This is the first posting for this chapter, of my memoirs and how the challenges shaped my future.
It was a peaceful summer day. The sun was bright. The sky was clear. The breeze cooling. It was a day of contentment for me because the children were with Dick. I could go from room to room without worrying about the children. Anyone who has raised children will understand how much I appreciated this day of opportunity.
At 5:30 p.m. as the door flew open, in tumbled seven robust children and a tired Dad. Each one received a kiss of "Hello" and in turn headed for the bathroom to get cleaned up before supper. Matt, who was picked up at the farm, had helped manure a barn during the day so he headed for the shower downstairs. Dick got himself a bottle of his favorite beer from the refrigerator in the attached garage, opened it in the kitchen and sat down to relax on the couch in the living room. As he passed through the kitchen, I was standing at the stove and got the usual kiss of 'hello.'
The roast beef, carrots, and potatoes prepared for supper were cooking on the stove in the kitchen. I picked up the weekly newspaper and turned the burners on low as I went to the living room where I joined Dick on the couch. Sitting together, his left arm around my shoulders, my head cocked towards him, I gave him a peck on his check. We looked at the local weekly newspaper together, while the younger children sat on the floor across the room.
I pointed out the interesting topics which concerned our area and for a few moments, it was a source of great joy.
As quickly as the joy appeared, it also disappeared. Dick left to get himself another bottle of beer. When he returned he said, "I turned the burners off on the stove under the warming kettles in the kitchen".
I mentioned his hard day of work and taking care of the children and teasingly asked him, "Do you want to cook too?"
What brought about the horrors that followed remain a nightmare.
With sudden force like a cannonball he was up from the sofa and flew out of the house in a rage. In a moment, his howling truck disappeared from the driveway. All things yielded to anxiety and the surroundings lapsed into silence. All of us looked bewildered.
I swallowed hard and with trembling lips, I said to the kids, "Let's eat" in a matter-of-fact approach . Despite my hunger, I had lost my appetite. Sitting motionless at the table with seven glum children, in a silent cheerless mood, I struggled with growing uneasiness for an explanation.
As a half hour passed I tried to figure out why Dick had gotten so angry. I couldn't even guess at an answer. I didn't know why. The children nibbled at their food and each one didn't feel like eating. I left my seat at the table and returned Dick's dinner to the oven.
Suspecting that Dick had gone to the corner bar, I asked our oldest son Matt, to kindly suggest to their Dad to come home, get some rest and tell him that we loved him. Almost immediately, Matt left on his bike for the corner pub along the highway, a garish sign, 'De Past House' out front. For us there were no answers. All we knew for sure was that Daddy was upset. Matt hurried back, but no Dad.
The next twenty minutes passed at the pace of a century. Then Dick returned home too. He stepped into our five-foot family room foyer swaying as he moved toward the kitchen carrying a bottle of beer. This was the third time I had seen him in a drunken state, in the full twenty-three years that I knew him. He certainly wasn't an alcoholic, I thought. I was taught an alcoholic is a skid row drunk and urinates on himself in the gutter.
What is the problem?" I asked.
"Oh, who gives a damn, " he shouted". " I can't read and write anyway. If you've ever heard that someone is "drunk as a skunk" this is it." As he chug-a-lugged another bottle of beer while hanging onto the wall-hung white porcelain sink in the half-bath off the kitchen foyer. He was very near at the step down into the sunken family room that was only a few feet behind him. I was afraid he was going to fall backward.
"Do you think your children are proud of you now?" I asked, hoping his love for the children would convert the despair.
The empty brown bottle fell to the linoleum-covered floor as the anger surged while he stepped with loaded heavy weight, toward the garage door in the family room foyer. In that same moment he grabbed the ignition keys for the station wagon from the wooden key rack near the garage entrance.
"Just don't drive," I pleaded. "And if you need to go somewhere we'll go with you." I said.
"I don't want to be seen with a son-of-a-bitch like you," he said in disgust as he threw the silver car keys at me. This was not like Dick. He had never sworn at me before. I was stunned.
