“They read you Cinderella and you hoped it would come true, that some day your prince charming would come rescue you. You love romantic movies and you never will forget the way you felt when Romeo kissed Juliette” John Michael Montgomery croons in the back of my mind and I begin to laugh. All those dreamy love songs start rushing forward to via for a piece of my memory. It would be far to easy to get lost in the misty melodies of how I thought it all was supposed to be. Unfortunately, that is not how my story book reads.
As children growing up, each of us learns a different path as being normal and right. We each pick out the details that we want to hold on to. However, there are those details that we would just as soon forget, pretend they were never real. Working hard to convince ourselves that they were nothing more than fragments of a bad dream. They weren’t. They became our “ghosts from our nursery”. In-grainning themselves with in us, making them a part of who we become, the decisions we make and the choices and consequences we endure.
My parents taught me many lessons throughout our time together. Not all of them were pleasant, not all of them were bad. In the beginning I learned from hearing and seeing from a distance, that changed over time as circumstances and influences changed. With those changes came the foundation of who I would become. My hopes, my fears , my realities and my fantasies were all base on what I learned was normal. Whether I liked it or not I was a product of my environment, ever-changing and evolving.
I can remember a time when my mother went to a parent teacher conference when I was in the second grade. The teacher was not at all happy that I was there and told my mother so, suggesting that I should go outside and play while the adults talked. My mom promptly told the teacher that I had been raised mostly in the company of adults and that talking behind peoples’ backs was an unacceptable practice even when it came to a child. Beings that this teacher was new and this was her first encounter with my mom, I believe she wasn’t sure about the situation she found her self in. If she had, she probably would not have started her portion of the conversation by saying, “Yes, I have noticed that she is a strange bird”. I was not present for the remainder of the conversation. I could tell by the look on my mothers face that I wanted no part of what was coming next.
What I do know is that the rest of that second grade year was miserable. I learned some very humiliating lessons from that teacher that stayed with me a lifetime. I also know she wasn’t a teacher in our school very much longer. In hind sight I realize that it must have been very difficult coming into a very small closely guarded community that wasn’t always welcoming to strangers.
Often it is said that women pick men like their fathers to be their life mates. It took me years to realize that I had done just that. My father was a man who in my eyes no other human being was equal to. I placed him on a pedestal that was impossible to reach. It has taken nearly a lifetime to realize that my dad was just as human as anyone else. He made his mistakes, he made his choices, he dealt with his consequences. Still yet in all, he will always be my hero, good bad or any different.
When my parents married they were both in very emotionally vulnerable places in their lives. My husband and I share this in common with them. The exact circumstances were not the same, however the vulnerabilities were. All of us were trying to recover from devastating and life changing losses. The illusion of what we believed the world was supposed to be based on had been shattered with no possibility of repair.
My parents were both recovering from broken marriages. Mom was trying to raise two children on her own after a violent encounter with her first husband had sent her running with her children for safety and shelter. My father on the other hand was a man who was realizing the devastation of his own actions of being young and wild spirited, believing he could make a living as a rodeo rider and still have a wife and two young girls at home while he traveled and went about life as he mistakenly thought it should be. Both were broken.
My husband and I had similar yet vastly different losses. Vic had been placed in foster care at the age of four and had no contact with parents and siblings. Growing up without a mother and having the notion that he was unwanted and cared for by that family left him with scars invisible to the naked eye yet highly destructive when it came to relationships with others. My loss came when my parents passed away when I was nineteen years of age. My whole world had been wrapped up in the fact that I was a “daddy’s girl” who believed her dad was invincible and immortal. He crushed that belief the night he died. My mom further compounded the situation when she followed through on the prediction she had made that night, “I am going to join Daddy in heaven before this year is out”. December 30th, two months and fifteen days later her words were fact.
The true tale of a lost and found and lost again little boy
” You can keep him. I don’t want him”. The words on the faded yellow half sheet of paper sucked the air from his lungs. The big mans handsome face went ashen, as he seemed to withdraw into himself and his hands shaking. Slowly he turned and walked away with heavy dragging steps.
Every little boy has an image of who and what their mother should be, what she looks like in his mind, how she smells, how the her touch feels. This is so true for a boy who has not seen his mother for more than twenty years and has very few memories of her from their limited time together.
“Is there anything else that I can help you with”? the lady behind the counter asked with a non-committal tone. The man did not even look back as he continued to walk away dazed.
The woman who had been standing at his side replied, ” Yes, I would like copies of these pages please”.
