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Memoir - Third Installment

1959

Pets

****

We always had pets. Mother brought a tiny Chihuahua one day, to the children’s delight. She knew I did not want cats or dogs in the house, but, oh well. She had heard that Chihuahuas could help relieve asthma symptoms, which three of our five dealt with daily. She also thought that hanging an Asphidity bag around my neck would ward off polio when I was a child. I was the only one in my class wearing one hidden under my blouse, desperately hoping no one would notice or smell the pungent odor.


Our Chihuahua, Pepper, would come to my bed every night begging to sleep with us. He never did, I did not want a dog in my bed, but he never gave up. One of the kids would grab him up at bedtime and whisk him off to his or her bed, but he would end up whining at the side of my bed before morning.

Daily he would come to me, stand in front of me wherever I was and look up with those big sad brown eyes. “Make her leave me alone. Make those kids leave me alone,” he would plead. If we began to dress, get ready to go somewhere, he would go straight to the carpet in the living room and leave us a present. No matter how many times we punished him, he pooped on the living room carpet when he thought he was going to be left alone. Of course, Randy, the trickster, had to get a false poop and occasionally put it on the carpet, just inside the doorway off the hall so that one of us would see it and exclaim, “Oh no, Pepper’s done it again,” and get the family all worked up.


One visit to our family physician’s office I mentioned that our little Chihuahua had developed a hernia. Dr. Zimmerman said, “Bring him by. I’ll fix him up,” and he did. Joe and Randy took Pepper to the office one Sunday morning and brought him home a little groggy but all better.


One Monday morning, we were all dressed for work or school and having breakfast when Pepper came to my chair. He was coughing and coughing and shaking and weak with his little legs splayed out. Randy put him in his car to drop him off at the vet’s on his way to work. The others left for school and I was driving to work when Randy called crying. “Mom, he died. He died before I could get him to the vet.” He was sobbing. I was sobbing. We hung up and I called him back when I could speak. Our little Pepper, who had been with us for so many years, had died of heart worms.


In addition to the Chihuahua, we had outdoor dogs of all ilk and cats, many cats. They were to stay outside because Anna had quite an allergy to cats. Whelps developed on her eyeballs when she played with them, but how she loved those cats. I would come in from shopping and see those swollen eyes.


“Anna, I have asked you to keep the cat outside.”


“Oh, I don’t bring them in Mother,” she would say. It’s freezing outside so I know she has not been in the yard playing with the cat.


“So, the cat hasn’t been in Hu?”


“Nope, I wouldn’t do that.”


“Well, that’s good, we wouldn’t want you to have itchy eyes.”


Randy’s huge aquarium with its many colorful fish was something we all enjoyed for a couple of years, but after the fish, he acquired a big Iguana that he kept in that aquarium in his and Mike’s bedroom. He would take the thing out for a walk each day on a leash and harness. It was very strong and desperate to get away so dragged Randy all over the house. It would try to climb into my pots of ivy or crawl under the sofa. One wintery night the weather forecast had temperatures dropping into the twenties so Randy put a light bulb in the aquarium to keep the lizard warm. The cold front did not come through as anticipated and that poor creature was roasted the next morning. Oh geeeze.


One Easter, when the kids were young, we got baby ducks. They loved them. They fed them and played with them until the ducks were no longer adorable babies, then I fed them and the kids seldom even noticed them in their little pen in the back yard. So, when their dad and I decided to have them for dinner one night we assumed the children would never notice that dinner was not chicken. They knew immediately dinner was not chicken. (Have you ever tasted duck?) The tears began, we were the worst villains in the world. We had murdered their ducks. 


We had many hamsters through the years but one in particular could get out of its cage and run around at night. One could hear his little skitter here and there and we would capture it the next morning and put it back in its cage. One night it got its leg hung up in the cage, could not get lose, and simply chewed it off. We medicated and bandaged his leg and he chewed that off as fast as we put it on, but the leg did heal. A little piece of bone stuck out at the bottom so at night when he got out of his cage and began running through the house, we would hear his little skitter as “skitter, click, skitter, click, skitter, click as the bone struck the floor.


Camping

****

Camping worked well for us. It was inexpensive and we all loved it. I wanted to build memories for our family so I put extra effort into having fun times. We had a huge tent that held all of us on cots and pallets. We camped Huntsville State Park with friends and Palo Duron Canyon with my parents. Great red boulders formed the canyon walls and the soft red sand of the beaches along the river made for a great playground where one could dig holes and build sand castles. The kids would climb the boulders to slide down their steep sides, wearing holes in their shorts. A sudden rain shower there drove us into the tent on one trip. We played cards until bedtime and were all sound asleep when park rangers woke us in the middle of the night to tell us we must evacuate immediately. The river was rising and the hard rains had not let up. We packed up hurriedly and by the time we got in line with other campers, the rangers were pulling our cars through the flooded river crossing, the water too deep to drive, in order to get us out of the park. 


We camped at Lake Whitney and loved to cook out and swim. One warm Texas night, camped near a high cliff that plunged down to the water, one of the girls needed to go out. Of course, her sisters wanted to go too, so the four of us walked a suitable distance from the tent and squatted down. As we sat there in the dark facing the same way, two little eyes lit up about fifteen feet away. We were mesmerized, no one spoke. We soon realized those two little eyes were moving quickly toward us. Cris screamed her little girl scream and the other two joined in. The four of us were up and running for the tent with our pants down around our ankles. Of course, Joe and the boys were shocked off their cots, bug eyed and hair on end. They tried to rush out of the tent as we were blasting in. Joe took the flashlight and saw the frightened skunk running away into the night. 


We spent a week’s vacation on the beach at the Gulf of Mexico in that tent one summer. Little tiny crabs invaded it and kept the girls squealing. Even though we were sunburned and ate gritty food we had a great time. We brought half that beach sand home with us in tent, bedding, clothes and folds of skin.


Georgia

1966

****

We even took a driving/camping trip to Atlanta, Georgia one summer. Joe suggested it but I recoiled.


“No way! The kids and I will unload the car, set up the tent, and cook dinner while you sleep.”


“I swear I’ll be there every minute. I’ll do the heavy work,” he insisted.


Joe and Bill Price, the friend we were going to see in Georgia, yes, the same Bill with the Hupmobile, had been close friends all through high school, closer than brothers. Bill’s parents had died when he was young and his much older brother had sort-of raised him and Joe was third man out at his house. The two young boys really bonded. After graduation, and Joe and I had married, Bill went into the army. He was stationed in Puerto Rico where he met JoAnne, a Georgia peach. Her father was a contractor there. They married and we lived close for a few years after Bill was discharged. I knew it would be great to see them and their children and I knew how much Joe would love to see Bill. So, we packed up to go with seven people, camping gear and luggage in our yellow 1968 Country Squire station wagon. We were not friends by the time we got back home.