At that moment I remembered what Mayme, a bartendress had told me on Monday, the earlier part of that week. She said, "The trouble with most wives is -- that when a husband is drunk, wives don't leave them alone. Wives shouldn't say anything and leave those husbands be, then there wouldn't be so many heated arguments, soÂ I yielded to that thought. I had already said too much.
I returned to the kitchen sink. I tried to finish the mound of dinner dishes in the sink, tears streaming down my sad cheeks making spots on my blue blouse, while I grappled with what would be the correct thing to do now. It seemed that no matter what or how I said anything it only created more difficulties.
I was not aware at the time that tense arguments are a type of love too. Especially when the argument protects a person from hurting himself, which was the case a few times in the past. I too believe the myth that when married couples argue they don't love one another. There are ways to resolve conflicts without being a dysfunctional family.
Though this problem was no different from previous discussions or arguments during those three drinking bouts, the ultimatum would have to be different. I was going to put into action the suggestions of Al-Anon meetings and the "One Day At A Time" book. It would have to be his decision about his self-worth. The history of comparing others, with less education being successful, seemed to bring a direct clash about his daily worth to himself. It did not appear to curb or arrest these critical quarrels.
I continued to grapple with the advice Mayme had given me on Monday. I decided to not personally try to stop him from leaving though he was in no condition to drive. I decided not to talk to him as I had done in the past. This was a critical turning point. As I had learned in Al-Anon, he was to be responsible for himself. Back at the kitchen sink, laden with large dinner plates in the dishpan, I cried, prayed and talked to myself, aching to help but deficient. Yet, desperately someone needed to be with him.
The most difficult task was to ask one of the children to speak to their father for me and gain his trust after the bitterness that shot about only moments before. It had worked before, it would work again.
All seven children, ages four to fourteen, were filled with fear. Each in their own way sat fearfully near the opened overhead garage door attached to our home, while they watched their Daddy stagger past them into his hobby shed next door. With tense anxiety, they hoped and waited that in a few moments Dad would go in to rest as he had done in several instances in the past when I had followed to talk him through his despair.
I left the kitchen sink, stepped down into the family room foyer and entered the attached garage. The first moments were charged with mounted difficulties as I asked that one go tell Dick, " Daddy' we do love you." He should get some rest. One looked at another and another at the other with anxiety and fear. No one wanted the individual responsibility. Each pulled away and wrenched at the thought of being the peacemaker.
Returning to the kitchen to continue washing the dishes, still struggling for the correct approach to this problem, I prayed and cried. After a few moments I again went out of the family room foyer to the garage. Seven wide-eyed fear-filled youngsters huddled in the corner near the overhead garage door staring at me in wonderment. I asked the children to all go together to talk to their Dad, if one did not wish to go alone. They decided to do the group method.
I went in to finish the dishes. It was but a few short moments when seven little bodies were in the kitchen standing behind me.
"We think it's too late, he's got a rope around his neck and his feet are off the floor," the children said in unison at 7:20 p.m. on June 10th, 1971. The world had turned to hell. The balance of the dishes remained in the sink.
He wouldn't! He wouldn't!" I shouted as I bolted from the kitchen.
I heard seven pair of feet running quickly behind me. The distance was only thirty feet to rescue him but seemed like miles. All the doors were locked.
"Get Help!" I shouted. "Get Help!"Two of the children held me against the wooden siding of the shed as I struggled pathetically to get inside through a window which opened over a three-foot workbench. It was necessary to leap the three feet across the benches, tools, and wood before I hit the floor, running ten more feet to the rescue. The knot was so tight I couldn't untie it. I bolted back to the kitchen for a butcher knife. Thank heaven, I could open the door from the inside now.
"Oh, God! Help me save him.!" I screamed.
With sawing motion, I cut him down. Gently Matt & I, laid him on the cement floor. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the other children.
"Get help," I shouted again. As I struggled to save him. I sensed the terrifying truth.
Kate had already darted to the nurse living down the street. Sye had jolted to the neighbor at our back yard who served on the rescue team.
