Sunday, November 1, 2015

Everyday Life

Dick and I continued on in our relationship.  Despite the fact I had just turned 15 and he was 4 years older we had a surprisingly mature relationship.  I'm sure it had to do with how fast I had grown up and the fact Dick was an old soul.

When I turned 15 my Dad had bought me my first car.  Not that I needed it then, but owning a Service Station, he was a man who loved the automobile and he was really excited to have me living there.  I have to back track a moment here.  When my Mom and Dad divorced my Dad went out and bought himself a new car, it was a '67 Charger.  If you are not familiar with this body style, it was only made for 2 years, '66 and '67.  They were a really neat looking car and you rarely see one on the road anymore or even in a car show.  I just loved that car and when I was 5 I made him promise me he would save it for me until I was 16.  He said he   Of course it and many other cars passed through our lives, but interestingly enough when I turned 15 and he decided he needed to start looking for a car for me he found a '66 Charger. We went to go look at it and I must say it wasn't pretty.  Of course it had theh beautiful body lines and the neat features, but it also had rust, ugly wheels and someone had painted it baby blue.  He got me to see past those things and he bought the car for about $600 I do believe.  He was like a little kid, he was so excited.  So while he had not saved his '67, he had delivered on his promise.  More to come on the car.

There was something else I had always wanted in my life and that was a horse. When I was 11 and I was still living with my Mom we had a place to keep a horse but of course my Mom claimed there was no money for one.  My Dad bought one for me and paid for everything related to it, tackle, food, upkeep, everything.  I enjoyed him quite a bit, but he was a pretty feisty horse, so when I moved in with my Dad we traded him for a calmer one.  This new horse was really a beauty.  He was a chesnut color with a white blaze on his face and his name was Fury.  I had to board him at a place not terribly far from home because we didn't have a place for him.  Dick enjoyed Fury too, so many nights after dinner he drove me out to see Fury and we would take long rides through the trails.  It was fun, romantic and really made beautiful memories.  Those rides were so therapuetical for me.  We used to talk about anything and everything as Fury walked along the trails.  Dick was such a safe person to talk to, what you said to him stopped with him.  I had not been raised with any religous background, but I did learn at that point in my life, God puts who you need in your life when you need them.

It would definitely appear I was quickly becoming a priviledge teen, having a car at 15 and my horse.  And, I guess I was, but considering my background, I didn't take anything for granted and was grateful for the smallest of things. I felt so different then other kids and I felt like it could be read on my face.  This was significant for me.  It bothered me.  I had started school a little late and of course didn't know anyone when I did start, so I was just trying to get my bearings.  I was in 10th grade now and was going to Webster Groves High School.  Of course like any school there were the different cliques and social groups.  I can remember times just watching groups of kids chatting together in the halls or before class and thinking how they looked like they were so "in the moment".  I didn't know how to do that around groups of kids.  When Dick and I were together I could feel that way, but not with kids my age.  I never did find my place at that school.  It didn't help I left town every weekend to go to the Lake, so while other kids were making their weekend plans to hang out, I was being picked up at the door of the school by Dick and leaving until Sunday night.  I did make a friend or two, but to be honest no one I can remember.  I didn't even stay at that school, which I'll explain later.

Dick, being older and out of school, had his own car, which was a '72 Olds 442.  It was really a beautiful car.  I loved it.  It was now 1976 so his car was very new and he took good care of it.  Since we were going to the Lake every weekend and my car needed to be driven from time to time, my Dad offered him my car to drive every other weekend to the Lake.  This would keep his car from getting a bunch of miles on it and would get my car on the road.  Dick liked the idea so that's what we did.  I liked the idea too because I got to enjoy my car some since I was not able to drive it yet.

Dick and I did all kinds of things at the Lake, from ice skating to dirt bike riding, but the best memories were the chats we had.  I felt like no one understood me like he did.  By now I was definitely in love with him.  I don't know if ever was with me, because it remained unspoken, probably because of my age and my fears. I couldn't imagine life without him.

I mentioned I had no real friends at school.... well there was a girl that befriended me.  Her name was Beth.  It was really odd because she seemed to come out of no where.  She was also two years older so I wasn't sure why she was bothering with me or how she even found me.  She approached me one day and introduced herself, she was really friendly and clearly wanted to be friends.  I was really excited to have a friend so I tried not to analyze it to death.  Beth and I talked for a couple of days at school, then one day when Dick picked me up from school, which he often did, I mentioned her to him.  Well, it turned out she was an old girlfriend of his that was not over him.  She had worked with him back in his Dairy Queen days.  She apparently had been watching and noticed him picking me up from school.  She wanted a connection back to him.  I confronted her about it the next day, but oddly enough, we really did enjoy our friendship, so it continued.  She realized it would not get Dick back and was okay with that.  Dick wasn't too happy about it at first, but he realized it didn't change anything between us, so although the friendship started for the wrong reasons, it did go on for the right ones.

When summer came that year Beth and I came up with this idea.  We would get jobs at the Lake and live there for the summer.  I approached my Dad about it and he decided we could do it.  You'll never believe how that went....

I will pick up here next week...

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Life Settles Down for a While

They say you "never forget your first love".  Well, I guess that's true in a sense, I have never forgotten my first love, but I've also not forgotten other loves througout my life either.  I think you just remember meaningful love in general.

Dick was my first love, but more importantly he was one of a few Angels that have passed through my life just when I needed them most.  The day I met Dick was just another day.  I had walked up to the Station which was only 2 blocks from our house and my Dad was talking to Dick.  He immediately introduced me to him.  I was smitten at that very moment.  Dick had deep brown eyes that felt like they could see the core of your soul through your eyes.  I remember thinking how he must have a girlfriend, and if not, plenty of girls to choose from.  I didn't think he would ever be intrested in me, 4 years younger, the bosses daughter, still had my braces on....need I say more..?

I did find out he had a job at the Dairy Queen down the street as a Manager.  He was apparently keeping it a while longer until he was sure things worked out for him at the Station since he had recently been hired on there.  One evening I had been at the school for a group I was part of and afterwards we decided to go to DQ to get an ice cream.  Much to my excitement he was working.  To be honest, I just enjoyed catching a glimps of him.  As we were all sitting there chatting and laughing, next thing I know he comes over and sits next to me and asks how I'm doing.  I couldn't believe it. My heart was racing inside, but this time for good reasons.  We chatted a bit and then he went back to work.  Well, now I was sure I was in love...  so funny how things are at that age.

The very next weekend, on Saturday I walked up to the Station to say hi to my Dad and hang out a bit.  I had an alteriative motive, Dick worked on Saturday's and I wanted to see him again.  Well much to my disappointment he was off work.  It turned out he only worked every other Saturday and this was not his Saturday to work.  I hung around a bit, trying my hardest to not let any disappointment show.  No one knew I had this crush on Dick.  As I was walking across the lot, much to my surprise, he pulled in, and when he did, he got out of his car, looked across the roof at me and motioned for me to come over.  I wanted to turn around and see who was standing behind  I could not believe he wanted to talk to me.  So I walked over and we started chatting.  He wanted to know what I was up to and if I was busy.  Of course I wasn't.  He told me he had a bunch of errands to run and asked if I wanted to ride along and keep him company., ride around with you for a while, I couldn't believe it.  I checked with my Dad who was fine with it and off we went.

Dick was really sweet.  He was very curious as to what had happened with me, because he was hearing bits and pieces around the Station.  Despite the fact he grew up in a solid family, he was very compassionate about my situation and was not judgemental in any way.  I don't think the butterflies settled down in my stomach for hours after he dropped me back off.

This went on a few more times, we just kind of hung out together, until he asked me to go to dinner and ice skating.  By now he knew all about Michelle, my Mom and all the dynamics related to how I ended up at my Dads.  The cool thing was, he not only asked me to dinner and ice skating, but he told me if I could get it worked out, he would drive me to Michelle's so she could join us and I could spend time with her.  I couldn't believe it.  It was such a generous offer and I had not seen Michelle in months by now and boy did I miss her.  Now I just had to figure out how to make it happen.

I was desperate to see Michelle, so getting up the nerve to call my Mom wasn't that hard. Besides what could she do to me that she hadn't already done?  He nosiesness and curiousity far outweighed anything else, so she was happy to let us come out and pick up Michelle.  Michelle was so excited.  This is where Dick was an Angel.  How else would I have been able to see Michelle?  I couldn't drive out there myself yet.  So his volunteering this gift was amazing and life changing for myself and Michelle.

We drove out there and those old familiar knots were right back in my stomach.  I didn't know how she would behave around Dick and I didn't want her to act like a fool and embarass me.  I'm sure she knew he had been told plenty about her, so she acted like June Cleaver.  She had cookies to serve and behaved as if she was Mother of the Year.  She welcomed him with open arms, took an interest in him, and chatted away.

We had a wonderful night after we left.  We laughed, Dick teased and had fun with Michelle at the ice rink.  It was a night you never forget.  One of those memories that brings that same smile right back to your face.  I was really falling for Dick, but in a deeper way because now he had helped my heart in a deeper, healing way, like only an Angel can do.

There were more nights like that to follow and many more memories made. Dick even started spending his weekends with us when we went to Lake of the Ozarks.  He would ride down there with us and help my Dad around the house during the day, then we would go out at night together.  I was, for once in my life, looking forward to each day, sleeping well, and feeling some peace.  He helped me find this place in my life, and for that I was so grateful.  I was also learning.  I was learning what it felt like to be normal, for me it didn't come natural.  Dick was patient, fun, and had a calmness about him that I loved.  His personality was consistent, he didn't anger easy, his behavior was predictable.  I was trusting him and it was such a breather in my life, one I had never experienced before.

