this left my grandmother to run a farm alone for the most part, to try to make a living out of it, and to raise the kids as they came along. my grandmother, unsurprisingly, is a bitter, mean old woman. i remember once, when i was about 7...she was talking about me to someone (my mom, maybe? anyway, i was right there). she said "she's a fat ugly little girl & she'll always be fat & ugly." and no, she wasn't joking. i've since looked at pictures of me from that time....i wasn't even remotely fat, and i was darn cute. she was being just being hateful.
so that's the sort of thing my mom grew up with...except that she also ended up handling childcare for her younger 7 siblings as well as dealing with the venom. she married very early, in her own words, "to get away from home".
mom's first marriage only lasted a few years, moved her to california, and gave her two children. california is where she met my dad, where he was serving in the navy.
there were, apparently, a few wild years there in cali before i was born...my parents had friends in mexico...and mom learned a lot of her cooking in tijuana(mom is, incidentally, an incredible cook). somewhere in this time frame (i think she was about 5) my elder half-sister (the older of my mom's first two kids) contracted spinal menengitis. she spent most of a year in the hospital, in a coma.
when she came out of the coma, theresa was blind, and had reverted to babyhood. she had to be taught again to walk & talk feed herself and all the other things most 6-7 year olds know how to do. trying times, to be sure.
from that time on, she battled obesity and diabetes as well as learning to live with blindness. she wet the bed throughout her life. her eyes would jump in time to the beat of any music playing nearby. these are the things i remember about my sister.
when my sister was about 12, and my brother was 9 1/2, i was born. apparently i was a wonderful, if stubborn, baby. when i was 8 months old, i got pneumonia & nearly died...due to the fact that my dad's step-mom was visiting and had turned the heat far too low while watching me during the day. my parents both tell me of the frantic time at the hospital, where i was gasping for air & the doctor was busily testing me for allergies instead of getting a breathing tube inserted. makes for quite the memory-impression.
when i was between 2 and 3 years old, my parents decided to move back to missouri, i suspect to be near my mom's relatives. the only thing i remember about the trip was stopping in colorado & picking sage brush from along the road. i saved it for my first show & tell in my new school.
when i was 4 or 5 and we lived in a place called lowry city, missouri, my older brother started having severe pain in his arm. i'm unclear on what the problem was, but turns out the bone in his arm was essentially rotting. because the condition was a rare one, a medical teaching school took on his case & operated. i don't really remember much of that time, but i remember the large keloid scar that went from his shoulder to just below his elbow like a big fat worm. i was fascinated by the scar, and by my older brother in general.
my older brother taught me to read when i was 4. i don't remember this, but i remember that by the time i was in 4th grade or so, i was outreading him...reading was difficult for him, whereas i took to it like a duck to water. my older brother positively adored me. he took me everywhere with him...wanted me to be his highschool basketball team mascot (i was too shy)...took me on dates with him (and not cause parents made him, either). one of my fonder memories is him taking me to lake pomme de terre, to some docks there (which i think i revisited this past october when visiting my mom) to feed cheese curls to the carp there. i'd drop the curl on the water, and the carp's mouth would come up surrounding it, and it'd disappear.
my childhood was quite turbulent. my parents fought violently much of the time. both of them drank a lot. some bits of memory: my dad going into the bathroom after an argument in the kitchen with my mom, and punching a hole in the wall...my mom hiding a tire-iron in her pantyhose (yes, really) with which she intended to flatten my dad if he got out of hand at a certain holiday party (fortunately, it didn't come to that)...dad dumping a pitcher of icewater on my sleeping mom cause she wouldn't get up to cook him breakfast after being up all night with my hyperactive little brother (she jumped out of the bed & had him down & the corner of the bedroom with a bloody nose before she was even fully awake/aware).
i have good memories, too, if a bit strange. i remember staying awake till all hours playing pitch & eating german chocolate cake (my dad's favorite, that mom always made for his birthday). i remember a work-friend (dad worked construction in the earlier years, and then as a heavy equipment operator in later ones) of my dad's who gave us a great dane puppy (duke) and another one who introduced us to using chicken livers as bait for catfish. i remember the easter that my mom brought home a teeny little live rabbit for me in a brown paper back (named bugs bunny, of course, since he was grey) and a christmas where my parents took me outside to give me a pony (who turned out to be a mean, intractible little shit, btw...ponies are NOT a good gift for a child). overall, the good memories outweigh the bad ones.
when i was 7, my little brother was born. when i was 10 or 11, my mom went to real estate school, got her license and a job, left my dad & bought a house of her own. she worked all day most days at real estate, and had a night job working at marion labratories to make sure the mortgage was paid & we could eat.
my older brother, who had lived with an aunt since my parents moved from southern missouri to kansas city (when i was 6, i think), got married before my parents split. before long, he & his wife cindy had birthed twin boys. my mom positively doted on the munchkins, as we called them, as did we all.
my sister died when i was 12. or maybe 11. from the perspective of 34, it's all a little fuzzy. it very nearly killed my mom to lose her firstborn. it was sudden. theresa lived in a state home for the blind, and had for several years (as long as i can remember, anyway). she had met a blind man there & they were planning on getting married. for the first time in her short life, she was happy. my mom was excited about it all.
one night when mom was out working at marion labs, i got a phone call at the house. it was a hospital, and they wanted me to get in touch with my mom as soon as possible & have her call them. i did, she did, she left work immediately to go to the hospital. before she could get there, my sister had died. later, i found out that due to a lifetime (22 years, anyway) of borderline diabetes (the pancreas creates insulin, among other things), her pancreas had been overstressed, and had suddenly burst. the death was quick, but i don't imagine it was painless.
again, the timeline gets fuzzy for me, but somewhere in here my dad moved in with us for awhile. eventually, a major blowup (which i will not detail here) caused my mom to get a restraining order, and he moved to west texas where he grew up.
as i said, it was really hard on my mom. she had a business partner in real estate, who made the most of manipulating her when she was such a mess, and i hated this man with every fiber of my being. not because he was trying to replace my dad (which he clearly was), but because he made my mom weak in my eyes...and in her own.