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I was 4 in 1949 when my dad got a new job managing a cotton gin for Paymaster Gin Company. His first gin was in Roscoe, a small town not far from Sweetwater. This is the first time they didn’t live in Hamlin since the middle of the Depression.
We only lived there until the middle of my second grade, but we resided in three different houses. The first was a little white house on the edge of town. I remember several events from when we were there. One was that I poured a pot of boiling coffee over my torso. Then coffee was brewed in a percolator that was heated on the stove. I was about 5 and decided to pour my dad a cup of coffee and pulled it down on me. I was taken to the hospital in Hamlin, 45 miles away. There are some pictures of me in the hospital all bandaged up.
Then I saw a lineman fall from a telephone pole in front of the house. I was still about 5 then, hadn’t started to school yet. I was playing in the front yard and saw the man fall, apparently he had undone his safety strap or something. I ran in and told my mother and she must have called someone. She made me stay in the house.
My brother was sent to Korea at the beginning of the Korean War while we lived there. I remember my parents talking about it and my mother putting together a CARE package for him. Why I remember that was he wanted a hunting knife and she bought and sent him a really cool one. I recall holding it and being in awe.
Just when I started the 1st grade, we moved to a really nice house next to the elementary school. I could just walk across the street to go to school. It was a new house built by an older couple who owned a little store next door. I think they wanted to rent it out for a while, I don’t know why. We lived there for about a year and then they wanted to move in. I looked at the area with Google Earth and the house and little store aren’t there anymore, possibly burned down. Several houses I lived in as a kid are completely gone, but I did find the little white house we lived in first though. It’s still standing and still on the edge of town.
My dad had a 1946 Ford Coup, I remember the car. That was before we had antifreeze and Dad had to drain the radiator and block every night when he thought it might freeze and then refill it before he went to work. We only had one vehicle then, Dad didn’t buy his own pickup as a second car until 1954. Mom would drive him to work on days she needed the car to go somewhere, but she couldn’t go visit her parents or anyone and stay overnight. She had to be back in time to pick up Dad from work. Funny what we take for granted today.
My first grade teacher was Mrs. Proser. Very nice lady, seemed really old to me at the time, she was probably in her mid 40’s. I got into my first fight that year, the first of one nearly every year of my public schooling. The reason was my mother bought me this really nice, wool coat that came down to below my hips. Unfortunately, when I walked into the school wearing it, some kid pointed out to everyone else that I was wearing a girl’s coat. The fight was on, every recess, all day. When I went home that evening, I told my mother about it and that I didn’t want to wear that coat again. Bless my mother, she took me into town and bought me another coat. The next day there was no problem.
I used that story when I was teaching hate crimes in the police academy. The morale was that I was picked on because of my coat, I took the coat out of the equation and I was no longer picked on. If it had been because of my skin color or religion, I couldn’t have changed that and it would have went on.
Another big event was my brother came home from the Korean War! He had been missing for nearly 90 days and my parents didn’t know if he was dead or alive. It turned out he had been trapped at the Chosin Reservoir with a Marine unit. I remember my mother opening the letter from him that started, “Kill the fatten calf, I’m coming home!” She was so excited! That was one of the few times I remember seeing my mother so openly happy.
We went to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma to pick him up. I can remember vividly sitting in the backseat of Dad’s Ford Coup and just staring at my big brother in his uniform. Although we didn’t live together very long, I always had a bit of hero worship towards him, even after I was a grown man.
About the time I started the 2nd grade, we moved to another, bigger and older house in town. That was when my cousin moved in with us. I had a friend across the street named Dennis who was a year older than me. I remember he had a sister who was deaf and I was fascinated by the fact he could communicate with her with sign language. Dennis and I were great friends, I hated having to move.
Also, my cousin taught me to ride a bicycle when we lived in that house! She had a green girl’s bike and she let me ride it! I’m glad It was a girl’s because it was a full size bike and I wouldn’t have been able to touch the pedals otherwise. I’ll always be grateful to her for that!
Halfway through my second grade, Dad was transferred to a gin in a little community named Halfway. It was about 15 miles from Plainview. I’ll talk about that later.
