My Dad, Part 2

7 04 2008

Life kept getting stranger for our family. We lived in an upscale neighborhood , yet our standard of living was declining. My dad bought a barrel of flour for my mother. We no longer had store bought bread. Mother made biscuits for our bread. Our food became extremely simple. I longed for the regular food that Mother had once made. The prize out of that barrel of flour is that mother did make cookies. She made oatmeal cookies and some type of chocolate cookie made out of cocoa. I know that my brothers would agree with me that we missed store bought bread.

There was a double standard in our home. Dad kept a shelf of goodies just for himself. He kept a loaf of bread and some whisky in that cabinet. I knew better than to touch dad’s precious hoard. Dad also got to be overbearing with us. Regular chores became our assignment. Now ordinarily this is a good thing for children. However, dad was very strict. He would check the dishes we washed and often he made us do them a second time. Dad was particularly harsh with my oldest brother, Phillip. Phillip had to do much of the yard work. Dad actually made him use scissors to trim the edges of the grass.

I came to dread it when dad was at home. He constantly picked at us, or he would tease us in inappropriate ways. I didn’t know until I met up with my dad again later in life that he had left the car industry to explore being an engineer with plastics. One of my brothers just recently gave me more details of that era. It seems dad was working with a company called Renard Plastics which had ideas ahead of its time. The company folded. Later, from my mother, I learned that my parents borrowed some money from my maternal grandmother in order to survive. It was about this time that our lovely home was put up for sale.

One day we woke up to find every curtain in the house drawn. My dad ordered us to be absolutely quiet. I kept asking my mother what was going on. She never really answered me in a truthful way. My dad was trying to keep the company that financed the dining room furniture at bay by darkening the house and acting like no one was at home. His plan didn’t work long. Soon people were at the door to come seize the furniture. No explanation was given to me and my brothers that day. I just knew that our family was in trouble and that I felt a weight on my shoulder that no six year old should ever have.

I started first grade in that neighborhood, but by October, our family moved to a rental home in Birmingham, Michigan. It was a large two story grey house on 14 Mile Road. Dad was an insurance salesman by this time. Since our nice dining room table was repossessed, dad made a dining room table that was very basic just so that our family could have something from which to eat.

Despite the chaos of our family life, mom still tried to create a somewhat stable environment by taking us to church on a regular basis. At the time, she was in the process of learning how to drive, but did not yet have a driver’s licence. Therefore, some of my parent’s familiar friends picked up my mother and us children. When we would return from church, dad always had a big pot of something cooked for us. However, it was not always to my liking. For example, one Sunday he had cooked a pot of fish stew for us.

Dad was overly dramatic in his discipline of us. This was a carry over from his father who was harsh with him as a child. One of my dad’s favorite punishments for us children was to wash our mouths out with soap. I remembered how one day he washed my mouth out with soap because I had wrapped up some food that I didn’t like in a napkin and dropped it under the table. He also did other cruel things to us children. For example, he once shaved all of Phillip’s hair off and beat him with a leather belt. Mother constantly tried to intercede for us and be our advocate, but my father would rarely listen to her.

Soon I noticed that my parents were not socializing with their long time friends any longer. Their friends would occasionally check on my mother but would have nothing to do with my father. My father was starting to dabble in a fringe religious group and had made a whole new set of friends. One weekend, my dad bought all kinds of goodies for a party that he was having with his friends. There were mints, nuts, cookies, finger sandwiches and good things to drink. I got excited because I thought that the goodies were for us, too. However, Dad sent us upstairs and enjoyed a party with his friends. We were never allowed to have any of the leftovers.

Despite all of this, I still loved my Dad. I longed for his approval. I longed for our family to return to the kind of living that I had once experienced. It was not to be. Life became an unending maze of strange happenings. My premonitions of my dad and mother divorcing were not so far fetched. The severing of our family was just around the corner.




5 responses

11 04 2008

You were very observant for a child. I think that children have a sense that tells them the truth when the adults tell them that everything is alright. When I was 5, my youngest sister was born. She was born with Down’s Syndrome. No one told me anything, but I rememeber asking my brother (he was 15 years older than I) why did this baby make everyone so sad. Of course, everyone thought that I would not understand, but I did understand and I thought that I had done something wrong. These must be painful things for you to recall. Thank you for sharing…it brings back my own memories of a time when everything was supposed to be perfect and it truly never was…

12 04 2008

I don’t think we can ever underestimate the perception of a small child. I know my memories are very clear –likewise–most children do store away memories both bad and good at an early age. You have a very painful memory and I’m sorry you had to dig around for information about your sister. That is very sad. Thanks again for your faithful imput on my blog.

Your friend,

12 04 2008

Hi Nicole3. I hope it won’t be too long before your internet is fixed. I know, it can be very frustrating……

Hope that all is well with you… 😀

22 04 2008
David Web

Dear Nichole:

I am truly sorry that these things are still so vivid in your mind while you climb up toward sixty. I remember the furniture disappearing slowly, the “new friends” from the perceived cult of Science Religon, etc. I especially recall how alarmed Mother would be when any of these folks dropped by, and distinctly remember one argument she had with a man at our front door. It was the most demonstrative piece of anger I ever saw her exhibit; and she thoroughly rebuffed the fellow, who left like a wimpering puppy.

Pride is a great and terrible thing simultaneously, but mostly terrible. It will never put dinner on the table unless it is plunder, can offer no real and lasting solutions, is puffed up, unreasonable, etc. I fear Dad had a good measure of that awful side of pride. To have risen from the tobacco fields to a perch in Detroit, and have the rug pulled out from under him must have been an unbearable plummet for him. He had a very tender side he was afraid to show, I think.

Little Brother

22 04 2008

Little brother,
I think that those memories will live forever but they do not sting like they once did. Telling this story seems almost like reading a book. I feel so completely healed from the past but I still remember. I think it good to put alerts out to parents how sensitive children really are. And with that in mind–walk a better path than our father did.


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