18- Flashback: A Glimpse of My Childhood

18-Flashback: A Glimpse of My Childhood

My sister, Marsha (born in 1948) and I (born in 1945) say that we had a Leave It to Beaver childhood.

Leave It to Beaver was a sitcom in the early 1960’s, in which the parents were hard workers (she at home, he at the office), loved their two sons, and took their parenting seriously. Rather than having all of the answers, Ward and June worked with their sons to figure things out. Their home was comfortable and all of their problems were manageable.  

Marsha and I grew up in the security and innocence of the late 1940’s and the decade of the 1950’s knowing we were very loved. Connie (born in 1953) enjoyed a good start like we did, but by the time she got to middle school and high school society had changed a lot and life was more challenging for her than it had been for us.

1953 - Dad and Mom
1953, Dad and Mom relaxing 

Our parents loved each other and they loved us. We were their focus. Our home was very stable and happy. Our small house was kept clean and tidy; our clothes were washed and ironed.  We ate every meal together at the kitchen table. For dinners our mom fixed meat and potatoes and vegetables and home-made desserts, and fish on Fridays.

When we were young, Mom, Grayce, enrolled us in dance lessons, swimming lessons, and gave us birthday parties. She made us Halloween costumes, and many church and school dresses. She bought us Sunday hats and gloves, and polished our white Easter shoes. After school, she had snacks ready for us and was excited to hear about our day.

Our Dad, George, was the rock of our family. He was a quiet man who went to work every day at 7:55 and was home every night (except for the Elk’s club meetings once a month) a few minutes after 5. He built us a playhouse, set up the tether ball pole, taught us to ride our bikes, and how to drive a car. He took us to church every Sunday and to confession every two or three months.

1955, our family
1955, our family

Daddy was more than a provider; he was a fan of his girls. We each knew that he and our mom loved us unconditionally. When he spanked us (because we deserved it), it truly hurt him more than it did us. We knew that there was a deep mercy inside him for each of us.

When troubles came, and they did, our nuclear family foundation was firm and our relationships were laced with love. Even in our extended family, love won–over and over again. Disclaimer: one woman who married into the family moved herself to the fringe of the group through her very critical spirit. We tried to keep a good attitude about her and kept welcoming her back, but she became embittered.

I mentioned that our parents were social drinkers and that it was always a positive part of our family life. At some point daddy began using alcohol as an escape from a troubled relationship with his brother, who was his business partner, and from the stress of being a small business owner and paying taxes every quarter. Daddy and Walt had carried on their father’s tractor sales and implement business. Uncle Walt was the office manager and daddy was the mechanic.

I’m sure daddy had also taken refuge in alcohol as an escape from the worries and sorrows that we three girls caused him as we were making our way into adulthood.


17-I Came to My Senses

17-I Came to My Senses

In the fall of 1974, my teaching friends and I went to New Hampshire for a conference. My mom wrote that I came back with strange religious ideas, like reincarnation.

70s hip huggers and bellbottomsFor a year or so I had been reading books by Edgar Cayce and Ayn Rand, and others, and had subscribed to a daily devotional from a religious group called Unity. There was a void in me, and I was trying to fill it with ideas that were intriguing and mystical and being tossed about by some of my intellectual friends. Ideas that were without the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

In November my mom called me in tears. She said that daddy had received three DUI’s (Driving Under the Influence of alcohol) within a two week period. In shock, I cried with her and advised her to take Connie (who was still living at home) and go to an Al-Anon meeting as soon as possible. In the meantime I contacted a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, acquired some literature, and sent it to her.

This was the crisis that brought me to my knees. I was humbled, I was in shock, and I was afraid.

My rock was crumbling. The man who had always been steady and dependable for me was no longer strong. He had been in the background of my life, but he had been there. Although I had been living very independently for eight years, the realization hit me that I was just a small fish in a big pond. I was full of myself, enjoying the praises of colleagues in my profession and believing that I was somebody because a small group of partiers included me in their drinking games and antics. I was deluded, and the scales came from my eyes.

I also knew that of the three of us girls, I was most like our father in personality. Was I on the same path as my dad to alcohol dependence? I began to take stock of my own life.