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There has been a debate for centuries regarding the effects of nature vs. nurture. I read once that some German Baron in the Middle Ages conducted an experiment on the subject. He took several newborn babies from their mothers and had them raised with a minimum of human touch or even contact to see how that affected them. The results weren’t in the article, but I can imagine.
Personally, I believe that some people are just born without any empathy for others and will do whatever they think they can get away with to satisfy their own desires. I ran into a few in my years of police work and criminal investigation. But I think most people are influenced by their parents and other adults in their lives. This also makes me wonder about the amount of dysfunction in my mother’s family.
Uncle Johnny was the oldest. I never got the impression he was a good man. Dad dropped tidbits over the years about him building up debts and then defaulting. Usually that was in the context of wondering why banks and such continued to do business with him. Mother just described him as mean and I believe it. I have a couple of pictures of him as a teenager and he had an angry scowl in both, the kind of kid you avoid having eye contact with in the school hall. I had as little to do with him as I possibly could when I was growing up. What was odd was that he ignored me for the most part until I became a teenager, but then suddenly started going out of his way to be nice to me. I mentioned this was a crazy family, didn’t I?
One instance I remember when I was about 17 or so. We were all at my grandmother’s and he came in a new Mercury Comet Caliente, a compact car with a big engine, bucket seats (still a novelty at that time) and floor gear shift, another thing not on many cars. Of course, at that age I’m fascinated by cars and I walk out and start drooling over it. Uncle Johnny apparently saw me through the window and came out and handed me the keys! He told me to take it for a drive. I was floored! I didn’t know anybody that would have trusted me with a car like that, probably not even my own parents. I just drove it a few blocks and brought it back, mostly because I was concerned about my Dad’s reaction.
Years later, I was talking to Dad about it and he said that he didn’t understand it either. He did make the observation that he seemed to like me more than he liked his own kids. When I got married to my girls’ mother, Uncle Johnny sent me a wedding card. It was a 50th anniversary card, not a wedding one. He was just starting to suffer from dementia so there was no doubt that he had picked it out himself.
The second oldest was Chalmers. He hated that name and told all the nieces and nephews to call him “Unk”. Unk had about a 7 section (a section is a square mile) ranch outside of Aspermont, Texas. He bought it in the Depression under some farm loan program instituted by FDR. It was big, but not very productive. He had created some watering holes for cattle by damming up gullies so they would catch and retain rain water. They were big ponds, small lakes referred to as “tanks”. But it was really lousy land and couldn’t support many cattle.
The significant thing about Unk was that he was a miser. He was the last one to get a telephone, the last to buy and air conditioner for the house, worried constantly about spending money. When I was in high school, they found oil on his property and that was became a redneck joke. Being a Depression survivor, he didn’t trust banks so he would only put $100,000 in each bank because that was the maximum amount the FDIC would insure the account for. He would put the money in checking accounts because if they were in savings, they would get interest and there would be more than $100,000. Get the drift? When he died, his son had quite a time trying to run down all the accounts he’d created in all the little Texas banks. It was mostly all there though, Unk spent very little of all that money he had coming in.
But again, although Mother never said a nice word about him, he was nice to me when I was growing up. Dad had no interest in fishing or hunting at all, but Unk would invite me to stay with him and Aunt Teeny (real name Christine) several weeks during the summer. In fact, it was several weeks, several times each year and he would take me fishing and hunting on his place everyday. The tanks were stocked with bass and catfish and I have some of the best memories of my childhood hanging out with him.
But I could always see a dark side too. Again, he treated me better than he treated his own boy and girl who were quite a bit older and had been out of the house for a long time. I don’t think he ever got mad at me although there were some times he certainly should have, I could see a bad temper there. Like my mother, he didn’t suffer fools and had a lot of anger underneath the skin. Looking back on it, maybe because I had grown reasonably adept at dealing with my mother, I instinctively knew how to avoid setting him off. But again, Dad mentioned to me once when I was grown that he never understood why Unk was so nice to me either, but ignored all the other cousins. I was the only one ever invited to hunt and fish with him. I wonder if there was some guilt involved with him and Uncle Johnny that drove them try to make some sort of amends to my mother through me. Another possibility is I know that growing up with my mother, I had learned how to appease crazy, angry people. That skill certainly helped me in my profession, I’m positive of that.
