“I’m falling in love again with the woman I divorced!”
Article source and author: unknown / Date: 1966
It’s an astonishing admission from any man but Lee Majors is beginning to think he may have made the most serious mistake of his life!
If you asked me a few months ago if Kathy and I might ever reconcile I would have told you there wasn’t a chance of it. I would have told you that our love for each other was a thing of the past – dead.”
“But something has happened to me in the last few months. I’m no longer sure that our marriage is irrevocably over. Now I’m ready to admit that you never know what will happen. Maybe I’ve grown up a little bit; and Kathy has grown up, too. Maybe I’m falling in love again with the first woman I ever loved.
“If Kathy and I were to remarry we’d know a little more about what it takes to make a marriage work. When we got married, we were in love – but we weren’t friends. We were too young to realize that you have to like and understand one another for a marriage to succeed.
“We didn’t become friends until after our divorce. Till then, there was a kind of barrier between us. I wasn’t used to talking about myself, and I used to keep my feelings bottled up. And how can you have a successful marriage without communication?”
This was Lee Majors talking. We were sitting in the large sunny office of his public relations adviser. As the sun streamed through the open window, it illuminated his handsome, restless face – a face that has many times been darkened by unhappiness.
I had met Lee Majors for the first time six months before, on the set of The Big Valley. He had sat on an orange crate, his long legs drawn under him, and had told a tale so poignant and heartbreaking - a tale that moved me immeasurably.
“I’ve experienced both physical and mental pain,” he had told me then. “But mental pain is so much harder to bear.”
The deepest pain had come on the grim night his beautiful blonde wife, Kathy, had confronted him in their tiny apartment in the San Fernando Valley and told him that she wanted a divorce.
“I’ve tried to blot that night out of my mind,” he told me. “At first I hoped that Kathy was putting me on. I had known that she wasn’t happy, but I hadn’t realized that things had gotten so bad for her that she considered divorce the only solution.
“I wanted to cling to our marriage for our son’s sake as well as for my own. Our little son Lee was then only 2 years old. I know there are people who argue that two people who have a child should stay together for his sake. But Kathy realized that an unhappy marriage can be just as damaging to a child; they can sense when things aren’t right. When I was little I could tell if my foster parents had been arguing - even though they didn’t argue in front of me.
“I was appalled that Kathy wanted a divorce. I begged her to reconsider. She had made up her mind – and she stuck by her decision. She can be a very stubborn girl.”
There was an odd look in Lee’s bluish-green eyes, a blend of awe and admiration for that “stubborn little girl.” At that moment I discovered a secret about Lee – he admires Kathy’s faults more than he admires the virtues of many other women!
“After Kathy left me I went through a horrible depression,” Lee admitted. “I felt as if my whole world had fallen apart. I loved Kathy – that was part of it. But though I’m ashamed now to admit it, her decision to leave me was also a blow to my pride.
“It’s a tough blow for a man to have to face the fact that the girl he loves is fed up with him to the point where she wants a divorce. I had to face the fact that I was not Mr. All America to the girl I loved.
“I fell into a period of great despondency, a living hell on earth. I didn’t know which way to turn; I felt as if I had failed at everything. I was earning a meagre livelihood as recreation director at a park – there was very little chance for advancement there. Though it was only a temporary setback, the sense of failure was all-engulfing at the time.
That feeling of failure had really started shortly after Lee first came to Hollywood from Kentucky with his wife and baby about three years ago. It was early spring and they came with high hopes. For Lee there was also blazing dreams. He deeply wanted to become an actor. He had teaching credentials from the University of Kentucky and the thought he could get a job quickly as a teacher in California, to tide them over until he could get into the field he really loved. But he discovered that before he could teach in California, he would have to take special courses in California history.
