On the theme of “abuse begets abuse” I should talk some about my own parents background. But don’t worry about getting bored with this subject, because I have very little to tell.
That is one of the things that strikes me as funny, that I know so little about my family’s past. Oh, sure, there are some grand stories told. But of the intimate daily happenings of my families past, that of my parents and grand parents, you know, that stuff from which come meaningful lessons about life, I was told very little.
I do know that both of my grandfathers were drunkards. My father’s mother divorced her husband when my father was 5 years old. She then remarried and soon after moved from Hazard Kentucky to Cincinnati Oh. There they lived in relative poverty; my father left school when he was twelve to take a job so to help feed the family. Prior to this, my father and several of his siblings (it was a large family) were, for some period of time, put in a home for children because my grandparents could not afford to take care of them. I only met my Grandparents on my father’s side a hand full of times, and perhaps only had one or two real conversations with them. And they weren’t much as far as conversations go. What struck me most was that these were real backwoods hillbilly folks. The only thing I remember my Step-Grandfather telling me was the story of how he killed his first man at the age of 12.
My mother’s father left his home in Oklahoma at the age of 14 to become a migrant farm worker. He met my grandmother at a Saturday night barn dance in the farming community of Imperial Valley California. It was not uncommon for my mother’s father to take off to places unknown after getting his Friday paycheck, only to return home drunk and penniless. My Grandmother had to take a job so to support her three daughters, (my mother and my two Aunts). Although it was never said that this grandfather was in anyway abusive, he was of little use in maintaining the family and raising his children. It wasn’t until my Grandmother had a serious discussion with my Grandfather about how he was going to lose his family, (about the time my mother and her sisters were getting married off), if he didn’t quit his drinking, that he finally went on the wagon, and as far as I know, stayed sober the rest of his life. I remember this my grandmother showing me a news clipping from back the day, kept within her photo albums. Some relative, I can’t recall whom, was in jail for murder. He had an argument with his wife, left the house and proceeded to get drunk. He returned later with a gun, and shot into the house through a window. At the time, a child’s birthday party was in progress. He had hit and killed a young girl.