My mother was born in 1944 in Ohio. My father was born in 1936 in Wisconsin. My father joined the Air Force and ended up working for ROHR (where they made Space Shuttle parts) in California. Then he worked for Pan Am Airlines. His job varied from being a ticketer, to baggage, to mechanic.
My mother and father met at a dance somewhere in California. I believe my father literally swept her off her feet. He is quite the dancer. My mother was 18 years old and was out with her Aunt Mary. Aunt Mary to me is the epitome of what a lady should be. She was just under 5 feet tall, petite, and giggly. In fact, she always had a smile. Which went well with her matching shoes, gloves, hat, and handbag. Something my mother always remembered about Aunt Mary was she always had to have matching shoes and purse. Never left home without her gloves and hat either. Aunt Mary loved to party. She enjoyed her brown Virginia Slim cigarettes and drinking beer or cocktails.
I’m not sure what made my mother come to California from Ohio. When I was a child I came across a photograph in her yearbook and Mother told me that it was her boyfriend, Larry, from high school. He seemed to be wild compared to my mother. He wore white T-shirts with cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve, his jeans were folded at the pant leg about three inches, and he drove a motorcycle. Looking at Mother’s picture, her caption stated she was involved in Choir and Bible Study. Mother didn’t go into details but she said that he died in a motorcycle accident. I wonder if that was part of the reason she left Ohio.
Father told me a few years ago that when he met Mother she was seeing another guy. He said that he had to make her choose between him and the other guy. He was very upset over it still about the fact that he had to tell her to make up her mind. He made it sound like Mother “played” him. He said she would go out with the other guy and then tell him all about it.
That may have been cruel in my father’s eyes. Especially back then. I can understand though, that she was a free woman and could see whom she wanted. She was young and probably didn’t know what she wanted out of life. I think she was trying to make the right decision. I believe she was clouded over the fact that my father was a smooth man. She was sexually attracted to him, no doubt. Mother said he was a great kisser. But I wonder now whether or not she truly loved him. Wonder if she even knew what true love was. I could tell when we looked at her yearbook together that she really loved Larry. She was still hurting that he died.
When she first told me about Larry, I thought I was this close to not having been born. It didn’t bother me. It was what I found out later that bothered me.
There are four of us siblings. Dominic, the eldest, was born in 1963. Yvette was born in 1964. Eric was born in 1969. And I, Charissa, was born in 1971. We were all born in southern California.
As you can see there is a gap between Eric and Yvette. Mother told me once that she had a miscarriage (maybe two?) during that time. I don’t know if that’s true. Later she told me that after she had Yvette she realized she didn’t love my father anymore and wanted to leave him. Now that I believe.
Mother told me a few other things that brought this on. This is why it’s hard for me to know what is truth or not. She told me these things around the time that she was getting a divorce from my father. I was 8 years old when she left him. Very impressionable age to be telling these stories. They didn’t fight over me. Maybe not openly. But talking bad about the other parent was certainly a technique they used for self-pity and guilt trips. They were trying to get me to side with them during the horrible divorce. Boy, was that fun.
It wasn’t hard to make my choice. The child counselor at the courthouse just put me in a little room while the proceedings were going on and asked me who I wanted to live with. I didn’t hesitate when I said Mom. I wasn’t allowed into the courtroom when this was going on. Probably a good thing if it was in the least bit like when they fought at home. I was 11 years old by this time. It took three years for the divorce to be final.
One story my mother told me was Father got real crazy (over what I don’t know) and he put a gun to his head and then to my mother’s head. That would definitely freak me out. I don’t think I would have stuck around much longer if that ever happened to me. Mother said she prayed and cried in her bed at this time and she believed she saw Jesus standing at the end of her bed. Hmm. Don’t know what to believe. Can it be true?
It’s not hard to believe these stories of my father though. He has done and said a lot of crazy things as I was growing up. Some of them I’ve blocked out of my memory. Some I’ll tap into here right now.