Dick and I continued to create memories for two years.  A lot changed during those two years, which I will cover next week.  If I leave you with anything this week, let it be that dropping my walls was so worth it.  Not everyone is out to hurt you, and by taking a leap of faith to trust, I let such joy into my life.  I'm thankful I learned this early in life, because it allowed me to feel joy, love, and every other wonderful emotion starting with him through present day.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Life Moves Forward

Hello Everyone!  I want to thank all of you who have stopped by the read and take an interest in my life.  Many of you have left very sweet comments after reading various segments I've posted.  I really appreciate your kindness and the recognition of my strength to have risen above the experiences of my childhood years.

Before I continue with my life story, I also wanted to respond to the many inquiries Mike has received asking how I am doing.  I'm happy to say "Thank you" for the many prayers and well wishes, because I'm doing much better.  I haven't had any more panic attacks, my heart doesn't feel like it's going to race right out of my chest and I've been able to relax more.  My craft room is organized, and while I haven't crafted as of yet, I'm hoping to start making Christmas cards next week.  The one thing I have noticed is that I haven't felt this "safe" and relaxed since before I was involved in social media.  I like how I feel so I've made the decision not to return to social media with the exception being that I will continue to blog.  I will simply socialize with my close virtual friends.  I may try to find a small group or community where I can share pictures of my work and get inspired by others, but I haven't decided on that for sure yet.

Ok, back to where I left off.

My Mom and Butch arrived back home before my Dad could make it out there.  I was a nervous wreck.  I handed the paperwork to my Mom and said, "this came while you were gone".  She opened it up and went nuts.  She didn't know who to be swearing about first, she was swearing about my Dad taking her to court over the custody, and swearing at me for answering the door.  I think I even learned a few new words that morning.  She was yelling at me "who in the hell do you think you are answering the door, you don't live here".  Then she would switch to "and if your _____ Dad thinks he's getting custody, he has another thing coming to him".  The whole time I'm thinking a million thoughts... what if my Dad doesn't get custody, how will I finish school?  where will I go to school?  how is this all going to work out? and "where the heck is he, I need him to pick me up!!!!"   Finally I heard a honk outside and I was out the door, but not without hearing "get the hell out of my house and don't you ever come back".   So much for my first visit back to see my so called family, and all the while stood my 7 year old little sister, listening and taking it all in.  I don't know who suffered the most damage that morning.  I guess it would be a toss up.

After I got in the car with my Dad and shared with him how it went, which by theh way, he felt terrible about, I learned what was probably her biggest reason for being so mad.  The divorce decree stated my Dad had to pay child support while she had custody of me, so even though I was no longer living with my Mom, my Dad was paying her weekly for my support. She didn't want to lose her income.  And, of course she wanted my dad to "PAY" in every way she could think of because she was just plain angry at the world.

Needless to say there were no more visits out there, at least for quite some time.  I missed Michelle and worried about her all the time.  That never left my mind, even as I grew up, the worry changed over to guilt, and at times regret.

Meanwhile I went to school at Webster Groves High School.  I was now in 10th grade.  I had started Kindergarten at 4 years old, so I was always the youngest kid in the classroom.  I was now 15.  I did well in school, somehow by the Grace of God I had always done well in school.  I was a straight A student with the exception of gym class.  I didn't like this school much though.  There were a lot of kids in class that were disruptive and many of the teachers spent a lot of time "babysitting" rather then teaching.  It wasn't good because I needed something to focus on and keep my mind off of my life.  Plus I really did enjoy learning, I liked school overall.

The court date was nearing and it was constantly in the back of my mind.  I didn't know what to expect.  My Mom was such a loose canon.  I also didn't know what would be expected of me there.  I was 15, I had never been through anything like this.  I did know one thing, my Dad had to win custody and that worred me too... what if he didn't win, then what would happen to me.  I was a ball of knots at times over it all.

Finally the day arrived and we all went to the courthouse, my Dad, Betty and myself.  We got called for our case to be heard and wouldn't you know it, my Mom didn't even bother to show up.  Her attorney was there to represent her. She was making her statement to let me know I wasn't worth her time and she had no interest in having me as her daughter.  She may have thought it was her last hourah, but it was my ticket to freedom and I couldn't have been happier that she didn't show.

The judge asked her attorney first to hear what he had to say and he said some garbage about me being an unruley child that was difficult to handle and other nonsence I can't even remember.  So then the judge asked my Dad if he found the statements my Mom's attorney had said to be true.  My Dad responded of course with "no, he found me to be a very compliant and easy child to deal with".  The the judge asked me who I wanted to live with and I said of course, "my Dad".  At that moment, he put down the gavel and said, "custody is awarded to the Father, Mr. Robert ____".  and it was over!  I felt like I was walking on air when I left there, we were all smiles, for the first time in many years we were all free of my Mom, she no longer had any control over any of us!!  What a day it was.  We all went to lunch to celebrate.  

From that day forward I felt like I could really start my life, make plans, actually live like normal, oh my gosh it felt good.  In all my happiness and changes in life something else was developing.  I had caught the eye of one of the guys who worked for my Dad.  He had caught my eye the moment my Dad introduced us when I moved in with him.  He was 4 years old then me and he was really good looking.

Some people are put in your life as Angels, they are people you never forget.  This guy, who's name was Richard, but he went by "Dick", was definitely an Angel.

I'll continue with this segement next week.... and if you think life is settled forever, you would be wrong...  it couldn't be that easy now could it..

Thanks for dropping by!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Special Message to My Beautiful Friends

Considering I am now 54 years old I am from the generation many of you are or close to it.  In my life time I've seen technology take over the world.  I remember being a child and my best friend, Rene, was all excited because they got a "color" TV.  She talked about things being in color and got me so excited about it I couldn't wait to see it.  I remember asking my Mom if I could go to Rene's house to watch this new color TV and got the ok, so Rene and I were off, we walked up the street, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.  We were all of 5 years old.  I couldn't wait.  We sat down in her living room turned it on and there I sat with my eyes full of excitement, only to see a black and white show on the screen.  Rene started changing channels, but not matter which channel she went to, the show was black and white.  I remember thinking, surely something is wrong with their new TV.  Her Mom was there so I said, "Mrs. Taylor, how do you make the shows color, everything is still in black in white".  She kind of chuckled and said, "the show has to have been recorded in color in order for it to appear in color".   Well that didn't make any sense to me at all, and I thought this thing is just a big waste of money.  Having no patience at all as 5 year olds are, Rene and I were out the door to do something fun.  I had declared at that time, color TVs were a waste of money in my young mind.

I grew up looking at technology through those same eyes all of my life.  I remember my first class I took at work about "the internet".  The class was a bomb and nothing worked as it was supposed to.   I sat there at the age of 35 remembering my 5 year old experience and thinking "internet is stupid, it does't even work".

Now here I am at 54 and my husband is making a living using technology and the internet.  But the most shocking has to be the world I created on the internet.  The 5 year old who thought color TV was a bust, has made hundreds of beautiful, real friendships on the internet. Who would have thought!, certainly not me.

I've always been very open with my virtual social world.  I'm a trusting soul who has believed their entire life, my life's experiences were not only real, but maybe more common then others let on.  I've always thought sharing would help me fit in and people would realize I was more like them then it appeared.  I thought sharing might help someone else feel they were not the only one.   So, sharing like I always have on social areas of the internet was nothing new for me, I've always shared, the internet just gave me more platforms to do it and the ability to reach a lot more people.

Through sharing and being real I connected with so many of you.  I think the part that surprised me the most has been the stories many of you have shared about how my sharing had a positive effect in one way or another on your life.  That definitely makes me feel my life had a purpose as ugly as it was at times.  Knowing it had a purpose changes everything about how I feel about my past.  If it had a purpose, then it was all worth it and sharing was the best thing I could have ever done with those experiences.  It inspires me to continue sharing.

As Mike has told you, I've not been well.  I know you have all reached out in every way you can to help and be TRUE friends.  I think some of you would have come through the computer to help if you could.  I have been going through a bad time, and I know many of you have wondered what has happened and you've only been left with a lot of speculation.  After I received so many beautiful cards and messages from many of you, I knew I needed to end the speculation and share with you all in my words what has happened.

I don't recall the exact day, but the day Mike shared I had suddenly become ill and he was taking over, the YT and FB were gone and basically so was I, was a really scary morning.  I have always struggled with stress.  Have you ever noticed in life, whatever your best quality is, is also your worst?  For me that's very true, and my best quality is my ability to get a million things done, keep all my commitments, and not let anyone down.  It's also my worst quality.  So that I can do my best quality, I never let my mind or body rest.  I never say, "it can wait until tomorrow".   So I had this going on.

Then there was all the social areas on the internet I was involved in.  Some of that was getting very difficult for me.  I put my heart and soul into everything I share and lay it on the table basically.  On YT I had to turn my "thumbs up/down" off because I had haters who actually waited for my videos to pop up and they would thumbs down them immediately.  I would always have a couple thumbs down within minutes.  Only I could see them, but that was the point.  And because my videos were different, I frequently had people who would go to older videos and criticize how I spoke, the backgroud noise, the stories I told, etc.  They would be really mean, and despite what anyone would say to the contrary about ignoring them - words hurt, and they stay in my mind, because that's just who I am.   So, I had this factor going on.  

