Trail of a Heart 9 – Things Fall Apart

 In Autobiography

I remember thinking as a high school girl, that if I could just help my parents budget their money, they would love each other again. It seemed pretty simple to me. In my young mind, all I observed that was troublesome was their fights about money. There was much more going on, or not going on that led to their eventual breakup, but money, or the lack of it was pretty high up on the list as far as I could see.

My parents pretty much divided up the bills and each used their money on separate parts of the budget. I remember that even the grocery buying was divided up. My dad, who was still a great cook, always bought the meats. My mother bought the vegetables and all the trimmings for meals. Both parents expressed displeasure at how the other spent money.

My mother was frustrated that my dad played golf pretty much all weekend, every weekend. Even though he played at a Municipal course that was relatively inexpensive, Mother was not happy about it. It occurs to me only now that she also had to be upset that he was never around. What must it have been like for her to be pretty much the only caregiver for seven kids? And they never seem to have any time for the two of them.

Mother spent her money trying to keep all the kids clothed and taken care of. It was she we went to for school supplies and money for any activity we might enjoy. Mostly we all wanted to go to the movies. Even now I think about how much we wanted to live vicariously through the lives of those stars in the movies. Looking forward to movies, and reading the volumes of books we got from the library were my saving grace.

Mother made a deal with us. If we did our part in cleaning the house on Saturday morning, we got to go to the movies on Saturday afternoon. The other part of the deal was that if we went to church on Sunday morning, we got to go to the movies again on Sunday afternoon. In our town the main theater changed movies after Saturday night, so we really had the chance to see every movie that came to town.

Since the movies were such an attraction for me, I was usually pretty motivated to both clean and go to church. Being probably the most stubborn of the kids, however, there were some times I did not get to go to the Saturday movies because I had refused all or part of my cleaning tasks that morning. We girls divided up the big bedroom for cleaning, even down to dividing the closet in half.

Then, of course, we had cleaning to do in the rest of the house. My mother was imaginative and sometimes we drew tasks from a jar, which added some spontaneity to our lives. As I try to recall, I still don’t know specifically what might have put a burr under my cap about my chores, but, frankly, it did not take much for me to cry injustice. My mother stuck to her guns, and many a time I had to watch them all drive off to be deposited at the theater leaving me behind. I showed them.

During those times, I remember Daddy sitting by the front door in his swivel chair watching television when Mother would necessarily walk between him and the TV to leave for work in the evening. She often wouldn’t even acknowledge him, much less give him a kiss goodbye.  I don’t remember his saying anything to her either.  It was so unsettling.

Years later this night-time ritual of my parents came back into my mind with a new realization. After my wedding at the grand age of 17, my new husband took me back to my parents’ house to change for the honeymoon and get my bag. Daddy was sitting in his samel chair by the front door, television off, watching me leave.  I couldn’t believe it, but there was a tear in his eye. I gave him a big hug. Later when things got rough for me and Bob I thought if I had known Daddy loved me that much, maybe I wouldn’t have had to get married so young.

My parents managed to keep up appearances only so long. Daddy left the year after I got married. They had been married just under 25 years. There were still three kids left at home:  Anita at 16, Linda at 14 and 13-year-old Michael.  I really don’t know how my mother made it then as I know we had a 30-year mortgage that wasn’t half paid for.  Frankly, I was a bit wrapped up in my world at the moment as a wife, a mother of an infant, a secretary and soon-to-be college student.  I know those were hard years for my family and I hope someday one of them writes that part of the story.

Watch for the next installment.

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  • j.d. ruby

    Wow. This is powerful writing. Thank you for sharing such an intimate truth. I love you, Mommy!

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