Papa Joe

August 12, 1952.  It was a date she would never forget.  It was the day she buried the man who had been a father to her for over twenty years.  It seemed so surreal.  Papa Joe was gone.  She stood there alone in her grief, shivering although it was a hot and muggy day.

She stared at the ground where Papa Joe lay.  The tears rolled down her cheeks as she cradled his worn Bible, remembering how he used to read it to her when she was a child. When her parents had died he took her in and raised her as his own. She had grown to love the old man as if he were her very own blood.  Many of the townspeople had a problem with the widower raising a black girl and didn’t hide their displeasure but Papa Joe ignored them.  His business began to suffer.  Papa Joe was a tailor.  He knew that business would pick up again if he got rid of Cassandra but he refused to do so.  Even if he went bankrupt, he would never part with her.  He vowed that only death would separate them.

It was Papa Joe whom she shared her dreams with.  It was Papa Joe who comforted her when she went home crying because of the racial slurs and taunts.  Papa Joe was the only one who knew that she loved a man she had no right to love.  She had known Dr. Baker since she was a child.  He used to stop by and see Papa Joe.   He was always kind to her and brought her treats.  As she grew older, the visits became more frequent.  Papa Joe was no fool.  He could see that feelings were developing between them and he warned her, “You and the doctor have to be careful, Cassie.  This town will not take kindly to a relationship between a black girl and a white man.”

One night when Dr. Baker visited, Papa Joe excused himself and went to his room.  As soon as they were alone, the doctor took Cassandra into his arms and kissed her.  “I have wanted to do that all day,” he whispered when he raised his head to gaze down into her face.  “I know that there is a considerable age difference between us but I love you, Cassandra.  I tried to stay away when I realized that I had fallen in love with you but I couldn’t.  I had to see you.”

“I love you too.”

“I’m leaving for Paris in three weeks and I would like you to come with me.”

“Paris?” she exclaimed.  “Why there?”

“I have always wanted to go there and set up a practice.  My mother was French and your family was from Haiti.  So the language won’t be a barrier for us.”

“I can’t go to Paris with you, Robert.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t leave Papa Joe.  He has been so good to me.”

“Joe would want you to be happy and you won’t be as long as you remain in this town.”

“I can’t be happy knowing that he is here all alone.”  She could see the distress on Robert’s face and she reached up and touched his face.  “I love you for wanting to take me away with you, but I can’t.  I hope you understand.”

“I do,” he sighed.  “Well, I better be going.  Please say goodnight to Joe for me.”  They kissed and then she walked with him to the door.

“Goodbye, Cassandra.  Write me and let me know how you are doing.”  He gave her a piece of paper with an address on it.  She took it.  After a lingering look, he was gone–perhaps out of her life for good.

That was three months ago.  They had exchanged letters since and when Papa Joe died, she had written and told Robert.  She stood now at the grave, the tears falling.  Papa Joe had left the house to her and all the money he earned from his tailoring.  She had the money locked away in a box.  She didn’t want to go back to the empty house.

She had no idea of how long she stood there but the biting cold prompted her to start making her way back to the house.  She had just reached the front porch when she saw a car pull up and Robert got out.  He walked over to her and taking her arm he led her up the steps.  “I’m sorry I didn’t make it on time for the funeral,” he apologized as she unlocked the door and they went inside.

Once inside and the door was shut, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.  She sobbed, letting out the pent up grief that had closed around her heart like a fist.  Robert stood there, holding her until the sobs subsided and then ceased.

When she was spent from all that crying, Robert took her over to the sofa and sat her down.  “Joe wrote me this note,” he said, handing it to her.  “I think you should read it.”

She wiped away the tears before she reached for the note.  Frowning, she slowly unfolded the paper and read it.  Dear Robert, I know that you love my Cassie and that you wanted to take her away from this cursed place.  If I know my dear girl she will not want to leave me.  She feels a sense of obligation to stay and take care of me as I have taken care of her all these years.  I don’t want to be a burden to her.  She is young and deserves to live her life.  There’s no future for her here.  I know that she loves you and that it broke her heart to be separated from you.  She thought I wasn’t aware, but I could see the unhappiness in her sweet face and I could hear her crying in the night.  She had sacrificed her chance for happiness for me.  I haven’t told her but I don’t have much longer to live.  When I pass on, which should be any time soon, please come and take Cassie away from here.  Take her to Paris where you and she will be free to love each other.  She can use the money from the sale of the house to pay for her fare.  I am sorry that I won’t be there for your wedding but know that I wish you both all the happiness in the world.  Please take good care of my precious girl.

Yours sincerely,

Joe

Fresh tears fell.  “I had no idea that he was dying.  He was tired more but I just thought that it was to do with age.  I am thankful that I was here for him.”

“Now, you can get on with your life.  We have his blessing.  Let me take you to Paris.”  He reached out and took her hands in his.  “Cassandra, I want to marry you.  Let me take you to Paris.”