“They are 10 cent per page”, the clerk stated.
“Fine”, the woman said as she looked back over her shoulder watching her husband continue walking as their two young children scampered after him.
With the copies in hand she hurried to the car, finding the children silent with questioning eyes. When she got into the car their daughter asked in a quiet voice, ” Mommy, why is Daddy crying”?
“Daddy got some bad news that made him really sad”.
” So that is what makes people sad, bad news”? Chimed in the little toe headed two-year old boy who was his dad’s spitting image. For two, he talked better and reasoned better than many children much older.
” Sometimes” the mom replied. She gently laid her hand on her husbands shoulder, “I’m sorry, so sorry”. she soothed.
“What are you sorry for, you didn’t do it” the man quietly replied. In that instant the anger and hurt could be felt as he continued, “she did it. She put it right there on paper. I should have believed him when my dad said she didn’t want me and I was better off leaving it alone.”
His words stabbed her in the heart. She was the one who got him started looking for his biological family believing that knowing about them would help their relationship and help them better understand why he acted toward and felt like he did in regards to women. Instead of helping, she had just caused more pain and anger. Anger had not been a healthy part of their marriage.
The copies were tucked away in her hope chest and the incident hidden away and not spoken of further. It just lay festering and poisoning them both.
My husband and I first met when he was twelve and I was eight. My father and his adopted fathers’ aunt were friends. Vic’s “Aunt Lee” and her husband raced horses and my father was an avid lover of horses so it was no wonder that we would have our first meeting at the racetrack. Dad had been following Jack and Lee’s horses for years and this year their up and coming runner was a young filly by the name of Rapid Marcia.
When dad caught up with Jack and Lee in the stand there was another man and young boy with them. Lee made the introductions; “Ray, this is my nephew Don and his son Victor. Don is Kitty’s son”.
“Nice to meet ya” my dad said shaking hands with the man and boy. I just eyed them cautiously. “Something just isn’t right here” I thought to myself as I looked past the adults to watch the new blond that had joined our ranks. It wasn’t too often that kids hung around in our group. To say I didn’t fit in with kids my own age was an understatement. I had been raised mostly in the company of adults and kids my own age were of very little interest to me.
The five of us settled onto the wooden benches to watch the horses being loaded into the gates. The adults chattered back and forth, nothing of interest to me really . I continued to watch the jockeys work their mounts through the iron poles that enclosed the starting gates, when a sudden movement of one of the horses caught everyone’s attention. One of the horses had bolted from the gate, dismounting its rider. Running at full speed the horse tried to jump the track railing and slipped tangling up instead. The crack was so loud and sickening that it was already known the horse’s leg had shattered.
People throughout the stands had risen to their feet and as the crowd gasped. Soon there was the buzz of chatter as the spectators began talking amongst themselves. Dad and Lee were discussing the fact that the horse was going to have to be put down. The young boy questioned the meaning of what they were saying. His dad said, “That means they will have to shoot it”, before he could continue the boy started to scream and cry.
“No, no they can’t kill that horse. They have to fix his leg. Take him to a vet or something, don’t let them kill him”. he wailed.
The last I saw of that blond was as his dad was walking him away with his hand on his shoulder.
I leaned towards Lee and asked. “Where did ya find him”?
Lee just laughed, “He is from California. He is not used to the same things we are here”.
“Well send him back”. I responded. The adults just shook their head and went back to their conversation. It wasn’t as though none of us care about the faith of the horse, we were horse people and knew how things were done, like it or not.
I doubt anyone there that day would have ever thought that this would be a beginning that would be put hold until the time was right, nearly twelve years later.
Progress, that is what they called the new highway that was being built. Yes, the road was narrow in places and the going slow, but the beauty was breath-taking. The river roared through the canyon on one side and the towering mountain cliffs bordered the other. The train snaked passed near by adding to the majestic scene. All of that was coming to an end while I sat waiting for the flagman to let me pass. The construction crew was blasting the mountain side that day and radios were suppose to be turned off so that they would not interfere with the blasting signals. Needless to say I was board stiff after only five minutes of waiting. I didn’t have a pen and paper in the front seat with me so I couldn’t write and catch up on pen pal letters I was behind on, couldn’t listen to music, and alas no such thing as cell phones, I -Pads, lap tops or any other such gizmos.
