This is such a long deep subject, that I’m not sure where to begin-so I think I’ll just dive in headfirst-you know like I do everything else in life..
Let me start of by saying that My Mom’s Mom (my Maternal Grandmother, Edna) left my Mom and her siblings when my Mom was in the 8th grade. So, my Mom dropped out of school and helped take care of her siblings. My Dad was passed from relative to relative while my Paternal Grandmother (Donna) tried to find what SHE was looking for in life. It was a different time and a different place and those are separate stories in themselves, but you have to know a little back-story to MY back-story.
My Mom and Dad met when my Mom was a counter girl at Hafley’s Drugstore and my Dad was a soldier at Ft. Leonard Wood. About 30 miles from Rolla where I was raised. He used to leave her notes on napkins and flirt with her when he came to Rolla on the weekends. She was young, naive and full of stories from Old Hollywood movies and looking for a way out of an unhappy home life and she fell for him, hook, line and sinker. She also found herself pregnant and unmarried at 19. Not saying that my Dad was a total ass. He was only 21 and footloose and fancy free and didn’t have any example of a great home life to base a relationship on but then neither did she. I know there are lots of stories that were whispered around me when I was a kid, about bar fights, wrecked cars and various and assorted illegal activities. One of those stories was one night my dad told my Mom that he had to pull guard duty and couldn’t come to Rolla. So my Mom went out with her brother Bob and his girlfriend (soon to be wife) Sandi (the Mom and Dad of my cousin Leisa-my favorite partner in crime!) and they went to Dean’s Air Castle. Now luck would have it that as they were walking in the front door my Mom say my Dad with another woman (Erma Pierce-small world, Erma was the sister of Larry who ended up being Leisa’s best friend in the whole world, besides me, of course) so Mom being the victim felt totally justified in rushing up to the couple who was trying to make an escape out the back door and help them along by pushing them both down the stairs. But the end game is they got married in January of ’58 and my brother was born in April. By then my dad was out of the Army (don’t know what the basis was-but again, it wasn’t good) and he and my Mom moved to Arizona where his family lived and he worked for his Aunt Willie’s Electric Company and wasn’t it convenient that she also owned a bar? One story that I do know is my Mom caught wind of him messing around with one of the local girls and piled all of my dads clothes out in the front yard (and his cowboy boots as the story goes) and torched them. I was born in a Doctors office in Eloy Arizona in March of ’59. Ahh, nothing like mixing alcohol with, immaturity and a little violence, add a couple of babies and apparently great make-up sex (ewww, this is my parents we are talking about here…) By April of 1960 we were living back in Rolla and my sister Darren was born. My Dad went to work for United Telephone Company thanks to my Cousin Leisa’s Gram, Vivian. We lived in a two bedroom house on South Olive and I remember every now and then my Mom would come in and wake us up and load us in the car and we would settle down in the back seat with pillows and blankets and go from bar to bar with Mom going in looking for Dad.
I remember lots of loud voices, and fights. We moved to a stucco house on Woodland Drive and I went to kindergarten and the year I started 1st grade Leisa moved to ElPaso and my heart broke. Shortly after,we moved out to the country and the bar visits stopped. Or at least we stopped going to look for him. I remember when his truck or car would come flying up the lane we would run out of the house and into the woods and hideout in the treehouse. If we were inside, we would go upstairs and be really, really quiet. You didn’t have to DO anything, you just had to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and off his belt would come and you would get your ass beat.. Good times. My Mother would stand to the side and wring her hands, and plead with him to stop. “Don, DON, please STOP!” While he had you by the arm and was making you dance around in a circle trying to get away from his belt, which in later years turned into a razor strop.
In my 30’s I was trying to make sense out of some of the “bad judgement calls” I had made and I was talking about my childhood with my Mom and she told me that she could never leave him because she loved him more than anything. “Well, That Ain’t Love, I believe you’ve got the wrong emotion, No, that Ain’t love, at least it doesn’t seem like love to me. ” (REO Speedwagon) When I questioned he LETTING him beat the holy shit out of us, she told me that she didn’t have any choice, that there was no where else she could go and they didn’t have the assistance programs they have today and besides she was always afraid of what she would end up with next. The Devil you know is better than the Devil you don’t….
Let me just interject here that as a Woman who raised 2 children by myself for most of their lives, I will tell you that it was DAMN HARD, but by God it can be done and I would have killed to have protected my children from some ASSHOLE who was BEATING them just because he was drunk and in a pissy mood. I’m not talking about spanking, I’m talking BEATING, raising welts on the backs of your legs and butt so that you can’t even sit down and the best part is you don’t even know why.
Actually, I think the best part was years later, floating in my pool with my Dad (now old, sober and unscary-No way he could catch me now..) sitting under an umbrella drinking iced tea telling a friend of mine, who was sitting at the table next to him that the only thing he ever had to do was LOOK at his kids and they would jump-the way they hopped to it you would think he used to beat them and he had only had to spank them twice in our lives. I though I was going to explode and I’m glad that Leisa wasn’t there because she would have. I always envied her and as I tell the stories of my teens/twenties/thirties, there were SO many times that I got myself out of really bad and potentially dangerous situations by asking myself, “What would Leisa Do?” Funny huh? Most people have the WWJD? bracelets-my savior has always been channeling Leisa. Ever since I was little. Someone bullying someone else? I could HEAR her saying “What the Fuck do you think you are doing?” and the words would just flow out of my mouth. Sometimes I would react before I would think about the consequences, I can still taste the blood in my mouth from Kathy Warga’s fist connecting with my face. But I always managed to land on my feet , or in this case STAY on my feet while Kenny Pogue pulled her off of me drawling, “Aww, Come on now, Kathy, don’t you think she’s had enough?” while he put his arm around my shoulder and walked me off the battlefield. God Love Kenny Pogue. Bad marriage? I’d tell myself “Leisa wouldn’t put up with this shit!” and I’d leave. Did I have a plan, hell no, but to quote another quite famous Aries, “Tomorrow’s another Day”