The youngest was Uncle Joe, called J. B. by the rest of the family. As I’ve said before, Mother just adored him and talked fondly of them going to school together and hanging out. His personal life was a disaster. He married a woman he met while working in a CCC camp during the Depression. She was a piece of work. It was common knowledge in the family that she was screwing around on him while he was in the Army during WWII. Last year I was visiting the only cousin I have contact with, his daughter and she told me that our grandmother caught Uncle Johnny and her mother having sex.
I don’t know if she left him or vice versa, but they did divorce. They had three children, a boy, a girl and then a boy two years younger than me. The daughter came to live with us off and on as she was growing up. The first time was when I was in the second grade and she stayed until I was in the fourth or fifth and then she left abruptly and moved back with her Dad and his new wife. That didn’t last too long for her, she finally moved in with her mother which wasn’t much of an environment either.
The new wife was nothing to write home about. She hated his kids and wouldn’t even sit at the table with them to eat. Uncle Joe was a nice man by all appearances, but he had lousy tastes in women. Mother never said much, but I could tell that it really made her angry the way he sacrificed his kids for her. I have to say that even as a kid, I shared a lot of feeling too.
As I said, I spent several days with my cousin in Texas last year. It was wonderful. We had lost contact for decades and had a lot of catching up to do. Neither of us was told why she was taken from us, we don’t know if it was my parents or her dad that made the decision. It was too bad; she would have had a much better start in life if she’s stayed with us.
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My dad’s mother died when he was 4, his father died in 1932 so I never knew either. But I did spend some time with my mother’s parents.
My grandfather was born in Texas and the earliest stories I’ve heard about him was that he worked gathering buffalo bones from the prairie and selling them. Apparently the buffalo hunters left the carcasses to rot after they took the hides after slaughtering herds of them. The bones could be sold and later be ground for fertilizer. He was working around Ft. Griffin, outside of Abilene when my grandmother met him. She was born in Mississippi, but always talked about living on the Texas plains, nothing about Mississippi.
My grandfather never called her anything but Mama or “Miss Betty”. She called him Papa or “Mr. Will”, even after they had been married for decades. They hated being called Grandma or Grandpa so we were told to call them Papa and Mama, just like their children.
My grandfather was a tenant farmer most of his life, he never owned any land until he retired. At that time, my Uncle Joe, the youngest child bought them an old house in Stamford. I remember that house so well, no indoor bathroom and the only running water was one cold water faucet in the kitchen. Water had to be heated for baths which took place in a long galvanized tub placed in the kitchen once a week. One room was a bedroom/entry way and the fourth room was a back bed room used as a guest room.
But yet, that’s where the family met for Christmas every year and the 4th of July. The women would create wonderful meals and the men would hang out in the living room. The kids would stay in the huge back yard. Often we would all walk to downtown and go to the Grand movie theater and watch a show. Dad would give me a dollar and a quarter that would buy me a ticket plus popcorn and a coke. The boys would also buy fireworks (some pretty dangerous) and shoot them off in the back yard. Back then in Texas, fireworks were sold at Christmas too!
My grandfather was a giant of man, especially for that time. He was 6’6” when few men were 6’. My shortest uncle was probably 6’3”. He built his own platform rocking chair to fit his frame that sat next to the kitchen door. You had to walk in front of him to get through the door and it was always a challenge because he would sometimes reach out and pinch the grandkids as they went by. That was about all the contact he had with grandkids by the time I came along.
He died when I was 8 years old in 1953 from liver cancer. The events surrounding that was also significantly different than today. This was of course, before Medicare and they had no medical insurance. He also had no Social Security and they lived on about a hundred dollars a month “old age pension” from the state of Texas. So he was taken care of at home. The kids rented a hospital bed that was placed in the living room. I guess a doctor came by the house once in a while, but there was never a question of putting him in the hospital. He was cared for around the clock by my grandmother with my mother coming and relieving her when she could. And that was a lot.
I remember the day he died. Well, not the date, but I recall the events. His whole family was there, all three boys and my mother. I was in the back yard with several cousins when I heard some wailing noises coming from the house. I went in and my oldest uncle was standing in the kitchen. I didn’t say anything, just looked at him. I saw my mother and my youngest uncle crying beside Papa’s bed. My uncle just said, “Your granddad just passed away.” I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t close to him so I wasn’t upset, but I felt sorry for my mother. I sat at the kitchen table for a long while because even at 8 years old, I knew it would be disrespectful to go outside and play. Finally, my dad came into the kitchen and told me it was okay to go back out.
