Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Big Question Mark

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?


  1. People change at different rates, I think. What suited once becomes less attractive. Not in a throwaway sense. But all is born, and all must die. I try to live with this knowledge and not hold on in such a way that is damaging to myself or others.

  2. Relationships are not a science. People do change and grow in different directions. "The only constant in life is that everything will change." Sad, though. I hope "Cathy Jean" has found peace!

    Love the image of the empty frame for this tale. Very apropos.

  3. I'm not at all opposed to sad entries, and this one makes me feel downright bereft. Admittedly, I'm old-fashioned in my view on relationships, but I think it's the lack of communication that bothers me in this case. Did you know this couple in real life?

  4. The end to my first marriage; 4 years of the stress and awesome responsibilities of missile combat crew duty forced me to mature far more rapidly than her day to day life as a young mother and wife. I never stopped loving her but she didn't fit in my world.