Then there was the desperation we have for needing help in the store.  That's been something I never thought would be so hard.  First, I never thought the store would grow that large.  But it did, and help was and is necessary.  We tried local and long distance help, only to have it go south in every case.  I won't go into details but I will say in every case I made the mistake of taking what happened personally.  The problem for me is, if it happens again the future, I'm sure I will take it personally then too.  It's who I am.  So, there was this aspect of my life to deal with.

The store is an entity all it's own.  It's probably the most misunderstood I would imagine.  I can't tell you how many times I would hear, "I think your little store will be a success".  I won't get into numbers here, except for one.  The store grew very fast as many of you who have been there since the beginning know.  Mike was able to quit his job literally years before we ever expected, and we were able to live our dream by moving to the country years before we ever thought we would be able to.   The store is in the top 2% of all Shopify stores right now and from what we've learned is the size of a store that should have a staff of about 7-8 people running it.  It's doing well, so well Shopify also wants to run a feature story on the succes of it.   I always tried to make each and every customer feel they were the only one.  That was good, because I wanted people to feel as special as they really are to us, and it was bad because there were times people were asking for things they would never ask a bigger store to do, not realizing we had become a bigger store, and they would get angry with me if I explained to them we just were not staffed to meet their request (for example, I frequently had customers ask me to email them before ordering items from a company they liked, just to check if they needed anything, I would get asked to email customers when something they wanted would be coming in so they didn't have to watch for it on their own or watch the "what's in the store" videos.  People got angy with me when they would ask me to update their account information and I would instead explain they can do that on their own, or re-booting their computer because something wasn't working properly on their computer).  I was noticing more and more, that because I had been very responsive and one-on-one with each customer, if anything was a bit confusing, or they had the smallest amount of difficulty, rather then try to figure it out themselves first, they immediately emailed me.  With 1500+ customers it became impossible to please everyone.  It was very clear many people see the store as a small store with maybe 4-5 orders a day, and just hoping for more business.  When in reality the store does anywhere from  30-70 orders a day. Those that were not pleased did not hold back in letting me know they weren't.  When someone wants to be mean from the safety of behind a computer screen they can be very ugly.  We refuse to do business with those that behave this way, but again the words stick with you, and since I tried so hard to make sure everyone was taken care of the words stung. So this was going on.

I didn't just feel pulled in every direction, I was.  The store receives at least 60-100 emails a day alone. I also had people with a lot of unrealistic expectations giving me grief in misdirected ways and at abusive levels, clearly saying things they would never have been brave enough to say in person.  I had viewers on YT telling me what to make next, and HOW to make it.  They would see an older project I had done and ask me to do one like it, but in a specific theme they were requesting.  If I didn't craft for a few days because I was swammped in every other area of my life viewers would start writing saying "you need to craft more".  That would really anger Mike.  He saw how busy I was and couldn't believe the requests and demands people were making.  In every direction people were telling me all of "things I should be doing" to entertain them.  

The night before I became ill there was some challenges going on with someone who I had at one time thought was a good friend.  I was getting emails that had a threatening tone to them, and it was just the end for me.

I had not shared this with anyone, but I had begun having small panic attacks, they were manageable, but they had begun.  After that night with the unpleasant emails, it just all came together like a storm and I woke up about 7:00am unable to breath and had pain in my chest like I was having a heart attack.  Mike rushed me to the ER and fortunately it was not a heart attack, but it was by far the worst panic attack I have ever experienced.

That was it for Mike, and now I'm in the background.  I don't see any emails, the channel is gone, my world is now quiet and it feels really good.

The only thing I miss is blogging, because I do love to write.  I've never had any demands put on me here, no one has ever asked anything of me, or requested I do something else here for their entertainment, so I may continue this, I haven't decided for sure yet.  It's why I chose this format to share what's been going on, why things are as they are, and to say Thank you.

I want to Thank the many of you who have sincerely care about my well being.  Those that have taken the time to send me a card to share their concern, or to share a little story about what my sharing helped them get through something, or a time in their life.  All of this means more to me then you could ever image.  I want to thank those of you who have only cared if I got better.

I'm getting better, but it's a slow process.  I've been drained to complete emptiness and it will take a long time for me to recoup from that.  I need time to take care of myself. I don't trust even opening an email for fear of what it might say because I have no energy to deal with anything right now.  It will take a long time to come back from this place I'm currently in. It's not a good place, but it's my place right now and as dark as it is I know being out of the reach of demands is necessary.

As I mentioned I miss writing.  I don't think I'm up to writing often, and not sure if I'm up to sharing my past, but as I do get there, I will have Mike let you know in an email through the store.

Thank you again for supporting him in his efforts to run the store on his own.  He's done fabulous and and I'm so proud of him.  He's also been a protective and wonderful husband.  He's my rock right now that's for sure.

You all have a wonderful week. We are leaving tomorrow morning for our much needed vacation.  Mike loaded the store with all the product coming in this week and he told me he has a giveaway planned for his return.  So enjoy the store as well while we are gone.

Again, thank you for the cards, you just don't know how special they are to me.  My eyes about pop out of my head every time Mike brings them home from the Post office because there are so many!!!  My being gone doesn't mean I love any of you less, I need to be gone so I can love you all more in the future!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

It should be "If you Thought it was [Stressful] Before, Just Wait"

Note: I'm keeping this real, so this segment will include some mild profanity.  If this is offensive to you, you might want to skip this segment.

As I mentioned, I had listened to the phone call my Dad made to my Mom, and he was more then decent, I heard with my own ears!  I knew and still know what was said that night.

I got in the back seat of the car and felt like a trapped rat.  It was a 2 door so once they were both in, I was stuck.  I really don't know why they showed up like they did.  As soon as the doors were shut my Mom spun around in her seat, pointed her finger in my face and said, "I want to know what you told your Dad because he made me out to be a Bitch on the phone last night"?  My immediate response was "I told him what's been going on"... but what I wanted to say and didn't feel I could was, "I was listening to the phone call and that's a lie".   I didn't feel I could say that though because I was still a kid and I wasn't supposed to be easedropping on the call, it was all so twisted.  I wanted to speak my mind, I was in a difficult situation, but had been taught to respect your parents. Yet I was dealing with a juvinille parent that did not deserve any respect... but at my age how to you explain all that to your parent?  How do you say, "you need to grow up and act like a parent"?  So, there I sat, trying to figure out the right things to say to avoid getting my face slapped off, literally!  I didn't succeed, I took one good blow to the face by my Mom.  There just was no right words, at least none that were coming to me.  Finally after I don't know how long she said to Butch, "Coming here was a waste of my time, get her out of this car so we can get the hell out of here".  So, released I was to go back inside.

I was nervous and shaken by this to no end.  Betty knew nothing good could come of what was going on outside and had already called my Dad.  I guess ot avoid an even worse scene he had kept himself at bay, which was probably a good decision. I ended up taking a walk to the Station and just hanging out there for a while to relax and be in a safe place.  Heck just standing there filling the soda machine felt good and gave me a chance to unwind. My Dad was pretty good about not asking too much.  I had always been "drilled" by my Mom, which was horrible, so he just kind of made himself available.

I'm going to digress a bit and share just one example of how many of the things that happened changed people forever.  At one point the daught my Dad and Betty had together got married and had a baby.  Betty babysat this new baby often, while their daughter worked.  I noticed if the baby cried my Dad would jump up and go right to her.  I observed this one day and when he came back to sit down he said, "I just can't stand hearing a baby cry".  I said, "really, why is that".  He said, "when you were a baby, and you cried, if I went to get up to see what you needed your Mom would yell - don't you dare go in there, let her cry, she'll eventually stop if no one comes in and she'll cry herself to sleep, he continued - it used to just kill me to hear you crying and not be able to do anything about it".  The obvious question here is "why didn't he just do what he wanted and tell her to take a hike basically"...  To understand the answer to that question you would have had to walk in the shoes my Dad and I walked in.  It just wasn't that easy and the price was very high.  And, of course their marriage ended not long after this, so he eventually decided to take necessary steps.
There were many things that happened in the past that changed the behavior of my Dad and myself for the future.  This is just one example.

Getting back to that day in the driveway - well it was the first day of a very long war.  You see, it was not very cut and dry or very simple to just switch homes.  My Dad had no custody of me whatsoever.  Back in the 60's as many of you know, it was most common for the Mom to just be granted custody, and the fathers just accepted it as normal, it wasn't challenged so much back then.  My Dad also was still obligated to pay child support per the Divorce decree.  It got more complicated too, because if you recall, I was still not in school and the new season had begun a few days prior. And then there were things to deal with such as - all my belongings, I barely had more then the clothes on my back. Everything I owned was at my Mom's condo.  Despite all of this and more, as you can image, it was more then clear I was staying with my Dad.

The first step was getting me in schoool.  I now lived 30-40 minutes from my old school, so figuring out a way to keep me in that school wasn't an option.  My Dad went to the school district we lived in to enroll me and found out - wasn't happening!  He just saw himself as my legal father, it didn't dawn on him since he had no custody he couldn't enroll me.  So he came home that night to share that news and my stress level went off the chart... as a kid you can't see any possible solution.  What would happen here...  the only option was to get my Mom to grant my Dad temporary custody and the school would allow me to be enrolled.  I feared she would never agree.  My Dad did manage to get her to agree to it, and I'm guessing she only did because she was really fed up with me and knew in the end I had to be in school.  So, by the end of the week I was in school.  One thing accomplished.