He had no money. Had he asked his foster parents for money, they would surely have tried to help him out; but he was too proud, too determined not to burden them. He still remembered how unhappy they had been the day he had told them of his elopement with Kathy. He hadn’t told them in advance, knowing that they would have urged him to wait. He was only 19 at the time, and Kathy 16. He was attending college; she was still in high school.
“Why didn’t you tell us you wanted to get married?” they had asked him.
He found it hard to answer. He was so used to keeping his feelings to himself – he’d kept his awareness of the fact that he was an adopted son from them for five years after he’d learned the truth. He hadn’t wanted to hurt them or let them know how much he envied his foster brother, their flesh and blood son. It was hard for him to believe that they could love him as much as they loved their own child.
It was always hard for him to believe that someone really loved him. Perhaps that was why he hadn’t been willing to wait till he was older to marry Kathy – he was too afraid of losing her.
Everything in the small campus town where they lived had a brighter sparkle because Kathy was there to share it with him. He had been so proud to take her to school dances, to show off his girl. Any fellow would have been proud to show her off. He’d known that ever since the day he’d first seen her picture in the local newspaper; she’d been chosen beauty queen of something or other that week. Because he was a top athlete at school, girls had always sought him out. But this was one girl he sought out himself. He wrote her a letter telling her how much he wanted a date with her.
But she didn’t answer his letter. She knew that he was the college football hero, but she also knew some of his teammates and thought one of them had written the letter as a joke. It was only sometime later, when he got up enough courage to phone her and actually ask for a date over the phone, that she said yes. Lee still doesn’t know when he actually fell in love with her, but he was infatuated almost from the first moment.
Life had been fun when they first married. They were still youngsters, still at school. There were no awesome responsibilities at first, even after the baby was born. He had a football scholarship, which helped pay for their little apartment on campus, and they kept busy with the active campus life going on around them.
Life didn’t become grim until they left for California after Lee’s graduation, and they found themselves little nobodies in a strange town where they knew know one. Lee wanted to support his wife and son, but the best he could get was a part-time job as a recreation director. It paid less than $2 an hour. But he firmly believed then that, “If I can only get a chance as an actor, I’ll be making a good living within two years.”
But he failed to convey the strength of his conviction to Kathy. He failed to convey any of his to her.
“I loved her, but we weren’t really friends,” he said again sadly. “Like you can make a marriage go on very little money – which is what I had at the time – very little. But she was young and I was young and we couldn’t cope with our problems.
“I was sad and morose most of the time – poor company for any woman. And worse still I kept it all inside myself. If I were to remarry, I’d know now to tell Kathy what was on my mind. I know how important it is in a marriage to be open with each other. But then we discussed nothing.
“So I was worried about the bills we couldn’t pay and worried about not being able to take her places – and talked about neither. Perhaps if I had talked, she would have reassured me – maybe she didn’t mind my not being able to take her out as much as I feared she did. If she’d known how badly I felt about it, she might have tried to be more cheerful about it.
“I was so obsessed with wanting to be a success and not knowing how to go about it, that I neglected Kathy. I’d forget to tell her how beautiful she was, how much I loved her. Maybe I didn’t realize myself how much I loved her. Maybe I didn’t realize myself how much I cared until she knocked the props out from under my world by telling me she wanted a divorce.
“Before that I remember how upset I was when Kathy decided to get a job in a bank. I didn’t want her to work, but there was nothing I could say. Our situation was impossible; I just wasn’t earning enough to support her and our baby boy. But it was dreadfully humiliating for me to know that she had to work because I wasn’t earning enough. To make matters worse, our working hours conflicted. I worked from 2 in the afternoon till 10 at night; she worked all day. We rarely saw each other.
“Kathy worked with mostly with single girls in their mid 20s. She watched them leaving work –going to parties, stopping in somewhere for a drink. They’d invite her to join them, but she couldn’t. She missed her freedom - all the things she had lost by getting married so young. She had to get home and take care of our baby. I’d take care of him from early morning till I left for work, then I had to leave him with a babysitter; we couldn’t afford not to have one. I was making about $50 a week, and we were paying a babysitter $20. Like I said it was an impossible situation.