Looking back on it, what would be a better way to die than being surrounded by people who love you? They had no money, but he had his whole family with him and he was in his home. It beats the hell out of dying in a sterile hospital ICU among a bunch of strangers.
My grandmother lived in that house for another 10 years or better. Her, I have some good memories of. She had no television so she would tell the grandkids stories at night while we sat in the living room. And oh, she had the most wonderful stories. She told us about growing up on the Texas plains as a little girl. Her father had dug a hiding place under their house with a trap door in the floor. When Comanches would come around the house, he would hide her, her mother and sister there and he and his sons would see what the Indians wanted. She had so many scary stories that just had us shaking. And I don’t think she ever told the same story twice. My grandmother was a walking home entertainment center. We all loved her so much.
She had some odd traits though too. When she talked to her children, my mother and her brothers, she was often overly dramatic and pessimistic about the future. Every Christmas after Papa died, I always heard her opine at least once as to whether or not she would be there the next Christmas. Mom would just roll her eyes because my grandmother lived to be 96 years old. She survived another 20 years after Papa passed. But when she was with us grandkids, she was a kick to be around.
She lived the last ten years or so in a nursing home. Her house was literally pillaged by my two oldest female cousins. There were a few things that were so old that they were valuable. The true character of people comes out at times like that.
Although I don’t have bad memories of Papa, the ones I do have are pretty blasé. I just didn’t interact with him much. But I met his younger brother once when I was about 7 and he was a kick. Uncle Tom lived in Colorado and was a WWI veteran. I remember sitting on my grandparents’ front porch and he talked to just me for the longest time. I sat in awe as he told me about when he was a mule skinner in the Army in France. I don’t remember the stories, but I remember the wonderful feeling of this distinguished old gentleman talking only to me! It was only one time in my life, but I will never forget it. I wish I had the ability to impress a little kid the way he did.
It may sound strange to some people, but I know Papa visited me a few days after he died. We were living outside of Plainview, Texas at the time. I woke up with a start one night about 1:30 a.m. and I swear I saw him standing at the foot of my bed. He was there for about 5 seconds and then faded away. My wife asked me recently if I told my parents about it. I said I didn’t because that was probably the only private moment I ever shared with him. I think he was telling me good bye. It’s still a warm memory.
I wish I had known him better, I guess he spent a lot more time with my older cousins But I’m glad my grandmother was in my life. I can’t say she had a strong influence on me, but she was a nice lady to know.
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And then there’s my mother. First off, I love my mother; I always have and have no doubt that she loved me. Mom was just a bit difficult for me growing up.
Mom was the only girl in a family with three boys, two older and one younger. Even as a kid, I could tell she didn’t like nor trust her two older brothers, but loved her younger very much. She liked the older boys’ wives a lot and I think that’s why we had much of any relationship with them at all.
I never gave much thought to it, it was just what was until many years later and I was working sex crimes in the police department. Dealing with victims and reading a lot about rape and molestation of young kids, it hit me. I bet anything that Mom was sexually abused by her two older brothers. And knowing them and what kind of men they were only confirmed my suspicions. She adored her father, but had some deep seated resentment against her mother. Now, she would do anything for my grandmother, but she rarely had anything nice to say about her whether she was talking about the present or the past. This convinced me, based on my experience that she went to her mother for help and wasn’t believed. I saw that a lot in families where I investigated the sexual abuse of a girl. I talked to a lot of mothers who refused to accept that her sons would do such a thing. I’ve even had mothers tell me flat out that their daughters were liars. Looking back at my mother’s behaviors, I truly believe that happened to her.
Mom was an angry woman, never really satisfied with her life. She accused my Dad of infidelity when I was a junior in high school. She was pretty savage about it and made his and my life kind of miserable for some time. She got it in her head that Dad, who was about 56 at the time, of having an affair with a 22 year old Mexican woman that worked in the gin office. We had just moved to Arizona and the woman was already working there when Dad took over. Now I was only 16, but I knew this was baloney. The woman was living in sin (that may have been part of the problem) with a very good looking Mexican man and they had a couple of kids together. She was also quite attractive and no way could I be persuaded that she would be sexually attracted to my overweight, mid 50’s father. But Mom was convinced.