But there was so much more.  My poor Dad was paying her each week still!  Because she was the legal parent, despite whether I lived there or not, he was obligated to pay child support.  It didn't take him long to secure an attorney to help sort things out and get legal documents changed and updated.

In the mean time I needed my clothes. That's a night I'll never forget... we scheduled a time to go out there, when we arrived I was really happy to find my Mom and Michelle gone.  Thank goodness they were smart enough to get her out of there.  But oh boy was it uncomfortable..  we took big trash bags and as fast as we could fill them we were just grabbing drawers full of clothes and throwing them in bags.  I remember my Dad looking at me and saying, "don't worry, we'll straighten them all out when we get back home".  I could tell he felt really bad for me. He knew no kid should ever have to do something like this, but it had to be done.  We were in and out of there in about 15 minutes flat.   When we got home my Dad did stand there at a table with me and together we folded my clothes nicely again. I had no furniture quite yet so I used a table.  My Dad was trying to get my life back to some kind of normal as fast as he could, but it obviously was going to take more then a week to do.

Things were crazy for a while.  I started getting mail from my Mom.  Not mail like you would think... she started sending "to me", unpaid medical bills, she closed my little passbook savings account and I guess kept the month.  I just got the little passbook we had as kids where we entered our birthday and christmas money in to learn how to be good savers... we'll I got the passbook with the word "Closed" written inside and underlined about 3 times. I was upset over getting this stuff and my Dad was furious.  The one thing he did I appreciate now was - rather then just handle this himself, he encouraged me to have my own voice. To explain I need to digress again for a moment...

About a year before this all happened my Dad called one day all excited he had found a car for me.   With owning the Station he ran across all kinds of cars and deals.  Anyway, I had just turned 14 and to him that was almost 16 so he wanted to be ready with a car for me... he was like that.  He had come across a 1970 Challenger.  It was the old "Slime Lime" bright green color and it was a cool old hot rod.  He was telling me all about it on the phone and of course I was excited...."rule #1, never get excited or be happy".  I was busted.  My Mom saw I was happy.. she grabbed that phone so fast and chewed his ass from here to next week.  She told him "how dare he suggest a car like that, that's not a car for a new driver, etc, etc. and how dare he not run it by her first!!!  End of story, I wasn't getting THAT car".   Down the road she got a new car and decided her old car was suitable for me and gave it to me.  It was not necessarily a cool car back then, but a desireable car these days.  It was a '67 Impala.  We had parked the car in my Grandmother's garage.  This was the Grandmother on my Dad's side.  Something worth noting..the car was in a garage with no garage door. So there the car sat waiting for me to turn 16.

Back again to the mail I was receiving.... I said to my Dad, "I just want to mail her the keys to that car and tell her what I think, I'm really sick of being treated this way and I don't want anything she gave me".  He said, "then that's what you should do.  I'll make sure you have a car, you don't have to keep that one, and it's okay for you to tell her how you feel in a respectful way".   That was the best thing he could have ever done.  I sat down with a piece of paper and the keys to that car and I wrote her a note telling her how I didn't want anything she had ever given me and she should stop what she was doing, that it was not right.  My letter wasn't that great, but it taught me I had a voice, was entitled to speak it if done properly, and I didn't have to rely on someone to speak for me. I never looked back from that lesson.  From that point on in life when something wasn't right, I never looked for someone to take care of me, I knew I had my own voice and could take care of myself.

About a week later my Dad drove me by my Grandma's house and the car was gone.

Life started shaping up.  My Dad had a room built for me in the finished basement they had already.  He had a closet made and there was already a full bath down there, so it became my safe haven.  I loved it.  I got furniture, school was going ok, and my Dad had found me a 67 Charger, which proudly sat in the driveway waiting for me to turn 16 which was just over a year away at this point.  The wheels of the legal system turn slowly so we were still riding on the temporary custody letter and waiting for things to happen to finally make the custody change legal.   In the mean time Michelle was not doing real well and my Mom decided I should come visit them - she decided she should have visitation!  So she presents this idea to my Dad, who in turn talked to me about it.  Once again, I had a voice, as he left the decision up to me.  He is the eternal optimist, as so am I, which I clearly get from him.  He always held out hope my Mom would change and be the Mom he hoped she would be.  I decided to go visit, but as you all know it was not for her or Butch, it was only for Michelle.  I missed her an unimaginable amount, so a chance to see her, despite my Mom sounded really good.

We planned which weekend would be the first that I would go visit.  My Dad drove me out there and dropped me off.  I was nervous and excited all at once.  I was so happy to see Michelle.  We were just inseprable.  We hung out Friday night, then Saturday morning my Mom and Butch went somewhere and I was there with Michelle, having a great time doing nothing, when there was a knock at the door.  I answered it and a man said, "does Patricia xxxx live here"?  I said, "yes, she does".  He handed me some papers and said, "give these to her and tell her she's been served".  And before I knew it I was holding papers telling her she had to go to court.  My heart was racing a million miles and hour.  I had to get out of there and I had to do it fast, but my Dad was 30-40 minutes away.  I called him in a panic, "Dad, Mom was just served with the legal papers and she's not here, and they'll be back soon, and I need out of here".  He knew I needed out of there too and said, "I'm on my way".  There I sat with Michelle, who was only 7, so I couldnt' leave her, my Dad was on the way, and I didn't know when my Mom and Butch would get back......

Ok, more next week!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

If She Thought She Had it Bad Before, Just Wait....

That weekend was spent in Theodosia, Missouri.  A small town near Table Rock Lake in the Southwest Missouri Ozark area.  It's peaceful there and Betty had extended family in that area.  We went there a few times a year to visit a couple relatives she was very fond of.  I don't really remember some of these people, but I do remember the warmth they extended to me.  I remember the house I was in that weekend, it was owned by older relatives of Betty's, so to me it felt like a "grandma" house. I was all of 14 so, who knows how old they really were.  I do know I was up all night, every night pacing around, sitting in different rooms, thinking, crying, thinking..... I did not know what to do most of that weekend.

No one spoke of the sitution on the 4 hour drive back to St. Louis (Webster Groves to be exact), the car was quiet for the most part, except Beth, my Dad and Betty's daughter who was now 4 and very annoying. We came home that Monday and overall, except for the turmoil in my head, everything was uneventful.

Tuesday I was supposed to be in school...somewhere, but I wasn't yet.  No one knew exactly what was happening yet.  My Dad had no heard from my Mom, he had not called her, so nothing was figured out.  It had been made very clear by Betty and my Dad that I was welcome to stay, and I'll never forget what else was said, to this day I'm sure this was Betty's idea to throw in the conversation, but as they told me I was welcome, they also said, "but you can't play us back and forth, in other words, you can't decide you don't like the rules here so you want to go back to your Mom's, then when you don't like it there, you want to come back".  I remember thinking...are either of you nuts, do you know what I'm coming from... I looked at my Dad like "really"...   I never really responded to that and my Dad said no more.

Later that day I had decided my decision was going to be... to go back to watch out for Michelle.  My heart could not find peace with any other decision.  I knew it would be Hell, but I also knew it would be Hell for her because she would get the brunt of everything, there would be no diversion.  Plus how would she ever understand at her young ag why I didn't come back.  So, I went upstairs (I had been staying in the finished basement), and told Betty I had decided to go back because of Michelle.  I remember how she looked shen I told her.  She actually looked surprised and very concerned.  It was almost as if it had finally sunk in on her how bad my life had been, and now I was coming to her with this decision.  My Dad was at the "Station" as we called it.  He owned a Shell Service Station 1.5 blocks away.  Betty said, "don't call your Mom yet, let me tell your Dad what your decision is, and let him call out there to talk to her for you before you do anything".  I agreed and went back downstairs.  For the first time in many days I felt relieved.  I knew this was the right thing to do even though I knew it would be bad.  I actually started feeling a bit happy because I really missed Michelle and I had worried about her to no end.  I couldn't wait to see her.  She was like my own child.

I guess Betty called my Dad when I was downstairs.  Later I came up and she told me she had talked to him and he was going to call my Mom.  I didn't give it a lot of thought.  I figured this was just sort of a formality and I would be getting a ride from someone to go back at some point, besides I also needed to get into school.  I had missed the first day already.

That evening my Dad came home around 6:00pm as always, he sat down on the back stairs and started to take off his workboots.  I went outside to see him as I typically did.  He looked pained in his face.  He would always say "hi kiddo, how are you doing?" in a cheerful "happy to see you voice", but this time even though he said the same words, they were not in the same tone.  I didn't really answer, I just said, "did you call Mom".  He said, "Yes, I did".  And then he was a bit quiet, as if searching for his next words.  I look back on this time and although he was my Dad, and I didn't realize it at the time, because he was older, he was only 33 handling this mess as well.  He was running his own business, owned two homes, had two children, he had a lot going on.  I anxiously said, "what did she say"...  I remembered he looked down at the stairs for a very long minute, and then he looked up and said, "you won't be going back".  I remember that feeling like it was just a few seconds ago.  My heart sank, I couldn't believe it, what would happen to Michelle, who would take care of her. So many thoughts were racing through my mind and my heart.  I asked "why, what did she say".  I wanted to know what she said.  He looked at me as if he wanted to hug me, but he wasn't the huggy type, but there was so much saddness in his eyes, and said, "she told me if you thought you had it bad before, just wait until you come back, you don't know what bad is".  He apparently had had enough, he had watched me go through the weekend, he knew how bad she could be so he apparently had finally spoke his mind.  He continued, "I told her I wouldn't send my damn dog out there with you".  And that was it.  My decision was over and Michelle's fate was sealed.  The wind had left my sails and I just sat on the edge of the stairs and stared at the brick on the house.... now what.