I think the youngest was five and the boys were big boys and we had a big wooden case Joe had made to hold our camping gear. We had the big tent, we had luggage for seven people. We had, well, you get the picture. We were crowded. We had dirt blowing in the back window if we had it down a little for fresh air. Did we not have air conditioning in that station wagon? I don’t remember. I do remember the bickering.


“Make him stop touching me.”


“She touched me first.”


“I have to go to the bathroom.”


“You just went.”


“Well, I have to go number two now.”


Our visit, once we got there, was great. We could have stayed a month we had so much fun. The kids got along and we toured all the Atlanta sights. We climbed Stone Mountain and ate boiled peanuts and corn on the cob. One evening our five and their two sons were playing a game where there were items in a big brown bag and the person that was “IT” had to reach in and identify one object. One person was the lead. He had chosen and placed the items in the bag. One by one, they reached in and if they could correctly identify an object, confirmed by the lead, they could remove it and the person with the most objects at the end of the game won. Bill’s oldest son was the lead and one of my boys reached into the bag and said, “It’s a fark.”


 “A what?” says the lead.


“A fark.” (Remember, we are from Texas.)


“I don’t know what a fark is and there sure isn’t one in that bag.”


In frustration and irritation, my son pulled a fork out of the bag, held it up and said, “There sure is,” waving it around.


“That’s a fork,” the lead says.


“That’s what I said, a fark”


                                                                                                ****

There are all kinds of memories, good ones and bad ones. I awoke one night on Cravens Road to the sound of sirens. The bedroom was filled with a bright pulsing orange. The garage next door was engulfed in flames a mere three or four yards from our house. Four of my young children and I ran out the back door and around the house. Firemen were pumping water into the flames as our neighbors stood by grieving the loss not only of their garage and their car, but their daughter’s wedding gifts inside it.


My oldest son Randy was frantically removing the electric warming strip from our doghouse, which sat up against the fence that separated our yard from the neighbor’s garage. One of the firemen came around our house and through our backyard saying, “Never mind that. We discovered that already as the cause of the fire.” My heart sank into my stomach. Joe slept through the whole thing.


                                                                                                ****

As the children grew, they took care of chores and helped without too much complaint, except dishes. We did not have a dishwasher and we took turns doing dishes. They would put that chore off as long as possible on their night and whine and moan.


With the children old enough to take care of themselves and one another I asked Joe if he would be interested in just the two of us taking a weekend at the lake. I was always hoping to make a closer connection with him and personally, I needed a break. We had done that once before, camping in his camper on the back of his pick-up at Lake Whitney where I had not only managed to seduce him, but to stay in one another's arms afterwards for some cuddle time. Cuddle time was not ordinarily his thing.


Finally, he said OK. Perhaps he would have been more interested in spending time together throughout our years together if I had been more focused on him rather than so many babies.


We rented a rustic old log cabin and the cool fall days and nights had us keeping a roaring wood fire in the potbellied stove. We even cooked a few items on it. A long walk had us far from the cabin when a rain shower soaked through our jackets and had us shivering as we ran into the cabin to get that fire built back up. Clothes draped around to dry, we climbed under the covers to seek warmth and I tried for romance.   


Joe had come home from work recently sporting a brand-new pair of western boots. They were beautiful. I could not tell him often enough how handsome they were and how handsome he was in them. I was so proud of him that he had not only purchased something to wear but had had a desire for something. It had always been like pulling teeth to get him to replace well-worn clothes and shoes.

He put his boots close to that little potbellied stove to dry out after our wet hike, too close. That roaring fire overnight roasted those new boots. The toes were all curled up and the soles were cracked like a dry lake bed the next morning. We were crushed. It dampened our weekend for sure.

                                                                                                ****

All five of the children had allergies. Anna, the fourth child, had such severe upper respiratory problems that many attacks of asthma turned into pneumonia. Mike and Randy also had asthma. We lived on an acre of land and when they were young and it was their turn to mow, they would whine and complain, mow a couple of swipes and come in struggling to breath. “I can’t do it Mother. I just can’t breathe.” On the other hand, the neighbor often offered to pay them to mow his yard and they would pause mowing to come into the house for a drink on a hot, muggy summer day with chest so elevated from trying to breath it would be up under their chin, shoulders hunched up, gasping for breath.


“Oh my goodness, are you having a hard time breathing?” I would ask, knowing what the answer would be.


“No, ma’am, I’m fine, just fine,” and off they would go to happily mow. Would we have been different, smarter, more aware if those of us with allergies had not lived all those years stuffed with mind dulling antihistamines? 

                                                                                                ****                                                                                    

The kids rode their bikes and roamed the neighborhood breaking a few arms here and knocking out a few teeth there. No worries about their safety on the school grounds or on the quiet, tree lined streets. We had great neighbors with lots of kids to mix it up with our five. When dinner was ready, I simply rang the big iron triangle that hung from the clothes line behind the shop in the back yard to call them home.

Mike and the boy next door were great buddies. They played hard and fought hard. One day’s quarrel brought Mike’s toy gun stock down on Gary’s head. Stitches were required. Even though we burned down their garage and tried to kill their son we remained close friends with those neighbors. As Mike grew up, he and Leaman, Gary’s father, became close friends. Even when living in different states through the years they remained very close until Leaman’s death. Leaman was the father figure Mike did not have with Joe as Joe became more and more remote from his children as they matured.


A young couple moved into the house next door to us. Leaving for work one morning, the wife backed out of their driveway smack into the telephone pole across the street with the back of her car. No damage done so she left for work. That evening, once Joe saw that she was home, he called their house and she answered. This was long before cell phones so the call was on a landline with no ID. In a gruff voice he asked for her by name. “This is she,” she replied.


“Mam, there was extensive damage to our telephone pole today. The imprint of your license plate in our pole leads us to believe that you should pay to have our pole replaced.”


She bought it and began to cry. “Oh my god, how much will that cost me? Oh, I can’t pay anything like that. Oh my - - -“and she handed the phone to her husband. It took him about a minute and a half to say, “Who is this?” and Joe began to laugh. She never forgave Joe for that because he razzed her unmercifully every time he saw her.

                                                                                                ****   

Our property was divided in half by a chain-link fence with the house and its trees and green lawns on the front half and a big barn on the back part of the lot. Joe and the boys fought a huge den of bumble bees living under that barn one summer. A twenty-by-twenty-foot pen with high railings attached to the barn accommodated our friend Morris’ Appaloosa stud, Pride, for a few years. One year when the barn needed a paint job, Joe and the kids just took all the left-over paint, inside paint and outside paint, mixed it together and painted that barn with a lovely shade of grayish purple.


