Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Mother's Memoirs about her life with my father

The header photo on the cover of the book is of Boulder as it looks today. The family home where we lived in Boulder for many years is the one to the south of the road below the lake.
Mother is 18 years old in the first photo, when she married my dad.
The third photo is of her as she looked when she was writing this book.

I decided I needed to read this memoir, the third book my mother wrote of family history. The first one was called "The Alma and Gertrude Story" about her mother and dad. The second one was "The School Teacher's Kids" about her and her sister and four brothers as they were growing up before her last brother arrived two years younger than I am.
There are some beautiful memories recorded in this history by my mother that I needed to read again so I could be inspired to remember the happy memories as well as the sad ones. I wanted to refresh my own memory so events she wrote about could follow in the right sequence.
She told something about me I had forgotten, that I was a shameless flirt before I was two years old. There were many hired men about and somebody taught me to wink, so my mother says in the book that if I didn't think I was getting enough attention from a visitor, when I could catch their eye I would wink at them! One astounded young man said, "I think that kid just winked at me!" Mother said he was so taken with my charm that whenever he came he would always pay attention to me and want to take me to see if he could get me to wink at him again.
I do know this, I was a sad little girl after I got molested at five. I didn't know if I even dared talk to any of the hired men for fear of attracting some inappropriate attention to myself. I can even see it in my photographs after that. I was more somber and serious, looking more like a little old mother looking after all the younger kids. I can remember thinking I had better watch out asking this hired man or that one too many questions.
But little girls often have to learn one way or another when they grow up that flirting with the wrong guy can bring heart ache and sorrow. It can even cost some their lives. Tonight I am mourning the death of one of those girls. That's all I can really say about that.
Took me a long time to figure out what I could say about it in an entry. I finally decided I would talk about this book in which my mother wrote about her own disillusionment with the older man she married in haste, having only dated him a couple of times, not even knowing that he had probably been an alcoholic since he was a child. She was a Mormon who grew up in a family where the dad did not drink and kept a very close rein on his four sons so they did not either. Now my mother was contending with four brothers who all drank and were to go on and lead tragic lives. Alcohol, what a scourge that was to some families, including the Kings, and now it is both alcohol and drugs.
What marred this book for me was my mother's bitterness and negativity about my dad. I learned something about him even she never really grasped when she was married to him, that he along with others in that far away time had developed a sexual split. I actually forgave my father right away as God knows it was torturing him enough. I knew he had to have a friend in the family or he was not going to survive his suicidal tendencies. His oldest brother did not survive his. He was found under suspicion that suggested suicide when I was 12 after a divorce and banishment from his home over a transgression he had done when he was drunk.
I used to tell her, Mom, if you aren't going to leave Daddy what is the use of quarreling with him all the time and being so hateful? Mother writes a beautiful passage in this book about how she made up her mind to change an attitude problem she had developed back in her childhood, and decided to give people love, laughter, smiles in the country store she built and ran for 35 years.
But being nice to an alcoholic husband was somehow just too much and she could never bring herself to do it. But at the same time she could not bring herself to leave him, nor did I want her to as I did not believe that she was capable of taking care of her five children by herself, nor did I believe my dad capable by himself. So I would always suggest she wait until we were grown as she would always ask me if I wanted her to leave him. She always seemed relieved when I said no. She did not want to leave Boulder and her country store which you can also see next to our old family home in the header photo. And if she was going to stay in Boulder there seemed little sense of trying to leave my dad, but they did lead separate lives as much as she could manage.
I always thought my dad thought he could be 'cured' of his homosexuality by marriage. But I did not think it was going to happen. Instead my mother launched off a series of affairs after she had a tubal ligation and could no longer get pregnant. So they both led less than admirable lives having affairs, my dad stopping sooner than my mother when he developed emphysema so bad that it and his alcoholism probably caused him to become impotent.
But strangely or well not so strangely Mother does not tell about any of her transgressions in this book. But does not spare us his terrible behavior, even when she could not imagine all of it. However she does dredge up one memory which seems to suggest she at least had some suspicion of my dad's affairs, but not enough for their nature to really penetrate.
I know how that goes because once I made up my mind I could not even tell about the molesting so I would not risk telling about the affair I thought my dad had with the molester, all that just sort of faded into the back of my mind. What you don't talk about eventually becomes quite shadowy. You want it to fade so the pain will lessen. I did not want this to be my life or what had happened to my dad. Nor did I think he could help it. Once those feelings were awakened they were more or less there to stay. He could not just drop them and become normal. He found out marriage did not take them away, especially when the wife did not even know what the husband was struggling with.