Now what turned out to be an understatement.... that night my Dad called my Mom to finalize the fact I was staying.  I tip toed down the hallway and was listening to the phone call and I'll never forget how nice my Dad was when he really didn't have to be.  He said things like "maybe she just wants to see how her Dad lives", and "let's face it Pat, in 3 or 4 years she probably won't be living with either of us, and this is a chance for her to live here for a bit before that time comes"...  He never yelled, he never said anything disrespectful.  In fact he never said anything bad about her to me, he only showed understanding when I spoke to him about her behavior.

The end...hardly.. the next day Butch was at the door unannounced and she was sitting in the car in the driveway.  Of course looking back, they strategically showed up during the day when my Dad was at the Station.  Betty answered the door and he apparently told her my Mom wanted to talk to me.  She called me upstairs and I could tell she didn't know how to handle the situation.  She didn't know what to do, so she just asked me if I wanted to go out there.  I thought I had to.  I thought since it was a parent wanted to speak to me, I couldn't say "No".  So, outside I went and I got in the car...  what a mistake this was...

Ok guys.. more next week... thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

You Can't Take Back Your Words - Ever

I had a lot of you wondering what could have changed to make thingg better this week.. well that missed bus was life changing.  
I was really excited to be going to the mall, even by myself, I just wanted to feel comfortable for a while, even for just a short time, it was better then all the tension I was living under at home. I knew I could just walk around in the mall and get lost in looking at all the stores.
I waited on the main road for a while, but no bus.  Oh my gosh I can't tell you how sad and disappointed I was.  I NEEDED that bus to pick me up more then anyone looking at me could ever imagine.  I didn't WANT and thing.  Most kids my age would be excited for a chance to go to the mall to get a cool pair of jeans, or some popular shoe style.  Things like that never crossed my mind.  Jeans, shoes, clothes, makeup, none of those things ever crossed my mind.  I just needed some time.

Beside, and I apologize for digressing, but I never liked shopping for clothes.  I was a heavy-set child and difficult to get clothes for.  Back then Sears had their "Chubby" department.  The name alone was degrading, and of course that's where my clothes had to come from. They were never stylish, and they were more expensive, so I had already spent every "back to school season" hearing about how I needed clothes from the Chubby Department and how fat I was.  Then my little sister came along and she too was heavy, so then we both heard "how did I get so lucky to have too fat kids that need the Chubby Department."  So, now you might guess and assume I did a lot of protecting my listtle sister.
Before I continue with my life changing day, you need to know how involved I was in my sister, Michelle's life.  She had a different father, and we looked nothing alike, but we were very close.  I was raising her because our Mom could not be bothered.  Besides I was getting $20 a week for raising a child, keeping a house and so forth.  I taught Michelle how to count, basic reading, how to tell time, tie her shoes, and so forth.  I was also where she went when she was scared during the night, didn't feel good, or just needed something she couldn't handle herself.  I took good care of her and was there for her as much as I could be.  I even convinced my Dad on a few occasions to bring her along on my weekends with him so she could get away and have a little fun.  She wasn't my sister, she was my child, I looked out for her when we swam at the pool where we lived,  I made sure she got her bath and brushed her teeth.  Meanwhile, besides Butch and my Mom being gone during the day for work, they found the money to get season Hockey tickets, join a bowling league, and eat out regularly.  So, they weren't home on any of those nights either.  So, I was busy, with a lot of responsibilities.  Back to why I wasn't thinking about that "cool pair of jeans" like a normal teen might have.

When the bus didn't show I started the long walk back home.  It was in reality only 1-2 blocks, but each step felt like a mile.  My Mom had been glad I was leaving for the afternoon "so she could enjoy her day" as I had been told.  Now I had to go back, I knew she would be mad.  My heart was full of fear and for good reason.  As I walked along the road, to my surprise, I looked up to see her driving up the road. She stopped and picked me up.  Of course she wanted to know what I was doing.  I told her I had missed the bus.  She was hot, she was planning to enjoy her day and now I had ruined everything, just like I always did.  And then she said something I didn't expect.  It was late August, school would be starting in about a week or two.  She said, "that's it I'm calling your Dad, you're not living with us until school starts.  I've had it with you, you've ruined everything, you can go live with him and find out it's not all boats, cars, and a fun time like it is on the weekend".  I couldn't have heard better words, but I couldn't let her know I was happy, in fact she had to think I thought this was really bad, so I just stayed quiet, but on the inside I was really excited.  I didn't care what went on at my Dad's during the week, I knew it had to be better then how I was living.

We got back to the condo and I was told to go pack some clothes she was calling my Dad and I would be out of there before the sun set.  Oh you bet upstairs I went and started packing.  I heard her on the phone "You need to come get her and come right now, I've had it and she's not welcome here another minute, so I don't care what you have to do, get your ass out her to pick her up.  You can deal with her because she's ruined everything around here.  You can bring her back when school starts".

My Dad had been married to her so he knew what she was really like in a way that only those who had been, or are really close to her would understand.  He knew he needed to get me out of there.  I was living 30 minutes from him at this point.  He also knew if he showed up she would never stop, and it wouldn't be good, so he decided to send Betty.  He didn't tell her, he just said he would pick me up just as quick as he could.   She got off the phone and yelled upstairs, "I just got off the phone with your Dad and he's coming to get you. You're staying there until school starts, that's it for you around here, you've ruined enough.  You can see what it's really like to live with him, it's not all fun. He can't get here soon enough".  I just said, "ok".  I couldn't wait to leave... but there was one problem and it was a big one.  She was a 6 year old child looking up at me with confusion in her eyes as I packed up, all the yelling was going on, she figured out I was leaving and said, "when are you coming back?"  She was breaking my heart, but I could do nothing and I knew I would be back when school started, which wasn't that far away, so I showed her on a calendar the day I would return.  She was ok with that and so was I.

Betty picked me up a little while later.  It was uneventful.  We talked a bit on the way home, not much, but a little.  I was really glad to see my Dad that night when he came home from work.  I walked outside as he was taking his work boots off and he looked up and said, "so she kicked you out too huh kiddo".... and he smiled.  He truly was the only person on this earth who understood in a way only someone in our shoes could understand.  I said, "yep, I guess so".

Happy ending...not even close, I had a long road ahead of me still, but I now had some relief.  A new kind of hell started that weekend, labor day, I'll never forget what I went through those three long days, it was a mental anquish not even an adult should have to deal with.  You see by then my Dad had told me I could stay and never go back....never go back....never go back,.... oh my gosh that sounded like Heaven, but what would I do about Michelle.  Who would take care of her.  She would not understand why I didn't come back on the day I told her.  Do I go back to Hell, and take care of her, or do I save myself and stay for good?  I didn't sleep for that whole weekend.  No one could make this decision for me.

Finally I decided what I had to do......

