The phone rang sometime in the middle of the night. Our parents came to our bedroom and told us that Nate had shot himself and they were going to the hospital. Neither my sister nor I had any reaction whatsoever, we were neither sad nor surprised.
After our parents left for the hospital, we talked about our lack of surprise and emotion being because there was always some kind of drama associated with Nate and Margaret. Maggie and Nate were my parent’s best friends. My sister and I were very close to Maggie and loved her as we would a favorite aunt. Nate doted on my sister and I thought she was attached to him but she confided that the older she got, the less comfortable she felt around him. I, too, had grown less and less fond of him as I got old enough to be wary of the behaviors of adults. Still, Nate and Maggie always treated us like we were their own children. They had two of their own close to my brother’s and my ages and our families were very close. It was always as if they belonged in our extended family and we in theirs. We visited with Maggie’s parents and younger siblings in rural east Texas where they lived in a small house with an outhouse. Everyone called her mother “Big Mama”, even though she was small, most likely because she “ruled the roost”. Big Mama and Maggie were both freckle-faced with reddish hair, had wonderful laughs and were very loving. Every morning, Big Mama would cook up a big breakfast with bacon, eggs, homemade biscuits and cold fresh milk. When we were in east Texas, we would also visit Nate’s mother who was a tall stoic woman but the visits were confined to an hour or two.
Nate was possessive and controlling not only of his wife and children but of my mother as well which always made me feel uncomfortable. At times when they were all drinking, most often with another couple in their group, there would be arguments started by Nate or Joe, our previous next door neighbor. Nate would act as my mother’s protector even from my father always making me feel unstable. Joe also interfered in my parent’s marriage, always kept tabs on my mother and I can recall him playing tattle tale to my dad. All of this chaos disturbed me especially as I have always been hyper-vigilant, feeling a need to know everything going on around me in order to stay safe.
My dad was raised in the Church of Christ and his family were devout members. My mother joined the faith when she married my dad. It was attractive to her as her father was an alcoholic and Church of Christ did not allow drinking or much of anything else. Things for me went to “hell in a hand-basket when my parents met Nate and Maggie and Joe and Gayle. My parents started drinking and there were too many late nights with our parents getting drunk, flirting and getting loud and obnoxious. I was uncomfortable with the couples dancing with each others’ wives and husbands. There were times when the men would want to dance with me which really made me uncomfortable. I look back now and realize that even as an adult, I was uncomfortable with older men possibly related to my grandfather’s sexual abuse. The parents would sometimes put the kids to bed at whatever house we gathered and often left us over night. Sometimes my parents would put my brother, sister and I in the car as they were getting ready to leave and left us there for what seemed to us like hours most likely thinking we would fall asleep. I always imagined that terrible things happened in the house while we were in the car and they were in the house because their behavior frightened me. I didn’t like it at all. I was hyper-vigilant as a child and still am in adulthood. I got through a lot of my life by using daydreaming as an escape.
Maggie’s brother and sister-in-law were killed in an automobile accident and they had five surviving children. Nate talked Maggie into adopting the five kids. Mom says it was to tie Maggie down to the house because he was jealous of her job working as a dental assistant. Their house was too small for their two children (a boy and a girl) and the addition of three girls and two boys but there wasn’t enough money to buy a larger house. They argued about how overtaxed they were quite often and one night it got really heated. Nate told Maggie that he would take care of things seeing that she had a bigger house. He went into the garage and shot himself in the head leaving her to raise seven kids alone.
Continued Part Two