Marriage Myths Six


How you carry your childhood baggage is more important than the fact that you have any. “Nobody escapes childhood without some crazy buttons and triggers, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great relationship,”John Gottman says.

Tom Bradbury, PhD, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, coined the phrase enduring vulnerabilities for these historical triggers. Certain words and actions might dig up old feelings and provoke a reaction. Make sure you and your partner understand what sets the other off, and avoid those weaknesses.

Circumstances from your past could also prompt what psychologists call projective identification- an example is taking something from your childhood and applying it to your partner. If you had a distant cold parent, for instance, you might assume  your partner is being distant and cold too. Instead of blaming your partner’s character, explain how the actions make you feel and what he or she can do to help you feel better.

I knew a man who was so eat up with his emotional baggage that he ran the gamut from tears to violence. He used braggadocio and alcohol to cover his feelings and built a very high wall believing it would protect him from emotional pain. One never knew what would trigger his anger and/or violence. While I understood how his background played into his emotions and actions, there was nothing I could do to change it. While I was somewhat of a balm for his pain, he often saw me not as myself but as his mother.

When I met Danny, I was shocked to find that he was very much in touch with his emotions. He would let me know when I hurt his feelings rather than do the “macho” thing of acting like nothing bothered him. I fell so in love with this man! I felt safe with him because I didn’t have to guess about how he was feeling and there was no fear that I would unknowingly touch off a spark that would cause him to physically harm me.

Eventually, Danny grew tired of all the analyzing we did through counseling and discussions. That was when I began learning to lighten up in the realization that both of our lives had been so full of drama that it was stifling our relationship. We both still have things that can trigger a negative response but the truth is that we cannot judge each other with our individual pasts.

Enjoy life with your spouse! Don’t judge him/her based on your past, instead see them for the person you know them to be. Look for the good and give him/her a pass when they exhibit human behaviors. No one has a perfect marriage but we can come darn close.



Marriage Myths Five


Men aren’t from Mars and women aren’t from Venus; we’re all from Earth. As it turns out, “men are just as in touch with their emotions as women,” Julie Gottman says. “On the other hand, some women are very reluctant to express their negative emotions. So it balances out. There are more similarities than the culture generally believes.

A study in Cognition and Emotion found that when women thought long term about their lives, they reported themselves as more emotional than men. But when participants rated their emotions on a moment-to-moment basis, the gender differences disappeared. Your cultural upbringing and family environment have a much bigger influence on your willingness to express your emotions than your X or Y chromosome, the Gottmans say.

When I was single, I fell in with the old double standard that women were sluts if they slept around but men were expected to. However, I had male friends who informed me that men don’t like to wake up alone either.

While my divorce was in progress, I had a situation with a fellow student. I was so angry but when I talked with the instructor about it, I couldn’t stop crying. What I learned that day is that women who have been taught that to show anger will get you labeled as a bitch will cry rather that exhibit anger. I also had a mother who could not deal with emotion so she always said, “Stop crying or don’t cry.”Then when I looked back at my then marriage, I realized that men are taught that it isn’t “manly” to cry so they exorcise their tears with anger.

Thank God both women and men are slowly “coming out” so to speak. Men are claiming the right to be in touch with their emotions and women are claiming the right to show  anger. I have found that I have been saddled with gender beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Its difficult to blame your parents when they were subjected to the same beliefs.  Sometimes I see the roles exhibited by our parents but more I see Danny and I working together for a common goal.



Failing to See the Forest for the Trees

My husband and I have had many discussions about minorities and he is helping me to understand that so much anger is brought about by not having the financial, emotional and educational support necessary to achieve more. I have often made the point that we all have the same opportunities even if we have to apply for federal grant or aid money. His answer is that the passive attitude borne of oppression is passed down from parent to child resulting in lack of motivation.

Because my husband is a minority in that he is Hispanic, he does understand the struggle. We see it in different ways – I want to say “What is done cannot be undone, let’s move on.” He implies that the hurt is too deep to just dismiss.

African Americans were brought to this country against their will, enslaved, objectified and some were horribly abused, I get that. Then I look at the treatment of the Jewish at the hands of the Germans and the Japanese Americans at the hands of Americans and wonder that those two peoples have overcome anger in order to find peace within themselves.