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Life in Carmel Woods

My Mom was busy working for the alcoholic again, she of course was enjoying the new wardrobe, but there was nothing worse then her working.  She reminded everyone of the huge favor and sacrifice she was making for the family on a daily basis.  Yet she ran the show and did very little where she worked.  She had the owner eating out of her hands.  He paid for everything for her all the way down to gas for her car because she would complain she didn't haven enough to get to work and back.  She was a master manipulator when it came to this man.  He liked her, there was no doubt about it and he played right into her hands.  She even had him paying for our family vacations.  He was so drunk most of the time I don't think he knew what he was agreeing to anyway.  I met him a few times, yet I doubt he ever remembered me.  So, she had it easy as you can image, but you would have thought she toiled away all day in a building with no heat or airconditioning for minimum wage by the way she carried on.  I learned one thing for sure, you better be gratefuly and appreciative for all she was doing for the well being of the family...we owed her big time and she didn't let you forget it.  Forget the fact I took care of everything that didn't require a car all week long.  She didn't have to clean one thing.  She didn't do a shred of laundry.  She didn't touch a dirtly dish.  And, she sure didn't bother raising her second child.  I did it all for $20 a week.
And, they wondered why I was so happy to leave on Friday night!  I used to count my days and nights privately all week waiting to leave again, but the fact I was happy on Friday to leave was impossible for me to completely hide.  I wasn't even supposed to look "neutral" about it, I was supposed to be bummed out I had to go.
My weekends were amazing and something most kids never get to experience.  There was definitely an underlying tension that never went away.  It hung around like a dark cloud.  Meanwhile my Dad has really become successful.  His house at the Lake of the Ozarks where we went every weekend, had been added on to and finished beautifully.  It was a house straight out of a magazine, all 3,000 sq ft of it.  Betty had always had an interest in interior decorating so she took a class on it (of course my Mom said it was some stupid thing that meant nothing).  The house sat tucked away in it's own cove on three lots, so there was plenty of privacy.  My Dad continued to own big boats, so he had a big dock, it had a swim deck, slide, and a place for a ski boat as well.  We were living large.  We stayed at the house some weekends and just went for rides on the boats and some weekends we met up with friends with big cruisers like ours and we all "coved out" for the weekend and would swim, have bbq's together and take our smaller ski boats we had pulled with us to go out and ski.  It was amazing fun.  My Dad was living fast during those years.  He worked really hard, and he played equally as hard.  Around that same time he also became a private pilot.  We would rent planes and he would fly us around on a sunny day.  He had motorcycles, Corvettes, jet ski's - money was flowing freely.   This was now my "other" life.  I had to come back on Sunday night and pretend I didn't have a good time and go through "20 questions".  It was horrible.
It was true Betty and I were not close and she was all about her daughter she had with my Dad, and she didn't like that my Dad and I had a lot in common, but even with all that, the weekend was soooo much better then the weekdays!
My Mom was figuring it all out.  It was good she couldn't see the weekend life, but she was figuring out there was a lot more money flowing then she wanted to believe could be true.  She had told him he would never amount to anything, he would always be a greasy mechanic, so this was really making her crazy.
Then one weekend my Dad needed to bring the ski boat home for a repair.  He towed it back and it was with us when he dropped me off on Sunday night.  When I got dropped off she and Butch were waxing the car, a 76 Monte Carlo, red with a white vinyl top (I can remember these events like they happened earlier today), she got one look at that boat and you could see the change in her eyes.  She was pleasant.  In fact too pleasant.  All four of them chatted outside for quite some time.  My Dad was saying more then he should I'm sure, and she was gathering her info like she always did for later use.  By the time they left dusk had fallen upon the evening and she could not finish waxing her car.   All of a sudden it became my fault she couldn't finish it up.  She was all over me.  Her jealousy was so bottled up she didnt' know what to do with it, and I was the obvious place to let loose.  I couldn't do anything about it.  She couldn't go after Butch, nor could she go after his child, but I had no protection.  I got in trouble for coming home when I did and for being so "damn" happy.  I took the verbal abuse for as long as I could and I finally decided I had nothing to lose and I struck back.  I told her I would "call next time to see if it was ok to come home", and "of course I would be happy on the weekend, look at the difference in how I was treated".  She went nuts, how dare I talk back, I was supposed to be grateful, look at the sacrifices she was making... this was the beginning of big changes.  She started yelling at Butch that night because he "wasn't doing anything" and I was standing up for myself.  Butch fell into her trap and he had me backed in a corner with his fist in my face tell me if I spoke another word I would feel what that fist felt like.  It was a mess and I never wanted to come back there again, but I was still young, couldn't drive, I was stuck.
The stress of each day after that was unbearable.  She told me almost every day "You've ruined our summer, my life, my marriage, and our entire family".  So one day I asked if I could take a bus and go to the mall.  The mall was about 20 minutes away. She agreed to let me because "she wanted me out of her face anyway".    I went to the bus stop, but I must have been late because the bus never came......  I will forever thank God that bus never came, because what happened after that changed my life in a huge way for the better.... unfortunately things had to get a lot worse before they got better, but they got better, and it's all because that bus never came.....

Talk to you more next week!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Life Between Two Families

Betty was pretty young when she met my Dad, she was 18.  They dated for a year or so, then married and she moved in.  My Dad was 8 years old then her, so he was 27, and I was 7.  I remember the wedding and all the plans very well.  We were not a church going family in the past.  I didn't know it at the time, but Betty had been brought up Baptist.  I do recall them trying to find a church to marry them and having difficulty since my Dad had bee married previously.  They found a Luthern church about a mile from the house I lived in when I was with my Mom.  I remember they had to agree to go to church there for a while before getting married.  So, every Sunday we were at church.  My Dad didn't like it one bit because he wanted to be doing other things. Meanwhile Betty was making plans for the wedding and her Mother was making all the dresses for everyone.  Her Mother was an amazing seamstress.  She could make clothes, curtains, anything.  I was going to be something in the wedding, I just don't recall anymore what I was, but I was in it.  My Dad seemed happy, aside from going to church and having to make donations.  And so our weekends went for a while, pretty uneventful.
Life was changing with my other family.  It was at the time I was 7 my Mom and Butch had a daughter together.  My Mom was stressed out, there was no money, she was constantly griping. Nothing was good enough, it was endless. My Mom hated seeing my Dad finding his way and finding happiness.  Betty was young, skinny, and cute, so I all I heard was she "was too skinny"...blah, blah, blah...  I remembering wondering even back then at such a young age, why she cared how skinny Betty was, what difference did it make?
I did know I was always happy to leave for the weekend and I had a hard time hiding it.  If I spoke of something we were going to do (because I would talk to my Dad on the phone during the week and he would tell me the plans he had for the weekend), and I was the least bit excited about it she would say, "there's no reason to be so happy, wipe that smile off your face before I smack it off".  It was difficult for me because I am a naturally happy, optimistic person.  Even though Betty had become permanent, I was still very happy to leave for the weekend and get a break from my weekday house. At this point I was now going to my Dad's on Friday night instead of Saturday, which was great.  I would get picked up Friday after he was done working and brought back Sunday evening.
There was always a price to pay for everything though and my weekend happiness had a high price tag on it.  Life was hell when I came home on Sunday, between all the questions I was asked and all the twisting she did of the activities, she even picked apart how my little blue suitcase was packed.  She believe my clothes and shoes should be packed a certain way and if they didn't come home packed correctly she blamed Betty.  Of course it was never right, my shoes would be touching something they shouldn't, something was always wrong, so every Monday morning around 10:30 my Mom would call my Dad to give it to him.  Of course I heard it all and felt terrible.  To this day I have issues with how I pack my suitcase. Everything has to be packed a certain way...
As the years started going by my Dad was quickly reaching goals he had.  Betty's Dad owned a Shell Service Station.  He was aging and wanting to eventually get out.  My Dad had a goal of owning his own Service Station himself.  He had always been a great mechanic and had quite the following.  So Betty's Dad had my Dad join him as half owner of his Shell Station.  The agreement was they would do this until the right Unit became available, at which time my Dad would leave to have his own Shell station.  Also with all this going on my Dad found a boat he really liked and bought it.  He also found a '63 Split Window Corvette and bought it..  My Dad played as hard as he worked and he was living life to the fullest.  He had Betty's support and the sky was the limit.  Our weekends now consisted of boating on the river, outings n the Corvette, time with friends and family, they were more fun then ever.
Meanwhile the green eyed monster of jealousy had taken over my Mom with a iron grip.  She couldn't stand to see my Dad so happy and living his life. I head it all from "he's going to fail, you just watch" to "Betty doesn't really want you around", etc. She hated it.  So was also resentful at Butch because he wasn't living the fast track, he had gotten a better job and they were doing better, but Butch wasn't the type to have big goals, want big toys, he just wanted to live a nice quiet life.  So my Mom decided we needed to move, and she found a huge house, it was definitely a plan to impress.  This house was huge and sat on a very large piece of land for being in a very developed area of St. Louis.  The house had been built many years prior to the home around it.  It sat at the end of a narrow street and was sat sideways.  All the other home on the street faced the street, but this one did not.  It didn't because when it was originally built, all the land around there belonged with the house and the street had been it's driveway.  At some point the land around it had been sold and the driveway became the street.  Whoever had sold off the land saved quite a bit so the house still had a lot of privacy.  The house had amazing charm and architecture.  When you entered the house it had beautiful dark wood everywhere and the entry area had a gorgeous chandelier to light the area.  As you looked forward you could either go up a massive stair way, or you could hang your coat in a closet with a full length beveled mirror.  It was all stunning and quite breathtaking when you walked in.  It had huge bedrooms, sun porches, sun rooms, a large den, and even living quarters over the garage.  There was only one problem.... it needed a ton of work and they couldn't really afford the house to start with.  It didn't take long for the fighting to begin.  My Mom had been so used to my Dad being able to fix anything and Butch just didn't have that background, knowledge, or even desire to do stuff like that. So my Mom began telling him how worthless he was.  Meanwhile the house was falling apart.  It needed a roof so bad we had buckets in the attic all over the place.  There was a small bathroom on the lower level that had so much rotten wood around the toilet it was about to fall through to the basement.... but hey the house looked impressive from the outside and that's what mattered to her.  We were the Kings of the street, and when my Dad dropped me off he got to see it.  I think life was harder there then the previous home because of the additional financial  pressure.  It didn't keep my Mom awake   My Mom never once saw me off to school in the morning.  It was my job to get myself off and as my sister got older to make sure she was good to go too.  My Mom would make any necessary lunch items the night before and put them in the refrigerator.  If there was anything we were to remember, she would leave a note for me.  I was to get everything together and get to the bus stop on time, which I always did.  She did not work when we lived there, yet she constantly griped about the house cleaning and how she needed  help, so when we were home we were always helping her clean.  I found myself making a little private get away in those living quarters above the garage.  It was peaceful and Butch gave me to some paint so I could spruce it up a bit.  It wasn't great, but it was private.
We lasted two years there and then it needed to be sold.  They were broke again.   This time we were going to move out of the area I had known all my life to the outskirts of St. Louis where new developments were going up.  We rented a town house in a community with a pool and condos you could purchase.  So there were renters and owners in the same area.  The pool was nice and so was the clubhouse that went with, but life got really ugly there.  My Mom went back to work, like I said, they were really broke, and I became the full time caretaker of my little sister and I was responsible for all the cleaning in the town house.   I was to clean all the bathrooms, the kitchen, do laundry, change sheets on the beds, and watch a 6 year old 5 days a week.  I was 13 by now.
Life was about to take a very big change.....

Ok, I'll chat with you more just as soon as I can....

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Adding Betty to the Mix

Life became different once again now that Betty was around. She was there every weekend.  She did try to become friends with me, we played Jacks, and other games, it was fun but I really would rather her have just gone away and there were times I didn't always act so pleasant towards her.  One day my Dad sat me down and told me she wasn't going away, that he really cared for her and I needed to treat her with respect.  So, I had no choice but to shape up.  