“We didn’t talk these things out until after divorce proceedings had started. Till then I didn’t really know what Kathy was thinking or feeling; and she didn’t know what I was thinking. We were just caught up in our own frustrations. She vaguely that I wanted to be an actor; I don’t think she really believed that I could ever earn a living at it. But somehow I had failed to convey to her how much acting meant to me; so she couldn’t understand why I didn’t come try to become a teacher.
“During our separation, we tried to out with others and try to forget our problems. It didn’t help. After Kathy and I were separated, I went through six months of hell; I almost lost all hope of ever accomplishing anything. It was during this period that I came across two books that helped change my life – Claude Bristol’s The Magic of Believing, and James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh.
In his book, Claude Bristol quoted an old Latin proverb: Believe that you have it and you have it. He wrote, “It’s the belief...basic confidence within you that brings outward or material results.”
“These books,” Lee Majors explained, “convinced me that whatever a man believes can come true. The faith I found in these two books might have saved my marriage, If I had come upon them soon enough. From them I began to learn that whatever you imagine for yourself truly can happen to you.”
With these two books as inspiration, Lee worked out a religion of his own – a faith strong enough to take him from a job with no future into one of the most sought-after roles in television: the illegitimate son in The Big Valley.
And with the help of this workable faith, he was able to win Kathy’s friendship.
“Kathy and I are very good friends now. But we didn’t become friends until we learned to talk to each other – and that didn’t happen until after her decision to divorce me.
“When she faced me that awful night, I tried to persuade her to go to a reconciliation court, but she wouldn’t go. Maybe I was to blame. Maybe I just didn’t have enough faith then – even faith in our power to control our lives.
“Desolate I tried to reach God through prayer. I was desperate and looking for an answer. But knowing that only He knows the final answers, I prayed for at least the strength to bear whatever I had to.”
“When you were this depressed, were you ever tempted to commit suicide?” I asked.
Lee looked startled, “No,” he said. “The idea may have crossed my mind – I think it crosses everyone’s mind at times. But between the thoughts crossing your mind and trying to carry it out, there is a world of difference. I never seriously considered suicide. I knew there had to be a better answer to our problems than just giving up altogether.
Even today, though Lee is fortified by a faith, he is not sure what the answer is.
When he talks about marriage, he sounds mixed up. One minute he told me, “I don’t plan to marry for a long while – if at all. I’ve had a taste of both kinds of lives – bachelor life and married life – and I feel a bachelor life is more suitable for me. I’m not mature enough for marriage or capable of handling all the responsibilities that go with it. I think in this kind of business you don’t have enough time to devote yourself to marriage – to another person.”
And in the next breath he said, “I don’t whether I am in love with Patti “(Patti Chandler, the beautiful young actress he dates frequently). “or with Kathy. I don’t know exactly what love is; there are so many facets to it. But I shall always love Kathy because she is the mother of our son. I may be in love with her for other reasons, too, but I won’t admit to those.”
If Kathy and Lee were to reconcile, Patti would be injured and heartbroken. When I brought this up, Lee answered, “Even if that’s true, she would be the first to wish us happiness. She is the most unselfish girl I have ever known. When we first began to date, she use to keep urging me to try for a reconciliation with Kathy.”
At the time, Lee told Patti that such a reconciliation was impossible. At the time he felt it was. Gradually, Patti and Lee were drawn closer to each other. Patti seems to be completely in love with Lee. And Lee? He’s a confused man.
“I have dated other girls,” he told me frankly, “but Patti’s my favorite girl. I may be close to falling in love. If I were going to get married she’d be #1 candidate.”
But then he was forced to add, “But of course there’s no relationship in my life as deep as the one I have with Kathy and my son. After all, what can go deeper or be more meaningful than three years of marriage and your own flesh-and-blood son?