I think it may be the way the Jewish and the Asian Americans talk to their children about the oppression they experienced. Could they be passing it on much as a history lesson expressing how they felt at the time but without bitterness? Everything I have ever read on the subject suggests such. I don’t feel bitterness today from the Jewish or Asian Americans but I do feel it from some older Americans who fought in the war against Japan. I have not let that bitterness rub off on me just as I did not allow my grandfather to turn me against African Americans.

When my husband and I have these discussions, I want to cut them short when I feel discomfort. Yet I know it is because I don’t want to acknowledge the pain that discrimination brings on everyone.

However, life does not always come out even so many of us have to work harder at accomplishments with the hands we have been dealt. We may not always get exactly where we want to go but we can get to a good place. What we want may not be what is best for us or what will make us truly happy. I don’t see a problem with being satisfied with our lives, in fact, I think we can be happier having time to stop and smell the roses and to enjoy quality time with our families making do with less rather than constantly pushing ourselves to do more, be more and have more.

So what does this have to do with discrimination? Perhaps those who of us who feel discriminated against, no matter what race, mental ability, capabilities, education, might ask ourselves if we are letting small minded people keep us down. After all, we cannot change others, we can only change how we react to them.



Anti-Depressants and Psychotherapy

I have had people tell me that they do not want to take anti-depressant medication because it will cause them to be unable to cry. I would suggest that anyone who has this experience should check with their doctors or get honest with themselves. I have been on anti-depressants for many, many years and I have no problem crying when emotion calls for it yet I do not cry constantly with no clearly discernible reason as often happens with untreated depression.


Many people do not understand that depression is not always situational. There are those of us who have a chemical imbalance that brings about depressive  symptoms. When depression is situational, most people are able to stop therapy or taking anti-depressants after the situation comes to a resolution or they come to terms with the outcome of the situation. However, please be aware that getting off anti-depressants is not something that should be done without the guidance of a medical doctor, psychotherapist or psychiatrist who will instruct the patient in the best way to taper off the medication.

I have a friend who refused to take anti-depressants because she didn’t like the way they made her feel. I spent time with her after our not seeing each other for a while and she was like a different person. She was happy, positive and upbeat because her doctor put her on an anti-depressant that worked for her. My sister has gone off her anti-depressants from time to time because she is very health conscious and didn’t want to take pills. She has gone back on them every time because if you need them, you need them. Unfortunately, there are times that a person has to try several different anti-depressants until the right one for them is found. It is understandable that one would get frustrated and want to give up but when the right medication is found, it is worth the necessary journey. There are anti-depressants that I cannot take because I metabolize medications slowly or because they aren’t a good fit for one reason or another. The medication my friend has found that works so well for her is one that I cannot take. I have had it prescribed and/or suggested by doctors because it would seem to be the perfect medication for me but it has the undesired of inhibiting my focus.

Another thing about anti-depressants not always understood is that it is sometimes beneficial to change to a different brand or strength after a period of time. I have changed several times over the years because there is a more current, more effective or more beneficial drug or strength for me.

I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.

There seems to be a stigma about psychotherapy just as there is about anti-depressants. That stigma can be quite dangerous because depression can14867860-broken-heart-carried-on-a-stretcher-by-box-men destroy not only one’s quality of life but can destroy one’s life itself. I have also heard that some will stop psychotherapy because there comes a point when they cannot stop crying. This is a valid point because emotions that have been stuffed inside or ignored are released by talking through experiences or opening up about thoughts and/or needs. This phenomena is referred to as “getting your feelings” and is an important point in therapy. Rather than being something to be avoided, it is a desired effect of therapy.

Anti-depressants are so widely prescribed these days that some researchers think that the symptoms could be caused by poor diet, lack of sleep or evolving changes in the environment. I believe those could be valid causes as I also  believe that the tendency to have depression can be passed down from generation to generation as mine seems to have been. In Ala-non, we learn that when you have a sudden and/or temporary change in mood or experience depression-like symptoms, you might ask yourself if you are hungry, lonely or tired. I have found that any one of these three conditions will cause me to experience a temporary anger or depression.