A wide cement driveway ran along the north side of our house. It was lined with tall, thick Cherry Laurels which concealed the neighbor’s house and back yard. We watched Cardinals build their nests and raise their young there.


On one side of the back yard under a blooming Mimosa tree, Joe built a playhouse complete with peaked roof, door and windows. It was painted white with shingles on its roof that matched the big house, a perfect little doll house for the girls. Even the boys could be found playing house with their sisters occasionally in spite of the Texas heat in that small space. The kids filled a mason jar with memorabilia and buried it under the bricks at the little front door. Many years later, grown and living elsewhere, one of them asked the current owners for permission and dug up the jar.


There was a swing set with slide in one corner backed by a fence covered with running rose bushes which exploded with double red blooms each spring. Joe built a beautiful brick barbeque pit and stone patio under the tall spreading cotton wood tree in the middle of the yard. A tire swing hung from that tall cottonwood tree’s high branches on a long rope. A smaller catalpa tree grew next to the shop behind the garage and the kids often climbed it to step onto the roof of the shop with their daddy yelling, “Get down from there. You’ll ruin that roof,” or “How many times do I have to tell you to stay off that roof?” They never did.


That large shop behind the garage, under the catalpa tree was where Joe worked his magic. He was a talented man with his hands. He made toy trains for the kids, rocking horses, dollhouses and little trunks for Barbie clothes. He made beautiful, hand carved doors for upscale homes. He could repair anything, motors, cars, appliances, shelving, doors, anything. He could build most anything and was an artist when making furniture. He made beautiful furniture for our home and he designed a wooden boat (it weighed a ton.) He had no boat trailer so the boat was in two sections so that he could haul it in the back of his truck.  When he got to the lake, he assembled it and the entire family could fit into it. We took it to the lake for the initial launch and used it for fishing trips or just paddling around. 


I spent way too many hours outside. Inside there were dishes to do and floors to mop, instead I planted spiky purple thrift ground cover all along the driveway flower bed backed by three foot azaleas, so pretty in the spring. Joe covered the sandstone walkway from the back door to his shop with a large metal awning. I hung baskets, of geraniums in it’s shade with pots of petunias underneath.


IS IT SPRING YET?

 

Is it spring yet?

Still winter I’ll bet.

Yet see the daffodil

Under that snow hill?

Warm days for a week brought her out.

 

Is it spring yet?

Nope, still cold and wet,

But soon slowly done

The tilt to the sun

Will bring warm days for a while no doubt.


                                                                                                ****

Our kitchen was small so the opening leading into the hall between the Big, old Chamber’s Range and the refrigerator was narrow. Randy never tired of jumping out to scare one of his siblings or me coming through. He repeatedly tied poppers to cabinet doors so that they went off with a bang when some unsuspecting family member reached for a dish.


Speaking of pranks, the kids loved “peanut butter balls,” our invention of peanut butter blended into powdered sugar with a drop of milk then made into little balls and rolled in more powdered sugar. Yummmm. One night, Mike and Randy made the treat and after having their fill, put dog-food pellets inside several of the treats and left them out for Peg when she got home. She was surprised and impressed that her brothers would be thoughtful enough to leave some of the candy for her, that is until she ate the first one.


The breakfast room adjoining the kitchen with our big table to accommodate seven people was painted a bright yellow. When we took a small picture down, it left a small hole in the wall. I had no spackle on hand and the kids thought it was hilarious that I used yellow food coloring and toothpaste to patch the hole.


We had a lovely parlor with new carpet and antique furniture from my grandmother. The small dining room between parlor and kitchen became the third bedroom and everything else happened in the big twenty foot by twenty-five-foot den on the back of the house. The décor left a little to be desired but we had no discretionary income for decorating. The den had big squares of white and green floor tile. Above head-high, distressed wood wainscoting was very busy wallpaper of quails and green underbrush. Wowzah. We even hung many of my dad’s paintings there. Eeeee Gads!


Monnig’s, the company my father worked for, began to sell “Paint by Numbers” kits while he was still working. He took one home and followed the instructions and decided he could come up with a better painting on his own so used the leftover paint and did just that. He had quite a talent. He attended art classes through the years, and turned out many lovely landscapes during his lifetime.


In one corner of that den, we had a round, antique pedestal table with ample leaves to stretch it out for family and guests. Joe had put a glowing finish on the beautiful oak wood. He brought home an antique, four-foot-high cream separator that stood in one corner. (We put pot plants on it.) On the opposite side of the room there was a couch extending into the middle of the room facing the outside wall where the TV stood. At different times during the eighteen years we lived there, there was sometimes a card table with an ongoing jigsaw puzzle, or a sewing machine and for one period of time a double bed. Whata room!


We also ironed hair in that big room. Anna and Peg had thick, long curly hair and the style in the sixties of course was long straight hair. So, the girls rolled their hair on six-inch cans to dry after a shampoo and with head down on the ironing board, we ironed their tresses before going to school. Anna shed so that we had hair in the bathroom, we had hair between the cushions on the couch and long hair periodically jammed up the roller of the vacuum. Anna was a tiny girl and that mane of hair almost obliterated her at times. We called her Cousin Itt. Well, hmmmm, who remembers the “Addams Family” TV show?


All of the children could have used dental braces to improve their appearance, but we simply did not have money for that. However, Anna was missing a third of her permanent teeth so she not only had braces but was also fitted with a partial, with child size teeth of course. She wore that partial until as a grown woman she could have it replaced with an adult size. 


One night when the children were all young, Joe and I were watching TV in the Big Room after everyone else was in bed when the most horrendous screams of terror roared through the closed door into the adjoining bedroom where Cris and Anna were sleeping. We jumped up skidding across those slick green and white tiles to crash through that door to rescue our girls from some terrifying happening. The Christmas doll, Chatty Cathy, sitting in a tiny doll high-chair next to their bed inexplicably had switched on in the dark and was grinding out noise as her arms and legs moved up and down.


Mike and Anna made roads for their Match Box cars on the back half of the property and Mike tried to dig to China often. Filling those holes was not as much fun and took some strong conversations to make that happen.


The big picture window that looked west onto the back yard in the den had blinds that we pulled down to keep the hot summer sun out before it went down. Teeth marks appeared on one of the slats. Joe was indignant. He lined all five up to see whose mouth matched the height of the mutilation. None matched.


“OK, who did this?” he scolded.


No one replied. No one said a word. They just stood there in their stair step formation looking him in the eye.


“Well we’ll just stay here until someone ‘fesses up.” At first, he threatened a spanking for everyone if someone didn’t speak up but as time moved on, he threatened no dinner for everyone, ‘til someone lets me know who did this.”