It was pay day and I was on my way to Butte to check out new clothes and have lunch with my sister. Not a bad plan for my day off. I began day dreaming about what I had planned on buying. New plain pocket cords, I needed at least three pair, one black, one navy and one tan, that way I would have my wardrobe covered. Those were neutral colors and with my blue jeans I could get shirts of any color or design and not have to worry about being too far out of fashion.I also had seen an ad from sapphire colored mascara and wanted to try it out. Should go great with my blue eyes and dark hair. I debated on new 45s or an eight track. If I got the K-Tel I knew it would have a variety of hits and maybe some that I wasn’t so sure of. If I got the 45s I would have some of what I wanted and would have to play they in a stack on my phonograph. If I got an LP then I wouldn’t have to change records so often, however I couldn’t think of an artist I like that had an entire album which I liked every song.
Tap, tap, tap, that annoying sound was interrupting my concentration, my day dreaming…….as I turned to look straight into the bluest eyes I had ever seen. They were the deep blue like my dad’s but the truly caught my attention that day. ” Lady you can go now”. The blond said while holding his stop sign and grinning. Did I want to go, yes, no, oh I don’t know. As I started the car and put it into gear and still a little star struck, I hit the gas a little to hard and nearly ran the man over.
I finally arrived in Butte and met up with my sister, I told her about the encounter.” Leave it up to you she said, to find a good looking guy in the middle of no where and then try and run him down.”
A few weeks would pass before the blond and I encountered one another again. He was sitting on a bar stool playing the video poker machine in the Windsor Bar. Hard not to notice the blond hair curling nearly to his shoulders, the Britannia jeans and velour pull over. Class the man had class. Starting to walk past I looked over his shoulder at the hand displayed on the screen, full house aces and 10, a sure play off. “Nice hand” I said and he hit the re-deal button. Now I thought, ” What an idiot” . Wouldn’t you know it the new hand gave him a royal flush. He got up walked away without a word cashed out and walked away. For anyone with any sense that should have been the end of it, but it wasn’t.
To this day I can not think of anyone I tried harder to get their attention, I guess ignoring me was not something I could just let pass.
My father would pass away on October 16, 1980 in the midst of these happening with Vic. I would go through some deep emotional times and my drinking soon began to control more of me that I did. The events of the night my father died would lay the ground work for self destruction at its’ best. My world had completely fallen apart and I was lost. The ones I believed should have been there to help me through were not there, some that I never expected tried and I pushed them away. I couldn’t help my mom when I couldn’t even help myself.
That night my mom told me that she would be with Dad in heaven before the year was over. She had not revealed to me or anyone else that she was battling cancer again. This time it was far more advanced and far more aggressive that what she had dealt with in the 1970s.
Over the next months we would talk when Mom felt well enough. She never let on to how bad the pain and nausea was until near the end when she could no longer hide the affects it was having on her body. When she went into the hospital the last time just before she died she asked me to keep the information of the extent of her illness from my sister, her daughter Shelby La Dawn. That was an emotional battle that ended in a shouting match in the hall way of the hospital two days after Mom was admitted. La Dawn and I had been at odds any way from the night that Dad died and the things she and her husband Jack Dodge had said to me having no idea what had already been said and settled between my mother and myself.
Mom and I had talked and made plans the night before. We were going to stop in Helena on our way to Essex, Montana, (Mom wanted to go home before she died) so she could have her will notarized. I already knew what was suppose to happen, who was suppose to get what, mom said she wanted it written and notarized so the problems she expected wouldn’t happen. When I awoke I felt that something was wrong horridly wrong and I feared getting out of bed. I looked across my bedroom to the large round mirror attached to my vanity. In the center I had taped an 8X10 of my high school graduation picture of my dad on the left, my mom on the right and me in the middle. As I gazed at the picture shadows obscured Dad from the picture and went on to black out mom. Needless to say I was more than a little upset. I quickly got out of bed to head down stair, I could hear the white noise on the TV as it was 4:30 am. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Penny my white German Shepard was there pacing and whining. I thought she wanted out so I opened the side door at the bottom of the stairs but she wouldn’t go out. I started making coffee and started toward the living room knowing that Mom often fell asleep on the couch with the TV on since Daddy had died.
I moment I started through the door I knew. Penny went to the lounge and laid down with her head directly under my Mom’s hand that was hanging over the edge of the couch. I knew. I knew and I was not ready to admit it. If I admitted it, I would have to make the calls and making the calls would make it real and I was not going to accept the fact that my mother had died, had died alone while I slept up stairs. Died while she was losing blood from her nose and her mouth and couldn’t call for help while I was up stairs asleep. How could have I slept while my mother died alone in our living room directly below my bedroom?