patronize and [boss] me. I’ll rebel every time and then a mule is a docile lamb in comparison with me. I’m not by nature belligerent and hate scenes, so it has come to comparatively few breaks, although we always seem to tremble on the brink of a quarrel. I can’t be in her company five minutes without feeling on the defensive.
All night they say: “Der Klngere gibt nach”, to sit back on my haunches and act like a mule brings me no glory. Besides it’s her life job and I truly don’t care more than my bread and butter about it. So if she wants to run the place I shall try for the sake of my own nerve to cooperate. If such cooperation entails aloofness and [unsociability] and [taciturnity[ for me, that’s not my fault. It should be easy enough to keep strictly to myself as much as possible.
Of course I can’t accept so much as a bread crumb under the circumstances because whatever else I am, I’m not insincere or hypocritical. And I loathe being under obligation to someone I consider my inferior and whom I can’t even despise because of his insignificance.
Saturday, September 7, 1935
I sometimes think it very fortunate indeed for the tranquility of our wedded life, that I do most of my serious fretting over an ironing board or into a dish pan. By the time I come into the presence of my celestial Lord and Master, I’ve invariably reached the happy conclusion that all the concentrated worrying in the world won’t pay even one of those perniciously recurring evils “your bill is long overdue, etc.”--I don’t , as a rule, let it bother me, but it seems that occasionally the urge (confound my literary taste!) to see the case in black or white, if only for reference, gets just too much for me. My mind frantically darts around searching for a solution.
I really tried my best to make our marriage a success, indeed I hardly think I could do any more. And I do think now it isn’t up to me any more to make further suggestions or efforts. We must simply drift with the tide of events. If worst comes to worst we start from scratch.
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