Death of a Blythe Spirit


The Letter

First Sib Meeting

Dreams of Love

Family Origins

The Making of a Batterer

I Care for Him!


Keeping Company

What Price Love?

Wedded Bliss?

The Honeymoon


The Honeymoon's Over

The Babies Come

Home Sweet Home

Moving Again


Other Mat'ls

Thoughts on Mother's Poetry

Mother's Essays

Penny's Vampire Chronicles

Gina's story fragment


Site PDFs

Death of a Blythe Spirit
(web contents)

Cars Hate Me!
(letters '46-'57)

New York Diaries
(life in the 1930's)


Camille's Diary

Vampie Chronicles

The Sixties

I think in the sixties the “chickens came home to roost.” Everything pretty much fell apart. Mother’s bitterness showed in the poem she wrote when I went off to college in September, 1960:

What shall I say to you, My Daughter,
Now that your eager foot upon Life’s Threshold stands.
Shall I deny to you that love is not all sweetness
that swiftly comes and slowly fades away?
Your trusting Youthfulness would not believe me
but brush aside my words with young impatient hands.

Yes, Love will come to you, as come it must to all.
I would not cloud your shining hour with sadness
nor speak to you of lonely nights of weeping
of hearts that break, to mend and break anew.
Enduring it we try to hold to our illusions
though through the years time steals your love from you.

I will say this:   Love made my life a glory
once I held heaven in my heart and vowed
that I would keep it so til hearts were turned to dust.

My love will last forever, dreams can never die
proudly I held my love for all to see until the day
I found my lover turned into a stranger. Alas for Youth!
it does not count the hours, as count it must.


Alas indeed. We children became adults carrying all the hang-ups our dysfunctional upbringing could provide. In the sixties I got married, got divorced, got pregnant, had a nervous breakdown—and for none of these events were either of my parents present or supportive. They were lost in their own world of misery.

In the sixties Bob got his girlfriend pregnant, joined the army, got married, and got divorced--because his wife, as Mother wrote, “was not going to do what I have done, she was not going to allow any man to treat her and speak to her the way mine has done.” Bob buried himself in work and school.

In the sixties Deedee had about one date in high school and married the first man who showed interest. Like her mother before her, she tried to pretend her marriage was the stuff of myth.

And in the sixties, Penny, the only one still at home, still “lived” the nightmare, becoming increasingly more solitary.

In the sixties Mom and Dad—and Penny—moved to a new home in a new city every five minutes. I think Father’s job record was beginning to catch up with him. A symptom of borderline personality is an inability to commit that results in frequent job changes. I don’t think Father ever worked at the same place for even two years.


Mother essentially stopped introspecting. The following is one of the last few journal entries she wrote:

January 24, 1960

What is love?  Love is placing the welfare of another above one's self. It has become increasingly apparent that I'm neither loved nor respected. Of course it could be argued that in order to receive wifely love and respect you must first give it. I can no longer hold to that platitude. I know I have given it but it has brought me no return. All I have ever done and said and endured has always been taken for granted. The older (and wiser) I become the harder I find it to accept the teaching of… '[Live justly and without fear]...do unto others...as you sow, so shall ye reap...and all the rest of the golden rules by which men live. What have I sown that I should reap this discord], what selfishness have I indulged in to be so utterly disregarded as a person. It's the old, old story that has been twenty-five years in the making and the last chapter is not yet. No one would believe it or accept it as truth unless they have lived through an experience in this home. It's like being at the mercy of a giant baby with a great strength and a baby's blind will. No one can control it. I feel as   ineffectual as a moth beating its soft body against a cold window pane frantically trying to escape. I know I can't. All will go well for a long while and peace reigns except for minor skirmishes, then something happens, some unforeseen thing, and 'boom' there's a full fledged war. And the stupid little things that bring it to a head...a lamp this time, a lamp with a broken cord. Take it out of the living room, he says; and put it in your bedroom. Why my bedroom for heaven's sake? Get Bob home to fix it, why [didn't] you said [something dirt it] Oh it's not what he ways, its the way it's said. The nagging and lecture that go with it. The same old story, he can say anything he likes but I mustn't open my mouth "shut up or I'll shut it for you", the nasty dirty language which makes me physically and mentally sick, the abuse of my person and the violation of my spirit. It's hard to remember and hang onto my civilized maturity, I want to lash out and punish and hurt, but [fortunately] for my peace of mind that lasts only an instant. Then I remember my philosophy again, I go and read [Spinoza]. Remember that [foul minds and blows ] are no outrage but only your judgment that they are so"   "We must try to make the end of the journey better than the beginning" I rationalize and write things out and swallow all the bitterness, but as I've learned to my dismay, I swallow it, but my physical self repays me with ulcers. So in the end I only punish myself.



