Friday, September 24, 2010

Grand"mom"ments, Chapter 3

This week Mom came prepared with about 50 Post-Its with notes about things she and dad had discussed to prompt our meeting. I thought she was exaggerating until I saw the stack. She said if she'd realized how much she was going to write down, she would have used bigger paper. :)

She shared a timeline of events, most of which I remember, some of which I'd been told about often enough to already know. There was one tidbit that I hadn't heard until this week, though, so I'm going to focus on one year of the timeline for today's post.

In January 1974, my dad's mom passed away. Mom and Dad went from Kansas City to Arkansas in March to help Dad's step-father, Pappy, clean out their place since he had decided to move to California. While they were in Arkansas, Mom got pregnant with me.

At this point, Mom and Dad were living in a house that he had lived in with his first wife.  My dad's daughter from his first marriage was 13. She moved in with Mom and Dad in August. To the house she had lived in with her own mom and dad. She was bitter. She would tell my mom that the silverware was in the wrong drawer and criticize the decor. I tell you all of this not to make my dad sound like a jerk (though I still don't understand why they were in that house), nor to make my half-sister sound like one either (she was in the midst of teen-angst and from a broken home in the '70's - can you blame her?), but to give you an idea of what life was like for my mom at the time. (In her words, "pure hell".) And don't forget that she was 5 months pregnant.

On December 13, I was born. I was full-term, but only 4 lbs, 5 ozs. The doctor told my parents he didn't know if they would have a live-birth. But I made it! (See Chapter 1 for more on that.) December 28th, Pappy passed away. There was technically nothing physically wrong with him. They had just always assumed he would be the first to go, and losing his wife earlier that year was too much for him. He died of a broken heart.

After the funeral, my half-sister was even more troublesome. She had lost her grandfather and now had a baby to compete with for attention. Finally, in February of 1975, my mom had had enough. She told my dad to take her back to Canada. So he did. He drove Mom and me there, and came back to Kansas City alone.

(Side note: WHAT!?!??!! I had never heard this part of the story before.)

Two weeks later, Mom called Dad and wanted to come home. He brought us back, and my half-sister went to live with her aunt and uncle.

I cannot imagine any of this. It's a sad story from everyone's perspective. My poor dad, losing his parents, trying to do right by his eldest and keep his current wife happy. My poor mom, dealing with a bratty step-daughter, being completely isolated from her own family, trying to care for a newborn. My poor half-sister, dealing with a step-mother and baby, being sent away from her mom's and then from her dad's. And to think that I had pretty much a Norman Rockwell childhood - I always felt blessed, but it seems somehow unfair that they had to go through all that and I didn't.

Thankfully today, we all get along well. My half-sister lives in KC. She and my parents came over for dinner on Monday. She loves my mom like her own now, and my mom loves her, too. She's so much older than me, that I always thought of her as an aunt growing up. Now that we are both adults, we commiserate about dad being a grumpy old man, and I take my girls to her pottery shop to make Christmas gifts with their hand- and footprints. It gives me hope for the days when I feel like I'm a terrible mom and our kids won't turn out ok. And it is yet another reminder of what an amazing person my mother is.

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