She nodded.  “I will go to Paris with you,” she said.  Her life here was over.  There was nothing to keep her here.  Her future was with Robert now.  She would sell this house filled with so many wonderful memories and leave this town which had been the source of her unhappiness.  Yes, she will go to Paris and marry the man she loved.

 

crying african american woman in the 1950s

Women And Divorce

Divorce-Image

I have heard a pastor advise couples who are entering into marriage to make up their minds that divorce was not going to be an option.  The Bible says that infidelity is the only legitimate reason for divorce.  And it tells us that God hates divorce.  Marriage was meant to be a lifelong commitment.  It is sacred.  It was the first institution created by God.  It existed before sin came into the world. It was God’s design for mankind.  He created Eve for Adam, the first man He made after no companion suitable for him was found among the creation.  God gave Eve in marriage to Adam and blessed them.

My parents are divorced.  They have been divorced for over twenty-five years.  My father remarried but he is no longer with his second wife.  I remember the day when I was standing in the living-room with my parents and I asked my father to stay.  He was planning to leave home.  The marriage had gotten to the point where he wanted to leave.  I asked him to stay but he had made up his mind.  In retrospect, I am glad he didn’t stay.  I wouldn’t have wanted him to stay on my account.  I didn’t want him to remain in a marriage where he wasn’t happy for my sake.  That would have been unfair to him and selfish on my part.

My mother expressed regret some years ago that she and my father divorced.  She had always hoped that she would be married for life.  I remember how wistful she seemed to be missing out on what would have been their twenty-fifth anniversary.   I know that they had problems in their marriage.  There was infidelity and there were times when the other woman called our house.  I don’t know what caused their relationship to go sour.  My mother was very social because she was a part of her company’s drama group.  She was always attending functions.  My Dad didn’t go with her. They seemed to live separate lives even though they were living under the same roof.  They most likely drifted apart.  My mother didn’t want a divorce but my father did.

What causes people to divorce?  One of my co-workers was married a guy she had known for years.  However, they later divorced because they grew apart.  Another co-worker’s son divorced because he and his ex-wife no longer loved each other.   Here are top 10 reasons why couples get divorced.

I have heard of couples divorcing after fifty years of marriage. How is that possible?   Why would they decide to call it quits after spending so many years together?  Al Gore and Tipper shocked everyone when they announced that they were separating after 40 years of marriage.  The signs were not there–at least they were not visible to the public.  Robert Levenson, a psychologist at the University of California who studies marriage across the lifespan stated, “Though every marriage is different, a divorce after 40 years is unusual.  Most divorces occur early in marriage.”

I was shocked when I heard about the split between Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman after 30 years of marriage.   They separated in 2012 but it looks like they are back together again.  They had split because of Danny’s wandering eye.   While an extramarital affair can be a cause for divorce as in the case of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, there are other less dramatic factors.

Some relationships have been in decline for decades and finally lose all their juice. A marriage doesn’t usually just blow up. It’s more like a balloon that has been seeping air for a long time. After a while, it’s totally deflated.

Another possibility is that a couple’s issues intensify. Most problems are manageable, but then something sends them into hyperdrive. It could be a change in jobs, health, children’s lives, personal ambitions or any number of other triggers. Whatever balance had been achieved is undermined, and with it the ability to handle the issue and still have a decent marriage (AARP).

I have seen relationships suffer because the woman is focusing most of her attention on the children and not enough on the husband.  I watched a show on OWN where the husband felt neglected by his wife and as a result he had an affair.  His affair, of course, devastated his wife.

No one likes to get a divorce.  No one wants to see their marriage end.  It makes them feel like they failed.  Sometimes, women stay in marriages, suffering in silence because they don’t want to get divorced.  They stay put, hoping that things would change–that they would get better.  Of course, they only get worse.  Other women see divorce as their only option.  I read one story where a man was blown away when his wife told him that she wanted a divorce.  He didn’t see it coming at all.  Weren’t there any signs?

Why do women get divorced?  Here are some reasons:

  • “I hurt all the time because I feel alone and abandoned.”
  • “My husband is no longer my friend.”
  • “The only time he pays attention to me is when he wants sex.”
  • “He is never there for me when I need him the most.”
  • “When he hurts my feelings he doesn’t apologize.”
  • “He lives his life as if we weren’t married; he rarely considers me.”
  • “We’re like ships passing in the night, he goes his way and I go mine.”
  • “My husband has become a stranger to me, I don’t even know who he is anymore.”
  • “He doesn’t show any interest in me or what I do.”

I wonder if some of these marriages would have survived if the women had told their husbands how they felt.   What would you do in their situation?   Are you experiencing one of these things? Have you spoken to your husband about it?  Do you think he would want to go with you for marriage counseling or couples’ therapy?

