Divorce
Home Up Abandonment

   


DESTINY


CHAPTER ONE:
DIVORCE

Written by Rick Archer
 

 


SUBCHAPTER 001
- METAMORPHOSIS
 

 

'Gregor Samsa awakens one morning in his family's apartment to find himself inexplicably transformed into a gigantic insect.'

-- Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka

One night in October 1964, I went to bed looking just like all the other boys my age.  I was 14.

When I awoke, my face was burning hot.  Alarmed, I raced to the mirror.  Then I screamed bloody murder.  I was staring at the swollen face of a monster! 

During the course of the night, I had turned into a hideous creature.  This was the stuff of nightmares, but it was Reality.  My Midnight Metamorphosis would become the single defining moment of my entire life. 

This was the birth of the Creepy Loser Kid.
High School Hell had just begun.

 


SUBCHAPTER 002
- THE 1959 DIVORCE
 

 

Mary, my mother, came from a solid home in mid-Pennsylvania.  Her father William was the district supervisor for a Pennsylvania oil company.  Mom grew up in a comfortable, upper-middle class home atop a hill in a rural area located near Reading, Pennsylvania. 

There were two boys and two girls in the family.  Mom was extremely close to her younger brother Dick, but she always felt inferior to her older sister Gwen who was quite beautiful.  Mom on the other hand was plump, plain and and always wore thick glasses.

Unfortunately Mom's mother was a nag.  Her mother constantly berated Mom about her looks.  She asked why Mary couldn't try harder to be pretty like her older sister.  Do your hair, use some make-up, but for heaven's sake, do something!  Mary grew up feeling like the ugly duckling.

Mary wasn't particularly athletic or social.  On the other hand, Mary was extremely bright and excelled in school.  Her books were her best friend.

   

My father Jim came from a lonely existence in mid-Ohio.  He and his mother moved to Reading, Pennsylvania, when he was thirteen.

The nicest thing I can say about Dad is that he was a very smart guy and brilliant in his field.  Unfortunately, he was also a superficial man who lacked character.  He was soft.  I think the world knocked him down at an early age and he never completely got back up.  For the rest of his life, he always took the easiest way out of any dilemma.  Dad spent most of his life hiding behind the skirts of domineering women.

The parallels between my father's childhood and my own are disturbingly similar. 

My father lost an eye due to a childhood accident.  So did I. 

Dad was an only child who didn't get along with his strange mother.  Same for me. 

Dad grew up a very lonely, insecure young man who turned to dreams of college as his escape route.  And me?  Same for me.

Jim lost his father at age six.  His father died from appendicitis.  While my father didn't exactly die on me, he removed himself from my life at age ten.  Dad told me how much he missed having a father, a statement I found bitterly ironic.  I often wondered if Dad ever caught on that he had made me suffer the exact same fate he did.

My father caught a lucky break in World War II.  Practically on his first day of action, a German sniper popped him in the hip while he was on patrol during the Battle of the Bulge.  Although Dad was unable to walk for a while, it was a non-threatening wound that left an impressive scar. By the time the wound healed, the war was over.  Dad collected his purple heart and began his free ride to college paid for by Uncle Sam.

However, Uncle Sam didn't pay for room and board and my father was penniless. 

 

My mother came from a wealthy family in my father's hometown.  Although Mom was plain and lacked confidence, Dad needed a meal ticket and Mom solved the problem.  Sad to say, although they were well-match for smarts, the disparity in their appearance was noticeable. 

Dad had a strange mother who at times related to her son more as her 'companion' than as her son.  I don't know just how creepy things got, but there were rumors. 

Coming from such a terrible home, I suspect my father had character issues.  However, he was a good-looking man, extremely bright, and very ambitious.  Plus I can't imagine my mother had a wide range of marriage offers.  So I expect she decided to take a chance on him.  I have no idea whether either of them loved one another, but based on what I saw, I doubt it.

Dad received his training as an electrical engineer from Drexel Tech in Philadelphia.  Mom dropped out of college to support him.  Dad started his career a year before I was born in 1949.  My first home was in Bethesda, Maryland.  Dad worked as a salesman for Square D, a manufacturer of fuse boxes and equipment used to control and distribute electric power.

The company transferred Dad to Houston when I was six. Dad was good at sales, but yearned to put his engineering talent to better use.  While I was in college, Dad moved over to Kranco, a company that built massive cranes.  Kranco is where my father made his mark. 

During his career at Kranco, Dad was finally able to show the world what he could do. He became the go-to guy for large and difficult projects that called for unusual solutions.  For example, he designed the electrical system for a rocket-launching crane at Cape Kennedy meant to hurl astronauts into space.  Another time he designed the electrical system for a crane that removed spent tie rods from a nuclear reactor. 

 


My father was frequently called in to handle the toughest assignments.  My father's best piece of work came on a project where several other engineers had failed.  He designed the electrical system for a crane that needed to work in sub-zero temperatures at a lumber mill up in far northern Canada.  The Canada project is where he showed his special talent.  Dad was the first man to overcome the problem of the bitter arctic temperatures.  After that, my father's fame spread.  He became known as the guy who could succeed where others couldn't.  Consequently he received several impressive new projects.

 

Dad's most interesting project was designing a crane to handle a secret prototype aircraft for the military.  Asked to work strictly from specifications, Dad was never allowed to see the actual plane itself in New Mexico. 