The year at Whittier was tough for me—off on my own for the first time, first sexual experience—but on January 13, 1961, I wrote in my diary:

Since coming to college here at Whittier I have become much closer to my family. However, Christmas vacation was two weeks. At the end of that time I was convinced that I never wanted to see them again. During my 18 years I guess I had gotten used to the noise, the bickering, the selfishness, etc. but after the calm pleasant atmosphere here, I could not bear home. I appreciate them more away from them. I certainly will make the effort to visit a few days at a time. I don’t know if that will be possible but I shall certainly try.

However, as my life was falling apart I changed my mind and wrote the following entry on March 20:

In five days I’ll be going home and more than anything I want to go home and see my family. I doubt if I’ve ever been as miserable as I have been the last 3 months, the last one in particular—so much has happened. I want to go home where someone cares. Here I am lost—an insignificant blob that no one would miss. I don’t care if everyone at home yells and fights—at least basically we care for each other.

I guess Mother's life wasn't too hot either because she started the year with this lament:

May 9, 1961

Unwittingly a great truth was spoken the other day when he said "I can't even use you for a walk anymore."  He uses me whenever the need arises for whatever purpose. Well, I don't object to being used, one of the great needs of Love is to serve the loved one, but I resent and resent so strongly to being used without love and affection. It makes me reluctant to make love. I feel like a tool he can't do without, I feel as if I was used like a prostitute without pay. What else am I to think?   One minute we are lovers and the next he berates me and picks me to pieces. I just can't take it anymore. This living on the edge of a volcano--never knowing when it erupts or why. One minute he can't live without me and the next he tells me to take my children and find someplace else to live. Well, he had his chance last summer. I was gone and could have been gone forever but for the phone call [urging] me to come home. I came home to a second honeymoon the like no first one ever was. It was wonderful, I was delighted, flattered and would have turned myself inside and out to keep alive. But here we are, up against the same impasse.



Donald Dutton writes:

It is often asked why women stay in such damaging relationships. For some…the sweetness and power of the contrition phase…are overwhelmingly seductive. These women unconsciously collude with their husbands in denial. [However] unpredictability is also key: Intermittent reinforcement is a powerful motivator that keeps one coming back for more (take for example the lure of slot machines). The victim’s hope is that maybe this time it will be better; maybe this time he’ll stop. And for reasons she cannot understand, powerful emotional bonds keep pulling he back—bonds forged by intermittent reinforcement…As the days pass, the bad memories fade, and only the good ones remain, fed by the woman’s desire to sate her man’s neediness, a neediness that only builds until the next incident.


In Bob’s senior year in high school, he got his girlfriend pregnant. It’s a given that his parents were no help in resolving the situation. I can remember Bob writing me at college, asking for advice. Ultimately, Bob decided to join the army so that he would be able to marry and support a wife. I remember all of us traipsing down to Fort Ord for the wedding. Shortly thereafter Bob was shipped to Germany.


Move to Chico

I finished my first year of college in June of 1961 and transferred to Chico State because by then the family had moved to Chico, California, where father had gotten a job at nearby Beale Air Force Base. Although my September 13th diary entry says “Should work out ok for us although Mom and Deedee miss their friends terribly,” we lived on Lilac Lane  for only a single year!

When they moved this time, Deedee begged to be left behind so that she could finish high school in Chico. Arrangements were made for her to live with the family next door, the Weebys. I found the following poem in Mother’s materials:

How can I ever put across
how much it meant to me
your [noble generosity]
to us and to our Dee? 

So thoughtful and so helpful too
in everything you do.
Just wish that everyone could have
a friend as kind as you!

Believe it or not, Deedee also lived with me in the Chico State dorm for awhile.

Meanwhile, with Bob in Germany, his marriage was falling apart. In the journal entry below, Mother describes the problems. I think she was anguished, but, surprisingly, even after the disappointment of her own marriage, she would still admonish Bob’s wife with “marriage is for keeps.”


