(Continued from Part 1)
“Let me start by saying that what I know, is both based on what I was told and what I remember, plus what I later found out,” I began. “I was adopted at about the age of two. I have a brother who is three years older than me. I have other siblings–well, half siblings really, but who’s counting? Anyway, my brother and I were adopted at a young age. The story we were told growing up, and what I believed to be the truth, was later born out, so I was at least raised with the correct information and it was always openly offered.”
“Our mother and father were very young. My mother was about 16 when she got pregnant with my brother. Our dad was an Army guy and was stationed away frequently. A lot happened between them and us that eventually led to our adoption. Initially, we lived with different foster families, ultimately spending the remaining time with a great family in South Carolina. The couple had other children who loved us and treated us like their own. Years later, when I was in my 20s I visited them for a day. The father had passed away, but I saw the mother and a couple of the sisters. Anyway, South Carolina law, at that time, forbid foster families from adopting their wards, else we probably would have remained there. However, what would become my mom and dad, found us and adopted us and we lived in S.C. for about a year and a half before moving to Mobile, AL.”
“Do you know why you moved so far away, so quickly?” asked the doc.
“I don’t know for sure. I’ve heard two sides of the story, but ultimately it was for a job that didn’t pan out quite as they’d hoped,” I replied.
“I see,” she said as she scribbled something on her notepad and then said, “Please go on.”
Let’s see…in Mobile, we moved into a nice little house in a good neighborhood and life was normal for a while. It was traditional family life.”
The doctor interrupted, “And what do you consider “traditional?”
“Well,” I began, “You know. Dad works while mom stays home with the kids.”
“I see,” she said. “And how do you feel about that traditional style of life now?”
“Oooh.” I said. “That’s a prickly piece!”
“Why?” the doctor asked.
“It’s complicated I guess,” I said. “There’s a part of me that very much likes that idea and wishes I had that kind of life. In fact, I think if the country still had that kind of lifestyle ideal, we wouldn’t have a lot of the problems we have. But at the same time, I wouldn’t force my wife into that situation. I married her knowing full well that with her educational background, in all likelihood, she’d end up getting a better job than me and making more money than me. And I was right. So, I like the idea of a traditional family, but I don’t think it’s terribly practical if you live around a big city.”
The doctor made some kind of “Ummm, hmmm” sound, wrote something in her pad and then said, “Please continue.”
“Ok. After a year or so I guess things went a bit sour. Our “mom” wasn’t prepared for kids. I think she wanted them, but I don’t think she could handle them really and she did things that today would get you arrested if others found out. I remember what happened to me and I can only imagine what my brother went through. True Story, she put my brother and me in summer schools and daycares without my dad knowing it. I guess she handled the finances and just “hid” it from him.”
Within a year or so, my dad started working away a lot and my brother and I spent a lot of time either by ourselves, or with babysitters. Sometimes, rather than getting a babysitter, our mom would make us go to bed at like 5 p.m. so she could leave and lock us in the house and not have to worry about us. I remember one time we had a babysitter, but we were supposed to be taking a nap. It was broad daylight outside, and anyway, we were like four and seven years old. I didn’t know where “mom” went and I would guess neither did my dad. But all my neighborhood friends were standing at my window talking to me and my brother asking why we couldn’t come out and play and evidently I was pushing on the window and it dropped and chopped off the tip of my finger. Blood was going everywhere. I was screaming. My brother was trying to stop the bleeding. Eventually the babysitter, who was only 15, came running down and was freaking out. Luckily, our next door neighbor was home and she drove me to the emergency room. I remember “mom” showing up and her just being relieved that I was OK. I had feared she’d be mad, but she wasn’t.”
“Eventually though, she and my dad divorced. There are differing stories about what caused that too, but I think it mostly just built up and then one final precipitous event forced my dad’s hand. It was messy, but my dad capitulated to her demands and gave her everything but the kids and the house. My dad later admitted he had no idea that “mom” was treating us as she was. He didn’t know half the things she was doing on her own, much less to, or with, us kids.”
‘Do you remember how this made you feel when it was going on,” the therapist asked.