Later, I was telling my brother about it and he told me she did the same thing when he was about my age. Only this time it was the high school daughter of the man that owned the chicken hatchery where Dad worked. She apparently rode with him once on his route buying eggs and selling chickens and Mom went ballistic. But like with my situation, one day she just stopped talking about it and it was like it never happened.
She belittled Dad a lot about nearly everything. And she did it in front of other people way too much. I picked up on that at an early age. But Dad was devoted to her; I think because of the way he grew up, he thought any family was better than none at all. Maybe it was more than that, I know he didn’t like not having her around. Love is strange and I’m so glad. I needed Dad with me growing up.
Mom got addicted to prescription drugs right after I was born. Growing up, getting in trouble with her had much more to do with her mood than the deed I had done or not done. Mom really didn’t trust me; she was always quick to call me a liar. Because of that, too often I just lied since I knew I wouldn’t be believed anyway. Mom’s addiction cost them a fortune because insurance never paid for medications back then and doctors were always more than willing to write her a prescription just to get her out of their office. At the time they moved into a nursing home, her prescription bill was about $500 a month and they were getting less than a thousand in Social Security.
She viewed the world almost entirely on how it affected her. I remember after I left home I would call and she would tell me that Dad was sick. But instead of giving me much information about his condition, she would start telling me how hard his being sick was on her. When she told people about me as a kid, it always worked around to all the sacrifices she had to make because of me. Even as a kid that hurt. Mom didn’t have good social boundaries sometimes and she often said or did hurtful things. I don’t think she grasped what problems she caused with relationships. I recall when I was in the 6th grade, I told her that I noticed there were 7 or 8 pictures of my brother displayed in the house, but none of me. Of course, she got some pictures of me and put them out right away. I could tell she felt bad, but you had to point out things she did or said before she realized the effect it had. She always apologized, but never was able to see it on her own.
All that being said though, I could always count on Mom to defend me from anyone else. I learned early in school that I had to be careful what I told her about my teachers. If she thought for a moment that I was being treated unfairly, she was there and in the teacher’s face. No matter what I was doing or where I was working as a kid, Mom always made sure I had clean, ironed clothes and had a decent meal before I left and when I got home. One summer I worked on a spice farm in Arizona and we had 12 hour days, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I would get home and be filthy and she would have a hot bath ready and when I got out of the tub, there would be a huge, hot meal. One time, I had a date after I got off work and she washed my pickup and cleaned out the inside while I was eating….. As close as I was to Dad, he would have never done anything like that.
But the trust thing was terrible, especially in high school. She usually believed I was doing something sinister when I went out with friends. And the best way for a kid to be labeled a “hoodlum” was to be my friend. And the rules were always fluid, again it wasn’t what I did, but what was going on with her. One time I could come home at 1 in the morning and she wouldn’t say a word, the next time I could be home at 10 p.m. and she would meet at the door screaming. But she would never give me a set curfew time even though I asked. She would just say try to be home at a decent time. The decent time just varied moment to moment.
Mother made things hard on herself with all her anger, especially in later years. When they were in the nursing home, they loved my Dad and barely tolerated her. The reason was my Dad was always appreciative of anything anyone did for him and Mom was never satisfied with what they did. I tried to talk to her, my brother tried to talk to her and it did no good. She always saw the whole world as adversarial, she against it and I have little doubt that’s because of what she was subjected to as a little girl. Rest in peace, Mom, you deserve it at last. I know you did the best you could with what you had. I love you.
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A little about my dad………. My dad was born in 1904. His mother died in a fire when he was four, he told me. When I asked how that happened, he only said that she was sick in bed and couldn’t get out. I suspect since he was only 4, that was what he’d been told.
He had a younger sister, who was a baby at the time. She died when she was 27, he told me. As I recall, she had some kind of cancer, but he was never clear about it and I didn’t ask many questions. One of my biggest regrets, I never asked enough questions and now it’s too late.
For several years, Dad was farmed out to various uncles and their families, brothers of his father. Dad never complained about his childhood, but it wasn’t hard to pick up that it was pretty rough. My grandfather remarried and had five more children, two boys, twin girls and one more girl. Dad didn’t talk much about those years other than living with Uncle Wood and his Uncle Jim, both of whom he was always close to.