Consumed with curiosity, Dad loved talking about that project.  Dad was positive his crane was being used for a plane with stealth technology or some sort of UFO.  I don't think he was kidding.  Dad did not tease. 

The Civil War was my father's favorite preoccupation, but my father was also very interested in the unexplained.  Considering the proximity of that airbase to Roswell, New Mexico, that UFO story was right up his alley. 

For Christmas one year, Dad gave me a book on Edgar Cayce, the Sleeping Prophet of Virginia Beach.  Dad would explain to me how Edgar Cayce would go into trances and magically come up with amazing cures for very sick people.  Mr. Cayce also raised the prospect of Reincarnation as a fact of life, not just some nonsensical Hindu philosophy. 

Dad used to say Edgar Cayce interested him more than any other person.  Due to some strange college experiences, I would come to agree with him. 

 

The first dramatic event of my life took place when I cut my left eye out.   I was five. 

I had a piece of thick rope I wanted to cut, so I found a table knife with an edge barely sharp enough to cut food at the dinner table, but not much else.  Unfortunately, progress was really slow because the knife was so dull.  I discovered I was stronger pulling the knife towards me, so that is the direction I used.  Ten minutes passed, maybe fifteen.  My mother was in the next room the entire time, but she never had the slightest idea what I was doing. 

It was slow going, but I was almost done.  My mother suddenly called to me and told me to hurry up whatever I was doing and get ready.  I guess we had to go somewhere.  So to speed up the process, I gave the knife a big jerk.  

I wasn't aware that just a thread was keeping the rope intact.  Boom. The knife cut swiftly through the remaining rope and kept going in an arc that barely grazed the front of my my left eye.  I had sliced the pupil of my left eye.  To my surprise, it didn't even hurt. 

Emergency room here I come. 

I soon developed a cataract.  The surgery to correct the cataract when I was six was unsuccessful.  Even more problematic, I developed a detached retina.   At this point, the doctor detected the early signs of 'sympathetic ophthalmia'.  This is an inflammation of both eyes that can follow trauma from the bad eye to the good eye.  Sometimes the good eye goes kaput just like the bad eye.  This condition can leave the patient completely blind, so they decided to completely remove my bad left eye as a precaution.  I was given a plastic eye to fill the empty eye socket. 

The loss of my left eye would keep me out of high school sports.  That was a real shame because I turned out to be a pretty good athlete. 

So was this blind eye my Fate or was it just a tough lesson given to me by the School of Hard Knocks?  The thing that made me suspicious was the perfect timing between the moment my mother suddenly ordered me to get moving and the thinness of the remaining rope.  In other words, Mom had called at the worst possible time.  I might add I was so distracted by my mother's call that I failed to notice the job was almost done.  So in a sense my blindness caused my blind eye. 

I will give this incident two Stars on the five star Mysticism scale. 

 


The next Supernatural Event took place four months after I cut my eye out. 

Dad had recently been transferred to Houston from Bethesda, Maryland, by his company.  At the time, I was still walking around with a giant patch over my left eye.  My father knew I was going to lose that eye, but he didn't have the heart to tell me yet.  Dad felt sorry for me, so one summer night he took me to a carnival on South Main.  Afterwards, we were going to attend a stock car show on a race track located behind the carnival. 

Dad let me play games for a while - ring toss, baseball toss, haunted house, house of mirrors, etc - but then he became impatient and said it was time to go see the stock car show.  I could have cared less about the cars, but that was what Dad was interested in so I tagged along willingly.  

As we began making our way to the race track at the back of the carnival, I could hear the loud roar of the powerful car engines.  The drivers warmed their cars up by barreling around the track.  However, I couldn't see the cars; they were hidden behind an eight foot wooden fence.  All I could hear were the thunderous roars which scared me.

 

Suddenly I stopped in my tracks and told Dad I wanted to play one more game. 

We had just come up to some game where I could shoot wooden ducks with an air rifle that used corks for bullets.  Don't ask why, I just had a sudden irresistible urge to play. 

Dad said, "No, son, you've had enough. We're going to be late as it is."

But I wouldn't take no for answer.  I grabbed his arm and insisted. 

"C'mon, Dad.  Just this one last game, Dad, please??"

Just as the word 'please' left my mouth, we were both startled by the sound of a loud crash.  We had been standing there debating for no more than 8-10 seconds when we were jolted by a crash on our left.  Since we were both blind in our left eyes, we had no idea what had happened.  As we both whirled our heads in panic, we screamed as we saw an enormous metal car hurtling straight at us through the wooden fence.  We were sitting ducks!  That flimsy fence had not slowed the powerful car one bit; we had no time to dodge the giant flying vehicle.

Something had caused the car to leave the ground.  It was literally flying at us.  At that speed, there was nothing we could do to protect ourselves.  The car missed us by no more than two or three feet.  The displaced air knocked us both down with a rush. 

Moments later the car crashed violently into a telephone pole ten feet to my right.  The impact was brutal; the driver was killed instantly.  He had paid the ultimate price for losing control of his car.  As we scrambled to our feet, we heard a snapping sound.  We stared in shock the phone pole broke in two and fell on top of the crumpled car.

Dad was in shock.  I suppose I was too.  I couldn't get over that poor lifeless driver slumped over the wheel in the car.  I started to cry.

Dad stared at me funny.  He had the weirdest look on his face.