If you are hesitant to seek treatment for your depression, I encourage you to re-visit your decision by doing research and having a discussion with a physician or psychiatrist. You may be in serious trouble long before the realization hits you or even worse, it may not hit you until it is too late.



So You Think You’ve Escaped Alcoholism

2592So you think you’ve escaped alcoholism, not a chance. You don’t have to be an alcoholic to be effected by alcoholism.

Alcoholism affects everyone who comes in contact with an alcoholic. It could be a parent, a sibling, a relative, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, child, or a co-worker. That is why Ala-non, is a support group for families and friends of alcoholics not just families of alcoholics. You may not have the disease but I can say that you have the ism’s  without ever having met you.

It is said that alcoholism is a family disease and I believe it with all my heart. I grew up in an alcoholic home. Why do I call it an alcoholic home? Does that mean that all my family members were alcoholics? No, our home revolved around my alcoholic mother because her actions or in-actions affected every one of us. Our emotional make-up developed around coping with her drinking and the effect it had on us. I like to see my mother as having alcoholism rather than as an alcoholic but it is my habit to use the term alcoholic which is unfortunately a label. She grew up in an alcoholic home just like I did.  I have the utmost love and strive to understand because but for the grace of God, go I. As alcoholism is said to be genetic, I could have followed in her footsteps. I am lucky, I don’t like the taste of alcohol and yet I am unlucky in that I don’t like not having control. Why is that unlucky? Because I have to fight the tendency to control everything around me to ensure that it doesn’t give me that feeling of not having control over my life and to avoid the helpless feelings I had growing up. I also believe it is a learned behavior, we do what we know and alcoholism is what we know.

That is why even though you think you have escaped the parent or ex, you are wrong. You were affected and I can prove it.

Do you have problems with authority figures?e75f70e61261afa370d84fcbf1da6be7

Do you have problems getting along with others?

Do you have control issues?

Is your relationship picker broken?

Are you hyper-vigilant?

Do you fight depression?

Do you lack confidence?

Are you an under or over achiever?

Are you a people-pleaser?

Are you a care taker?

Are you a fixer?

There are many other symptoms but I’m sure you get it and you know which one of these have developed in you.

In my work as a Crisis Call Counselor, I could pretty much bet that regardless of the crisis, the conversation would eventually reveal that the caller had been affected by alcoholism, either theirs or someone in their past or present life. I consider alcoholism an “emotional” disease because it can bring about anger, sadness, depression, resentment, etc. in the alcoholic or those affected by a person’s drinking. The reason persons affected by another person’s drinking are considered to be co-dependent is that while the alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, the affected person is addicted to the alcoholic. I have had so many friends, boyfriends and a husband who were addicted to alcohol and in the beginning of the relationship, I didn’t know there was a problem. It’s like a magnet! I have friends in Ala-non who say it is because alcoholics are charismatic and exciting. Perhaps we see something in their personalities that we wish we had.

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I’m not with him/her any more, so I don’t need Ala-non.” I have thought that myself but I always end up going back because my ism’s become overwhelming. This post is not meant to advertise or push Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics, yet it is what I know so I do highly recommend them. Just like the person with alcoholism, only you can decide that you need help and what support is best for you. I have been told, “When it hurts bad enough, you will get help.”

“Co-dependent No More” by Melody Beattie is a really good book for understanding the effects of alcoholism. I read this book like a person dying of thirst drinks water. It told me that I was not crazy and there was hope.

People addicted to alcohol and/or drugs will to try to convince others that it is your fault, don’t take it on. Think 3 C’s – You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it. Seeking help is nothing to be ashamed of, alcoholism in you or someone else is not your fault but it is your responsibility. If you are afraid of the alcoholic becoming angry because you are seeking help, 12 step support groups are anonymous as is therapy. If you go to a meeting or see a therapist and you are not comfortable with the environment or personalities, try another meeting or therapist. There are many meetings and therapists available. If you are in a remote area, I understand that there are meetings online. Just do an Internet search of Ala-non or Adult Children of Alcoholics. There are two daily readers, One Day at a Time in Ala-non and Courage to Change that are utilized by Ala-Non. I find ODAT (nickname) useful when you are in a relationship with an alcoholic and Courage to Change is a good all-around book. I mostly use Courage to Change and it seems to be a favorite among recovering Ala-Non’s. Before using these books, it would be helpful to do some research on alcoholism. People active in Ala-Non attend open AA meetings to learn what the person with alcoholism experiences.