He quit high school before he started the 10th grade because he had to go to work. Although he never really said bad things about his dad, he never praised him either. The most he told me was that he was a big man, 5-10, 240 lbs and had a 19” neck. He died of lip cancer in 1932 in Oklahoma. Oh, he did say that the old man had a beautiful handwriting and I found that to be true. I was able to obtain some old documents he had written a few years ago and it was something to see!
As I said earlier, my dad was 41 when I was born; I always looked at him as an old man. He seemed very straight arrow; someone I thought was always upstanding. When I moved to Portland, one of the twins lived here and I talked to her about him a little. I found out that he had a Harley Davidson motorcycle in the 20’s and terrorized the little town of Hamlin where he lived. I asked him about it and he admitted owning the bike, but didn’t want to give me much else!
When he was in his late 80’s, I was visiting them and I took him to Abilene for some reason. As we’re driving along, he pointed out an area and told me that he used to date a girl that lived there. Her dad didn’t like him much so he took a friend with him and the plan was to drop Dad off, the friend would pick up the girl at the house, they would pick up Dad and then they would take the friend home and do their date. Now this country is flat as a pancake and nowhere to hide. Dad is standing there and the girls Dad comes down the road headed home. Dad can’t get away so the old man tells Dad’s friend to get lost and chases them off his property. It was so hard to believe this was my DAD!!!!
My brother, who was born in 1930, grew up with a different dad although he was the same man. Then, Dad was on the town baseball team and was active in sports. Dad also worked at hard labor jobs. He struggled through the Depression, doing whatever he could and sometime in the late thirties, had two different jobs.
Back then, there were chicken hatcheries and Hamlin had the biggest in the state of Texas. During the spring and summer, Dad drove an old converted school bus around the state buying eggs from farmers and selling them baby chicks. Obviously, he would bring the eggs back and they would be put in incubators, hatched and the chicks would be separated by sex. He worked for a man name Curtis Martin who was kind of Dad’s mentor. Mr. Martin was the one who twisted my Dad’s arm and just about made him by the house and property in Hamlin they kept for decades.
In the fall, Dad worked for the cotton gin in town. Most gins back then were powered by steam engines and Dad knew a lot about them. He’d been a fireman on the Southern Pacific RR for about 5 years when he was laid off because of the Depression. So he ran the gin’s steam engine, but also took the time to learn a lot about ginning. By the time I was born, he had been hired as the gin manager and no longer worked for the hatchery. In fact, Dad was a gin manager for the rest of his life. When I was about 4, he was hired by the Paymaster Gin Company and we moved to Roscoe, Texas where he started with them. Paymaster was gradually getting out of the gin business though and every time a gin was sold out from under him, he was given another to run and was transferred.
But because of Dad’s having to work so hard and so much (and probably a lot of other factors I know nothing about), he and my brother weren’t all that close. On the contrary, I was very close to my dad. He was the most stable thing in my life. My mother loved me and I loved her, don’t get me wrong, but Mom had a lot of other problems that I’ll talk about later.
I can honestly say that even as a teenager (or maybe especially as one) there was nothing that I was afraid to talk to Dad about. And what I loved about him was that he rarely told me what I should or shouldn’t do, but he would relate a similar experience he had and tell me what he did and how it worked out for him and then let me decide. I will always love him for that. Even as a kid, I always felt that he respected me as a person. As much as Mom loved me, I never got that from her. She acted as if I were her property and demanded obedience. It took me years to let go of some of those resentments.
But going back to the different relationship between Dad, my brother and me, one time after I was grown, he asked me to install a ceiling fan in their living room. When I got into the attic, I saw there was no insulation up there. I asked Dad what his heating bill was in the winter (they had one gas space heater in the house) and it was over $100. Now this was in the mid 70’s and that was a lot of money. I called my brother and told him about it and he suggested we go together and put some in for him. Since he lived in Texas and was more familiar with Hamlin than me, I let him handle it.
He called me back and said that when he told Dad what we wanted to do it, Dad said that if he wanted attic insulation, he would put it in and refused the offer. I called him right back and acted like I’d never talked to my brother and told him that we like to do it as a Father’s Day present. He sounded pleased and thanked my profusely. Now what the hell was that all about????