“I don’t know. When you’re four years old, I don’t think you understand that adult world. I mean, you can see and hear what’s going on, but I don’t think you understand the ramifications. I know we weren’t happy and I remember wondering why mom would get so mad when she told us to go to bed and then would catch us with our lights on. As a parent now, I can empathize with her to some extent, but I know that what was going on had an indelible impression on us and for that, I can’t fully forgive her.”
“You speak a lot about your mom, but not your dad. Was your dad good to you and your brother?”
“Dad tried, really hard. I remember being happier when it was just us and my dad, than when it was us as a family. My dad would take us to a really cool daycare and pick us up in the evenings. We ate out a lot and I remember my favorite being the nights we went to Krystals. I remember their chili and oyster crackers. Huh…it’s funny what you remember the most. Anyway, within about a year of the divorce, my dad started dating his second wife. She was a LOT younger than him, by about 18 years. They met at work and didn’t really date all that long before they got engaged.”
“Right before the wedding, my dad took a contract job in Montgomery. It must have paid well because we kept the Mobile house and rented another in Montgomery. Right after the wedding, my new grandmother stayed with my brother and me for a week in Montgomery while dad and our new mom were on their honeymoon. And that’s when I first remember my brother starting to act up. I remember he took dad’s little blowtorch and burned several holes in the doors of the new house. Dad was sooo mad when he found out.”
“How did your father react to what your brother did?” she asked.
“I honestly don’t know,” I said. “I know he was really mad though. As time went on, I learned to just go in my room whenever stuff was coming down with my brother. I think I felt that if I kept my door closed and pretended not to know what was going on, that I wouldn’t get in trouble. And it seemed to work…at least that’s how my 6-year old brain took it. That’s the first real “acting out” I remember from my brother and maybe my parents chalked it up to all the changes going on. As I remember, things got back to a normal routine pretty quickly. That first year was pretty good. We were a family again. We had a good neighorhood and lots of friends around. Dad was working locally, so the stress on our new, young mom was minimal. But then, after about a year, we moved back to Mobile and things went downhill fast. Dad started having to take out of town jobs, only coming home on the weekends. I didn’t realize it then, but my dad had lost his job with the chemical plant locally and had to take out of town work. But at home, we were kids, doing the usual kid things. Our new mom wasn’t prepared for it and rather than dealing with it well, she withdrew. She never got violent, which I probably would have dealt with better than the silent treatment she gave us.”
“Wait,” the therapist said. “Tell me about this silent treatment.”
“Well, when things got tough for her, she’d just retreat to her room and close the door, only coming out to do the bare minimum. My brother and I were necessarily fairly self-sufficient. We could generally get ourselves ready for school, and put ourselves to bed, so really all she needed to do was cook for us and that’s pretty much what she did. Sometimes, she’d go for days hardly saying a word to us. A lot of the times, I didn’t know why she was upset. It was probably because of something my brother did, but I thought it was my fault and I took it hard. I’d leave like, little “I’m sorry” notes under the door and stuff, but it didn’t help.”
“I remember that, at the time, I was in speech therapy classes in school because I couldn’t say my “s” very well. And I was a very emotional kid…would cry at the drop of the hat. And I guess I lost it once at school and I had to see the counselor and I told her what was going on at home. They called my brother in and asked him if what I was saying was true and he confirmed it. They wanted to call our house, but we begged them not to. We didn’t know what would happen. I mean, we were used to being mistreated when we displeased our mom and this…well this was surely going to be hell to pay. In the end, I don’t know what happened. I don’t remember any repercussions, so maybe they let it go. I just don’t know.”
Anyway, time passed. One summer the whole family stayed in this tiny camper in a campground in the DeSoto Caverns State Park so we could be near dad and another summer we did the same near some beach…I don’t remember which. I’m guessing our young mom put her foot down and told my dad there was no way in hell he was leaving her at home alone with the two kids for the whole summer! Despite living in a camper for three months, we had good times. Back at home, time passed and things remained fairly static. But it wasn’t long before my brother started acting more and more odd.”
To be continued…