"Son, if you hadn't stopped us, we would both be dead now."

My father was right.  We had missed death by an instant.  Had we continued walking, we would have been right in the path of that speeding car.  I was too young to fully understand the metaphysical implications, but Dad was convinced some higher force had intervened to save us.

 

I will give this incident a 5 Star Rating on the Mysticism Scale.  The perfect timing of my sudden desire to play the game combined with the importance of the coincidence was very suspicious. 

This incident took place back in the days when my father and I had been close.  I think Dad liked me a lot, or at least he did in the beginning. 

As for me, when I was a little boy, I worshipped the guy.  I remember watching in awe as he built his incredible train network.  Up in the attic, Dad had covered a giant table with interlocking train tracks.  He added mountains, tunnels, bridges and split levels where one train would pass over the other.  This amazing complex took up nearly one third of the attic. 

I was absolutely mesmerized as two different trains crisscrossed the complicated tableau without ever crashing into each other.  I beamed. 

I had the smartest Dad in the world!

   

My first eight years were idyllic.  Not only did I love him with all my heart, Dad was very fond of me.  Aunt Lynn once told me that back when I was a little boy, my father used to watch me with a look of pride that touched her deeply.  Lynn said, "Your father absolutely adored you."  I completely agreed with Aunt Lynn.  That was my memory too.  When I was young, things were very special between my father and me. 

Dad and I had a grand adventure when I was eight.  We embarked on a cross-country summer camping trip that took us all the way to the Grand Canyon.  One night in some obscure, completely deserted park in Arizona, we were awakened by two bears who got into our trash outside the tent.  Uh oh.  Dad had left some food out.  Unfortunately, we were the only ones at the campground.  There was no one around to save us if the bears came after us. 

Boy, was I scared, especially when the bears growled!  As we cowered in our tent, I can still remember Dad pulling out his prized Bowie knife.  Dad told me not to worry; he was ready to defend me.  I wasn't so sure that knife was going to be enough, but fortunately the bears never bothered us.  We kept quiet as we huddled and quivered in our tent.  We eventually made a run for our car and drove to a motel.   When we returned the next morning to pick up our gear, there were bear tracks all around our tent.  We were both pretty shaken.

Not surprisingly, Dad was done with camping.  We stayed in motels for the rest of the trip. Oh, so what?  Bears or no bears, that was a great trip!  Dad and I had a wonderful time together.

Sad to say, that 1958 trip was our last moment of happiness together.  We were so tight that his later abandonment made it that much harder to understand.  How does a father go from idolizing his son to forgetting his son?   Why would a man go from caring to not caring?

 

Not long after we returned home from Arizona, serious marital problems developed.  My parents began arguing every single night of the week. 

I am an only child.  As many an only child can attest, 'only' and 'lonely' rhyme for a reason.  At age eight, I was terrified when my parents began fighting practically any time they looked at each other.  Their raised voices during the nightly arguments reverberated throughout the house. 

I would run to my room, but no walls could contain the sounds of their anger.  Consequently I spent many a night crying myself to sleep.  I was very frightened.  That was about the time I learned to depend on Terry, my year-old border collie, for security.

I had no idea why my father had become such an angry man.  He had gained weight and developed a permanent scowl.  When he wasn't arguing with my mother, he spent his nights locked in his study reading or solving math problems.  He also grew distant with me.

Personally, I wish he had stayed in his study.  When he did decide to come out, Dad turned into something straight out of the Shining.  Here's Jimmy!!

My memory is that Dad started the fights.  He liked to pick on my mother.  He found fault at the drop of a hat.  Dad's favorite trick was to come home and inspect the house.  Seriously, Dad would walk in the door, put his briefcase down, hang up his hat and immediately stroll around the house running his finger across every object till he found dirt somewhere. 

 

Eventually Dad would find something to criticize my mother over.  Game on.  Now the fireworks would begin.

Dad loved to tell my mother how lazy she was.  I suppose he was partially right.  Mom was not big on housework and she was quite comfortable with clutter.  On the other hand, the house wasn't that bad.  It didn't bother me at all.

My father didn't see it that way.  He expected the house to look perfect.  His attitude was why the hell should he have to work so hard every day and come home to a dirty house?  What did his wife do all day, watch TV?  Read magazines?  Damn it, get off your fat ass, woman, and do a little work sometime! 

 

Those were fighting words and a major battle quickly ensued. Pretty soon things would escalate and some really mean things would be said.  

In my opinion, my father was off base.  Whatever he objected to was hardly worthy of a screaming match.  In addition, my father had conveniently forgotten this was the same woman who had sacrificed her own education so that he could get his.  Now that he didn't need her any more, my father began to tee off on Mom nightly. 

My parents couldn't care less that I was standing there watching them in horror.  When their voices began to rise, I soon learned to run to my room for shelter.  I would grab Terry and pull the bed covers over my head. 

When the arguing got too intense, I would start crying in the solitude of my room.  I was nine years old I had only my dog Terry for comfort.  It didn't matter that Terry was little more than a puppy; he was the only friend I had.

Once I ran to my room, the door stayed closed for the rest of the night.  Neither parent ever came to check on me after the battle was over.  That was a really rough year for me.  That was about the time I became a major disruption at public school and my grades plummeted.

Now my father picked on me too.  I was stupid.  Dad didn't like anyone.  Or maybe he did.  There was that pretty secretary at work. 

