I write with angst, bringing dark secrets to light
About the man, I ought to love, but know the right
I grew up not knowing I was poor. I never went hungry nor do I remember what I wore in the way of cloths. I ran wild and barefooted most times but I do remember new shoes at the advent of school in the fall. I walked to school and played pee wee football and little league baseball because I could walk to and from practice. It wasn’t until my middle school years that I came to the realization I was somewhat deprived.
I might make note that I am older and from a different generation. My formative years were the early 1950's being I was born in 1949. Remember that few women entered the workforce and received wages. Most women were housewives and reared children and most families only had one auto.
Snobs calling our family poor white trash
Not because of us, but it's him I bash
An anathema, repugnant like body odor
Offensive like ill-mannered behavior
My father never threw me a baseball nor a football. He, nor any of my family, watched me play sports in elementary school nor was I concerned. It wasn’t until I started riding the school bus (the cheese wagon) that I came to the knowledge of class and privilege. I could no longer play football or baseball because I had no soccer mom nor did we have an auto to cater to my needs.
The smell of whiskey, permeated his breath
The stench of smelly boots, odorous and pervasive
Drunken snoring oft rattling the rafters
His crescendo a blasphemous snort and curse
I will make mention of this horrible home we lived in. After the war my father bought four acres on West Hwy 98 in North Florida. He envisioned building a service station and café. He started a lot of projects but never finished anything.
Our living room was the garage with the large double doors. Our kitchen was long and faced out onto a covered dining area that was later turned into a cypress knee business (another failure). My parent’s bedroom was the storeroom while my brother and I slept in bunkbeds in a long closet. My sister slept upstairs in the attic with all the mosquitos until she married and left.
We did have a toilet but it was outside (his and hers) Remember the filling station/diner thing. We had no hot water heater nor a basin inside and we had one natural gas heater in the living room (garage). Before we got the heater, my father had a potbellied stove in the living room (garage) with the flue running up and out a broken garage door window that was taped to seal it
Hard pine boards with cob webs, rusty tin roofing
No ceilings, I can still hear the acorns drop
Block walls with no windows, no curtains
Concrete floors that literally sweated poverty
I came home from school one day to see my mother running across the street and what furniture we had strewn in the yard. I confronted my drunken father and he actually pulled a knife on his adolescent son. My older brother showed up and knocked him down and he and I beat our father into a bloody heap. He was so drunk he probably didn’t feel it.
His children were now old enough to protect their mother. Eventually we threatened his life if he stayed and he left us. My mother took measure of her life and family. Her abiding faith and trust in God the only assurance she had. My mother filed for a divorce and began a new life.
Bread bag gnawed, roaches, disgusting creatures!
Filthy creatures, always there on the counters
Scurrying for safety at the click of a light switch
Mosquitos buzzing, no screens for no windows
No hot water, shower or tub, an outside toilet
A hot water heater was an extravagance
I assumed, besides! He never took a bath!
I never saw a real bath, I was never invited in
His mood was always as black as his teeth
Pretending to read the newspaper, the extra
That I had left over from my paper route
My first purchase, an oscillating fan-mosquitos!
My mother got herself a job at W T Grant Department Store. With the help of her children and our friends we tore down that old roach infested house and built a new one. My mother was industrious and divided that home into our dwelling and two apartments that she rented. My mother did perms and made dresses and did alterations and also took in ironing.
I would come home and make supper and take care of my younger brothers and I learned how to iron. My older sister and her husband, my older brother and I made our mother and ourselves a life. When I left for the service (Navy) a man (a good man) asked me if he could marry my mother. We had arrived! Our mother and our family! God was faithful as my mother knew he would be!
My father had intellect but only a third grade education. He had rural knowledge and he knew how to build with his hands. He knew how to hunt and fish and make a garden but he was a hard man. My father shot my dog (FiFi) just because she was in estrus and had some errant male dogs hanging around. I can remember my mother and sister crying and my mother telling me what he had done. I don’t think I could digest it at the time but I remember my brother and me burying my dog. I found a litter of kittens once and what I remember is my father making me watch as he cut all their heads off. I can go on and on but I won’t.
He and my mother were both raised in the backwoods where being industrious was a virtue. My mother came from a Christian family while my father came from a clan of Appalachian moonshiners and pagans. How did they arrive at being married?
My mother became with child and unmarried. As was the custom in those days her parents shipped her off to the Carolinas with family acquaintances to avoid the scandal. I suppose marrying my father was the only recourse left her to legitimize her child but they were like oil and vinegar. My mother had a ninth grade education and I assume made the best of what she was dealt.
My father was as mean as an onerous piney woods rooter (wild hog). Long in the snout with black bristly shoulders tapering to an insignificant ass end. Enamored with the whiskey he bathed in. I remember the ash on his cigarette which he never touched, he breathed the smoke up his nose. Such was my father but he was the only father I ever had.
I see my mother standing alone
Kneading dough, making biscuits
Swollen black eye and bruised wrists
What don’t kill you will strengthen you
I’ve often wonder if she feared him?
My older brother and I finally
Ran the man off, threatening his life
Bewildered by his grown children
He fled, taking our family auto
He returned years later
A broken and dying man
Cirrhosis of the liver and a stroke
Had rendered him feeble
He died at the old place
Not one tear was shed
I took note of my mother’s look
Christian charity and forgiveness
As she and her sisters sang
Christian hymns at the funeral
Now she was strong!
My mother once told me that she had worried so much for her children: there were five of us. She could not save us from perdition so she turned us all over to God and trusted him. Praying reverently for God to work his sweet magic and save us through her faith so that one day we would come to the realization of God. I write thru tears as I embrace my own faith. God is Faithful! - Great is His Mercy and great is His faithfulness!
They are all gone now (my family) so I can speak my peace without recrimination and with humility. Such were the dark secrets not spoken all these years, freed from the dark recesses of my soul and given light.