I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.

Whatever you decide to do, know that you are not alone. Everything you have experienced, someone else has experienced. It helps to talk with other people who are experiencing the same thing or who have been there and survived.

There is always hope.



Emil – Part Three


When I worked at Galveston Police Department...
When I was employed by the Galveston Police Department…

     Emil’s affect on our lives did not end there. When I was employed by the police department in Galveston, I came across information revealing that my grandfather had been arrested for child molestation of a young girl. I notified the evidence technician that the “subject” was dead. I will never forget his kindness. He asked me how I knew the man and I told him that he had been my grandfather. He looked at me with kindness and said ” We can choose our friends but we can’t choose our family.” He told me he would take care of removing the information from the files. Now don’t think he did anything illegal, once a person is deceased, the files are archived. He, of course, checked with the Bureau of Vital Statistics for verification and date of death. I voted for that him when he ran for sheriff 30+ years later, he won.

My aunt was angry that the judge dismissed the charges.
My aunt was angry that the judge dismissed the charges.

     Late one night, I received a call from my mother’s sister who was intoxicated and crying. She knew I was in therapy and wanted to know if she could get help. She told me that her father had molested her repeatedly when she was growing up and she went to live with one of her relatives. She said that she told my mother at the time and my mother wouldn’t believe her. I think it is more accurate to say that my mother was in denial, she didn’t want to believe. As her life progressed, my aunt became more and more inappropriate. She had an affair openly with a married man whose wife supposedly knew, she was into porn which would have been her business if others didn’t have to hear about it, she made a bride’s care package for me that included a used vibrator and various other gross objects (I refused to open it in front if others because I knew it couldn’t be good and trashed the whole thing), and she would say things for “shock” value.  I loved her very much even though she was often the source of much embarrassment. I believe that she was tortured by the reality of what life dealt her including a failed marriage due to sexual issues. Anyway, I revealed to my aunt that Grandpa had also molested his granddaughters and that I learned that he had been arrested on charges of child molestation. She was angry when she told me that the “stupid” judge dismissed the charges and how she had wanted her father to go to jail. Galveston was pretty corrupt at the time so who knows what the judge was thinking. She also said that being in the bedroom next to my grandparents (the walls were very thin), she knew that he was perverted and forceful with my grandmother and gave me details. I have the ability to talk, write and hear about almost anything with detachment; perhaps my aunt had that same ability.

My parents believed that the little girl was lying.
My parents believed that the little girl was lying.

I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that my aunt would run straight to my mother with what she had learned, probably not out of support for me and my sister or to comfort my mother but more to say “I told you so.” A few days later, I got a call from my mother who asked that I come talk to her. I hope to reveal the details of that conversation at a later date but she did deny that she knew about my grandfather’s Pedophilia. She said that we didn’t seem to show any effects of his having molested us because we never acted like we didn’t want to be around him. O.K. so if you didn’t suspect him of being a child molester, why did you watch us for signs of his having molested us or did I over-analyze her reasoning? My mom told me at that time that my father had been the one to bail my grandfather out of jail when he was arrested. She said they believed that the girl was lying. Of course they did! I believe that Mom was the one who was lying, at least to herself. Denial? My father always appeared to be a bit naive or we were just stupid, not sure which. I know that my mother kept things from my dad about her children and her father. Honestly, I feel anger towards my father for never protecting us, for his not wanting to see things that could or did affect us. I will talk about that in another post.

My mother was uncomfortable putting flowers on her father's grave in my presence.
My mother was uncomfortable putting flowers on her father’s grave in my presence.

