based on a true story (an exerpt from my journal)
my mother was born june 29, 1958 in a small town somewhere in Nevada. i've heard the story a million times about how she was almost born at a gas station because my grandfather decided to stop and fill his tank on the way to the hospital. she�s the oldest daughter in a family of 6. i have three aunts and two uncles. a few have been disowned due to ridiculous financial matters, and others have chosen to excommunicate themselves by running off, without their children, to live in trailer parks with large hairy men who are aspiring nascar drivers. needless to say, family gossip is always
engrossing, although, it�s often the case that I wish it were about someone else�s family.
my mother, being the oldest daughter, was always expected to care for her younger siblings. she'd come home from elementary school to change diapers, do dishes, laundry, housework, cooking and cleaning. meanwhile, my grandmother's mental health was deteriorating for reasons no one has ever quite explained to me. she'd take strong prescription drugs and lie on the couch in her pajamas all day, wallowing in despair, bitching, complaining, and eating everything in sight. my grandfather was working the day shift, the night shift, and volunteering his weekends to the local fire department. one can only assume that this was in an attempt to remain outside the home for as long as possible. he has, however, more than once, proven his devotion to my grandmother by waiting patiently when she decided to return to her ex-husband. her ex-husband, being devoted as well, still awaits her next return. my grandparents, all three of them, were heavy drinkers. Tuesday nights were card-night and the entire neighborhood would sit at the house drinking and playing until early morning. i'm can only guess that this is why my mother has been drunk maybe twice in her entire life, if that.
my mother never finished high school. she dropped out after the tenth grade to marry my father, to get out of the house and away from the duties delegated her. my grandmother, ever pajama-clad, large, english ass parked on the couch, used to tell her that she'd never amount to anything, and that she was stupid. it�s interesting to look at all the old pictures and see grandmother smiling under that enormous bee-hive thing she used to have on her head. I still wonder, how did they get their hair to do that
. four younger siblings were to be unattended to when mother left the house at 16 to marry my father.
as I understand, my great-grandmother who lived most of her life on the onondaga indian reservation was strongly opposed to the marriage and refused to attend my mother�s wedding. I�ve heard that this woman�s breasts were so large she used to set them out on the kitchen table before eating. gotta love those genetics.
she didn�t like my father and wouldn�t come to family events if he was supposed to be present. mother was terribly upset, as she was very close to this woman, who used to buy her boxes of �cream of wheat� which my grandmother refused to have in the house because she didn�t like the �putrid stuff�.
my father was quite attractive and saw a lot of other women on the side. I have a half-sister I�ve never met. he used to come home late, drunk, and without explanation. there were a few nights when he didn�t come home at all. he controlled every aspect of my mother�s life. she wasn�t allowed to drive or shop alone. she wasn�t allowed to have a job for a number of years. if she spoke to anyone
it was always assumed that she was keeping secrets from him. she wasn�t allowed very many friends, and spent most of her time either alone or with one of his eight sisters. my father was a marine corps drill sergeant. they spent the first few years of their marriage in north carolina near the base (lajune I think it�s called) ,and when she was pregnant for me they were forced to move to okinawa japan. she had to leave everything she had ever known, the few friends that she did have, to go off with this man, my father, that used to beat her and speak to her much in the same manner that my grandmother had. was it still
to love, honor, and obey
? he�d tell her that she was nothing without him. she loved him and thought that she deserved whatever punishment he inflicted upon her. she wanted to make it work.
there are a lot of things that I don�t know, things she�d rather not talk about, things she�d rather not
have me know. I�ve collected bits and pieces over large expanses of time, and the picture that I get is not pretty. upon the return from japan she had made plans to leave my father. she put money aside from the part-time job he allowed her to have at the candle factory. she bought dishes, folding chairs, bedding, and a few other necessities. she used to hide these things under the house in a large box, waiting for the day when she�d finally pack us up and leave. she was saving money. she�d gotten a raise that he didn�t know about. everything was set�until she got pregnant again.
my brother was born in 1982. mother was depressed during the entire pregnancy and ballooned up to about 200 pounds. I imagine that life at home wasn�t pleasant, but I�ve been fortunate enough not to remember much. one has to wonder how this must have had an effect on my brother�s psychological development. he was an awful child. mother lost around 50 pounds during the first 90 days after giving birth. he�d cry day and night. she never got to sleep. she never got to eat. even as a toddler he�d scream at the top of his lungs until three in the morning. she whispers the story sometimes about the time when she threw him across the room onto the couch after being frustrated for so long. he stopped screaming.
between 1982 and 1984 my parents lived together invariably. she�d put all of his things out onto the yard while he was at work. then, she�d take him back in. she�d move us out in the middle of the night and we�d live with a friend or family member for a few weeks. he�d call continuously, and even break into the house while we were out. he took all the appliances claiming they were his, and emptied the contents of the fish tank onto the bed after slashing it repeatedly with a knife. she was hospitalized a few times after having been beaten so badly. my father was never arrested, at least not for domestic abuse. I�ve seen folders filled with police reports, but none filed for beating my mother.
in 1985 we packed everything up into the old silver bettle and drove to colfax louisiana to move in with my uncle, his wife, and their two daughters. mother had a difficult time adjusting to the ways of the south, and my aunt hated her from the second of her arrival. mother got a job sewing jordache jeans at the local factory, and waited tables at night until we had enough money to rent a house. I remember her sewing her fingers together at work and coming home upset because they wouldn�t allow her to continue working that day.