 


SUBCHAPTER 003
- DR. MENDEL AND ST. JOHN'S SCHOOL
 

 

I was a happy kid until I turned nine.  That's when the fighting began at home.   I began having trouble in my 3rd grade public school class.  My school grades were lackluster at best and my discipline marks were abysmal.  I had become a constant disruption in my classroom.

Each morning I would take a seat in the back of the class room.  I would draw extensive tableaus of two armies complete with tanks, hand grenades and bazookas.  I would then spend the rest of the morning blowing up every soldier complete with boom boom boom sound effects and excruciating death moans. 

For variety, I would draw spaceships and destroy them too... yes, complete with eerie ray gun zap zap zap sound effects. 

Then I switched to dinosaur battles.  I wasn't quite sure what sounds dinosaurs made, but growls were sufficient.

I must have been a load.  Looking back, I feel regret.  My poor teacher tried to overlook my disruptions, but how could she?  I thought I kept my noises muffled, but if my teacher could hear them up at the front, apparently not.  She would ask me to be quiet, but the battle would soon resume. 

My noisy pitched battles were just the tip of the iceberg.  I had a smart mouth too.  I talked back all the time.  I was becoming a cold, surly, angry kid.  Not surprisingly, I received the lowest marks possible for discipline.

 

One day I brought a note home from school to be signed. 

The note said that I was an enormous disruption in my 3rd grade class.  It was time for my parents to visit the principal.  The principal made it clear to my parents that I would be suspended if they couldn't get me under control. 

My parents were also very concerned over my poor grades in school.    My parents had always thought I was smart, but after seeing my most recent report card, they were seriously beginning to have their doubts.  Since their own childhoods had been accompanied by an unending series of superior school marks, I imagine their pride was shaken to see their only child had barely mustered a C average.

At the time, my parents were busy trying to save their marriage.  They had been in therapy with Dr. Mendel, a noted psychiatrist here in Houston.  After the principal's warning, they asked Dr. Mendel to take a look at me too.  Maybe the eminent doctor could explain why my grades were so poor and why I was so angry all the time.  Such a mystery, right?

Hmm.  Now that I think about it, I suppose my parents knew full well why I was angry.  What they didn't know was what to do about me. 

After some testing, Dr. Mendel told my parents they didn't need to worry about my intelligence.  In his opinion, I was a smart child.  As for the anger, I was simply acting out due to the tension at home.  He also suspected I was bored in school.  He told my parents that I desperately needed a challenge, a school with a faster pace, something to focus my unharnessed energy on.

Dr. Mendel knew exactly where I would find that challenge.  He suggested my parents put me into St. John's, a private school where his own two boys were current students.  He had been very pleased with the progress of his sons.  Dr. Mendel was convinced this school for gifted children was just what I needed.  As I would later discover, Dr. Mendel's son Mark was in my class.  Mark was aloof, but he was also far and away our smartest student. 

My father was opposed from the start, but he finally relented and allowed Mom to take me to the school to get tested.  To be honest, I think Dad expected I would do poorly and let him off the hook.  Then he wouldn't have to be the bad guy.  However, to his surprise, I did well on the test and was given an acceptance letter.

Now my father began to seriously object.  Too expensive.  Giant waste of money.  Public school had been good enough for him and it would be good enough for me.

However, my mother insisted.  Mom had an ace up her sleeve... she had a strong suspicion Dad was having an affair with his secretary.  Mom told her husband that she knew full well he was seeing another woman and had proof.  Mom said she would make this divorce very ugly unless Dad did the right thing. 

Mind you, Mom didn't have any proof.  Although she was bluffing, Mom said my father folded like a wet blanket.  After Dad caved in, Mom knew she was right about the affair.

So there you have it, my mother successfully blackmailed me into St. John's.  The divorce settlement included my father's agreement to pay the tuition at St. John's for three years... 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.  

 

A Buddhist monk was chased by a tiger.  To his dismay, he reached the edge of a cliff.  Now he was trapped.  Seeing a small shrub, the monk grabbed it and suspended himself over the cliff.  The tiger caught up and snarled down at the helpless man.  Slowly the shrub began to give way.  At that moment, the monk noticed a strawberry next to him.  With his free hand, the monk plucked the fruit and ate it.  The strawberry was delicious.  The monk smiled. 

And then he plunged to his death. 

The moral is to enjoy every moment because you never know what awaits around the corner.  My life would never be the same after the divorce.

I gained a school and lost a father.  I would barely see my father for the rest of my life.  My life had been wonderful for eight years.  Then came the year of Divorce which was really bad for me.  But nothing could be worse than what followed. 

I was in for a rude surprise.  Things went south immediately.  I quickly learned my mother was unable to cope on her own.  Considering the erratic behavior of my mother, at the tender age of ten, I was forced to grow up on my own.  Thank goodness for Terry or I would have never made it.  

   


SUBCHAPTER 004
- MY MOTHER STRUGGLES TO COPE
 

 

Following the divorce, my mother was ill-prepared to take care of herself, much less me. 

Mom had serious trouble supporting the two of us.  Like many wives of the post-World War II era, she had dropped out of college to support my father while he got his degree in electrical engineering.  My father was something of a genius, so his career came first. 

The decision to support my father was a good idea at the time, but backfired badly after the divorce.  Although Mom possessed some serious smarts of her own, now she had no college degree.  Consequently my mother was forced to accept secretarial jobs for which she was intellectually overqualified. 