May 11, 1961

Let me see if by putting this all down on paper I can get a clearer understanding of this mess. At least I'll put it down as it was presented to me in as much detail as I can recall. Bob in the Army

I saw Sue on April 5th when I went down to get the meat. She told me that everything was arranged for her and Debbie to leave on July 20th. I asked her if she had all the money she needed for a roundtrip and why the roundtrip [would see] she got back if she had to. She said she was going to extend it and her parents wanted her to have that protection. She seemed anxious to go, and that's when she told me about the radio that Bob had broken and would have to pay for...five dollars a month. On the 8th I got a letter from Bob saying She was worried about money and explaining how much he has and that they could live very well on this combined [money] of 170 a month. On the 23 I got another letter saying that She changed her mind about coming to live. She wants to leave the baby at home with her father, visit Bob for a few months, and go back to work. He seemed to think her mother had something to do with these changed plans. On the basis of that letter I wrote Sue along the lines that she should go and get away from home. I told her I felt marriage was for keeps at least that's how I always looked at it and quoted her the marriage vows.

On Saturday, April 28, Sue's mother phoned me to say she had to talk to me, apparently my letter was quite a bombshell. She told me on the phone that Sue wanted a divorce but that they talked her out of it and into going to Germany to talk things out with Bob and come to a better understanding. I told her that I'd be down and went the following day. We had quite a lengthy conversation while She was  out on an errand, during the course of which it came out that for one thing this change was Sue's idea, that she didn't, in fact was not going to do what I have done, she was not going to love any man treat her and speak to her, the way mine has done, and that she gat a nasty letter from Bob about money matters that she wasn't going to put up with. Never mentioned the Christmas and that Jere had talked so mean and nasty and treated me so badly they felt embarrassed for me!!!!  And Sue wasn't having any of that. It further developed, and I'm sure, she never meant to let this out, because she asked me not to mention it, that She had been seeing a married man, who was turning her head. She found this out by chance when the man's wife phoned and told her to leave her husband alone. Sue's father was completely taken up with the financial end of it and we went round for round on that. He said we'd spoiled Bob and he had always had it too easy. I got hot under the collar about that, because I feel it isn't true. Sure, I've been soft, maybe too much so, to counter balance his father's sternness. But Bob has never had it easy, being pushed and prodded.

Anyway, when Sue came home she went into a tailspin about past grievances at Christmas when Bob spent so much time with Gene and wouldn't pick out a name for the baby and was always asking for money when she was trying to save it. Her mother said that was why she wouldn't accept or ask for help from us, because Bob was "always" asking us for money.

Anyway, the upshot of all that conversation was that, yes, she was going, if only for a couple of months, and that she was planning to get her shots the following Tuesday, that she was taking the longer and cheaper way to have more money to spend on their time together. Okay, I came home thinking that if they get together they can talk all their differences out, and I would be the last one to put in my oar or make any detrimental remarks. The following Tuesday I got a collect call from Bob, and he was well-ny hysterical. Seems Sue had written a letter saying she didn't love him anymore. He wanted to come home on emergency leave. I told him to be patient, she was coming over and they could talk it all over. I phoned Sue's mother and asked why Sue hadn't mentioned that letter and how it upset Bob. She mentioned that she'd talked to Sue about this man and Sue said there was nothing to it, that he'd taken her to lunch a few times, that was all. But was it?  Her changed feelings came about just during these few weeks. If she was able to hoodwink her parents about Bob, won't she be able to do so again?  Anyway, I went to Belmont last Wednesday. I just had a feeling I wanted to see how Sue's preparation about leaving were coming along, and lo and behold, everything has changed again. She is not going. Sue bought a car; Sue is all wrapped up in her job and working hard at it (her mother says) and making a good thing of it too, commission wise. Sue was determined to have a divorce and had seen "Jack" their lawyer who was preparing the papers.

Bob had phoned the previous day and after reluctantly taking the call, he and Sue had a row over the phone, with him slamming the receiver down saying he was coming home. I had a feeling he would call again and Jere told me not to accept any collect calls. I feel like a heel and a traitor but I want him to call when his father is home. It's time Jere talked to Bob himself instead of through me.

I wrote a letter but its hard going, trying to talk with Here's mouth through my thoughts.

So there it is. Sue has changed but Bob hasn't. He wants his wife and family and wants to fight for them any way he can. Now the questions is, could those two get over this misunderstanding, can they surmount this emotional hump and still make their marriage go, and let's not forget Debbie, the innocent person in this affair.

