The Empty Frame, 2008
Walker and Cathy Jean looked every bit the perfect couple. They had two lively children. Walker’s business was a success. They were leaders in their church. Cathy Jean was the sweetheart of her friends, a woman of strong will and the instigator of all things social among their friends. Walker and Cathy Jean were the picture of happiness, stability, responsibility and conscientious parenting.
Then one day Walker said he needed some time out. He couldn’t be more specific than that. He needed to go away and did, first across the country to a place he’d never been before just see a famous church, and then to Mexico “to think.”
No one could understand it. Walker had no explanation. Cathy Jean was clueless, torn between hurt, anger and uncertainty about the future. Life was just one big question mark to her.
When Walker returned he moved out of the house. He went on about his business. He saw his children regularly. Walker’s guy friends were concerned, but knew no more than anyone. They wondered quietly among themselves whether some kind of midlife meltdown was to blame. They knew from their own experience that even stand-up guys sometimes trip and fall. But there was no obvious explanation, no sign of mental breakdown. Walker had nothing to say it. There was no sign of another woman in his life or anyone, for that matter, to blame. Walker had no harsh words about home, Cathy Jean, the children or life.
This went on for weeks, then months, then years. Cathy Jean kept the home fires burning in the hope of Walker’s return. In time, she became resentful, then hostile. Her friends surrounded her to keep her from coming completely unhinged. Unable to understand their parents’ condition, the children took refuge in the confidence of other parents. Every now and then they got their hopes up when they saw signs of what looked like reconciliation. But that was just their imagination fooling them, letting them piece together signs that realty didn’t add up to anything.
In time, Walker asked for a divorce. He dated some and then married a woman not at all like Cathy Jean. They settled nearby, made new friends and seem happy.
Cathy Jean had a few relationships of her own after the divorce. She’s still trying to find herself, to fill her time, to get from one day to the next. She is close to her now grown children. Her friends still surround here. But how do you have closure, much less move on, when you never knew why what you thought was durable love failed you?