Compounding her difficulties, Mom didn't play politics very well.  My mother was rather headstrong and outspoken, especially for that era.   She insisted on doing things her way, an attitude that rubbed some of her less-talented male bosses the wrong way.  Whenever the friction mounted, Mom would be shown the door.

My mother was quite the gypsy.  She wandered endlessly.  Following the divorce, during the nine year span from 4th grade till college, my mother drifted from job to job, home to home, man to man.  Nine years, nine different jobs and eleven different homes.  I lost count of the men.  As one can imagine, this helps explain the importance of St. John's as the only constant in my life. 

Let me say that my mother was never mean to me.  Not at all.  Mom was a good person with a kind spirit.  I admire her for being extremely open-minded for her era.  She embraced Blacks, Hispanics, Jews and Gays in an era when that simply wasn't accepted.  I give her high marks for raising me without the many prejudices of the day.

Sad to say, Mary was not cut out to be a mother.  Nurturing was simply not her strength.  Her major fault was that she tended to worry about her own needs first. 

 

That meant I was forced at an early age to fend for myself.  Following the divorce in 1959, I began to raise myself. 

During the week, my mother would be home in the evening three or four nights out of five.  On the weekends, Mom frequently left the house at night to pursue activities and new boyfriends.  Every now and then she would say no time for supper tonight.  No matter.  I would heat up my hot dog, do my homework, play with my dog Terry, then watch TV or read a book. 

I became extremely self-reliant for my age.  I learned to get my homework done without ever being told.  Depending on where we lived at the time, I got myself to and from school by bike or by bus.  Since my mother wasn't big on cooking, I learned to feed myself when I was hungry.  Oddly enough, I have never had the slightest interest in learning how to cook.  So I became the master of the simple meal - Wheaties for breakfast, peanut butter after school, hot dogs and hard-boiled eggs for dinner.  Since my best meal of the day came at the St. John's cafeteria, I learned early on not to be too fussy about my food.  The simplest meal was good enough for me. 

My favorite TV show was The Fugitive.  Constantly running from the law, the Fugitive had to be the loneliest man on earth. 

Boy, could I relate to him!

I wasn't the only person who was lonely.  I remember how lonely Mom was after the divorce.  Within months after the divorce, Mom married some bum named Tom Cook.  What was she thinking?  This guy was a total loser! 

I disliked this man with a passion.  I remember Tom was the guy who tried to teach me to smoke.  After gagging and nearly throwing up, I said no thanks the next time he offered.

Mom had a smart mouth, so Tom took to beating her periodically.  Mom learned to lock the bathroom door to avoid his drunken beatings.  Or she would crawl into bed with me for protection.  Now that I think about it, more likely she crawled into bed with me so the dog would protect her.  Tom never came near Terry.  He may have been a drunken lout, but he knew better than to take on my extremely loyal dog.

I remember Tom well because he was the first in a long line of men who made me feel protective towards my mother.  I would see her cry and feel miserable because these men treated her so poorly.  It upset me no end that I had no way to stick up for her. 

As for Tom, he lasted six months.  Tom left thanks to a series of hot checks he had written.  The police did us a real favor by knocking on the door one night.  Tom was out getting drunk, but when Mom told him about the visit, he turned ghost white. 

Tom left the next day.  Good riddance.

We were always poor.  This was due largely to my mother's inability to play politics.  Mom didn't have any trouble getting jobs, but she sure had trouble keeping them.  Mom had one very bad habit.  She had a big mouth.  Mom had grown up as Daddy's girl.  Her father had always taught her to speak her mind.  Unfortunately, the early Sixties were not very kind to women who dared to open their mouth on the job.  My mother did not take orders well.  She would often suggest a better way to do something.  Needless to say, that rankled her bosses.  Another trick was to agree with her boss, then do it her way anyway.  Nor did my mother handle criticism very well.  She would often respond with some sarcastic comment.  Or she might disagree with the criticism and argue with her boss.  Not surprisingly, my mother got fired a lot. 

I don't think any of my mother's jobs lasted much more than a year at a time.  Either she got bored and quit or she wore out her welcome.  Since my mother received no alimony and her unimpressive pay grade did not lend itself to savings, money was a constant problem.  We were ridiculously dependent on my father's $100 a month child support.  The hardest times came during Mom's occasional stretches of unemployment.  I would come home at least a couple times a year to discover the electricity had been turned off.  Or sometimes it was the water.  The next time it was the gas.  In a day or two, Mom would receive my father's child support money and service would be restored, but now she didn't have enough money to pay the rent.  Sooner or later the landlord would tire of her excuses and tell her to hit the road.  My mother's inability to pay her bills meant that we were moving all the time... eleven times in nine years.  Growing up, I never had a single neighborhood friend.  We never stayed in a neighborhood long enough for it to matter.

The worst part of my childhood had to be the men.  With one exception, I detested every single one of them.  Tom Cook was definitively the worst; he was an actual criminal.  I still can't believe Mom married this guy.

After Tom Cook left, Mom got involved in the theater as a stage hand.  She volunteered to help with the Alley Theater production of Guys and Dolls.  I was too young to be left at home, so she packed me into the car. 