I feel sad for my mother because she had to accept what her father really was. I believe that she always knew but her love would not allow her to acknowledge, even to herself, that her father molested children. My sister asked that my mother remove the picture of her mother and father from the wall in her house. I was proud of my sister for asking because she is one to give of herself to others no matter the cost to herself. Forgiveness is her mantra. In spite of supporting my sister, I sense my mother’s pain at believing that she had to remove the only thing she had left to symbolize normalcy regarding her parents. Once when I went to the cemetery with my mother to visit my dad’s grave, Mom downplayed putting flowers on her father’s grave. His grave is located with the graves of my father, grandmother and two aunts. She took the old silk flowers from her mother’s grave and put them on her father’s saying “I’m only putting flowers on your grave because you are next to my mother, you old bastard.” I knew it was only for my benefit and told her that I didn’t have a problem with her placing flowers on her father’s grave. I have had to come to terms with the fact that like it or not, he was her father, my grandmother’s husband and my grandfather. I am grateful that he died when he did so that our family has not been forced to make difficult choices.

I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.
I have tortured my mother all my life by trying to get answers or justifications.

      There are some things about Emil that I wish I knew and a lot that I don’t want to know. Alcoholism is a family disease, my mother and her only sister seem to be the only recipients. My grandparent’s youngest son was diagnosed with Schizophrenia.  I wonder if these mental illnesses were in any way related to sexual abuse perpetrated by their father?  Was my grandfather molested by his father or did he molest his sisters? Did he ever feel any remorse? How did he feel about Anna? Did he harm her? Recently, my mother has given me permission to ask her anything and promises she will answer. My questions have been very general because I have tortured her all my life by trying to get answers or justifications to comfort my inner child. When is it o.k. to hurt others to satisfy your need to know? Is is it our parent’s obligation to own up to their mistakes and the mistakes of their families before them?

I am O.K. today.
I am O.K. today.

Please understand, I am writing these family stories so that they can breathe fresh air. I have had enough shame throughout my life and I am not one who shakes it off easily. You see, in spite of my family history, I am O.K. today. I took responsibility for my mental health, educated myself and had therapists who helped me learn to live with my life’s experiences and the choices I have made. I learned that life is made up of all kinds of experiences, some of our making and some not, some happy and some sad, some good and some not so good but together they make up who we are. If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t learn. If you embrace your family’s history, whatever it is, you will understand that you are not responsible for who or what they are or were or the choices they make or made. Without getting into each person’s skin, we don’t know what kind of pain or experiences drove them to be who they are or were. Understanding why people do what they do doesn’t excuse their behavior, what it does is help us to see their behavior with more compassion. We never have to accept unacceptable behavior.

I am making every effort not to apologize for my family being who they were and are.  Fortunately, they are good, friendly and loving people who have worked hard for their accomplishments. Unfortunately, I don’t think that we have truly exorcised our discomfort with each other over the past. I think no-one wants to “rock the boat” and  we all have to deal with things in our own way. Do I wish it were different? I’m  not sure, I just know that I can live with things as they are.

Our Family Baggage.💞
Our Family Baggage.💞

Galveston Panorama, Galveston Police Department Website, File name: document.jpg

Caricature of a sitting judge, 123 Royal Free Photos,

Photo of a young girl, 26198945-cute-little-young-girl-standing-in-the-park-holding-yellow-flower, 123 Royal Free Photos

A digitally converted painting of a single bench in a cemetery, Crystal Graphics, //digitally_converted_painting_single_bench_cemetehttp://

Photo of Vintage Suitcases, istock Photos by Getty Images,

Photo of Mother and Daughter in Conversation,

Photo of woman looking out window,,


Emil – Part Two

Grandpa would walk my brother down to Ofatts Bayou when as a baby he wouldn't sleep at night.
Grandpa would walk my brother down to Ofatts Bayou when as a baby, he wouldn’t sleep at night.

     Emil was loved by his children, daughter and son-in-laws and grandsons. My brother, who was the first born grandson, is fiercely loyal to our grandfather. When he was a baby, Grandpa would walk with my brother in his arms to the bay when he wouldn’t stop crying. That story is very sentimental to my brother and is and was to my parents. When the truth came out to my mother about my grandfather, I called my brother because we were close at that time. He became angry with me because he said he loved my grandfather and I was ruining his wonderful memories. I was disappointed in my brother for not supporting me and my sister and though we have never broached the subject since, I believe it remains between us. I’m pretty sure my brother considers me a “shit stirrer” and I see him as delusional. When I was a baby and my brother two and a half years younger, we lived in a tiny house in my grandparent’s yard though I am not sure for how long. My Dad always called my grandfather “Father-in-Law and loved and admired him. They would do projects together like working on cars, painting, repairs, that sort of thing

When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation.
When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation.

