My Dad, Part 3

28 07 2008

My dad lost all interest in keeping up traditions in our family.  Our last Christmas with us he just frankly told each of us that there was no Santa Claus.  I was 7 years old and I still loved Santa.  What a heartbrake that was for me.  I know now that he was brutally honest with us because there was no money to buy Christmas gifts. 

We did have one lovely occasion our last summer with Dad.  He was working for an insurance company in downtown Detroit.  The Queen of England was to be on her ship on the Detroit River.  He took our family downtown to his office building so that we could see the queen on her ship.  We did see the ship but of course could not see the queen.  However, we knew she was on that ship.  That memory is something special that I have always carried in my heart.

Mom started talking about how she was going back to college for refresher courses so that she could teach school again.  I enjoyed my mom being a homemaker.  I loved her presence in my life at all times.  She was a very elegant lady in all ways.  Mother always dressed up each day unless she was doing housework.  After her chores, she always dressed up again.  She spoke softly to us in her reprimands.  Thus, I felt very bewildered when she started talking about going to college.

Dad kept his mysterious plans going strong.  We had already met his secretary.  She went out to eat with us on my 7th birthday.  I remember Dad making me sit in her lap.  I had a creepy feeling about that lady.  Dad knew he was going to leave us.  That is why he pushed mother to take college courses. One of my brothers told me that at least dad had some integrity left by pushing mother closer to the field of teaching. I wasn’t sure I agreed with my brother at first but now I realize that he was right.

Dad had a little conference with each of us children.  He told us that he got an engineering job with Boeing Aircraft in Seattle, Washington.  Likewise, he told us that he would be leaving in June.  Dad assurred us that he would be writing to each of us and that within a year that he would have us join him.  I thought it a little strange that we couldn’t be with him from the beginning of his journey.  Don’t ever under estimate the discernment of a child.  Children are very perceptive.  I knew in my heart that Dad was gone.  I knew that we would never join him anywhere.

That June day came when Dad kissed us all goodbye and drove away.  Later we found out that Dad picked up his secretary who was pregnant and took her with him.  Mother had already arranged for a sitter to take care of us while she took courses at Wayne State University in Detroit.  We had no car so mother took a bus each day to and from college.  Our sitter only lasted a couple of months before she got burned out with taking care of four children.  By the time school started mother found another sitter.  She lasted the entire school year.  My youngest brother was still at home all day. 

Now that I’m grown and have raised four children with the help of my husband–I feel such admiration for the courage that my mother had.  She didn’t have money to go back to college.  One family loaned my mother the money.  Later, after mother died –the man of that house told me that mother repaid every dollar that she borrowed.  Thus, Mother took a cab to her school each morning.  She was an elementary school teacher once again. 

I grieved so much.  Dad had been overly strick the last couple of years he was with us but I still missed him.  I cried myself to sleep each night.  Many times I would wake up with terrible stomach cramps and would beg my mother to let me stay home from school.  Mother relented many times with me.  I know I missed at least a month’s worth of school during the third grade.

Mother made a real effort to make our Christmas special that year.  She made all kinds of homemade treats .  I especially remember the peanut brittle she made and put in candy dishes in the living room.  After Christmas, she began talking to us about moving to Kentucky.  Mother was raised in Western Kentucky and wanted to go back to be with her family.  By spring she had already landed a job with the school system in her hometown of Kentucky.  We all began to get excited about taking a long train trip to Kentucky.  The plan was that we would live with my grandmother.  Grandmother had a house that was made into three apartments.  For the summer we would live in Grandmother’s apartment but in September we would move to the upstairs apartment–after the young couple who was renting it moved out.

There had been so much confusion and grief our first year without our dad.  Mom did the best she could do to keep up with housework and laundry while teaching fulltime.  She didn’t push us to do chores and we didn’t volunteer.  I looked forward to grandmother taking care of us and that life would be neat and orderly once again.  What I didn’t know was that grandmother was about to be the character shaper of our lives.  She was 69 years old and a breast cancer survivor.  She was not soft spoken like my mother.  Grandmother was all about discipline and hard work.  It is a good thing–I didn’t know that while I was dreaming of my perfect world.  That train ride wouldn’t have been as much fun.  

So we left Detroit , Michigan around noon on July 3, l961.  All of us were excited about the long train ride to Kentucky.  New adventures were just around the corner.




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