I would do my homework backstage, watch the rehearsals for a while, then get sleepy and fall asleep in a chair.  However, the noise kept waking me up, so I complained.  She said go sleep in the car.  That didn't work because I was scared.  Mom's next solution was to bring the dog with us.  Poor Terry would be left behind in the car while we went inside.  However, this solution worked.  When I got sleepy, I went to the car.  As long as I had Terry with me, I felt safe enough to fall asleep in the car. 

One night I noticed a car following us as we drove home.  Mom said don't worry about it.  It turned out to be some guy from the play.  They went into the bedroom.  I heard the guy leave a couple hours later. 

This scenario quickly became standard operating procedure.  I was too young to understand the dynamics, but Mom had to bring her men home because she couldn't take me to their place.  Mom had begun working her way through the cast members.  To this day, I still hate Guys and Dolls with a purple passion. 

When Mom decided to volunteer for the next play, I put my foot down and told her to just leave me at home.  I would rather spend my evenings home alone with Terry and my books than watch Mom spend the night shuffling props around and flirting with the actors.  At least I could go to sleep in my own bed. 

Mom didn't mind a bit.  This allowed her to come home when she felt like it.  I didn't mind either.  I was relieved that I did not have to listen to Mom moaning in the bedroom. 

 



SUBCHAPTER 005
- THE ATHENS BAR AND GRILL
 

 

Opa!  Mom eventually worked her way through the men at the Alley Theater, so now it was time to switch tactics.  When I was 11, Mom began to hang out at the Athens Bar and Grill down at the Houston ship channel.  This was a favorite hangout for Greek sailors to let loose during their brief stay in port. I never saw the place, but from what I gather, the Athens Bar was a lively nightspot. 

It featured good food, good wine, plenty of Greek dancing, and an abundance of Greek sailors.  Although my mother was rather plain, she didn't seem to have any trouble picking up men. The Athens Bar became her stomping grounds.  She liked the fact that these guys would be shipping out.  Here today, gone tomorrow.  Mom would bring them back to our house at night and then ferry them back to their ship in the morning. 

After each new tryst Mom would play music from Zorba the Greek on the phonograph for the next week.  I think it helped get her in the mood for her next conquest.

Mom eventually got tired of Europeans so she switched to Americans.  After her Greek Sailor period, Mom dated a black guy named Fred.   Fred lasted about two months.

Then it was Jewish guys for a while.  I must have listened to Exodus more times than any non-Jewish kid in history.  The music must have rubbed off... I like Jewish people.

One poor Jewish guy was Murray the dentist.  He was recovering from electroshock therapy in the mental hospital.  I actually liked Murray.  He was a kind man, but his mind was completely gone.  He was so frail and helpless that I felt sorry for him.

Mom liked Murray, so she let him live with us for a while.  I liked Murray too, but not enough to have him live with us.  Like Fred, he lasted about two months.

After Murray, Mom continued her latest strategy of dating white men with problems.  Most of these men came and went within a month, but some of them like Fred and Murray needed a home so they stuck around longer.  The worst was Neal, the drunken taxi driver.  We will get to him shortly.

Personally I wish my mother had stuck to one-night stands. I absolutely loathed my mother's ill-considered attempts to force her men into my life. I estimate there were eight or nine live-in boyfriends.  However there might have been more.   

To cope, I spent a lot of time in my room with Terry doing my homework.

 

Eventually Mom switched to Mexicans.  She found these guys at a place called The Last Concert.  She took this place very seriously.  Not only did she learn to dance to Mexican ranchero music, she learned to speak Spanish.

Mom would date Mexicans exclusively for the rest of her life.  Miguel.  Ramon.  Lupe.  Nemescio.  Pasqual.  She married three of them.  The worst was Pasqual, the alcoholic who beat her and helped Mom squander away the entire $30,000 she had inherited from her father's estate.  I was in college at this point.  The one time in her life my mother had any money and she blew every last cent of it.

Just when I was developing a serious dislike for Mexicans, there was one very good man, Miguel.  A gentle, caring man, Miguel made me realize that not all Mexicans are bad.  Miguel was a decent guy, the only one among the nine live-ins that I would grow to care about.  Miguel lived with us for two years until Mom discovered he had a wife and children back in Mexico.  With her pride hurt, Mom threw him out. 

 

Dumb move.  We both missed Miguel.  So did the dog.

Greeks, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics... Mom was a veritable United Nations in her choice of lovers.  I told you she was open-minded. 

I cannot begin to convey the limitless depths of my disgust towards my mother on this issue, but I think I've gotten my point across.  Most of all I didn't want them living with us.  I complained no end, but Mom told me it was none of my business. 

Throughout my childhood, the loneliness, the constant moves to new homes, the insecurity and the occasional loss of electricity were nothing compared to the men I was forced to live with.  That is what I objected to the most.  I told her I could live with the one night stands, but please stop letting these jerks live with us.  After all, when it was just Mom and me and the dog, life was fairly peaceful. 

Mom would reply that she was lonely.  Sure enough, Mom would go to a bar, pick up some guy like a stray dog, and bring him home and feed him.  Big mistake.  The next thing I knew, he was living with us.  Unbelievable. Without any say-so in the matter, I was forced to watch with disgust as the revolving door of losers came and went. 

If my mother had just kept her romantic forays out of sight, I think my childhood would have been a lot easier to cope with. 