For Christian women, none of the above reasons would be grounds for divorce.  They go against biblical principles.  Divorce is a matter that is to be taken seriously.  Any Christian woman who is considering is encouraged to pray about it and be open to God’s leading.  If she is concerned about whether or not she has biblical grounds for divorce, she should commit the matter to prayer and study and seek counsel from her pastor and a licensed Christian counselor (Focus on the Family).   “…while there may be some situations in which extramarital sex would create such problems in a marriage that divorce would be better than continuing in an unhealthy or even dangerous relationship, in general it would be better to forgive earlier indiscretions (if accompanied by repentance and present faithfulness) rather than to break up what might otherwise still be a good marriage” (Christian Answers.net).

Are there biblical grounds for divorce?  Yes.

Sexual immorality.  If her husband is guilty of having extramarital sex and is not willing to end the affair and work on saving their marriage.

Husband is a non-Christian.  If a Christian woman is married to a non-Christian husband and he insists on a divorce, there is nothing she can do.  And 1 Corinthians 7:15 states, “If the unbelieving depart, let him depart.  A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases:  but God hath called us to peace”.  The Bible warns about marrying a non-believer.  A Christian woman should never marry someone from another religion or even denomination because it may cause problems and worse if children are involved.

If it is the husband who wants the divorce, the woman can’t stop him through the current divorce laws but she could try to persuade him to consider a legal separation which would give them more time to reconsider the matter.  She is encouraged to, “Pray that God will open the lines of communication between you and your spouse and that He will restore the love in your relationship. And pray for patience and a forgiving spirit. Try to resist the temptation to say angry words to your spouse or do things that would push him or her further away. Restoration does occur even in the most hostile circumstances, but it is more difficult when harsh words have passed between you” (Focus on the Family).

How does divorce affect women?  According to Coaching for Divorced Women, they experience the following emotions:

Anger
During all stages of divorce, you might feel intense anger towards your ex. You may be angry with him for leaving you, for not understanding you or for having an affair. At other times, you may be angry with yourself for not seeing the signs, or for allowing him to hurt you, the way he did. It is important to realize that if his actions are continuing to anger you that you have not let go. Even though anger is one of the common emotional effects on divorce, holding onto pent up anger is not hurting your ex at all. He could probably care less that you are angry. You need to forgive him and yourself for the roles each of you played that lead up to the divorce. Forgiveness is the only thing that can set you free to build a happy and fulfilling life.

Guilt
Women are filled with guilt during and after a divorce regardless if they initiated the separation or not. Guilt is one of the common emotional effects of divorce as you might constantly ask yourself if you did everything in your power to make your marriage work. You might be banging yourself over the head on whether or not you made the right decision. If he left, you could be asking yourself what you did wrong. You may feel guilty that you have disrupted the home life of your children. Guilt serves no purpose. Guilt focuses on past events, which are impossible to change. By learning to let go of the past, you are able to look to the future.

Fear
Many women are terrified during divorce. Fear is one of the emotional effects of divorce that women feel in a variety of ways. There are many faces of fear, including fear of the unknown, the fear of making ends meet, the fear of being a single mom, the fear of what other people will think … and the list goes on and on. An acronym for fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This tells you that fear is something you are making up in your own mind by conjuring up a thousand “what ifs”. When you begin to feel fearful, ask yourself what you are thinking and turn the thought around. For example if you are thinking being a single mom is going to be hard, ask yourself why is being a single mom going to be easy. With practice, the fears will dissipate and you will begin looking forward to a wonderful future.

Anxiety
Anxiety and stress is a mixture of many negative emotions, including fear, guilt and anger. Reduce stress by letting go of the fear and learning to deal with what is happening right this moment. Learn techniques to deal with anxiety such as deep breathing, meditating and exercising. Eating healthy also plays an important role in reducing anxiety. Build structures to support a stress free environment such as getting up earlier to get the kids to the bus stop, or cooking enough dinners to last for a week on Sunday. Take responsibility.

Grief
It is natural to be sad and to be sad when your marriage ends. Grieving over the death of your marriage can be a very painful experience, but it is a healthy response. By allowing yourself to go through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance you will be able to “let go” and be free to create your own future. Get assistance on dealing with the emotional effects of divorce support during this emotional turmoil.

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Divorce is painful for the couple and children.  It is something God never intended.  Marriage was meant to be a permanent union between a man and a woman.  If you are thinking of getting a divorce make sure this is the right decision.  Sleep on it.  Seek counsel.  If your husband is the one who wants to end the marriage, don’t do what my mother did–try to persuade him to stay.  If he has made up his mind, no amount of begging will change it.  Let him go.  Ending a marriage, especially after so many years together is very, very difficult and it will take time to heal and move on.

Here are some helpful advice that can help you can get you through the end of your marriage financially and emotionally.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? – Mary Manin Morrissey

Sources:  Woman’s Divorce; Marriage Builders; Live Science; Focus on the Family; Live Strong; Coaching for Divorced Women; Christian Answers; Women’s Divorce