I remember the dumpy green house we rented, the cracked wooden floors, and peely walls. I�m almost sure that I could point it out if driving by today. I remember the institutional carpeting and the giant fence, which separated us from the neighbors who had a pool and a swing set. I remember the layout of the house, the yard, the sidewalk, and creaky shutters. there were always enormous mosquitoes on the windowsills and rat traps behind every piece of furniture. I used to have awful dreams about those giant mosquitoes. there was no kitchen table and I remember sitting on the wooden floor with my giant crayola mug drinking tang in the mornings before school.
we were terribly poor. oftentimes there�d be no food in the house, and if there was food only my brother and I would eat. mother got very thin. it was the only time in my life that we went to church regularly, and I believe the reason was to receive handouts. we�d get baskets of hot cocoa packets and fruit. we�d go to church dinners and attend sunday school.
for a while, mother dated rich men, lawyers, doctors, men in nice suits that would eat in the restaurant where she worked. I remember josh who drove a corvette and would hide candy in his coat pockets for me to find. I think josh was married and has children of his own. mother didn�t find out, or didn�t want to find out for quite a while. josh left after a huge argument and I never saw him again. mother cried, I cried. others came and went. maybe she was interested. maybe she took their money. I�d never dare ask, not even today.
in 1987 my grandfather arrived with a rented hauling trailer attached to his truck. we packed everything up again and drove back to ny. while living in my grandparents house my mother tried suing my father for child support. he packed up and moved to florida in order to avoid the courts. I don�t believe he returned until the early 90�s or so. I�ve not seen him since leaving ny for louisiana. I doubt I�ll see him ever again.
mother was working in pulaski ny along the salmon river, waiting tables in a restaurant that serviced mostly commercial fisherman. she met Bob. he wasn�t a fisherman. Bob was divorced and had two teenage daughters from his previous marriage. he left a business card on the table when leaving the restaurant and kept returning until she agreed to have dinner with him. Bob was a big chubby man who always wore flannel and had excessive facial hair. he lived alone in a messy apartment and drove a fancy red sports car. my mother dated Bob for at least two or three years. we went on vacation for the first and only time in my entire life. his daughter Tina was 14, and the coolest person I�d ever met. I wanted to be just like her. she�d take me shopping with her and her friends to the mall and listen to the talking heads, quiet riot, and duran duran. Bob used to try and buy his daughter�s love. they�d get 14 K gold lee press-on nails for their birthdays. he knew their mother couldn�t afford such things. this carried over into his relationship with my mother. he bought me a diamond ring for christmas. I still have it. it still fits. he used to pick me up at school in his pretty red car while all the other children loaded onto the bus. this was the brief period in time in which I wasn�t made fun of for not having the right clothes or shoes. I had cool friends. people thought Bob was my daddy, and I never corrected them.
I�m not sure how it ended. Bob was childish, or excessive or selfish. I remember wishing she�d date his brother john, who always seemed like a lot of fun. even children become sadly accustomed to the comings and goings of people in their lives. I don�t remember being upset when mother sat us down to tell us that Bob wasn�t going to be around anymore. I was only concerned with who might be able to help me with my long division for math class since he�d no longer be available.
she was single for a while after Bob, and then she dated some disgusting man who listened to loud country music and lived in a trailer. we�d have to go over to his place and they�d run off to the woods to have �talks� for extensive periods of time. I hated
this man. he used to yell at me and make me eat lima beans. sometimes we�d sleep over and my brother and I would get the room furthest from the air conditioner. ever tried sleeping in a hot tin box? I think this relationship ended because this man could not deal with my brother. thank god for that. the little bastard finally makes good.
mother got a job with nationwide insurance working in the mailroom. she�d been in the insurance industry ever since. she currently runs a health insurance department for a large agency. while working for nationwide she got in a big argument with a woman that used to date Bob in the break room one afternoon. they ended up becoming best friends. she was single and had two daughters. they�d get together on the weekends and take us to the beach or the movies. she set my mother up on a blind date with her cousin. my mother married him two years later.
I was 14 when they got married. she�d only marry him if he promised to stop drinking. he ran into the house with her car one night and she got so angry she threw packages of frozen hamburger at him. he passed out on the kitchen floor in his own vomit. this is not
the man that I would have chosen for my mother if given the choice, even at 14 I thought this. he was on to my ways. I�d run off with the neighborhood boys to the woods where we�d smoke pot and drink stolen liquor from brian�s mother�s cabinet. no one ever had a clue until the day I came ambling in and this new man, my mother�s fianc�e says �mmm�smells like some good shit.�
. I wasn�t allowed to see brian for quite some time. maybe she has a need to dominate. she�s stronger, more intelligent, makes more money, than this man, my step father. he works as foreman for a local construction company. he�s been sober since their wedding day. he�s not very bright, but feels as if he�s a lucky man to have my mother, and I�d agree with that. although, I still wish I were writing about someone else�s family.