   


SUBCHAPTER 006
- BLUE CHRISTMAS
 

 

My mother was very prone to depression.  There were times when Mom would be in the bedroom crying uncontrollably and I would be terrified with insecurity.  I had no idea how to console her.  I had virtually no one to turn to.  I knew my mother was a mess, but she was all I had.  There were no nearby relatives, no close friends and no neighbors to call for help when Mom had one of her crying jags.  All I had was the dog.  Consequently I spent much of my childhood in the days following the divorce in constant fear she would go off the deep end and then I would be forced to go live with my father.  Since I had already begun to figure out my father didn't have a nurturing bone in his body, I prayed my mother would find a way to keep it together. 

At Christmas time in 1961, Mom hit absolute rock bottom.  Although she did not confide in me, I have to assume the issues were loneliness or lack of money.  Probably both.  Lately Mom had been crying all the time.  Mom did not seem able to snap out of it.  She was just going through the motions.  Three days before Christmas, Mom made a startling announcement.  Get packed; we are driving to Dick and Lynn's house in Northern Virginia.

"Does Uncle Dick know we are coming?"

"No.  It's a surprise."

My eyes bulged.  I seriously did not want to do this.  It was freezing cold outside and we had the worst car imaginable for winter driving.  It was a giant convertible nearly the size of a tank.  The canvas roof was hardly going to be able to keep us warm.  Even worse, the floor board in the back was so rusted out that I could see the street pavement through some of the cracks.  The cold air blowing up from below was sure to make us miserable. 

"Mom, don't you want to rethink this?"

"No.  We are going."

What a shame it was that I did not have a map available.  If I had a map, I could have pointed out this was a trip of one thousand, three hundred and fifty miles.  1,350 miles in a beat-up car, no money, and the worst winter cold spell I could remember in a long time.

"Are you sure about this, Mom?"

"Did you not hear me the first time?  Get packed before I lose my temper."

Reluctantly I gathered every blanket in the house and stuffed them into the car.  We left at 1 am.  Mom said driving at night was the best way to make good time.  Mom had a choice between going through southern Louisiana or northern Louisiana.  She chose the northern route.  We did indeed make good time, but that changed dramatically at 9 am the next morning.  That is when the snow began to fall.

Snow doesn't fall in Louisiana very often, but as we would discover, we had run smack dab into the worst winter storm in the past twenty years.  As the snowfall increased, I begged my mother to stop and ride out the storm at some roadside diner.  She disagreed.  Mom was determined to continue, even when the car began to skid badly on the snow and sleet covering the highway. 

That giant car kept weaving back and forth.  This went on for an hour and I was terrified.  My eyes ached from straining to see through the thick snowfall to spot oncoming traffic.  I complained bitterly, but Mom would not listen to reason.  Finally I couldn't take it anymore.  I was afraid for my life, so I got in the back seat and wrapped myself in every blanket we had for safety in case there was a collision.  Despite all those blankets I was still cold; Mom said the heater had stopped working.  This car was no use.  The canvas of the convertible roof let cold air in from the top.  More cold air came up through the rusted floor board.  Freezing and frightened, I clung hard to Terry and shivered terribly with cold and fear.  Even the poor dog was cold and he had a fur coat.  Good grief, Terry clung to me too!

Meanwhile Mom had started to cry again.  She knew this was a mistake, but she could not force herself to turn around.  I looked at the woman.  Poor Mom.  Her face was white with fear.   Somehow Mom had gotten it through her head that this something she had to do.  Like a lemming, Mom was driving us to certain disaster because she lacked the presence of mind to turn around while she still could.

I speak throughout my story of Cosmic Stupidity.  It is my contention that during certain 'Fated Events', a person can have their Free Will... and their common sense... temporarily removed.  Since I have no way to prove this theory, I ask that the Reader bear with me until I can offer better examples.  However, this incident is a good place to start.  My mother was operating on automatic pilot.

Huge snow drifts accumulated on the side of the road.  The car got harder and harder to control.  Even though Mom was barely driving 20 miles per hour, one time we skidded far into the next lane.  Mom was barely able to get us back in our lane before a giant truck whizzed past us.  The driver beeped as loud as he could to signal his anger at the near head-on collision.  

Now I begged Mom again to pull over and wait out the storm until the roads could be cleared.  Nothing doing.

Mom would not explain, but I have to believe her life was in serious crisis.  Out of options, Mom must have felt she had no choice but to continue forward.  Mom was determined to follow her dangerous path even if it meant risking our lives.  She was completely out of control. 

The snowfall continued unmercifully.  The icy road conditions were the worst imaginable.  Our tires could not seem to grip the road for long. As the car constantly weaved back and forth on the snowy highway, I experienced more fear than any 11-year old kid should ever have to face.  I felt so helpless stuck there with this insane mother trying without luck to control this weaving car.  I was certain we would be killed at any moment.

 

And then it happened.  The car skidded badly across the road.

With an oncoming truck, I was certain death was imminent.  I screamed bloody murder and squeezed my dog to my chest.

There was no time to allow Mom to regain control.  She never even tried.  Instead she just kept driving in a straight line across the road and plowed into a giant ditch.  It saved our lives.

Fortunately the snow accumulation softened the blow of the crash.  Now the car was face down in a snow drift.  Mom tried to back out, but nothing doing.

Mom broke down in another one of those miserable crying jags.  I was crying myself.  I was so scared.  I didn't know how we were ever going to get out of this mess.  I just sat there in quiet desperation.  Thank God I had my dog for comfort.