I think I was about 4 or 5 years old when I started taking swimming lessons. Every now and then we would go over to my godparent’s house, Paul and Dawn. They had an underground swimming pool. I thought they were rich! They reminded me of Sonny and Cher. Paul seemed short but he really wasn’t. He looked a little like Sonny with his long mustache. Dawn was long and lean which disillusioned me into thinking she was taller than Paul but they were about the same height.
Well, one day the family decided to go visit them. This particular time my mother didn’t bring my swim suit. I was devastated! How could they bring me over there without my suit! I always swam whenever we went over there. It was starting to get dark out which meant in California that it must have been pretty late. Being the bratty baby in the family that I was, I was not going to let this go. I whined and whined. I wanted to go swimming really bad.
They had enough and said fine, I could go swimming in my underwear. So I quickly stripped down. I didn’t care that my brother or sister was there. We were all family. My father was sitting in a patio chair and called me over to his side.
“Do you know how to swim?”
“Yes, Daddy. I’ve been taking lessons.”
My father then picked me up and went over to the deep end. The whole time saying “so you think you can swim, huh? You’ve been taking lessons and you know how to swim.” I didn’t know what to think. He grabbed my leg and arm and started swinging me.
“One, Two, Three…” Splash!
I went deep in the water. Shocked and terrified, I started struggling, flapping my arms. I couldn’t find the surface. I panicked. Somehow I buoyed up to the top, coughing and choking in-between my cries. I could hear my dad laughing. I cried harder and sunk a little more. I couldn’t reach the wall. I didn’t have time to think about the whole thing. I heard another splash. My sister swam up to me and pulled me to the steps. I was done. No more swimming for me.
This was one of those times that became a recurring dream for me. I would relive this horror over and over through out my childhood years. Later on, when I was a teenager, I thought back and got real angry with my father. He should have known that I was just taking beginner’s lessons which they don’t have the kids swimming in the deep end yet. If he ever came to my lessons he would have known this.
My mother used to say that my dad is schizophrenic. I had to look that up and I realized it could be true a little bit. He would be sad or angry during a time that he should have been happy or he would laugh when others were crying. He really had a warped mind. So did one of his brothers. Woo! Is my uncle Wayne a nut!
I was around the same age (4 or 5) when I think I experienced this first hand. My father was in the living room watching tv with my sister. One of those rare occasions that my dad was home during the day. He was usually working 12 - 16 hours a day. I was grateful for this because I was very scared of him. My dad was sitting in “his” chair. A black leather lazy-boy. My sister was on the black leather couch stretched out.
Out of the blue he calls for me. I was in my bedroom playing with my dolls by myself. He kept calling for me in a sweet sing song voice.
I thought I was in trouble. He wouldn’t just call me for no reason. So I slowly walked into the room. He was staring at the tv and told me to come here. So I walked over to the side of his chair.
“Don’t you have something to say to me?”
I stared blankly at him. I couldn’t think of anything. I hadn’t seen him in days because he was working. I started racking my brain. Did I do something wrong that Mom told him about? I couldn’t remember.
“noooo.” I said timidly.
He waited a few minutes. I knew not to leave his side until he excused me.
“ Are you sure there’s nothing you want to tell me?” He asked again. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I told him no again.
This went on for probably 5 minutes which seemed like an eternity to me. I started to cry. I looked down at my feet. I was trying to hold it in. I couldn’t disguise it though, my crying turned into hiccups. I just stared at the ground.
“Look at me.” He saw that I was crying. He started to laugh. He turned and looked at the tv and kept laughing. I cried. He laughed. It was torture. I was waiting for the belt to come off.
“Dad knock it off.” Yvette said.
“You’re making her cry. Stop laughing at her.”
“I’m not laughing at her, I’m laughing at the tv.” I Love Lucy was playing.
My dad stopped laughing but he had a smirk on his face when he looked at me.
“All I wanted was for you to say you loved me.”