He lost the battle. We never knew.


Joe did not like Randy. Randy irritated him. It broke my heart that he could put his son down so often. It was more than painful for Randy and left permanent scars. Joe would beg standoffish Anna for a kiss, offer to pay her, but no go. He would joke around with Mike. He and Peggy got along and he and Cris became very close as she grew up, but he never made a connection with Randy. I wanted a dad interested in what his children were doing, playing with them when they were little, long conversations with them as they grew up. I guess I had watched too many movies. I felt he was disinterested. Ironically, when guests brought small children or teenagers he was all over them, chatting them up, making jokes, teasing. I was confused.


As teenagers, the boys not only worked at mowing lawns, they worked sacking and stocking at the neighborhood grocery, Zig Zag, and they worked summers helping my uncle roof houses. They saved their money in order to get their own haircuts because longer hair for guys had come into style and when their dad paid, he insisted on burrs and flat tops. They both eventually bought their own vehicles.

Since we paid for their insurance on the vehicles, I felt I could insist that Mike give his sister Peggy a ride to high school. I had to insist because they did not get along. Mike was always ready on time or early and Peggy was always late. He would sit in the idling truck, waiting, revving the motor, seething until she finally ran out and hopped up into the high seat in her very short skirts. Peggy was a short, shapely girl and that truck was tall so it took a big boost and jump, hanging onto the door to get her rear into that seat. Peg had complained about Mike’s anger all the way to school so I spoke to him.


“Mother, she makes me late to class day after day. I am just sick of seeing her butt come flying into the cab every morning.”


Peggy’s boyfriend usually brought her home from school and from then on, he picked her up in the morning also.


As a child, Cris had an innocent heart murmur. The kind of heart mummer that was strictly due to function, no danger, but when she developed scarlet fever, the doctor recommended total bed rest, “Just to be safe.”  Keeping a five-year-old in bed for an entire summer without both of us going crazy was a challenge. We put her bed next to the big picture window in the “Big Room” so that she could see the entire back yard. She and I read a lot of books and her siblings played games or dolls with her at times. Her best friend, Brenda, a neighbor down the street, came often and they would sit on the bed and play. We watched a lot of TV.


Even into adulthood, Brenda and Cris, after marriages and children and divorces, had an apartment together in Ft. Worth, still best friends.


1969

****

I was a protective mother trying to shield my children from hurt or sadness. I worked at creating good childhood memories, but looking back, wanting my children to be emotionally strong and self-sufficient did I back off far too much on affection as they grew up? Did I have fun with them as they became teens? I don’t think I got to know their friends as well as I should have. I was so unhappy with Joe by then I’m sure I withdrew into myself far too much. Another part of my life I would give anything to relive.


We had continued to attend Poly Methodist, where we had been married, until moving to Cravens Road. Then the Methodist church just blocks from our house became our social center. I took the children to Sunday school and encouraged them to take part in youth activities there. We attended the church services and I taught Sunday school and took part in the women’s group. We made our friends there and Joe even attended with us once in a while. Even though I did not agree with many of the fundamental ideas, I felt the youth at the church would be a better influence for a wholesome life than any group my children might bond with at their high school where wealthy kids had high end cars and clothes and drugs. It seemed to me that the families at the church were at least trying to live the type of life I wanted for my children.


Randy, at seventeen, and his girlfriend Nedra belonged to the choir. The music director that year did a good job of inspiring the kids and they had a great sound going. He arranged a choir tour so we parents raised the money and asked for a couple of volunteers to chaperone. As departure time approached, we needed one more chaperone and Randy asked me to fill that spot.


“Randy, you don’t want your mother tagging along on a trip with your girlfriend and other friends.”


“Sure we do. Come with us.”


I was flattered that my son would feel comfortable with me along and when the church secretary called to ask me to “Please go,” I jumped at the chance.


We had a Greyhound type bus full of kids. Great kids and Francis, the church secretary, the other chaperone. We had a great time.  I don’t remember how many stops we made but the choir performed beautifully at each.


When we reached Corpus Christi, our last stop, we stepped out of that bus into heavy humidity. A storm was brewing off the coast and it was cloudy and blustery. Added hairpieces were popular at that time and mine allowed me to manage my impossible fine, thin hair on the trip. I just pulled my hair back and up and anchored my cereal bowl sized hairpiece on top of my head. Well, I stepped off the bus and that hair piece immediately soaked up that humidity like a sponge. It suddenly weighed ten pounds. Well, it felt like ten pounds. I could hardly hold my head up. We were escorted into the church basement that smelled musty and damp and chose our cots and unpacked.


The church phones were ringing off the hooks. Parents were concerned, some panicked, about the storm approaching the coast. We assured all of them that we would not go into the water if the surf or wind was up. The forecast the next morning had the storm stalled and the sun was out. We played in the water for hours. There was a lifeguard and of course Francis and I were constantly vigilant. I was not a swimmer so Francis, who swam like a fish, dragged me into those waves and dunked me and pushed me and had me doing long stroke swimming in no time. So much fun.


On the bus ride home, everyone was tired and rather quiet. Francis slept almost the whole way. As she got off the bus, I thought she looked haggard and seemed unable to control her wind. It must have been embarrassing to have the kids giggling as she noisily passed down the aisle and exited the bus. Francis died two months later. Never a complaint the entire trip. She was the catalyst that kept us all jumping and laughing and having a great time. She must have known the entire trip that those were some of her last days.


I became sad as we drove home. Of course, I missed my kids and was eager to see them, but I was not looking forward to seeing Joe. I had been surprised how lighthearted I had felt on that trip. Such a relief to be away from him. He had to feel, to see, my contempt. He probably wasn’t eager to see me either. I could no longer feel anything positive for him. It was late at night when we got home and he had insisted that he wanted to pick me up at the church. I was surprised because he would have to stay awake far past his bedtime, but there he was, waiting.


1971

****

Mike asked to throw a party for his friends at the house to celebrate his eighteenth birthday, the legal age in Texas at that time to drink alcohol. We bought the beer (No, he probably bought the beer. Money was always so scarce.) and I made food and he handed out invitations. When Joe and I returned home after the party with Anna and Cris, Mike was passed out in his bed, all of the guests were gone and Peggy was cleaning the Big Room where Mike had proceeded to throw up after over indulging. 

Mike was a cowboy, born fifty years too late. He had and still has the sense of propriety of the old west. While in high school, he road bucking broncos at local rodeos. I went to watch when he road, but when he decided to ride bulls, I refused to go. I had nightmares about the danger. I dreamed one night that he did not come home after a night out and the feeling that he may never come home woke me with such a feeling of dread and sadness that it haunted me for years.