     The night before my grandfather’s funeral, my sister and I were spending the night with our cousin, the subject turned to my grandfather. Both my sister who was three years younger than I and my cousin who was about a year older than my sister said that our grandfather had molested them. When I look back, I realize that it was a strange conversation. They were very matter-of-fact with no emotion and I had no reaction. I remember thinking that we were just making up stories. We knew it shouldn’t have happened and were offended by it but there was no anger. I wonder now if the lack of emotion was because we thought we had a responsibility to protect our parents, as if we were the adults and they were the children. Following my father’s funeral, as adults the three of us discussed our experiences with our grandfather again and agreed that we did not want to disillusion our parents. We also agreed that we but resented their putting him on a pedestal.

My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed.
My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed.

When I wrote about my grandmother, Anna, I told the story of what little I remember about a night my sister and I spent the night with my grandparents. I am repeating it here because it is, after all, his story. My sister and I were sleeping on a hide-a-bed in the living area when my grandfather came in drunk from the beer joint and sat down on our bed. My grandmother came in and told my grandfather to leave us alone and he told her to go on back to bed in a stern voice. She did. I don’t remember anything else. My sister remembers the details of her being molested by him but I cannot. I was the oldest granddaughter so it only makes sense that he would have started with me. I do have body memories, however, there is no way of knowing what experience or experiences they are attributed to. I wonder whether my memory is shut down because I don’t want to accept that my grandmother would actually let something happen to me and/or my sister, especially within her hearing.

 I do find my mother's blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can't or won't give me.
I do find my mother’s blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can’t or won’t give me.

My blocked memory is something that I can validate because I have other instances of child molestation where I can remember up to and afterwards but not the actual act. Then how do I know anything happened? Because other than with my grandfather, with each instance, I can still see me telling my mother about the things that were done to me. Yet, I cannot recall what I told her and because she blocks things out she doesn’t want to face, she can’t tell me either. We just both know that I told her what happened and who perpetrated the sexual abuse. Sometimes, I think not being able to remember is a good thing and other times I want to stomp my feet and have a temper tantrum. I do find my mother’s blocked memory really frustrating because I always want details that she can’t or won’t give me. Earlier in my life, I tried hard to remember until I heard enough times from therapists that my mind would reveal what it is protecting me from when I am ready. Sometimes when I am drifting off to sleep or waking up, I hear a doorbell in my head. It has been happening for most of my life so I just accept it now as being tied to something that upset or shocked me in my childhood. It is just a part of me that apparently will always be there. I also still have a need to know everything going on around me and have a phobia about situations when I don’t know what I might see. Memories relating to sexual abuse have always been very vivid to me as if they happened yesterday and would pop in an out of my mind until the last 15 years. While I can retrieve them, they don’t pop up any more. However, the damn doorbell is still with me.

My sister said she forgave him in her heart.
My sister said she forgave him in her heart.

When Emil was diagnosed with cancer and we knew death was imminent, my sister said she forgave him in her heart. I only pitied him. I remember him playing with my niece who was a baby at the time and feeling uncomfortable. I was afraid that he would molest her even though they were surrounded by people. I was a teenager at the time and then I remember that my next thought was that it was sweet, my mind often does flip-flops. I felt nothing when he died. My father was very upset with me because I was going to go through with my plans to host my best friend’s birthday slumber party during the wake. He said that I should stay, out of respect for my mother. He didn’t know that I had no reason to respect anything to do with my grandfather.

See Continuation of Emil in Part Three



     Emil was my maternal grandfather for whom I feel nothing but pity. He was an alcoholic and a pedophile and I wish I could totally discount him, but I cannot. He was, after all, my mother’s beloved father. Is love blind or do we only see what we need to see?

My grandfather was born in 1900, the year one of the worst storms in history all but wiped out Galveston Island. As this was before hurricanes were named, it has always been referred to as “The 1900 Storm” or “The Great Storm”. Galveston Island is located approximately 50 miles from the town of Alief where my grandfather was born. Could it be a coincidence that his birth and a severe hurricane occurred simultaneously? Could it have been an omen?

