The Last Living Witness
My mother passed away a few yrs ago and at the age of 51, there has never been a day that has gone by I haven’t thought about the past at least once. I was talking to my son a few days ago and he brought up my past and asked me some questions and I realized I am the only one left who knows what happen so I thought I would write it down as a written record. Its a condensed version of a daily life till age 10.
Not only do parents need to be extremely careful how they treat their children during their impressionable ages, it is also testament that bad childhoods does not mean the child grows up doing the same too their own.
Scientists have come out with a drug that can erase bad memories. I’m not so sure that is a good thing. What would replace chunks of memories? Blank spots? Would that not be frustrating? Wouldn’t the person know something bad happen but just can’t remember it? Bad memories could also be used as good.
Richmond VA. Oct. 1959. A young pregnant woman and her Navy husband travel to IL so she can visit her family and gives birth to twin boys.
When the time comes to head back to VA, the new mothers father begs her not to go. He tells her he feels something bad is going to happen. She brushes it off. She is in love. Her father told her if she insists on going back, she will not be going in the car that brought them due to the tires being being bald and he himself will drive her and the twins back to VA.
Jan. 1960 Richmond VA. The father is drunk while one of the 3 month old twins lays next to him on the couch. The mother is giving the other a bath. The baby is being fussy which frustrates the father. Rather then picking the baby up and trying to sooth him, he goes a different route by beating him until he is dead.
When he realizes what he has done, he tries talking the mother into a story they could give the police about how the baby died. He suggests they go with the baby falling down the stairs. How he possibly thought that would work, I have no idea. He decides they will sleep on it and call the police in the morning.
The next morning, the mother decides not to stick with the story and the father is placed under arrest. The mother still in love, bails him out of jail. In the end, the father is dishonorably discharged from the Navy and given a 2yr prison sentence. My mother waited for him.
This is where my memories kick in at around 2 0r 3 and I asked my mother later in life if I dreamed it or if actually true. She confirmed that my memories were true.
We lived on the 3rd floor of a 3 story apt. building that looked more like a huge house. By the time my memories start, I have a younger brother now.
My father as changed since the death of my twin. There is hatred for me now. I can only assume why. Being an identical twin, I may have been a daily reminder of what he had done.
My father was a drunk and womanizer. My mother found out he had fathered another child with another woman. He was gone a lot and when gone, he wouldn’t leave money for food. My mother would “visit” neighbors around supper time in the hopes they would invite us for supper. My mother lost a lot of weight. However she made sure we had something to eat. I remember lots of oatmeal.
When my father was home, the rule was, I would stand or sit in a corner until he was done with his meal before I was allowed to eat. Needless to say, most times I ate a cold meal.
Thunderstorms at first was a scarey event for me because I knew what was going to happen. My father would pick me up, carry me downstairs onto the large open porch. Then he would would go back inside, lock the door and leave me out there alone. At first I would scream and cry while banging on the door begging him to let me back in. After a few times when I realized thunderstorms didn’t hurt me, I grew too love them even to this day.
One bright sunny day, I was playing on our long gravel driveway when I saw my father driving down it towards me. I realized he wasnt going to stop and was coming right for me. I kept backing up until a fence blocked me from going any farther. I begin screaming until some of the neighbors came out to see what was going on. When my father saw the “witnesses,” he stopped the car, came over to me and held me while pretending to act concerned. It confused me because we had made eye contact when he was coming at me with his car. This episode plagued me for years.
At bed time, sometimes after using the belt on me, he would grab a couple more belts too be used and tie me down in bed at night. His excuse was it would keep me away from my younger brother. I had this habit of crawling into my brothers crib and falling asleep with him.
I can remember while being tied down, seeing the shadows of my father and mother from the crack under the bedroom door walking by now and wishing he would come in and hold me. Sometimes I would call out for him. I did love him.
IL 1963. My mother finally had enough of his running around and decided to take the train back to IL and move in with her parents. We lived there until we I was 10yrs old and my mother remarried.
Our first night there we slept on the living room floor and woke to the smell of bacon and eggs. That smell was the greatest thing I ever smelled.
Things changed pretty quickly. I never told my mother what happen until I was an adult. It was the first time in my life my mother pretty much called me a liar. Its a frustrating feeling when your own mother doesn’t believe you or doesn’t want to hear it. So there were things I never told her that happen. My mother worked 1st shift so she had no idea what was going on.
Looking back, I think my grandmother who had raised a houseful of kids was now starting over and raising two more. My Grandfather however was happy we were there.
We learned the new rules pretty quickly and grew to fear our Grandmother. She was smart and only did most things when we were alone with her. We never told anyone what was going on because when you’re a small child and never seen anything different, you assume its normal.
We learned kids are to be seen, not heard. When eating at the dinner table, you are to keep your head down and not speak unless spoken to. Too this day I sometimes find myself looking down at my plate while I eat.
If you don’t like what is for supper, you went to bed with no supper. No supper and belts was the main punishment for just about anything.
My brother and I spent most of our childhood sitting in a room next to the living room. We could play but play quietly.
Bedtime was around 6pm. 12 months out of the year. Unless of course our Aunt would come over with her kids. If we made any noises at bedtime, either our Grandmother would come up with the belt or slipper or at times make our mother do it. I preferred my mother. She would tells us to yell out as she tapped us with the belt.
