My parents were avid members of the Church of Christ when I was very young. They did not drink but I have almost no memory of those days most likely due to the molestations. I blocked out much of my early childhood due to having been molested by my grandfather and a babysitting church member as well as having been prompted in sexual acts by a neighborhood teenage boy. I only mention the molestation as it relates to the lack of memory
As I have written before, my parents started hanging around with people a group of young couples that like them had stable family lives. That is, until they were romanced by the feeling of freedom that alcohol gave them. I could see my parents becoming wilder with every get-together. They were functional but spent a lot of time with these friends, two of which died tragically. While I grew to hate (strong word that I normally don’t use) the two men, I loved and love the two women. I am not going to get into the details of that scene but if you are interested, read my post “Dramatic Exits”. Suffice it to say that I was confused at the change in my parents’ behavior.
My father was an industrial painter/sandblaster and he traveled. If the company paid for his lodging, we went too and sometimes my mother would leave us behind and go be with my father over a weekend. I had separation anxiety so I hated it when my mother was away. I was known to cry when she was leaving and she would end up taking me with her. I still have separation anxiety but that is a whole other subject.
When I was around 9, we lived briefly out of state where my dad was working. My mom, siblings and I went to Texas for a holiday and were staying with this neighbor and his wife. They put all of us kids to bed and went to a New Year’s Eve party in the neighborhood. Being my vigilant self, I stayed awake in self-protective mode. I became aware that mom and this neighbor had come into the house and were arguing. According to him, my mother was flirting with one of the neighbors who was married and he was lecturing her. Mom had come back to the house because she was determined to leave and go spend the night at her mother’s house. She was going to leave us at the neighbor’s house. I started to cry so mom took me with her. When we got to my grandmother’s house, she and my grandmother argued about my mother screwing up and running home to mama. When we got to another couple’s house where my siblings ended up, mom stayed in the house leaving me in the car for a long time. Eventually she came out and it was obvious that all was forgiven and we headed back to my dad. When we got back to my Dad, my mom left the house and my Dad went looking for her. When they got back, I heard them arguing and the name of a man my father worked with was mentioned. At the time, I thought my mother cheated on my dad with this co-worker of my dad’s. When I left my ex-husband after he gave me a black eye, my mother told me that she had found a woman’s panties somewhere behind the house. She says that my Dad and his co-worker had two women to our house. She said he was the first to cheat. Because it was my mother’s way not to say anything negative about my dad to us or to allow us to speak negatively about him, she allowed him to expose her infidelity to us but never told us that he was the first to cheat. We moved back to Texas when Dad’s contract was up.
As relationships developed, I became aware of some pretty ugly stuff. One of the men, our next-door neighbor, beat my mother at a hotel where she was supposedly attending a business meeting. I don’t know the truth of the situation but her story is that he followed her there because he thought she was having an affair and beat her up. The story doesn’t make sense and I think it is probable that my mother was indeed having an affair. My memory of that night is spotty as is typical of my early memories When my dad came home we three kids were in bed. My mother was crying and I heard her telling him what happened. My dad went over to their house, through the garage and into their back door. Our three bedroom house was fairly small and the houses in the neighborhood were close that I could hear the scuffle. I can’t tell you how that ended but I can tell you my dad had a quick temper. My parents and that couple did not speak for a long time until their young son who was close to my mother, came over and told mom that his mother wanted her to come over and have coffee. It was a ruse on his part but that started the forgiveness process. I still can’t believe that my parents would forgive what happened.
Later, we ended up moving because my parents felt that the man was too intrusive. Once, he called our house and told my father that my mom was having an affair; he had been spying on her. I was on the other end of the line eavesdropping. As I have said before, I was and am hyper-vigilant, you can see why. I wish I could tell you that eventually the relationship between these people and my parents ended but though it has waned and they rarely see each other, my mother still visits with them periodically. My mother says I should forgive this man because it was all blamed on alcohol but he is one person that I cannot be around, he has always made me feel uncomfortable.
As a preteen, I spent the night with my aunt and her niece once and we were talking girl talk. I told them that this man raped my mother because that is what I believed. Needless to say, she told my uncle who was my mother’s brother and he told my parents. I had a “talking to” about telling family business or some such thing but I am not sure that anything was explained to me at that time. That may be when I was told that he was the reason we moved.