Mike and Randy were particular about their appearance. Randy had dark wavy hair and dark, sharp Colley eyes. Mike still had those big blue eyes and his fathers light wavy hair. They both pressed their shirts each morning and Mike had me starch his jeans heavily and then he ironed in a sharp crease so that they hung just so over his boots.


As my sons grew tall and handsome, I would be scolding Mike for one thing or another with my five foot two pulled up to full height with finger wagging up towards his face. He would wag his finger back down towards me mimicking my scolding ‘til I completely lost it and we dissolved into giggles. He and I would pile onto the couch on a Saturday afternoon with a bag of corn chips and a bowl of Ro-Tel salsa to watch a John Wayne western and eat the whole thing.


I trusted my children as they grew up and moved out into the world. They called if they were going to be late. They kept me informed about where they would be and who they were with. I’m sure they did things I never knew about, but I’ll bet money they were never illegal or dangerous. 


Mike and his cowboy friend Jerry came into the Big Room one day when our friend Betty was visiting. Quickly removing their cowboy hats, they “Howdied” as I introduced her to Jerry. Betty began to ask the bow-legged bronc rider about his family. He stood in the doorway twirling that cowboy hat and saying “Yes ma’am,” “No ma’am.” “I shore do ma’am.”


When the boys moved on Betty said, “Is that for real?”


“Well, it might be a little role playing. He’s probably watched a few Westerns.” Those boys really admired the old west.


Shortly after that meeting, Jerry’s family bought a farm in Paris, Texas and after graduation from high school, Mike lived with them while attending the Jr. College there. When we visited Mike there, three-foot tall aggressive white geese would greet the car along with barking dogs. There were chickens and horses and cattle to feed and Mike loved it. He took classes at the Jr. College to prepare himself for a rural life. 

                                                                                                ****

We often boarded Morris’ horses in our back lot on Cravens Road. One day I looked out the kitchen window to see Monday, a fat mare that stayed with us for a while, lying down with her legs up under the back gate, struggling of course. Our property backed up to a wide-open space owned by the Boy Scouts and the elementary school grounds were across the street to the north of us. As before mentioned, my hair required a lot of “fixing,” to look presentable. I could not just jump out of bed, run a comb through and go about my day. It really was thin fine hair that took a daily shampoo, products, curling iron and spray in order to go out in public, especially to measure up to that Texas Big Hair look back then. Well, there simply was not time for that each morning as I got breakfast, made lunches, and ironed hair or clothing. The kids walked or rode bikes to school most mornings or drove themselves once in high school, but there were days I drove them to school, so, I found this Petal Cap. This stretchy, soft turbine style cap with hundreds of silver dollar size petals cut from a stiff white fabric sewn on all over. Donning my petal cap that morning, out I went, thinking, “How on earth did Monday get in that position. Moreover, how do I get her out? If I open the gate, it could scrape the skin off her legs and I certainly cannot drag her back into the lot.” She calmed down a bit when she saw me. I stroked her head and talked to her and decided my only option was to open the gate. I just couldn’t see another way to free her. The gate was a long metal ten-footer so there was no way I could press down her legs as I opened it so I just took the plunge and lifting with all my strength slowly pushed it open. She began to kick and thrash and as soon as the gate cleared her legs, she jumped up, turned towards me, ran right through that opening and galloped off towards the school grounds. I will not repeat my thoughts at that time as I followed her to the school. She grazed contentedly until I got about two feet from her then she would run a short distance and begin to graze again. I finally realized how cute I must look in my morning robe in my petal cap chasing that horse around the school ground. I went home to call her owner and suggested he come get her.


Morris’ stallion, Pride, that stayed on our property at times was a beautifully marked white horse with long slender legs and the Appaloosa spots. High strung to begin with, he was loud when a mare was brought to him. An opportune time to impart “birds and bees” knowledge to the kids, right? I was ready to answer questions, explain – you know teach my children about life. They simply turned the TV or radio up louder and went about their usual business. They always knew far more than I ever gave them credit for.


Joe left us on a few Sundays to join Morris at a horse show. “Hey, why don’t we all go? That would be a great family outing,” I asked.


“No, Morris didn’t mention family,” and off he would go.


On Saturdays during the summer, I would suggest a family outing. “Let’s take the kids to the park to swim. I’ll pack a picnic lunch,”


“Naw, you go.” So we did, without him. 

                                                                                                ****

Joe wanted to please his dad more than anything in the world. The driving force in his life was to get any attention from his parents. Joe’s parents were a little neglectful of him growing up. His youngest brother was his dad’s favorite, his older brother was his mother’s favorite, and none of them paid much attention to Joe. He was a bed wetter and had to sleep on a cot on the screened in porch, cold weather, hot weather he slept on the screened in porch and was required to wash his sheets before leaving for school. At one time after we were married and had bought a house and Joe was making descent money, his father said, “I am proud of you, you have built a good life for yourself and chosen the best of partners.” I think that was the day Joe laid down his drive to accomplish anything. He had made it.


John F Kennedy

1963

****

One warm, sunny November day in Ft. Worth, Texas, 1963, found me at my ironing board. I ironed everything back then. We didn’t have the delightful drip-dry materials of today and social standards demanded that one must have pressed, unwrinkled underwear, sheets and pillowcases as well as our clothing. Social standards, like those that demanded corsets and clothing that hid one’s ankles at one period of fashion. During those ironing days, social standards insisted that a good wife and mother have a dust free house, balanced, home cooked meals, and be fully dressed with makeup at all times. My mother often checked the picture frames on the wall for dust. But again, I digress.


My three oldest children were at school, the two youngest girls were napping and I was watching TV to occupy my mind while I ironed and ironed. Walter Cronkite broke into whatever program I was watching to announce that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. Couldn’t believe it. I listened to the maybes and speculation about what might or must have happened until Walter paused and with a sob announced that the President was dead.


Everything shifted. All of the things of everyday life suddenly seemed so unimportant. Turning a blind eye to segregation, Vietnam and the Cold War kept me safe and snug in my cocoon of “The Good Life.” “The Good Life,” dinner on time, plenty of mouth wash and band aids. “The Good Life,” summer vacation, neighbors and family and clean linens on the beds. Assassination in our own back yard, how could that be? We had to look. Aren’t there things we should be doing about the evils in our world? But we didn’t. We don’t. We are safely locked away in our small daily world.   

 

1968

****

We were in danger of losing our home because Joe just couldn’t manage to keep a job. He had total freedom as an outside salesman with the different food companies he worked for through the years, but instead of taking care of his route, his customers, he spent most days at his buddy, Morris’, hardware store. Eventually the company would caution him and when things didn’t improve, he would be let go. Finally, he took on the management of a sea food store. He was a one man show, selling, stocking and clean up. He had to empty and scrub those smelly counters each night. His shoes were so fishy he left them outside when he came home each night. He had dinner with us more often then, no more late lunches, some days he was so busy there was not time for any lunch.