On the other hand, when dealing with anything serious, Dad still looked at me as a kid and my brother as the adult. He never talked to me about financial matters or anything important, but discussed it with my brother. On some level, I don’t think Dad ever let go of me being a 16 year old kid. And I was fine with that; I had some good times with him back then.
Thanks again, Dad, I love you. I couldn’t have made it without you being there for me.
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Strange thing to name a blog, but to be honest that’s an important factor in my life. Who I was, what happened and who I am now.
I’m 66 now, will be 67 in a few months. Although I don’t think of myself as elderly yet, I am old. My wonderful wife, Chris (the love of my life) is gone this weekend and I haven’t slept well. I don’t do that when she’s not home for some reason. I woke up at 1:30 this morning and couldn’t go back to sleep. I got to thinking that it might be a good idea to chronicle some thoughts about who I am and how I got here. Nobody might be interested, but then again, who knows?
I need to qualify this in saying that a lot is from memory, some from what I heard my parents tell others when I was a kid, what they told me, some information my brother gave me and a few things my sister in law thought I should know over the years that my brother had told her. Some of my (and their) memories might be false, the brain is a strange organ and it does produce memories that were only imagined. I hope not too much of this falls into that category.
I was born about 2 weeks before the Japanese surrendered in WWII. That has little bearing on anything other than a timeline. What was significant was that my mother was a month shy of her 36th birthday, my dad had just turned 41 and my brother was a couple of months short of being 15.
Now today, that’s not as big a deal. Lots of people have children later in life, but in my family, it was a bit of a catastrophe. My parents, although not dirt poor, didn’t have a lot of money. Neither had much education and my dad had never made much money during his whole lifetime. From what I’ve picked up, even as a small child, they were looking forward to a life w/o children after my brother left home. Although I never doubted that my parents loved me, the fact my mother and dad never shared the same bed until I was in high school says a lot.
And there was more to the catastrophe, I was an RH baby. Now, it’s not that big a deal now since doctors can do things to protect the baby, but then it was a common factor in still born births. The first child never has a problem, but subsequent ones do. In fact, my parents lost another little boy around 1936. I was born a “blue baby”, meaning my skin was blue from lack of oxygen. My dad had A positive blood type and my mother, B negative. http://www.cod.edu/people/faculty/fancher/RhFactor.htm tells more about it, if anyone is interested.
Now I don’t know if that was the cause, but I was described by my mother as a “sickly baby” and I did spend a lot of time in hospitals until I was about 10 years old or so. I really don’t know what the problems were exactly, but I think it had something to do with my lungs. My parents, again weren’t well educated and were overly trusting of doctors and probably anyone else in authority. Doctors tend to be condescending to people like them so they really weren’t told much. I do recall my mother telling someone once that when I was in the hospital at about 4 years old, the doctor said he was treating me as though I had pneumonia although I didn’t.
That was a tough time for my mom. She had to have all her teeth pulled not long after I was born and wore dentures the rest of her life. She had what was called then a “nervous breakdown” and was first prescribed tranquilizers (that had just been discovered). That had a lasting effect on the family that I’ll go into later.
I can remember spending a lot of time at Dad’s gin office when I was little. I have this memory of riding a tricycle around and around in a big empty room and him letting me play with his old Remington typewriter. (I still have that, by the way). I was told years later by my sister in law that this was because they had to keep me away from my mother. Mom couldn’t handle being around me so the young girls that worked in the office helped Dad take care of me. Since I do have an independent recollection of spending so much time there, I have no doubt it was true.
On another note, I have a lot of memories of being a real little boy. A number of people I’ve talked to over the years seem surprised to hear that, but I do. I was born in 1945, my brother graduated from high school in 1948 and I have distinct memories of him living at home. Things like the Model T Ford he owned sitting beside the house, I remember breaking a model airplane of his and being terrified that he’d be mad (he wasn’t, I recall that too). I remember he and his girl friend babysitting me, them making out of the sofa and me going to a neighbor lady’s house. I also remember the spanking he gave me! But that makes me believe my memory of being at the gin office is valid and what my sister in law told me makes perfect sense.
Anyway, I’ll stop this one here. I don’t want them to be overly long and boring, but this gives the reader an idea of the family I came into.