Devastation of Galveston Island, Texas

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.
Historical map with Bohemia proper outlined in pink, Moravia in yellow, and Habsburg Silesia in orange.

Emil’s family immigrated from Bohemia, now Czechoslavakia. My grandmother, Anna, always told me to never marry a”Bohunk” (slang for Bohemian) and though she never gave me a reason, I think even as a young girl I understood. I don’t have much information on timing but at some point, Grandpa followed his brothers to Galveston Island when they went there to work for the newspaper (he took a job but I cannot recall what it was.) In Galveston, he met Anna and no one still living seems to know how they met or anything about their early marriage. One of Anna’s sisters did often say that my grandmother got pregnant “every time Emil hung his pants on her bedpost”.

Emil and Anna were always poor and lived in a small house with 2 bedrooms. One of the bedrooms was a passageway to the bathroom from the living and remaining bedroom areas so it was the kind of house referred as a “shotgun” house. The house was on stilts, typical of Galveston homes, in order to prevent high water damage. They had five children, all of whom they raised in the little house. In later years he and my uncle had a shrimping business and were very close.

I never felt any love or affection for my grandfather, he just was. I never felt any animosity toward him either because sometimes a child’s mind has a way of protecting them from the truth. Most of the childhoodmemories I have of him are pretty mundane even though we were around him quite a bit. What I remember follows

  • He told me to hold a spoon full of sugar in my mouth to get rid of hiccups.
  • When he passed gas, he said he stepped on a frog.
  • He had rabbits and Beagles, the rabbits became dinner.
  • He once let the grand-kids ride on the running board of his truck and my grandmother yelled at him for it.
  • He helped my father work on cars and other projects.
  • He would sit me on his lap and bite my cheek. I have read that cheek biting is something that pedophiles do for whatever reason.
  • He called me “Pat”, a name for which I have an intense dislike to this day. When people call me “Pat” or ask if I am called “Pat”, there is an unreasonable anger that wells up in me and I have to work to keep it from showing in my tone of voice.

As the story is told, my grandfather lost his mother at an early age and his father never remarried. My great-grandfather was rumored to have been a bit of a tyrant. Two of grandpa’s sisters, in my mother’s opinion, were distant and introverted. Family lore has it that my great-grandfather physically abused my grandfather and Mom suspects that he molested at least some of his daughters. One of my grandfather’s sisters ended up in a mental health facility as a result of a “nervous breakdown”. My mother’s observation of her grandfather is that he was stoic and unfriendly though she was around him very little..

One of my grandfather’s sisters was a constant in my life. She was a very strong and independent woman having the opposite personality from her two sisters. My great-aunt called my grandfather “Brother” and he called her by her last name, “Fenack”. My uncles called her “Aunt Fenack” but the rest of us called her “Aunt Louise”. I asked my mother why Aunt Louise was so different from her sisters and my mother said she thought it was because Aunt Louise married “up” meaning that she married “money”. I’m not sure what happened with her husband since I never met him and never asked. Aunt Louise raised her granddaughter after her daughter was shot and killed by her daughter’s husband who ended up in prison. Aunt Louise was very strict with her granddaughter, parenting possibly learned from her father or possibly because she was afraid her granddaughter would follow in her daughter’s footsteps. Aunt Louise late, late in life married my grandmother’s brother when they were in their 80’s. Aunt Louise had Colin Cancer and would not marry him until after her cancer surgery. When she was cancer-free, they married but the cancer came back. They were in their 90″s and his family had to remove him from the home he and Aunt Louise shared and take him to live with them. Aunt Louise and Uncle Johnny had opposite medical needs; she had to have the house hot and he could not tolerate the heat. Aunt Louise eventually died of colon cancer.

See Continuation in “Emil” Part Two

Picture Credits:

September 8, 1900, hurricane. Texas State Library photo

Description: Historical map of Bohemia (Bohemia proper – pink, Moravia – yellow, Austrian/Bohemian Silesia – orange), Source: German Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon, 1892, Author: Photo made by User:SebastianBreier,  License: Public Domain, because copyright expired

Description: Hotel Galvez and Spa, A Wyndham Grand Hotel,