My parents graduated to joining the Elk’s Club and hanging with other partying couples so things started to get worse. By then, my mother had worked at several jobs and was working in retail. She got her jobs by knowing people since we lived in a small town. She worked late hours in a nearby town so I became surrogate parent and wife (not sexually). My dad took me to the store where I bought groceries. I cooked his breakfast, made his lunches, ironed his clothes, my sister and I cleaned house, and I cooked family meals, if you could call them meals. I was not in an abusive situation but I was resentful. As my mother’s emotional distance with my dad and her drinking escalated, he would talk to me about his suspicions that she was being unfaithful. I hated it! I didn’t want adult responsibilities and confidences, I wanted the innocence I could never remember having. I wanted the parents I never remembered having. I wanted them to want to know that I wasn’t o.k., to ask how school was, what was happening in my life, why did I miss so much school but they were so caught up in their own growing up that my siblings and I were being left behind. Thank God, the parents of my best friend who lived in the same neighborhood treated me as one of their own and my parents treated her as one of their own so I had some guidance. Eventually, my dad caught my mother with another man and came home and told my siblings and me all the details. I can’t believe that when my mother came home, she was unhappy with him but as I remember, we still went to our lake house for the weekend, so confusing. As the arguments progressed, my father left and went to stay with his mother. Mom was out a lot and when she came home was usually drunk. My dad tried to talk us into going to live with him at my grandmother’s house and we felt guilty because we were very attached to our mother and didn’t want to leave our home. I repeated that same loyalty with my abusive ex-husband.
My dad ended up in a hospital with tuberculosis he contracted from a co-worker. He was in the hospital for several months and supposedly he and my mother reconciled. However, her children knew that she was still cheating on him. My mother has admitted to me that she prostituted herself. I was told later by my sister-in-law that Mom had sex in return for alcohol. She actually introduced us to a man she was having an affair with and we were very uncomfortable. My dad says the man eventually “dumped her”. While he was in the hospital, my dad called me at the teen club to ask where my mother was. I was embarrassed and resentful. Before he went into the hospital, he told me that my mother couldn’t love me or she wouldn’t be neglecting me as she was because Mom hadn’t picked us up from the swimming pool. Dad later denied to my mother ever having said this; my own father called me a liar. I know that my mother loved me but she was not present in the lives of my siblings and I. She came into my room while I was in bed one night and kissed me on the forehead and said, “Goodbye”. According to my brother, she had been out with the guy she was having an affair with and apparently decided to leave us . She didn’t and I’m assuming she realized that emotionally she could not leave her children. I am unsure as to what her thought process was but she didn’t leave. That she didn’t leave does not remove the feeling of abandonment but I suppose in a way, she had left a long time before that.
I felt suffocated, so suffocated by my father! So much so that when he came home from the hospital and I was at home sick (again), I cried when he walked through the door. He thought I was crying because I was happy to see him but it was just the opposite. I resented his coming home because I felt burdened. He even laid down in my sister’s twin bed in order to spend time with me. I know how this sounds but I wanted to scream. I know that I should have felt sympathy and been glad he was out of the hospital but I was emotionally smothered. Perhaps as I look at it now, his presence forced me to acknowledge my own feelings that I was stuffing or ignoring about what was going on with my mother.
My emotional growth and maturity was stunted at that time, age 15. I couldn’t cry for a year. The next time I cried was when my parents talked divorce one night while the three of us were on our way out to dinner. It was the first time I spoke out. I told them how stupid they were being and that there had to be something that brought and held them together. I was 16 at that time. I wish I could tell you that the cheating stopped but it continued well into my adulthood.
Mom was quite a flirt especially when she was drinking and it was an embarrassment. My dad would just laugh and say, “That girl!” She would act my age when my friends were around so they thought she was cool but I wanted a real mother.
My dad’s friends, who I suspect were his friends to have an excuse the be around her, would come by our house unexpectedly when my dad was not at home. We lived off the beaten path so were they “just in the neighborhood”? as they proclaimed? I think not! My sister and I would sit in the room with them as baby-sitters so that my mom could not have sex with them. No, she wouldn’t do that with us in the house but we were still vigilant. Oddly, my sister and I never knew that we were both doing the babysitting thing until we were adults.
Continued Part Two