I had taken care of the family finances for years and I needed money. Paying the piper for always wanting another baby I was now responsible for Randy and Mike with teenager appetites and three little girls with their needs, I needed money. So, when Cristy, the family baby, reached school age, I got a job. I applied with no skills and a high school education. I had not held a job for eighteen years. I was hired as a file clerk, minimum wage. Luckily, my aptitude test led the personnel manager to encourage me to rent a typewriter (yes typewriter, that thing we used before PCs.) “If you bring your typing skills up, I have a position for you.”


I had been a straight A honor roll student all through my school years until my senior year when I fell in love. I was so lovesick and was planning a wedding and, well, I made a C in typing. My teacher said, “I should fail you, but if you think I’m gonna fail an Honor Roll student when those dumb-a** football players are passed without learning a thing - - - !!! but a C is the best I can do.”


I didn’t plan to fail at typing again. I rented that typewriter and practiced at night after dinner like crazy. The new job was managing the Mail Room with one assistant and I loved it. I was working for Pangburn’s Candy Company, a well-known successful chocolate factory/distribution center. There were boxes of chocolate rejects on every file cabinet. You smelled the chocolate the minute you walked in the front door. Employees could take home big bags of rejects at will. “Oh, you’ll get so sick of it, you won’t ever want chocolate again,” someone said. “Never.” I never got tired of those lovely cream filled, caramel or nut loaded chocolates.  My family could take them or leave them. The kids would punch a hole in the bottom of piece after piece to find the one they liked and leave the ones they didn’t.


I was promoted to managing the mail room where my one assistant and I took care of inventory, printing for all departments and distributing the daily mail. A manager of one department practiced the laying on of hands. My assistant and I learned how to get around him or tease him while avoiding those hands as we quickly got out of his area. If we had reported him we would have been dismissed. The company CEO harassed the main receptionist every morning. Still a man's world then, no Me-Too

movement yet.


After two years in the Mail Room, I was promoted to Secretary to the Advertising Department. I liked my jobs and our budget improved, but the family just never adjusted to mother working.


****

My very first day of work which was also the very first day of school left me worried about my baby, my six-year-old Cris. She had never been out on her own without her mother and she would get out of school earlier than her siblings. Our neighbor and good friend Johnnie, three houses down from us, had agreed to have Cris come home with her six-year-old, Brenda, until one of us called her home. Brenda and Cris were usually together at Brenda’s house or ours anyway. That first day of school, I received a concerned call from Johnnie at work.


“The girls have a maximum walk of ten minutes from school but it’s been half an hour and they have not shown up. I have walked the streets all the way to the school grounds, checked with their teacher and even checked our back lots in case they walked home through the Boy Scout’s lot.”


“Call the police.” I firmly replied. “I’m on my way.”


“Never mind, they just walked in. I’ll call you back.”


Those two, relishing their independence, had walked the extra two blocks to the neighborhood grocer, Zig Zag, to buy candy. Their six-year-old reasoning had not calculated how long that would take and never mind the slow stroll home as they giggled and ate their candy. They thought they could get there and back and hide the candy when they got home and no one would be the wiser. They did not do that again.


Peggy had mono one year after I had gone to work and had to stay home alone in bed for days and days. Her grandmother came some days but was working part time and could not come every day. Then even worse, she relapsed when she went back to school and spent more weeks alone in bed. Peggy was an outstanding student and unlike her siblings wanted college. Her high grades earned a scholarship to TWC and she managed, with no help from her parents, to graduate Suma cum laude.


1970

****

I had been working at Pangburn’s for a couple of years when I was offered the job of secretary to the Advertising Department. I received a phone call I had been expecting. “What did the doctor say?” I asked my mother.


“I have six months to live.”


“That’s not funny.”


“No, it isn’t. It’s what the doctor said. I have six months to live.”


“Oh my god. I’m on my way. I’ll be right there.”


“No, don’t come. I’m OK.”


“I want to be there. You need to see another doctor.”


“Don’t come, don’t come,” and she hung up.


MOTHER

 

Tall

Lovely figure

Thick golden hair

The space between her front teeth

Signaled her amazing energy

Piercing black eyes

Took care of herself

 Glasses to function

After sixteen years of marriage

Recovering from The Depression

Took out a loan to vacation

Vacation trip

Broken glasses

Catastrophe!

Not only because she couldn’t see

No money for very expensive replacement

 

Loved her husband more than words can say

Cried occasionally lamenting

“What would I do if something happened to him?”

Terrified at my birth

Nine months after the wedding

Birthed at home

Positive she was dying

Loved me obsessively

 

Outstanding seamstress

Made her own patterns

Crafted beautiful garments

My clothes were exceptional

Clothed her grandchildren

 

Poor self-esteem

Dyslexic but smart and quick

Very critical

Never held a job until in her fifties

Fearful someone would ask her to read

 

From a large family

They all stayed in touch

Loved her husband’s large family

Kept a spit and polish house

Did laundry

Bent over the bathtub

With a rub board

Then hung on a line

Did a white glove test

Of my house often

Excellent cook

Southern cooking

Fried chicken, turnip greens

Pinto beans and cornbread

Loved to travel

Took grandchildren with

 

Terrified of doctors

Kept lesions on her breast secrete

“If they cut on me the disease will spread,” philosophy

Died at 56

But not until she saw her

Oldest and favorite

Grandchild married

 

Mother had married at eighteen and had a baby nine months later. She had no knowledge of the human body, modern medicine or doctors. Her head was filled with myth and fear. Giving birth at home was so terrifying for her, she was so positive she was dying, she made sure she never got pregnant again.

She had not done well in school because of dyslexia, something unknown when she was young. She was considered slow and stupid. She would not attend Sunday School for fear someone would ask her to read. She did not apply for jobs because the forms would not make sense. She was smart and quick but could not overcome her old belief that she was less. After I was grown and said to her, “Mother, you know you are smarter than Daddy and me put together,” she just smiled. If only I had been wiser at the time, able to fathom the depths of her needs and given more complements, more hugs, but our family did not do that. Neither parent had been raised with affection. To touch one another was embarrassing; to show emotion was just not done.


Being insecure from the learning disability, unable to reach out into the world for work or friends, and lonely because her husband was distant with a young daughter who was self-absorbed she was lonely. As a child I thought she was the most brilliant, beautiful woman in the world, but how would she know that? I never told her. My father had never known affection with loving parents, how could he be affectionate, something he had never experienced? As a teen and a bride to be I just wanted to escape her smothering presence, her making every decision for me.