Mona claims that Sue married Bob only for the baby's sake. I say she wanted to marry because she loved Bob and felt (at the time) that he was the only one for her. But judging from her [attitude] and her mother's comments she would never make the allowances she made or be as tolerant of her husband's weaknesses as I've been. She wouldn't give an inch. But how can I be sure enough of her emotional make-up to put this across to Bob. How can I add hurt to hurt and bitter disappointment.

Bonny Doon

On March 16, 1962, I wrote, “In Santa Cruz yesterday, after having driven mother and Penny there to their new home,” and in June I noted that “Bob is coming home from Germany for a few days to try to talk Sue out of divorce. After her attitude, I hope he is unsuccessful.”

Bonny Doon is a little town in the Santa Cruz mountains, literally in the woods! I think they both loved living there. I wonder why they left? Anyway, Penny actually attended a one-room school house in Bonny Doon. I think Bob got out of the army about this time and was living with his chums in San Mateo and working at AT&T. Deedee was at San Jose State University. She commuted from Bonny Doon for awhile, but eventually the folks found the money so that she could live in an off-campus apartment with her chum, Harrelson.

Poor Penny was now an only child. I bet she has a lot to say about it!

The nearest beach to Bonny Doon was Davenport. I’ll bet it was while strolling the beach there that Mother wrote my favorite of her poems:

       Dreaming at the Shore

The mountains are all hid in mist
            the valleys turned to amethyst.
The poplar leaves, they turn and twist,
            oh silver, silver green.

Out there somewhere beyond the sea
            a ship is waiting patiently
while up the beach the baubles flee
            with white a-float between.

And though I have Penelope
            at home, she’s waiting there for me!
still I can smell the thundering sea
            and hear the rigging hum.

And I can hear the whispering lips
            that fly before the outbound ships
and I can hear the breakers on the
            sands a-calling:  Come!

The tide-hounds race far up the shore.
            “The hunt is on!” the breakers roar.
As gauntlets thrown in days of yore
            the warrior’s waves are flung!
The buoys are bobbing in the bay;
            they nod the way, they nod the way.
The Hunt is up.  I am the prey,
            the hunter’s bow is strung.

The sea says set my feet to flight,
            and flee the burdens of this night.
A peaceful haven is in sight.
           You’re naught but someone’s prey!

While obligations tell me “No”
           the birds are flying north, and oh
I long to go.  I long to go.
          To fly, to fly away!


August 26, 1962

For years now I've had my self-confidence undermined and been made to feel that if I don't conform to certain standards that it made me an inferior human being. I've been pushed and prodded into ideas and situations that are foreign to me. Until now I'm so bewildered I can hardly cope with the simplest problems. Everything I do and everything I think I am asking myself "what would Jere say if I do this" and because I'm no longer true to myself its impossible to do anything right. Certainly I procrastinate, I know I do, and I know subconsciously why I do. I have the feeling that whatever I do or say it's the wrong thing anyhow. And I'm still feebly struggling to assert myself. Why can't I be myself, with all my faults and shortcomings and still have something to give that is uniquely me

I've been made to feel that if I don't care for certain musical compositions, certain programs on T.V., if I don't take an active interest in the state of the world, I'm a sub-human, I'm moronic, I'm a pin-headed bitch. If I'm tolerant about human behavior and foibles I'm automatically put in the category of the rest. Stupid people. Everything and everybody is stupid. The dog is stupid, the cats are stupid and I'm stupidest of them all.

All communication between us seems to be conducted over a one-way street. He gives out and I don't understand. I try to communicate and its blocked. He managed to successfully strangle everything I ever enjoyed. Even the gardening. Now to me it was the most satisfying hobby. Plant things, water them, and watch them grow. Some died, some flourished. Now I'm supposed to "study" them. I should go all out into the whys and wherefores, delve deeply into the chemistry and physics of moisture, plants, etc., well, I don't want to. I'd rather not garden at all. If I were to say anything he'd say I should go into things thoroughly, and call me a shallow minded fool. But I don't want to, I don't want to be pushed into things because he thinks its good for me. I want to do things because I think it's fun and relaxing, not because its "good" for me. I don't want to have to hid my crossword puzzle because he thinks its a waste of time. I want to read a book because I enjoy it, not have to read what he thinks is good.