Mom never quite snapped out of it.  She just kept sobbing.  However, after ten minutes of crying, she stopped long enough to tell me I needed to do something. 

   

What??  Surely my mother wasn't serious... but she was.

"Mom, I am eleven years old.  I am just a kid.  We are in the middle of nowhere.  What do you expect me to do?"

"I expect you to get out of the car and go get us a tow truck."

"How exactly am I supposed to do that?"

"Go stand on the side of the road and hitch a ride into that town we just passed.  Get to a station and ask a tow truck to bring you back. Terry and I will wait here till you return."

"Why can't all three of us go?"

"Because no one will pick up two people and a dog.  However, they might take pity on a kid."

I stared at my mother as if she was out of her mind.  And then I realized she was out of her mind.  Mom had been out of her mind ever since we had left Houston.  Are you starting to believe in Cosmic Stupidity yet?

I could not believe my mother was sending me out on my own like this, but maybe she was right.  I couldn't think of a better solution, so on the spot I decided to grow up fast and do this.  I got out of the car and climbed out of the ditch onto the road.  Then I stuck out my thumb like I had seen Richard Kimble do on the TV show The Fugitive

Mom was right.  Some man saw me standing there and slowed down.  When he saw our car in the ditch, he stopped to offer to help.  The person seemed safe enough, so I asked for a ride to town. 

Ten miles later I was in the nearest town and bringing back a tow truck.

The tow truck was able to get our tank out of the snow drifts.  The truck took us back into town whereupon the station manager checked out the car.  Amazingly, there was no damage.  However the manager insisted Mom get some snow chains for the tires.

After what we had been through, Mom wasn't going to argue.  Her defiance was gone now.  It had turned to fear.  She was completely broken and just hanging on by a thread.

Mom looked at the man and told him the truth.  She did not have enough money with her to pay for the towing fee or for the chains.  What little money she had left was for gas and meals.  But if he would trust us, she would write him a check.  She said if he could wait a week before cashing it, once we got to Virginia, her brother would give her enough money to cover the check.  The man thought long and hard, then he eventually smiled and said okay.  Thank goodness it was Christmas time. 

Why the man agreed to take my mother's word, I will never know.  Actually, now that I think about it, I know one possible reason.  He told me he had been impressed by my courage.  He said he had a son my age and he could not imagine asking his son to do what I did.

Then he asked if I had been scared.

I told him he had no idea.  I was still shaking.  This experience had scarred me in unimaginable ways.

Nevertheless, I thanked him for his kindness.  I said we were in great debt to him for his incredible kindness and trust.

That night we ate a warm meal of spaghetti at a diner next to an inexpensive motel in Vicksburg, Mississippi.  I think that meal tasted better than any meal I have ever had in my life.  I was so grateful to still be alive.

Fortunately, the road conditions were better in the morning.  The highways had been cleared and the snowfall was more flurries than anything else.  We no longer had to drive in constant fear for our lives.  Mom stopped at a gas station and had them take the chains off. 

We stopped at another motel in Georgia that night.  From there, Mom drove straight through to McLean, Virginia.  We pulled into Dick and Lynn's neighborhood at 4 am on Christmas Day.  However, to Mom's dismay, her car could not make it up the steep hill thanks to the icy street.  She tried and tried, but the car kept sliding back down.  Disgusted, she told me to get out of the car.  Now we walked up the snowy hill hoping the street above was the one we were looking for.  Thankfully, Mom guessed right.

 

When we got to their house, Mom didn't want to wake the family.  So I offered to look around.  I found an unlocked door to the basement, so we walked in and plopped down on a sofa in the basement den.  To my surprise, a dog appeared to greet us.  Beauty, their Lassie-lookalike dog, came down the stairs and greeted us with her tail wagging.  Terry was in love. 

As for me, I rolled my eyes.  Beauty was so excited to have a boyfriend, she never even barked.  Beauty wasn't much of a watchdog, but she was a darling welcoming committee. 

Dick and Lynn never even knew we were there till the morning came.  It was Christmas Day.  Surprise Surprise.  Look what Santa brought. 

It had been Mom's plan to throw herself on her brother's mercy.  As Mom hoped and prayed, Dick was incredibly generous to her.  He bailed her out of what had to be a serious financial jam.  I never learned the details, but I believe that Dick and Lynn saved her life that Christmas.  More important, they restored her will to carry on. 

I will always love Dick and Lynn from the bottom of my heart.

 

I never forgave my mother for what she put me through.  I just added it to the ever-growing list of resentments.  Due to the extreme nature of my mother's foolishness, this very well could have been an incident where Cosmic Stupidity was involved.  My mother was definitely out of her mind and there was extreme danger involved.

Therefore I will give it One Star on the Mysticism Scale and call it Supernatural Event 3.  Please keep in mind that sometimes a dark cloud is just a rain cloud and sometimes a dark cloud appears to be an omen.  In the case of Blue Christmas, perhaps I am being overly superstitious.  However, as the events begin to pile up, it will become apparent why suspicion and superstition seemed to weave in and out of my life like an unbroken thread.

 


PART ONE: CHILDHOOD

Chapter two: ABANDONMENT
 

 

 

 

   TIMELINE

  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1958   My dog Terry comes into my life
  1959-1968   St. John's
  1959   Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's, Mom begins to fall apart
  1964   Blue Christmas (03)

 

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