Intelligent but not educated, old superstitions were still a part of her. She never overcame the terrible belief that people only went to hospitals to die. If a doctor ever cut on anyone with cancer it would immediately spread uncontrollably. By not calling a doctor about the lesions on her breast, she thought she was saving her life. She had told her husband that she just felt more comfortable sleeping in her bra, but once he saw those scabs peek above the brassiere, he insisted she make an appointment immediately. Well by then the cancer had metastasized and was in every part of her body. The doctors gave her six months. She lived for two years. She was determined to see Randy and his high school sweetheart Nedra married.


By that time, she could no longer walk so the bride and groom drove straight to her home on Ave. D from the wedding, before going to their reception, to spend time with her and tell her all about the wedding. She was dressed and combed in her wheelchair to greet them and took great pleasure in examining Nedra’s wedding dress and getting hugs and kisses.

 

                                                                                                ****

 

Mother was a Colley. Her father, Finus, was a short, cheerful, dried-up little Irishman with soft grey hair, full mustache and feisty blue eyes who loved to have his grandchildren visit. He kept Cokes on hand and insisted we have one as soon as we arrived. Those ice-cold Cokes in a bottle, not a can, a luxury we kids did not have at home, were special treats. He would suggest Coke floats and we would walk with him to the little family run grocery store right across the street on the corner from their house to get the ice cream. He was retired by the time I knew him. He had been head contractor for the largest bank in Ft. Worth for years. He and his crew cared for the varied, multitude of properties owned by the bank. He often spoke about the many restaurant kitchens he would go into to do work. “If you ever saw the filth in those kitchens, you would never eat out again.”

 

Finus had provided a good life for his wife May and their five children. May was a big boned, six-foot-tall solemn woman. Still trim with long black hair that she wore in a bun at the nape of her neck, she had obviously been a handsome girl when young. If we had come for a meal, she would have all burners blazing away on her black and white gas stove on its tall skinny legs in no time. Bowls and pots and pans flew around and a great meal would quickly appear on the table, including a luscious banana pudding made from scratch with eggs and milk and fresh bananas and Nabisco Vanilla Wafers.

 

By the time I married she spent most of her days sitting in front of a gas heater in her sitting room with her long legs crossed so close to the fire they would be all mottled and red. She would be fully dressed in hose and black lace up heels with her long greying hair pulled back in a bun. But that tall stately woman began to withdraw as she stared into the fire day after day. As the years passed there would be a run in her stockings that sagged down around her ankles and her hair would creep out of its bun and hang along her face. Her crossed leg never stopped moving back and forth, back and forth. She had been kicked by a mule when very young and had the horse shoe shaped scar along her temple and above her eye to show for it. Was it that or the boredom of life that eventually lowered her into a complete mental breakdown? Electroshock therapy, that horrifying experience, brought her back to us, but never quite the same.

 

Christmas was celebrated in their big house with its elaborately carved oak trimmed doors and windows. My six cousins ages covered a wide spread. My cousin Celestine and I were the same age and close. Each family brought food for the fifteen to twenty family members. While the women cleaned up and put food away after Christmas dinner the rest of us waited to open gifts. My cousins and I would pore over grandpa’s collection of National Geographic magazines just as my children did years later. Celestine’s mother Marie was near my mother’s age. Wayne was the oldest of Mother’s five sibling’s, Laverne came next then Marie and my mother Charlene. Harold, the youngest of the five, was in the navy during the war. We teenage cousins swooned over his tall, thin handsomeness in his white uniform the year he was home on leave. After dinner and gifts, he took us kids to the corner drugstore for sodas. We sat at the counter and felt all grown up sipping our sodas, my first. The dynamics of that family could fill a book. Interesting people, interesting lives, all gone now.  

 

1947

 ****

When I was young, living at home, we did not have a car so Mother and I would put on our very best hose, heels and sometimes gloves in the glorious days after World War II and catch the bus for downtown Ft. Worth. Mother even wore a hat occasionally. Everyone dressed up to go to town, no sneakers and shorts “Down Town.”

 

The buses were segregated, blacks to the back, as were water fountains and restrooms. Coming home from a shopping trip to town one day, Mother and I sat two rows apart because the bus was very crowded and those were the only seats available when we boarded. As the bus filled up even more, passengers stood and the isles were soon packed. The woman sitting next to me, I was next to the window, got off and a negro woman standing nearby sat down beside me. That just was not permitted. No black person was to sit that far forward on the bus and never sit next to a white person.


“Poor woman, she must be tired after working all day,” I thought. Should I get up? Will Mother be furious with me if I stay seated next to a black woman?” I was torn.


I stayed in my seat and as a young girl, began to think about the ridiculousness of segregation. This woman needed to sit down. Shouldn’t I give up my seat to my elders as I had been taught? But not if she is black?


There were strolling street photographers down town that took your picture and would mail it to you for two or three dollars. I have a picture of my cousin Celestine and me, teenagers all dressed up in heels and hose, the day she and I were first allowed to go down town by ourselves.


Mother and I would meet up with my father at Monnig’s Wholesale where he worked and the three of us would go to lunch. If he was too busy, Mother and I would have Chinese food at our favorite restaurant. Daddy did not eat Chinese. Daddy did not eat a long list of foods and Mother cooked accordingly so she and I loved eating out to have foods we never had at home.


My dad’s sister Hatti introduced us to a hint of Mexican cuisine, something we had never had, by inviting us to dinner one night and making tacos. Even my dad liked them. As my father aged and mellowed, one of the few restaurants he would brave was the Mexican Inn. 


Evenings after dinner, my parents and I listened to the radio, Fibber McGee and Molly, The Shadow and Jack Benny. I did homework while Daddy worked over his report for that day’s sales and readied the samples and swatches for the next day as mother sewed hems or mended socks.


My Father

My father, Virgil, was a quiet gentle man, well-liked by the people he worked for and with. He was barley five foot eleven so of course his nickname was Shorty. He had excellent taste and was always nattily dressed, except when we camped or swam, then he relaxed in swimsuit or shorts and hammed it up with the kids.  He was hired at Monnig’s Wholesale as the elevator operator as a young man during the depression, but was soon promoted to selling merchandise from the floor when customer’s came in. The Monnig’s family recognized his abilities and high standards and after the war they offered him a well-deserved promotion to management. It was rescinded when they discovered that he had only an eighth-grade education. As a young boy he had been pulled out of school to work the farm just as his older siblings had. He was crushed and humiliated. A humble man, he was much too shy to ask for a raise after that and the company used him and his outstanding talents.