“Kathy is now back in Richmond, Kentucky, with her parents and little Lee. I miss him terribly, but I’m happy knowing that he’s surrounded by a loving family. And I know that life in a small town is good for him.
Back in Kentucky he has two sets of grandparents close by. Kathy has a brother and sister living nearby. Her sister has three boys and a girl, and her brother has two little girls. Can you imagine how wonderful it must be for our little boy to be surrounded by loving relatives, and so many children of all ages to play with?
“After our divorce, when he was living in the Valley with my ex-wife, I was working five days a week. I’d see him weekends, and that wasn’t nearly enough. Kathy was working, so he was in the hands of a babysitter five days a week. He’s better of now surrounded by people who are devoted to him.
“Every time I see Lee, I tell him I love him, and he tells me he loves me. I remember what fun it was last summer when I was teaching him how to swim. He loved the water, and we'd go to a pool near his mother’s apartment, and he’d kick his little legs while I showed him just how the movements should be made.
“There were no tears when we recently parted. I didn’t dare cry in front of him. He didn’t know that he might be leaving home to go to Kentucky permanently; he thinks he’s on vacation. He’s been on vacation in Kentucky other times. How could he know that this time it may be different?
“I hate the idea that he can’t grow up having the companionship of both his mother and me. But if he has to be parted from one of us, it’s better at this stage of his life for him to be with her. Someday, I believe, I’ll be able to make up it up to him – and see a lot more of him. When he gets older and is ready for fishing trips and baseball games, I hope I’ll with him.
“Sometimes I feel I’m being selfish, missing him so much. Time passes so fast for little ones. I talk to Lee often on the phone, and like all children he’s concerned with the here and now - the ball he’s just bought, the bicycle he’s just learned to ride, the drawing he’s just finished.
“But I’m concerned with the future. I hope to go to Kentucky soon to visit Lee – and Kathy. I find myself looking forward not only to being with our baby, but also to being with my ex-wife. But I’m afraid I’m much more eager for a reconciliation than Kathy is. I still find her a very attractive woman. Since our divorce we have exchanged only casual kisses, but it could be different – who knows what will happen when I see her again?
“There’s no bitterness between us, only friendship. When I talk to her now, the talk is not of problems; it’s not of our divorce. It’s of pleasant things – mostly it’s about Lee. And I find memories of the good times in our marriage are very present.”
What will happen when he sees the Bluegrass Country in Kentucky again, perhaps in the company of Kathy? Will the blue haze that settles over the grass in spring stir romantic memories? What will happen if he and Kathy walk on the campus where their love once flowered? What will happen when they see the dogwood blooming again, the way it bloomed the month they were married?
There are memories in Kentucky that have the power to stir their love into reawakening. If Kathy shows any response to Lee’s reawakened love for her, they may both decide that the marriage that once failed when they so young could work now – for they are wiser and older.
There are two beautiful women in Lee’s life – Patti Chandler and Kathy Yeary. Kathy still bears the name he gave her – the name he was given by his foster parents. When she talks about him it is with joy not regret, joy filled with memories of the wonderful times they had had together.
She’s proud of what he’s done with his life. “I made a mistake of marrying at 16, but I can’t honestly say that I’m sorry. I’m glad I knew Lee – that I was married to him,” she has said.
And Patti has said, “When Lee and I are together at his ranch in Calabasas, it’s like we have our own little bit of heaven.”
When Lee underwent surgery recently for a minor injury to his nose suffered in a TV fight, Patti visited him every day at the hospital. Visiting him there made her feel closer to him than ever. But her dream may be rudely shattered if Lee and Kathy reconcile.
“No matter how hurt Patti would be, she would be happy for us,” Lee repeats with conviction.
So who will win Lee’s heart – the most unselfish girl he has ever known, or the wife with whom he was once so deeply in love and with whom he may be falling in love again