No TV. When we were allowed to watch TV it was Lawrence Welk or sometimes the Wide World of Sports. Most times we could only hear the TV because it was out of site while we were in the little room.
If we didn’t take our nap and instead made a little to much noise that suit her, our Grandmother would first beat us then get herself a snack and grab a chair to sit down next to us and proceed to eat it while mentioning how good it tasted.
My Grandmother instilled it into my head I was a troublemaker. She called me the “leader.” I was the one who was to blame for anything and everything.
My mother met a man at the fireman’s ball and ended up pregnant by who she didn’t know was married. The baby girl was with is for awhile until one day when I came home from 1st grade and the baby wasn’t there. I went room to room looking for her. I begin to cry. My Grandmother came to me and asked why I was crying. I asked her where the baby was. She told me it was gone. I asked her what I did wrong to make the baby go away and if I was in trouble. It was the first and only time she showed compassion towards me and said it wasn’t my fault.
The baby was put up for adoption. To this day I blame my Grandmother. Odds are she made my mother do it. The good news is, my sister found us years later.
We were allowed no friends except for our cousins and the two boys who lived next door to us. They also didn’t have it so well. My 2nd story bedroom window looked down into their bedroom. I could see them getting beat with a belt by their father quite a few times.
My Grandmother had it in her head that I had to use the bathroom every day. She would sit on a chair next to me while I was on the toilet giving me hints on how to go and if I didn’t, she brought out the enema bag. This became almost a daily thing until I was 7 and almost died on the way to the hospital due an obstruction of the bowel.
My brother and I were eating breakfast at the table while my Grandmother was on the phone in the living room. The bread in the toaster didn’t pop up and began to burn. My brother and I whispered to each other about what we should do. He wanted to tell her. I vetoed him and reminded him we were not allowed to talk. It was probably a no win situation anyway.
The kitchen filled with smoke from the burning toast and my Grandmother finally noticed it. She said her goodbyes on the phone then came into the kitchen. She began yelling at us and asking why we didn’t say anything. I reminded her of her #1 rule of not talking. This did not make her happy and she grabbed the two pieces of toast and began cramming them down my throat. I was choking and couldn’t breathe but she wouldn’t stop until I swallowed it.
My brother broke a rule although I don’t remember what rule it was and locked him into the basement. I could hear him pleading to let him out. Grandmother told me there was a very bad man down there who was going to get my brother. I begged her to let him out. She just kept telling me what the bad man was going to do to my brother.
My brother one day made the huge mistake of instead of calling me by my full first name, he abbreviated it. He found out what soap tasted like that day. I had learned long ago soap isn’t very tasteful. I first learned the taste of soap when I came running into the house pointing to my open mouth making grunting noises. I was able to get out that a butterfly flew into my mouth. The cure…soap.
During punishments with belts, shoes, or whatever was handy, the pants had to come down. She was determined we would feel her wrath. My pants were down a lot. After all, it made no difference if it was someone else who did the bad thing, I was the “leader” and deserved it.
Even something as innocent of asking your mother what them bumps were on her chest was just cause for punishment and no supper although that was one of the times my Grandmother made my mother use a belt on me. She just sat with me for awhile then told me to yell out as she pretended to hit me.
I became really shy and timid in school. In the first grade I had to use the bathroom but was afraid to raise my hand and ended up going in my pants. When the teacher saw what I did, she said she was going to send me home to change clothes. I became frighten. I think she knew somehow what was going on at home and told me not to worry. Everything will be okay. I don’t know what my teacher told my Grandmother but noting happen. I changed my pants and went back to school. My Grandmother never talked about it.
I was led to believe the birds were watching every move I made and would report back to my Grandmother. Anytime I noticed a bird, I would stand there not moving until it flew away.
One day I was playing with a caterpillar until my Grandmother told me they climb into your ear and have babies. I was deathly afraid of them for years.
When I became an adult, I tried telling my mother what was going on behind her back. She wouldn’t listen. We used to sit near the curb almost everyday and we could tell by where the shadow of the house fell on the street when our mother would be home for work. I asked her if she knew why we did that. She answered because we missed her. I told her yes we did miss her but that wasn’t the main reason. We knew when she came home, most of the things our Grandmother did would stop.
My mother met a man when I was 1o and had a daughter with him. I suspect my mother married him so she could get out of our Grandmothers house. Or my Grandmother pressured her to marry him so we would get out. My stepdad loved my mother and I dont think she realized she loved him too until after he died.
I didn’t get along with my step dad but I saw the tears in his eyes as I was on the bus headed for Navy boot camp. From that day on, we were okay.
My younger brother was killed over 20yrs ago. It was before our adopted out sister found us. We used to lay in bed at night scheming of ways we were going to find her. My mother never got over my younger brothers death.
I hadn’t seen my father since I was 5 and when the internet came out, my #1 purpose of using it was to find him. I did find him but he had died a couple yrs before.
I have left some things out because some are too fuzzy to piece together. I did have some good times. Especially with my Grandfather. It was devastating when I was 12 and being be told he died.
Not long before my mother died, she told me she was sorry for staying with my father. Her excuse she gave was, “He was good looking.”
Over the years she would talk about bringing my twin to IL from VA. It was a regret of hers for not following through.
I took what had happen to me as a child and used it as an example of how not to treat others and how to raise kids. I think it worked out pretty well.