Daddy had the intelligence and ability for management. He had read extensively and educated himself. His math skills were excellent. He knew world history and American politics in depth. His interest in science had led to a vast knowledge of our solar system and beyond. After World War II he was eventually given an outside sales position with Monnig’s. Determined to prove himself, he drove his self and worried about the quotas for his large territory. He developed a stomach ulcer and our wonderful southern meals seasoned with bacon drippings gave way to grilled steaks and baked potatoes. Better for all of us, but a jolt just the same.


He became top outside sales rep over the years with little recognition until he retired at sixty-five. They did have a reception for him on his last day and gave him a watch.


My father’s parents, around 1915, had ridden from Arkansas to Oklahoma in a covered wagon to try farming. He was one of six children that worked hard alongside their father on the farm. He said the first car he ever saw, unexpectedly came down their dirt road one day. They all stared in amazement at the sight and noise and the kids all ran out into the road after it passed to smell the fumes.


Their father was a stern domineering man who became violent at times, striking his children and his wife. His children left home as soon as they were of age. My father was next to the youngest, his sister Hattie. My dad and Hattie stayed longer than most of their siblings. They were the “babies” and had not had to work as hard as the older ones and their father had mellowed a little with age. As the depression hit, the four of them, my father, Hattie and their parents, left the rented farm and moved to Ft. Worth, Texas. He said it was so amazing to go to a grocery store and buy a loaf of sliced bread. It was a real treat. All they had ever had was home baked bread. Now, we long for homemade bread. His parents, unaccustomed to city life and homesick for the rural life, returned to McAlister, Oklahoma after a year but Hattie had met Horace Lattimer right away and married and my dad had a good job so they stayed.


 At age twenty-four, Daddy had begun attending a Baptist church where he made friends and, having a good singing voice, sang in a quartet. He met his future wife, handsome, shapely, eighteen-year-old Charlene. He did not have a car so he rode the streetcar for quite a distance after work or on weekends while courting Charlene and when he did not have the few cents to ride, he walked. Sometimes he could afford to ride out but walked home after dark. My parents did not own a car until after the war and Daddy walked the ten miles to and from work in downtown Ft. Worth a few times when there was no change for bus fare. Money was tight for everyone; the depression was still lurking. We were lucky, my father always had work.


Nine months before my birth they had braved blustery March winds ridding in the rumble seat of a 1931 Plymouth from Ft. Worth to just across the Red River into Durant, Oklahoma to be married. No wait for a license in Oklahoma. The car belonged to sister Hatti and her husband Horace. The two couples shared a house that first year of my parent’s marriage and loved to tell the story of “When the lights went out.” At eight months pregnant, my mother was always hungry. One night, all four were carrying food to the table for dinner when the power went off. Everyone froze except Mother who tripped and spilled the entire plate of French fries onto the floor. As the lights quickly came back on, there was Mother on all fours cramming French fries into her mouth as fast as she could.


I was obviously marked during those nine months with my passion for French fries. For that matter, my love of food rules. Food is seldom from my mind. I finish breakfast and am planning lunch.


My parents adored one another until the very end. As the hearse pulled away from the little shotgun house on Ave. D with my mother’s body, my father stood on the porch with family and friends and said, “You plan and work for the future your whole life, work hard for the rewards of the future and the future is now. Gone.”


Family Rescue

1972

****

When I took the job at Pangburn’s, our family life began deteriorating into quarrels and yelling at one another about who didn’t do their chores or who did them wrong. The children had always had a few chores while growing up but I had done most everything to keep the house and family going, so when I went to work and told everyone I would need some help, they were not happy. I was working full time, practicing my typing after dinner, helping with homework, doing laundry, shopping, cleaning, - - -  I was not happy.


I had been with Pangburn’s for four years when Nedra, my daughter-in-law, called me at work to say there was a position with the state-owned Mental Health Mental Retardation where she worked. MHMR provided multiple workshops across Tarrant County for the disabled and there was a job opening in the workshop near our home for assistant to the manager. Better pay, shorter commute, Nedra thought the job would be perfect for me.


By then Randy was married, Mike was attending Jr. College, living in Paris Texas, so the three girls and I took care of household duties and chores. We resented that their father did not help and they quarreled among themselves, blaming one another.


I began the new job as assistant to the manager of the workshop and had a great group of people to work with. We had fun and working with the handicapped was challenging and rewarding. My job was workshop invoicing and receivables, forms, correspondence and reporting to the main office.

I confided my family’s issues to the social workers at our workshop. They came to my rescue and designed a Behavior Modification program for my annoyed family so that we might become friends again. It really worked, except for Joe of course. He simply refused to take part. He refused to learn how to do any of the tasks, but the rest of us gathered to discuss that we hated the way we were living and if the program might bring a little relief, they were willing to try it.


It did help and life at home became a little more pleasant, but Joe’s refusal to help was just another thing that took my respect and admiration for him down, down, down. Many years later I realized that his idea of husband and father was modeled after his father. The man of the house did not do chores. He earned the living and was revered and everyone laughed at his jokes at the dinner table. Everything at home revolved around him and others did household tasks. Joe felt he should be catered to, like his father had been. He felt it was demeaning for him to have to help around the house. When family members gathered on holidays, if there were too many to fit around the table at once, we occasionally fed the children first and then we adults ate. Joe lamented that while he was growing up, he and the other children had to wait until the men were seated and served before they could eat. “When is it my time? I had to wait then and take the scraps and now I have to wait like second best.”


Counseling

After going to work outside the home September of 1968, I tried two or three times to discuss with Joe my distress about our relationship, about my work load. He simply was not interested in discussion. I had worked for three years when I finally said I was considering divorce. He suggested counseling and I eagerly agreed. For five years, off and on, different counselors ripped him up one side and down the other. Some more gently than others, but they all left him confused. They gave nothing to help him understand and make changes. They simply showed amazement that he didn’t understand that he and I needed to be partners in raising a family.


“Didn’t you hear your wife when she said she needed help, when she said she was unhappy?” one psychologist asked Joe.


“Sure, but you know how women are, they just talk,” He replied.


The multiple counselors we went to off and on for the last five years of our marriage asked him about my complaint that he slept so much.


“Are you depressed?” “Do you sleep to escape your family life?” “Are you unhappy in your marriage?”


“No.” No was his answer to all of those.


“Have you been to the doctor? Do you not feel well?”


“No, I feel fine.”


“Are you tired?”


“No, I just like to sleep.”


“Your wife is concerned that you don’t interact with your children very much.”


“I’m uncomfortable being affectionate with the girls. I’m afraid something will happen.”


“You mean something sexual?”


“Yea, I might get aroused.”


“Do your girls arouse you? Do you think of them in that way?”


“No, I’m just afraid it will.”


This from a man who could hardly get an erection. Who ejaculated almost before intercourse began. Amazing how we had five children. I swear the fifth was Immaculate Conception. There was so little between us by then I truly do not know how that happened.

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