Sunday, September 12, 2010

MEMOIR--"Daughters of the Shadow Men" Chapter 24 When Daddy drank rub alcohol




Chapter twenty four

(I announced I would not post any more of the chapters of my memoir, Daughters of the Shadow Men Volume 1, in my blog. I waited and waited for inspiration to come off line. I have waited in vain. Apparently I am all done with writing in isolation until I have enough material for Volume 1 in order to spare the family from the public humiliation of seeing our family history in my blog going out to the whole world, although I estimate only about 30 people might be reading on a daily basis. So now I am back to putting my memoirs of my life in the wild west of yesteryear online as well as aiming for a book. I think my family would rather I did this than not write my memoirs at all)

I was always in a quandary about my dad who was my teacher in the art of cow punching. I generally divided him into the good dad and the bad dad, who mainly existed on weekends which he reserved for getting drunk. During the week he was an admirable hard working dad who knew how to do everything on a ranch, knew when it was time to clean the ditches and get ready for planting, when it was time to cut the hay, how to train a horse to work with cattle, and when to round up the cattle on the winter range in the big spring round up. He even knew how to tell funny stories and for years he would tell some of his stories to my girlfriend Connie when she came to visit from Escalante. As I recall she was the only one who was privileged to hear them, and this was not very long before I was taken out of that home to be sent away to school a year early because I appeared to be cracking up over my dad's drinking.
It was true I did start to crack up, but not before I developed chronic fatigue syndrome the year I turned twelve. We lost our precious hired girl that summer, Leah Coleman, who said she was going to stay home after working a month and get ready to move to Salt Lake to find a job and maybe go to school. I groaned at the very thought of the fruit and vegetables coming on and Leah not there to help us. I was not really surprised when I began to drag half way through the season and got worse and worse until I could barely drag myself out of bed in the morning. I tried to think what could possibly be wrong.
I tied it to that strange scarlet fever attack, as diagnosed by my mother and teacher, Jean Hansen, who finally decided it was not bad enough for scarlet fever. I was determined it was the worst thing I could possibly have. They were not going to rob me of that distinction. I had a bad feeling about that virus, and now I was dragging, no doubt going into rheumatic fever or possibly leukemia. Could I tell Mother and Dad? Best not, as nothing else had manifested yet and it took an awfully lot to impress either one of them. I knew it was probably bad to wait for something worse, but they would just think I was trying to get out of work. Get out of work? Who could live in that household and get out of work.
I thought well, I will just go ahead and die before I will become an invalid in this house unable to ride horses and punch cattle. That is what I lived for.
I can't tell you how relieved I was when my fatigue started to ease up when I had to stop bottling all day and go to school. I could sit down most of the blessed day and just do light school work, which tended to tax no one. Of course I still had to bottle in whatever hours I was home and on Saturday, but my work burden was considerably lifted. I did however think I probably still had whatever it was, it had just receded a short distance into the shadows, ready to strike again in some alarming fashion if provoked into it.
This turned out to be when my dad drank his second bottle of rubbing alcohol that winter. This infuriated Mother and she said she simply would not take him to the hospital, he could die for all she cared. He did lay on the couch unable to get up for several days. I was forced to go check on him every little while to see if he, indeed, was still alive. He turned sort of gray and beads of cold clammy sweat broke out on his forehead at one point. My theory is that this constituted more stress for me than I ordinarily experienced when he was drinking. He usually did not threaten to die right on our couch.
I knew Mother would never change her mind. She probably hoped he would die and was disappointed when he began to rally, because then he started to beg her to go into the bedroom for sex! Yes. I was not used to seeing my dad act like this. I could almost read his mind, “I am too sick too go find the hired man, so she is going to have to accommodate me like any good wife should.” We children were privy to this conversation which infuriated my mother more and more. Finally she cursed, “All right come on, you son of a bitch, and get it over with!”
They went in the bedroom in the afternoon, and since the bedroom door was warped and did not entirely close, by coming near it I was able to see and hear this bestial act of sex, which consisted of curses from my mother until mercifully it was over with. I vowed right then I would never have sex with a man, husband or not, unless I wanted to. This was going to be my rule.
I suppose the stress of wondering whether my dad was going to rally and then this violent act of sex on top of everything else did somewhat unhinge my mind. When Margie and I were washing the supper dishes after my dad and mother retired into the bedroom, I really despaired. I remember I broke down crying simply because I thought this grim state of affairs in our house was never going to end.
My sister Margie took one look at me crying and ran screaming into the bedroom, “Mother, Dad, Gerry is crying for no reason!” She meant I had not been struck and I was still crying.
They both ran out but I just ignored them. By that time I was sitting down at the table. Finally they all went to bed and left me there. I eventually just got tired of crying and went to bed.
I swear to you that is all that happened, but pretty soon I was told that I had suffered a nervous breakdown and Aunt Nethella had petitioned her sister Aunt Neta to take me into her home a year ahead of time, I presumed before I cracked up entirely , whatever that might consist of. She also told Mother and Dad not to work me so hard. I don't know how she knew how hard Mother, especially, worked us, but Mother must have been scared into doing more of the work herself. That is how I know I lived through the summer without dying of whatever ailment had manifested. Again, I knew somehow that ailment was pretty lethal, and had only been persuaded to retreat into the shadows but would come out again if I were the least bit severely stressed.
I obviously needed to be treated like a child, not like the children of alcoholics are often treated with no regard for the stress and strain inflicted every time the offending parent gets drunk. Mother was so frustrated with her life she thought nothing of escaping her unhappy lot, leaving her children to do all the labor required to keep a household going without the benefit of electricity or running water. People have no idea how much work that requires. Mother had become the master escape artist who set her children up to do a five hour bottling job and then ran away to play. I am sure that is how she kept from going crazy and murdering our father. I knew he was even more guilty of violating the marriage than she suspected, so who was I to blame her? She had gotten herself into a fine mess with such a husband, and there was no way out until we children were older. Until then she was determined we would at least do the household tasks she had come to hate. She did still do the ironing and cooked breakfast and was around to keep us safe when Daddy and his buddies invaded our territory on a drinking party.

4 comments:

salemslot9 said...

nice group photo

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you are back on line and working on your novel again. You can't worry about what people think...if you are a writer. Even Jesus couldn't get any followers in him home town.

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

I'm happy to see you are back working too. I guess you have to do it whatever way works. It is more important to just get the book written.

Connie said...

no damn wonder you abhor drinkers ..and I agree-this is your memoirs ..life as you knew it..if others don't see it that way..it's because they didn't live it..YOU did...write on my friend..RIGHT ON!!


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