When someone steps forward and does the one right thing at the right time, it can change the world.
This is what my father did for me.
So very, very many years ago a young woman got pregnant. My father married her.
It was what one did in 1962, if one was a decent person.
She was broken, damaged. An alcoholic at 19, she was taking all sorts of pills back then. An unsuitable wife, constantly drunk and cheating on him, she was a more unsuitable mother. My earliest memories are of this time, when I was two.
Shhhhhh. Don’t tell your daddy he was here.
The fight after is what I remember, when I—as a two year old—mentioned him being there. And it was messy…
That is only one tiny horrible thing she did as a wife and as a mother….and she wanted out. She wanted her freedom, wanted to party and didn’t want the burden of marriage, of a family.
She wanted a divorce.
There was a catch, though. Back then, there were only two grounds for divorce: adultery and physical abuse. My father wasn’t beating her, and he wasn’t the one cheating…but she was afraid of her father, my grandpa. She didn’t want him to know all she was doing, to know about her cheating, and wanted it kept a secret from him.
A deal was made.
A lie for a life. Mine.
My father refused to let her have me, to let her raise me. He knew it would be the worst thing in the world that could happen to me. So he made a bargain: He would lie in court and admit to battery, and in exchange she would say he could have full custody of me.
She traded me for her freedom.
She paid a “friend” to testify in court that she witnessed my father doing this, but made no objections when my father’s attorney said my dad wanted full custody.
Back in the early 60’s when this happened, men just didn’t get custody of their children. It was an unheard of case, won by a courageous man that was willing to have his reputation smeared, having it down in the court records and local newspaper that his wife was divorcing him for battery.
His fierce love for me, and his strength, courage and willingness to fight the system and win in spite of everything changed my life. The one right thing at the right time.
Not the easy thing, but the right thing.
Eternally grateful for his willingness to fight for me, I am truly blessed to have Raymond Dale Murray as my father.
I love you, Dad! Happy Father’s Day!
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Courtesy of Author
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