I have since made it my business to know and study other men like my dad, so I could understand better how that could happen.
I learned more when I re-read this history of my mother's. My dad grew up simply surrounded by men. It was the horse age, so more men were required to work the fields than when the machine age came into being. I could see how easy it might have been for one of these 'old batch' men to turn to a boy for sexual pleasure with no women available to him. I found myself thinking could it have been him, or him? My dad started drinking very young so that would have made him vulnerable to older teens. I had seen in the town where he went to live with his mother to go to school older rebels who plied younger ones with alcohol and played sexual games with them.
Even the Catholic Church has felt it has needed to defend the Pope who has been accused of knowing priests were molesting boys for years and did nothing about it for fear of besmirching the reputation of the church. So other boys' lives were altered as my father's was when they sometimes were molested for months if not years.
This became a world wide phenomenon, so many now know to their sorrow what I am talking about.
I know there is a price to be paid for deciding to include this history in a memoir, but I do not regard many memoirs as honest that were written without any intent to reveal all. History was whitewashed, but what can we learn from a history that has been altered from the truth to a fantasy that will be more pleasing to the world.
I made up my mind years ago that when I wrote my memoirs I would try to tell the truth as I saw it without cover-up.
But when people aren't used to such there has to be adjustment. I am prepared to pay the price which may mean estrangement from the family. I note that an abortion Mother confessed to in the original manuscript was left out of the final version by one of my sisters. I remember feeling very sad a number of times when my mother revealed how this abortion haunted her and she would not be going to heaven like the rest of us. For she had taken life.
Yet, still as far as memoirs go in that country, my mother did write a pretty good one here. Even if it raises more questions than it answers. She was always determined to write family histories, and she put a lot of time and effort into doing it. Her last years, while still lucid, she spent writing. She was exactly my age, 78, when she wrote this one.
Now I am writing mine and see that I can gather it all together and publish it as a blog book if I want to! So one way or another I will get my memoirs into book from, too, as well as publishing them in this blog as I go along. My story has been so difficult for me to tell I have needed the experience of blog posting, thus getting a little encouragement as I write.
Without the Internet, I spent years writing novels, in isolation, boy that was tough and when I could not find a publishing company I just had to put them back into manuscript plastic boxes and there they are over there in the corner!
It's a lot more fun to write a memoir on the Internet.
I hope Mom is looking down from above and smiling. I hope she has been helped to at least understand my dad better and to forgive him for his transgressions. I think it helped for her to get a boyfriend in her old age she planned to marry who openly confessed he was a bisexual. He taught her a lot about the condition. He told her he had been molested as a boy by a music teacher. He had a glorious voice and been semi-famous in England. He showed us the newspaper clippings to prove it. But sadly his daughter accused him of molesting her. He had been molested and turned around and became one as happens all too often if that child does not get help, is not able to talk about what has happened to him, and helped to struggle against the urges he may develop when older to molest as he was molested.
We told our mother we did not want her to marry a child molester, so she finally made up her mind to accept the truth and send him on his way. I suspected my father of the capability of molesting someone younger. That really hurt. I felt he would need therapy a long time to come to terms with this and to be able to be honest about it. He would just scream and holler if that subject was even approached while alive. I did not even dare confront him with that suspicion. But the one thing we cannot allow is for children to be put in danger because we do not want to face the capability of a molester. And put respectability of the family, of the church, above facing the truth to protect our children.
It is certainly not going to help the man with the weakness not to face the truth. Even the Pope has to come to terms with this and acknowledge that the first priority of the church should be to protect the children, not the reputation of the church. But it is a mighty hard thing for the church and for families to support the harshest truths being told.


Connie said...

I'm sure your mother is smiling down at you for getting your memoirs written. Especially at the same age that she wrote hers.
I am so very proud of you for bearing it all,no matter the cost.
You are so right our history is tainted with tales being told to please rather than the blatent truths.
Your mother changed very little with age..even her hair style. She looks so pleasant,but I know you have said how contrary she was.But,keeping in mind what she went through,it was little wonder she was almost always in a snit.
I think she must have known about your father,hence, her bad mood.

Paula said...

I agree with Connie your Mom did not change her looks much with time. As always an interesting entry.

Biff Barnes said...

I found your post very interesting. I am an editor who works primarily with people who are creating memoirs and family histories. One of the questions they often struggle with is some form of, "How much truth should I tell?" You confront that question head on. I will recommend on my blog that people trying to figure out how to handle this issue look at your post. I think they will gain a good deal of insight from what you've said. Thanks!


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