My father was a man of many faces, some good and some not so good. He fell in love with my mother in West Virginia after high school. She was already in love with some else named Byron. My father decided to go to the powers that be, my Grandmother who worked at the local furniture store. This was an opportunity to shine in her eyes, and then she could be his advocate and it worked. Before my mother could finish her junior year, my grandfather told her that JT was a good man and that she couldn’t do better so go get married and leave with him for the Air Force. And so it began. Annie and JT were a lovely couple and like all newlyweds very much in love.
Consequently, life took hold. When the children arrived into the family, attention shifts and it takes a strong man to understand this. The record must be set straight that he too has needs, and also that she will require his love in order for this to work or else unhappiness settles over the family. And so it did. Three children under five years of age and a father working in sales on the road will certainly take love out of the picture as it drained the young mother of her spirit. Confidence in our self is critical to the process. My father began to cultivate his own sense of confidence with other women and this pattern followed him through his life. A womanizer is a man who needs the attention of many women. This is not uncommon, as we have seen this behavior in our past presidents, and others whose ego needs more.
Well, the story ended with a pregnancy that was induced by a brother in law who knew of the troubles between the couple. So he took his way with my mother and this of course did not sit well with my father. His demands for an abortion fell on deaf ears as my mother would have no parts of it. The newborn baby girl was taken from the nursery at the hospital by a nurse who was paid by my father to adopt the child out to a black market agency. My mother went down to the nursery to find any empty bassinet.
She returned home from the hospital and it was apparent that the fabric of this marriage was shredded beyond repair and her post-partum depression was bigger than both of them. As a result, he rectified his life by telling my mother that if she was not happy she should take the middle child of age three and a half and leave. Leaving a five year old son and me, a two and a half child behind, he then pushed her out and closed the door. They lived in Virginia and this state did not protect women’s rights. Nor were her parents supportive and they told her that she must work it out. Not a pretty picture.
She struggled those first few years as did we, the children and as for my father, well, he went to work. He became an electrician and worked steadily on the new bridge lights. His parents took the two children left behind as he was away for long periods of time. An accident occurred on the job while he was working on the lights on the bridge. He suffered the loss of one arm and part of the other hand as well as damage from the burn and fall. Lucky to be alive, he spent years recuperating through surgery and therapy.
So much of his hurt over my mother drove him to obsessive behavior and after three years he thought that he would bring her back to Virginia and they would begin again. Life had gone on for my mother and so this was never a possibility. Even as a young man of thirty something and handicapped he was handsome and had a personality that charmed women thus he went on to find another who would accept him as is. He started his own construction company and was a good businessman with great success. It always amazed me as a kid, that he could be so jocular and that he was never aware of how much pain my brother and I were in over what had happened. Sometimes it felt like he thought that it only happened to him.
His second wife was in her mid-twenties, from New Jersey and she brought with her two children which soon began our “new family”. I fell into place with caring for those children as I was now old enough to be of use. My brother would isolate himself. I would try to fill a gap with my father helping him do things like put his artificial arm on or fix something with a screw driver. It was not a natural family setting, however my father bought a nice home and new car and we would dress up in our new clothes and go to church, stopping at Krispy Kreme Donuts on the way home. The sugar from the donuts and the alcohol sustained a happy atmosphere for the most part until they realized that it was not real.
Stepmom had experienced a severely distorted childhood of her own and although she was quite the pretty lady, she suffered daily in a mental fashion. Sometimes waking me in the night to let me know that she was leaving now and please take care of my children for me while I am gone. I would get called to the school office to find that she wanted me to go home at lunch and get her fur coat out of the closet and bring it to her so that she could sell it for money to survive. Confused about my role at nine years old and my loyalties, I followed her command to get the coat. As I strutted through our back yard, I heard my father calling my name and telling me to return. “It was not nice of me to do this; he said and how could I”? He had given me a home and now just like my mother and his mother before her I betrayed him! Almost as if he were using a foreign language, I was not certain of what he was referring to but soon it came to a point that he would need to kill himself before my eyes. As he reached for the gun and cried out that no one really loved him, I knew that I held the burden of making it all right. Whatever he meant about his mother and my mother was not important and I just needed to convince him of this. So I told him that I loved him and we would go to find my Stepmom to bring her home. She was not happy with this arrangement and when I explained that it was too difficult to watch him put a gun to his head, she said, “The gun did not have any bullets”.
Like a bad play this activity repeated itself for five more years before I left his home. This marriage ended, and then he married again and this time it stuck for the balance of his life of 80 years. Was it love? I do not know. But when I did an Ancestry.com on my family something very interesting came out. I found that a male child was born one year prior to my father’s birth but had died. I knew that his mother was never fond of him and he was always second rate to his sister. Timing is everything.