1963, Marriage and Divorce

In January, 1963, I noted in my diary that Bob was flying home to try to talk Sue out of a divorce, but by the fifth I wrote:

My how time flees! Ironic, that as Bob’s divorce trial is set for 60 days hence, I’ve planned a wedding for 3 wks. Love sure is strange. ...Mother said in one letter that we create love by saying each day to ourselves that we are in love.

How utterly sad that after 30 years of a disastrous union Mother still has such romantic, unrealistic attitudes about marriage. At the time neither of my parents offered their opinion on my upcoming nuptials, although years later Father told me he didn’t think I should have married Fred. So, unknowingly, I went ahead and married Fred Horn. Mother wrote the following poem:

On a Daughter’s Marriage

There she goes, dressed all in white,
with eyes demure behind the bridal veil
Her happiness wrapped tight about her, like a cloak,
a Shield, a Talisman that cannot fail.

God grant a mother’s prayer, that evermore
Love armored she shall stand, and unafraid
take up the loom of life and weave the threads
of joy and woe into the pattern of her fate.



Fred and I lived in Palo Alto the first year of our marriage while he got a master’s degree at Stanford. This was the year John F. Kennedy was assassinated. When Fred finished his master’s he took a job in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I remember that there were tears in Father’s eyes when we said goodbye at the airport! Mother wrote me tons of letters while I was there, most notably of which is referred to as “The Turkey Letter,” which contains detailed instructions for preparing a Thanksgiving dinner. In Milwaukee I tried therapy for the first time.



Possibly Father had by this time burned all his bridges in the defense companies on the Peninsula because his next job was at the missile base in Lompoc, a city out-in-the-boonies, an hour north of Santa Barbara. Mother absolutely refused to buy a house this time, a wise decision given that nearby housing developments were loaded with unsold or abandoned houses, due no doubt to the isolation of the town supported by a volatile and fluctuating industry.

In 1964, Fred and I moved to Los Alamitos in the Los Angeles area, and my life basically fell apart. I divorced him, had a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide, actually spent a week in a mental hospital, and bore a child that I gave up for adoption. During this time I actually managed to graduate from college and get a teaching credential. The only good memories I have of this time concern the Sprite, a low-end sports car, that I got from my share of the marital assets. Wow, was it fun tooling around with the top down!

On August 13, 1966, while staying with the family in Lompoc, I wrote:

Mother’s been acting rather strangely this summer. Unusually sensitive and prone to unreasonable outbursts and crying fits. That is unusual for easy-going Mother, right? Deedee said if she didn’t know better she’d suspect change of life. I wonder if it’s Father’s wish to move to Philadelphia but it strikes me as out of character for Mother to not be stoically resigned as usual.

On August 15 I noted:

Deedee still hasn’t heard from Thomas and father is depressed cause General Electric’s boss flatly said no to his Philadelphia transfer without even consulting him. Mother doesn’t seem too chipper but Penny and I are odd men out I guess.

I guess they were still there in 1967 because my August 28, 1967, diary entry says “I should get back to Lompoc anyway.”

After graduating from college I lived for a short time with Bob and his roommates in San Mateo and worked as an assembler at Mother’s old alma mater, Lenkurk. Living with the guys was an adventure for all of us. What pigs they were! And how incredibly neurotic I was! When none of us could take it any more, I moved in with the folks in Bonny Doon and commuted down to the Peninsula for work. Although I remember enjoying the lovely dawns and sunsets during the drive, it got old really fast; it wasn’t long before I too found roommates closer to work.


The Apartment

As I recall, Father left Lompoc for a job as a manager in Sylvania (back in the Bay Area), but unfortunately the department folded within six months. In 1966 Father was 56 years old; he had just lost the last job he would hold as a professional engineer. Circumstances forced the family into a cheap apartment. It must have been a horrendous experience.

However, they quickly adjusted to their change in fortune. Father started working as, when he could get it, an electronic technician or, more usually, a security guard. He must have been humiliated with his self-esteem in the gutter. Mother resumed working as a care-giver in retirement homes, work she had embarked upon when times were tough in Bonny Doon and work she thoroughly enjoyed. With a more stable source of income they were able to move to a better apartment.


September, 17, 1967

The Bible says:  As you sow, so shall you reap. Fine, as far as it goes, but what I want to know is what kind of dragon's teeth did I sow to reap this crop of unhappiness.

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 Page last updated on 05/17/2007



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