Betty had one thing I didn't have, that I loved, she had a big family. As I mentioned she lived down the street with her parents.  Here parents were amazing.  I loved them immediately, they were so kind to me.  Betty also had a sister who lived on the same street, just 4 houses down from her and her sister had 3 kids, all around my age.  When everyone go together it was so much fun, and they got together often.

This is significant in itself as I digress a bit.  My Mom's parent were both alive when I was young and my Dad's Mom was still alive.  On my Mom's side, I was treated well by both her parents, but not with love, I just wasn't treated badly.  My maternal Grandpa was the kindest, but he was limited as how nice he could be by my Grandma.  He would love to have had me over for the weekend and things like that, but Grandma wasn't going to have it. She didn't really care for kids and didn't want to spend that much time with me, short visits that were "neat and tidy" were her style.  Then when my sister was born and came into the picture she didn't want anything to do with us.  Two grandkids was one too many and she made that well known.  We rarely went over there after that.  From what I understand she told my Mom she didn't want anything to do with my sister.  No long after all that my Grandfather passed from complications related to his diabetis, so that was pretty much the end of any relations with that part of the family.   I never saw my Grandma much after that.  She actually lived to be quite elderly, I think she lived to be close to 90.  From what I heard she stayed very mentally alert the whole time.  She lived in her home by herself until she couldn't any longer, and then moved into an assisted living facility.  When this happened, my Mom, to ensure she would not have to help her Mother in any way moved to Texas.  My Mom had a Brother she always felt was favored over her, so she decided he could take care of all her needs as she aged.  Not long ago I heard when Grandma's body was beginning to fail her my Mom had her Brother ask their Mother if she should come up from Texas for her funeral.  Apparently my Mom was told not to bother coming, she wasn't welcome at the funeral. So, that is all very telling as to how my Mom learned to become the Mom she was.  

On my Dad's side, his Mom was wonderful, she was my safe place to land many times in my young life.  I was lucky that she lived just blocks from our house, in fact my grade school was 4 blocks way, and she lived right in the middle, two blocks from the school, and two blocks from home, so I could even go there on the way home.  I spent the night there often and learned many things from my paternal Grandma.  My Dad had a sister who had no yet moved from home.  Of course because I enjoyed going there so much my Mom hated it and was never kind to my Grandma.  It made things difficult and awkward, just like my Mom wanted it.  

So, as you can now understand, Betty's big family was nice.  As you can guess it wasn't too long after my Dad married Betty and she moved in.  Now I had new Grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa Kyle), and new cousins, Billy, Sue, and Julie.  All of this just angered my Mom even more.  I would play with my new found family all weekend when I visited my Dad because we all lived on the same street.  It was great, at least while the weekend lasted.  The more fun I had the worse it was when I went home.  Unfortunately, (at the time), I was such a happy natured kid I was not able to hide my happiness when I came home and wanted to talk about the fun I had.  Obviously, I'm glad I have a happy nature now as an adult, but I wish I had been a more saavy child and realized I would have been much smarter to come home and just not say much.  One weekend all of us kids around the my Dads neighborhood had played near a little creek in the area and found a lot of toads or little frogs, I don't remember what they were, or if there is even a difference.  We had a blast, catching them and letting them go, making them jump, we had good old fashioned kid fun.  I told my Mom about it when I came home and she told me I was going to get warts all over my hands, arms, and body and no one would want to be around me.  She kept going with it until I was in tears for days and couldn't sleep because I was so afraid.  Finally Butch told me it wasn't true.  I still remember that like it was yesterday.  

As each weekend went by I began to enjoy the expansion of all the new friendships and family members, it was nice and while I had really enjoyed weekends with just my Dad and I, having all these new people in my world was good for me.  As my life impoved on this side, it got worse on the other.  I was just enjoying myself way too much for my Mom's liking.  She picked apart every weekend.  We would all get together and Kyle's house, all the cousins would come, Betty's siblings, Patty and Tom, and we would have a great time.  There was giant tree in the back yard that was perfect for climbing.  It was great and the visit didn't have to be "neat and tidy".  It was one of those place where you could eat desert before dinner if you know what I mean.  Here's an example of what she would do.  When I came home she would ask, "what did you eat at Kyles house".  I would say, hambers or hot dogs, because they always had food grilling, usually burgers and dogs for kids and pork steaks for the adults.  We were welcome to eat whatever we wanted, but us kids usually just wanted something we could hold in a bun, run around with, eat quick and keep playing.  My Mom would then say, "what did the adults eat" and I would say, they had porks steaks.  Then she had a hook..."see, they don't care about you at all, while you're getting a hot dog, they're eating good steak".  She would continue this with various topics until by the time she was done I actually thought I had been treated badly, when I hadn't at all.  It was a horrible mental game to play with a child, but she played every game and card she could.  She would then call my Dad on Monday and say "she had a really bad time, what are you exposing her to on the weekends?"  My Dad would remember us all playing and having fun and try to figure out what had gone wrong that he  didn't notice.  This went on every weekend and only got worse as my Dad's life got better and better. Which it did, quickly...

Ok...  thanks for reading and I'll pick up more next week.  I know many of you have found you can easily relate and have left messages saying "at least you had one good parent"..... just keep in mind, the story is not over...  see you next week! 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Returning Home

At 2:00am in the pitch black of night, my little sister and I were loaded in the car for the long trip back to St. Louis.  My little sister was like my own child, which I'll get into more later.  I was 7 years older then her.  She had celebrated her birthday while we were "getting rich selling 8 track tapes and fake jewelry" at the cheezy motel.

I was a little upset when we left because I had found a little diamond ring I wanted when I was there, it had a tiny stone in it and I was told it was actually real and that had made it very special to me.  I had stared it every day at that dirty flea market for 3 weeks and had been promissed it would be mine, but as we drove away I figured I had stared at it for the last time.

We were a mess driving back.  Our car was falling apart.  You see my Mom had this thing about looking like she was something special.  Before my Dad finalized the divorce he had made sure my Mom was set up, because of me, so he had bought her a new car to drive.  Butch was basically a child so when he moved in he brought with him a Corvair his Dad had given him, and since they knew nothing about cars and hadn't taken care of it, it was falling apart right and left.  My Mom didn't feel the new car she had screamed "I'm loaded", so she traded the brand new Chevy in for a 10 year old Cadillac.  Back then a 10 year old car was tired and worn out, engines were pretty much shot at 100K miles unlike today's cars, so our black Caddy was tired. While we were in Floriday with it the head gaskets had gone bad and it was smoking out the back like a bug sprayer.  There was no money to fix it, so we just had to keep using it as it was.  So, there we were, two young children in the back, a guy just our of high school driving, and a Mom who was so self centered, the words self centered are not strong enough, riding.  No one had a plan, although I could tell some were being tossed around in the front seat, I just couldn't hear them well enough.  Obviously something was wrong, I just didn't know what it was.

The next morning we were in Tennessee and we stopped at a convience store.  Butch went in, then came out after a while.  I heard my Mom say, "did you talk to him?".  Butch said, "yes, he answered, and I told him".  I never heard more then that.  I later learned Grandpa Eddie never paid up like he was supposed to the three weeks we were all working at the flea market.  He kept pushing Butch off and saying he would pay by this day or that day, but never did.  Apparently Butch had taken the days receipts and all the cash he could get his hands on, taken it, and we had left town with it.  I don't know how much that amounted to, but it certainly didn't leave us with much money to live on.  I think it just got us back to St. Louis.

We made it back, smoking car and all, it was icey and cold, and three weeks before Christmas.  We had a house, to live in, my Dad's child support to live on, a broke down car, and no one had a job.  My Mom blamed the world because she did no wrong, ever.  It was my Dad's fault for not paying enough child support, my fault for breathing, and Butches fault for some reason.   I remember my Grandpa on my Mom's side coming over and loaning us money to get through the Holidays.

My Dad was happy we were back and resumed the weekend visits.  It was such a relief to have those peaceful weekends back again.

Life went on, Butch found a job as a Sales Rep for Keebler Cookie Co.  I don't know what it paid, but it was very clear to me we had financial problems.   Butch used to get a lot of free cookies from Keebler and we used them for barter whenever possible.  We got hair cuts and paid in cookies.  I probably sounds a little funny, but those cookies helped us get what we needed for a long time.

I continued to hear about how my Dad didn't pay enough child support and how he needed to be taken back to court, because it didn't cover my 1/4 of everything...  it was a broken record.   Through it all there always seemed to be enough money for frivilous things.  I was the "free" babysitter in the house and had been since Michelle, my sister had been born.  I did a lot of babysitting.  As broke as we supposedly were, my Mom and Butch were on a weekly bowling league and had season tickets to the Hockey games, so I did a lot of watching Michelle.

I apologize that some of this is going to skip around.  My timeline of memory is not perfect as to how life was, I just have a lot of random memories.

As I had mentioned previously I was 7 years older then my sister Michelle.  I guess it was felt I was old enough to babysit her right away, so this made us pretty close and we also shared a bedroom.  My Mom did not like to have her sleep disturbed, so when Michelle needed something in the middle of the night, such as a bottle, or diaper change, I handled it, while the adults got their sleep. I didn't mind, I loved my little sister and I wanted her to be happy.

About a year after she was born I came home from school one day to find my Mom sitting on the couch with her head in her hands crying.  Butch was home with her and she told me she thought she had a brain tumor and was dying.  This was my beginning memories of many things to come that my Mom was going to die from.  It did scare me back then though.  Of course I think she just had some bad headaches or something...

