My Dad, Part 4

28 07 2008

The most exciting part of our train ride was stopping in Chicago.  Mom treated us to a nice lunch and let us buy all kinds of comic books.  Those comic books kept us very entertained.  We would swap our comic books with each other the rest of the trip.  We arrived in Hopkinsville, Kentucky on July 4, l961 at around 8:00 a.m. in the morning.  My mother’s brother and sister meant us at the train station in downtown Hopkinsville.   Grandmother was waiting for us and had cooked hotcakes for us.  She had her table all set with her finest dishes.  It was wonderful getting such a welcome greeting.  Grandmother showed us the sleeping arrangement for our family.  Since she ladysat each evening–mother and I would sleep in her double bed.  My youngest brother would sleep in the twin bed in the same room.  My other two brothers would sleep on cots in her hallway. 

Grandmother allowed us to have a few days of fun and then she presented us with a schedule of chores.  She made us wash and dry all of the dishes.  I had to learn to iron.  My brothers did all of the yard work and took out the garbage.  I had to help my grandmother clean the formal living room each Saturday morning.  I had never had to do anything but wash dishes my entire life.  We also had to learn how to say “yes, m’am” and “no m’am” and “yes, sir” and “no sir”.  Grandmother would shake our little shoulders when we slipped up.

For the last two months of summer vacation I ironed all of the clothes in the family.  There were no permanent press clothes in those days.  Grandmother had me sprinkle the clothes with water then I would begin ironing.  I didn’t sass my grandmother because I knew she meant business with each of us.  (Later, as a teenager I sassed my dear grandmother a great deal.  I deeply regret that.)

When school started– grandmother and mother hired a woman to help with cleaning and ironing.  Never again did I have to iron any of the family clothes.  However, I will always be grateful that my grandmother started right in with teaching us that it takes every member of the family to do their share. 

We moved upstairs in September to our own apartment.  Grandmother was a heart patient.  In those days with heart patients– the medical thought was that climbing stairs was too stressful for the heart.  Thus, grandmother wasn’t always watching everything we did.  Mother assigned our dish washing schedule for our new apartment.  However, grandmother still made me help clean her formal living room each Saturday and the boys had to continue to do the yard work.

Gramdmother was a Southern Baptist and she insisted that we attend church.  She made us go to church not only on Sunday morning but any time the church building was opened.  I had to go to “training union” each Sunday evening and “G.A” activities each Wednesday evening.  We lived right in the heart of town.  Our church was just a few blocks from our home.  So we walked to church.  We also learned to walk everywhere because Mother didn’t have a car.

Dad had written to mother shortly after we arrived in Hopkinsville.  He wanted a divorce.  We all knew that was coming or else my mother would never have moved us to Kentucky.  Nevertheless, we all wept when mother read the letter to us.  Thus, began a long series of my mother meeting with her divorce lawyer.  There were no quick divorces in those days.  I think it took nearly a year for the divorce to be granted.

Now Dad did write short notes to each of us the first year he was gone.  He claims that he wrote letters to us throughout our growing up years but that mother just didn’t give them to us.  To be fair–Dad might have tried to write us those first couple of years we were in Kentucky.  But by the time I was in Junior high school–I checked the mail a great deal.  There were never any letters from Dad.  Mother claims that she never knew where dad was.  At any rate–there was never any money coming to our household from Dad. I don’t think my mother had the emotional strength to fight for child support.  It was all she could do just to keep our household running smoothly.

Now I’m not going to write every detail about our growing up years.  We all did well in school.  My oldest brother was the family scholar.  He earned a naval scholarship to the University of North Carolina. In his early 50’s he earned his master’s degree in English Literature and currantly teaches at Hopkinsville Community College.  I ended up going to our local community college then transferring to Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, Alabama.  I met my dear husband of 34 years at Southeastern Bible College. I have gone back to college at various times in my life but have never earned another degree.  I have taught as a subsitute teacher off and on for almost 20 years. All of our children were born in Birmingham.  My brother who goes by “David Web” on this blog had years of  doing various things.  He did earn a two year business degree.  He has lived in Denver, Co. for 23 years now and has a great job working for the state.  My youngest brother earned in undergraduate degree in Art and his master’s degree in  English Literature.  In his thirties’s he earned a law degree.  Today he works for the state of Tennessee as a lawyer. 

In l979, we found out where our father lived.  Thus, we all began corresponding with him.  Dad came to visit my family in Birmingham in l985 for a week.  I have written the details of that in my Vera stories. ( I have an entire category devoted to these stories.) Dad worked for years in the space program at Hunstville and was part of the engineering team that made Apollo 11.  I have documentation of his work on Apollo 11 that was given to me after my dad died.  Dad fathered two other children.  They live in the Detroit area.  I have been in contact with my half sister but my half brother is not open to getting to know my family.  My dad divorced their mother ( the secretary) and married another woman.  That marriage lasted to the end of his life.

Dad lost everything he had in l994.  He hadn’t filed taxes for many years.  The government seized all of his assets.  His health declined from that point and he died of a stroke in l996.  It has been a difficult journey for me learning to forgive my dad.  At times we were very close and then he would brush me off.  I know my brothers have had their own struggles.  My oldest brother feels strongly that Dad had a death bed conversion while he was in a coma those last days of his life.  Dad was baptized in his youth and was a very devout young man of faith during his growing up years.  I like to  believe that my brother’s “knowing” is true.  At any rate, I do forgive my dad.  As an Orthodox Christian–I’ve come to understand that we are all sick and in need of help.  Christ is our great physician.  The Orthodox Church is viewed as a hospital.  We are continually getting well by obeying our church.  We get our nourishment through taking the Holy  Eucharist and by having regular confession with our priest.  We also get our nourishment by obeying the fasts that our church has.  We strongly rely on the Gospels of Christ for lessons about daily life.  The most important lesson Christ taught us was to forgive each other.  If we can’t forgive others then Christ will not forgive us.  So today I pray for my reposed father each day.  He made many mistakes.  But then so have I.   I hope my story will help each of you to let loose of resentment and bitterness.  May the Holy Gospels work in each of your lives!

God bless each of You!




2 responses

29 07 2008

What an absolutely fascinating story! I’ve never had grandparents so I’m living vicariously through you!
p.s.I do plan to try to find a Church, I love going especially the hymns!

30 07 2008

Dear frugaltrenches,
I’m glad you liked this story. It is all so true! My grandmother was a wonderful woman and without her help–all four of us children would have been at a great loss.

Keep me up on your search for a church!


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