The time to be there too late. Yet starting to save him was the only alternative. I cannot explain the bedlam, nor can I explain the hurricane of emotion that stopped me from running. I only wanted to save the one I loved.
Though Dick reeked with booze, foam and slime spouting from his parted lips, determined to save him, Matt and I tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to revive him. Again and again we tried to put life back into that lifeless body.
I pleaded, "Dick answer me!"
And then again I shouted, "Get help". The children had already covered the neighborhood for help. In a few moments figures burst through the opened shed door. A few others had arrived to help and take over the rescue. Some made phone calls to the local rescue squad, doctor and local parish priest. My mind was spinning.
"My God! Please help; don't let it be too late." I mumbled.
He lay cold and lifeless on the cement floor. His strength gone from his tanned and exceedingly strong hands. Dick's face was swollen and discolored to dark blue, more purple. His will to live had failed.
As a few moments passed the doctor pronounced him dead. The parish priest arrived and administered last rites. The rescue squad numbly walked away. Desperately I cried, "It can't be true. You haven't done enough." My God! It was too late!
In the meantime, the cruel and thoughtlesss remarks from the neighbors and kids on the lot line, were devastating. The neighbor's cousin was heard yelling at the shrubs on the lot line, "How is the hanging".
Others said, "She made all the decisions, no man can take that very long."Â
"He was in a business he did not want."
"With seven kids, and economic conditions as they are, no wonder."
Along with many others.
In those first hours, the thoughtless and cruel remarks were bounced off by the physical and emotional shock of what had happened.
Dick's dad and sister arrived shortly. In a shockingly brief time Dick's sister asked, "If you knew he needed help, why didn't you get him help? Daddy is out there, you should really go and talk to him."
I couldn't sit. Slowly I walked out the front door, across the walkway and saw Dick's dad sitting on a lawn chair. As I reached his chair to touch his shoulder, he looked back at me and said, "What did you do to him now?"
I was stunned and numb with shock, yet desperately trying to remain calm. I slowly turned away and with that the doctor gently put his firm hand on my shoulder and moved me slowly away from the scene. Step by step we managed to walk together through the front door which only moments before had been a source of great joy.
It was but a few minutes, when family and other people came, stared at me as though I had contracted a contagious, deathly plague.They sat on the davenport near the window with their own conversation Â After a few moments, they numbly returned with their personal thoughts to their own homes.
It always had seemed to me that my closeness to my family and Dick's family had always been superficial. Only invited when socially necessary, to save face because I married Dick or I was a blood relative to my family. That evening those feelings were reinforced when no one stayed to support me and see me through the first night.
Therefore I felt a great relief as each one left although I was fighting a battle of hopelessness and despair. The little confidence I had was as a couple with Dick. That confidence took a shattering blow as each remark haunted me in my aloneness. I wondered if what I had heard had caused this horrifying nightmare? I had an indescribable feeling. I was not prepared for this.
I managed to walk into the kitchen, as Doc was standing at the kitchen sink I heard him say, "She will need medication to get through this."
I was quick to reply, "No! No! Not now! I must face reality and the sooner the better!"
"Keep a stiff upper lip,." I was taught and this bravery was necessary now to lead our seven children to an emotionally safe future.
Our neighbor, who lived only four hundred feet behind us, was standing near by. Doc shook his head and calmly said to her, "Come with me, I'll give you some medication for her. You be certain she takes the medication as prescribed."
In a few short moments, she was back with the medication. She watched as I took the first pill with a glass of water. It was a triangular peach colored pill, called Triavil. Which later established a peaceful and confident feeling within me. It was as though it happened far away, not to the one I loved.
I realize now that Doc's concern, despite my false bravery was a warning toward the cruel, frightening and desolate future.
I have tried to change the (A) in the last paragraph, but both edits do not allow me to do that. Please send help there!
This is not a novel, but a true story. In 1975, I was told by two psyche professors to write my story. After all these years of trying to have someone write it for me. Here I am on the threshold of writing. Totally illiterate when it comes to writing a story. I write like I talk therefore I need all the help I can get here.