It was not a happy home, my Monday-Friday home.  Nothing was ever right, good enough, done fast enough, was big enough, fancy enough - you get it.  In fact at one point my Mom had to get a job.  She was a very beautiful woman, with platinum blonde hair, always done in an updo which was very stylish in the 60's.  She caught the eye of the owner of Culligan Water Softening, and became his personal secretary.  He was a married man, and from what I gathered, he respected she as too, but he wanted eye candy.  I remember he told her she must wear skirts or dresses to work, in which she told him she couldn't afford to dress the way he wanted, so he gave her the money for a new wardrobe that suited his liking.  Over many years, my Mom worked off and on for this man.  He had a terrible alcoholism problem, of which she covered for him many times.  She only worked for him when we were having financial problems, which he knew, so he paid for a lot of extras for our family, including vacations.  He was such a big drinker he would be at a restaurant, eat pats of butter to coat is asophagas (sp) because he had burned it up, then he would drink straight vodka.  Once my Mom got a call because he was driving 7 mph on the highway drunk.  We were all certain drinking would kill him, but it didn't, smoking did.  He died in a fire that was started by him falling asleep while smoking.  He left his money to his wife, but had a car he left to my sister.

I share all that because when my Mom worked for him, she was a tyrant to live with.  She didn't feel she should ever have to work and working for this man crossed so many professional lines it was crazy.  But Butch refused to become a mobster like his Dad, he was living the straight life no matter what.

Meanwhile my Dad's life moved on and he met someone he cared about, her name was Betty.  My Dad had saved his money and purchased his first home since getting divorced 2 years prior and Betty lived down the street with her Mom and Dad.  Betty was just out of High School herself... and I can't say I was happy to meet her or have her around.  My weekends had been sacred and she was invading something so special and so meaningful to me, I can't even describe it.

Ok guys... no cliffhanger this week, but I must go and get about my day.  More to come next week.  I'm sure it will bounce around a bit again, there's just too many random memories to put them in proper order. I hope you enjoyed this segment...


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Grandpa Eddie

I don't have a lot of memories of Rosie.  I do know she was Grandpa Eddie's 10th wife.  Butch's real Mom had passed when he was just 2 years old, so he had no memory of her and to this day I can not tell you why she passed at such a young age.  The guess in the family is she possibly had complications from an auto immune disease.  Various Auto Immune diseases are common in my family, particularly on the "step" side.
Because of all the Mom's in his life Butch was very commited to my Mom.  He never wanted to get divorced.
Rosie had someting to do with a Nursery School.  I'm not sure exactly what her role was, but my Mom jumped on the idea of having me go there.  This took place when my Mom and real Dad were still married.  I was quite young when I went there.  I remember it because it was traumatic to me, I didn't want to go and I remember crying and pleading not to go.  I think most kids do this, because I'm sure I had fun while I was there.  I still wonder what her role was though because she didn't need to work.
My guess is it might have been some deal Grandpa Eddie had going, hard to say.  Many of you mentioned in your comments you wondered about Grandpa Eddie.  Well he is your' concerns come true.  Grandpa Eddie was part of the mob back when it was more prevelant in St. Louis. He always had some "deal" going, and as I said, he never worked at a job.  He would get hooked up with different thing that fell off a truck and sell whatever it was.  The one thing he never did was pay his taxes.  He owned hundreds of thousands of dollars to the IRS so anything he wanted to be involved in, he needed Rosie to put it in her name.  He couldn't own a thing.
The Federal Government kept close track of Grandpa Eddie, they frequently watched his home and they always were on top of his every move.  At one point he had found a business he wanted.  He purchased it in his name with the intention of moving it over to Rosie in just a matter of days, but the IRS was quicker and had it chained up and took it from him before he could do a thing with it.
He always had something going on in Miami.  I remember at one point he had a miniature gold place.  We went down to Miami for vacation and I remember getting to play endless miniature golf, it was like heaven to a child.
In a very short period of time after meeting and getitng to know Grandpa Eddie he was gone and the house across the street left abandoned.  I don't know what happened to Rosie, but I never heard from her, or anything about her until almost two decades later.
I was told Grandpa Eddie went to an old folks home.  My Mom and Butch made trips to go see him.  I of course believed it, but learned later in life the IRS finally got the info they needed on him.  They had questioned him all the time, but Grandpa Eddie was a tough guy and never cracked.  Of course the Mob oath was to never rat.  Well someone else was not so strong and made a deal for themselves by ratting on Granpa Eddie.  Grandpa Eddie was sentenced to 3 years in a white collar type prison and was told he could get out sooner for good behavior.  Not much for what now was a bill of over a million dollars in taxes and penalties to the IRS.
He was told one thing from the Judge as he was read his sentence - and that was "if anything happens to this man (the rat) then you will do your entire three years in a maximum security prison".  Well, as I said, Grandpa Eddie didn't scare easily and he had a score to settle.  Within a week of Grandpa Eddie going to jail the man who ratted on him was shot in an elevator.   Grandpa Eddie ended up doing his full three year in the Maion IL prison (one of the roughest around).
He got out and was back to his same life, the only life he knew.  This time he Rose wasn't around though and he needed us to fill in. From what I understand a lot of promisses were made and not much turned out as it was portrayed.
One promise was a big one.  He had some sort of business going at an indoor flea market selling 8 track tapes and fake jewlery.  Apparently we were going ot get rich by going down to Miami and working with him at this Flea Market.  We were going to live in a house with a sparkling in ground pool, along a causway and have a boat, and on and on.  I remember telling my real Dad we were moving down there and going to live this new fancy lifestyle.  I had visions of it in my mind.  My Dad owned boats, so I was very familiar with them, heck I stayed on one each weekend, so I could only image this beautiful home we would live in with a pool ... it sounded so perfect.
We took off for Florida in an old Cadillac my Mom had to have, I was about 10 and now I had a baby half sister who was 2, almost 3.  I could't wait.
We arrived, we went to the flea market, and even at the age of 10, I knew there was no way that business was going to pay for the lifestyle I had been sold on......  This adventure lasted for 3 weeks, and then one night I was woke up at 2:00am and told, "come on get in the car, we need to leave....".....

Ok, back to crafting, more next week....


Sunday, June 14, 2015

My New Normal

So, as I said, life went on, but in a whole different way.  My Dad kept his word and I saw him on weekends.  He worked a lot, he had two jobs, so he only had Saturday night and Sunday off.  I looked so forward to that time together.  It was just me and him, hanging out.  Since he didn't have much time off he always had to clean his apartment on the weekend too.  He was a very clean and organized man, so when I came over on Saturday night the first thing we did was clean together.  Now you would think....uggghhh cleaning, but I loved it just because it was time spent with my Dad.  I dusted and did whatever I could to help.  We always had some dinner he got somewhere, and then we called it a night.  Sunday was always the day I looked so forward to because he always had something planned.  He did a good job when it came to making sure we had fun together.  We went to the Arch, Clarksville to ride the skylift, and all kinds of places that were fun.  I remember really enjoying myself.  I always came home on Sunday night happy as could be.  Being with my Dad was also an escape from the stressful atmosphere in my weekday home with my Mom.  At the time I didn't realize how much stress there really was, but looking back - it was a lot.

The weekends were so short, it seemed I was just starting to relax and it was time to go back home.  My new "replacement Dad, Butch" was doing his best, but my Mom was a mess.  It seemed she was stressed about everything, but mostly she was stressed about money. At the time I didn't understand the issues, all I knew was she didn't think my Dad paid enough child support, and I felt like she was angry at me about it.  She would tell me in quite the tone that "your Dad doesn't pay near what he should, it doesn't come close to covering your third of the house payment, and water bill, etc (she would rattle off every bill related to the house), he got off easy, I should take him back to court".   Now I was five years old, and when I heard that it used to scare me because I didn't understand what court was, but I thought it might mean court could put hin in jail, so I worried a lot about this issue.

She never liked it that I came home happy either.  That made her mad.  She told me my time with him wasn't reality.  I didn't know what that meant either, but I did know I really looked forward to those weekends to relax.

Life was so different for me now.  My Dad was a morning person and so was I, but my Mom was not.  So when my Dad left and Butch moved in they slept in whenever they could, which was often.  I was forbid to make any noise to wake them.  This was so challenging for me.  I would wake up early and want to do something, or maybe even just use the bathroom, but I was scared to death to make a noise.  The upstairs had two bedrooms, one for them, and one for me, and it had a bathroom at the end of the hallway, so it was close quarters, any noise at all would disturb her and that really ticked her off.  I hated the mornings, and loved when I was at my Dad's and we both go up early.

Money continued to be the talk of the house.  I knew Butch worked, he sold cars and I knew he hated it.  I remember one day they were talking about it and she said, "how's it feel that this is your last day".  He was apparently quitting.  He was really happy about it.  I didn't really get why he was quitting if we were supposedly so broke.

I knew Butch's Dad and Stepmom (Rosie) well since they lived across the street still.  His Dad was called "Eddie", or now "Grandpa Eddie".  One thing I knew about Grandpa Eddie was, he always had a lot of money, rolls of it, $100 bills would be rolled up in his pocket and he pealed them off like dollar bills.  I knew he spent a lot of time in Miami too an he never worked for anyone, it seemed he always had some deal going with a business.  I didn't understand it all back then, but I grew up to get it.  We spent many years intertwined with his business ventures, and, well, that's a story for another day...

I have to get up and get going so I'll pick up next week!