A Story of Survival: Part One

It was 1948. I was 18 and fresh outta high school. The girls and I got all dressed up and went to a dance over at the Armory. Just a few songs in, a handsome man named Howard came over and offered out his hand for the next song. I said yes and about 3 minutes later we were official.

Fast forward a year or so to a warm April afternoon: Howard was driving down the road with me in the passenger seat and suddenly pulled over onto the side. He said he had something for me and before I knew it he pulled out an engagement ring. We got married just a few months later. November 20, 1949.

In 1953, I got pregnant and quit working to care for my first son. Barry was born that year, and Michael just 2 years after. After the boys grew up a bit, the Norfolk Southern Railway decided to move down to Raleigh. I thought I’d go on over and get me a job with them for a couple weeks. But 2 weeks quickly turned into 13 years. When you work in one place for that long, you start developing a second family. Three of us girls would spend Monday through Friday working at the railroad and then get our husbands and go on down to the beach every weekend we could. That’s where Jim first taught me how to golf. Normally, us women would play four, five games of bridge each day while the men went out to the course. But this one particular afternoon, Jim said, “Why don’t you come out and learn to hit the golf ball today.” Emily, Jim’s wife, said she’d go too, so I figured why not. “I won’t be any good.” But Jim said he’d teach me.

Jim was essentially one of the girls. He also worked at the railroad and had become a great friend of ours over the years. We’d go to all of the Norfolk Southern events together and since we was both married there was never any fuss. Howard had become good friends with Jim too since they shared so much in common: they both loved to golf and they both loved to drink. Back then it seemed like every man loved to drink.

It took over 30 years, but I eventually decided I’d had about enough of the drink, so I divorced Howard in the early ’80s. Didn’t take him but 6 weeks to get hitched to some other Carolina gal. At times it’s tempting to regret that marriage but then I just remember that I got 2 sons out of it. God has a way of disguising our blessings as failures, for a while.

After my marriage ended, I jumped around jobs for a bit. I continued modeling through the ’80s and one day found myself the girlfriend of one of the richest men in Raleigh. Momma would say if I’d-a married him I’d be wearing a corset the rest of my life. I knew she was right so when he asked I just said ‘no’ and walked on.

A couple years later I began dating an army colonel. It’d only been a handful of years since I’d left Howard, but I guess that was enough time for me to forget how much I hated being the wife of an alcoholic, cause when this man asked me to marry him in ’89 I said ‘yes’ without so much as a breath of hesitation. The boys were in their 30’s by that time, but Barry still had strong feelings about the men I should and should not be with. He fell into the latter category. I’ve always been a stubborn woman, though, so I jumped headfirst into my second marriage. Barry married his second wife the very next week. His marriage is still breathing; mine lasted only a handful of months.

You see, this man had a tendency to open the bar at 5pm every day. He was always an ugly drunk, but this one evening he decided to get violent. Sometimes in order to survive, you have to kill in the process. I killed that marriage right then and there because, after that night, I knew if I was gonna survive it sure as hell wasn’t gonna be in that house. I packed up my things and never went back.

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