A fork in the road.
Well, after the dust from the divorce settled and everything died down, the visits quit. No toys to pacify us three boys while my father took mom into the house to………………….well, you do the math, we lived a poor ass life style. We lived in a house(s) that I could see the outside through the cracks in the floor where the wall met. When my father walked out, comfort went with him.
When my parents divorced, my mother had no real skills. Remember, they met when she was 15, I was born three years later. My mother was just out of high school. I don’t know if she received a diploma. She did not go to college while she was married. After the divorce, she went to Grays Harbor College in an attempt to learn secretarial skills, but that didn’t really get her anywhere. She ended up tending bars and going into the restaurant trade/industry. I wish it had worked for her. Today, I can see that she really had a dream, a vision to do well, but it just didn’t work out.
As I think about it now, I can only imagine that she was overwhelmed when she ended up alone and with three very young boys. No real skills, three mouths to feed, clothe, shelter, school, et cetera. This had to be unbelievably crushing to a single, unskilled mother with three boys. I can only imagine had I been in her shoes, I would have been lost. I really wonder often whether my father really got a thrill by leaving everyone on a sinking boat. Me, the oldest of us three boys was eight years old, then five and three. It was a desperate scenario, indeed.
At this stage, I was the new dad by assignment, however, only in responsibility. I was thrust into the role of caretaker at ten years old. I knew nothing. I knew that if you did something wrong, you got your butt tanned. I had to learn to take care of my two younger brothers, quickly. Curfew, (very popular with my mother,) meals, washing clothes and dishes, the entire bit. I had to stand on a wooden box to wash dishes, a chair to get clothes into the washer. Yeah, this looks promising.
I would prepare meals, get my brothers bathed, get them dressed for school, send them to the bus, make sure they got home, make sure they did their homework, got fed at night and finally, into bed to start again the next morning. Understandably, my childhood was unlike any of my contemporaries lives. I really had no interaction with other kids after school or during the weekends. I was always stuck at home, as were my brothers. Because my mother could not always be at home as a ‘housewife’ would be, she looked for any reason to ground my younger brother and I. Kary was way too young to go out of the house alone, much less, leave the yard.
Anyway, being grounded was a way to keep us in the yard, and to keep me paying attention to my brothers and making sure they were safe, warm and staying out of trouble. “Don’t burn down the house.” Mother was so afraid that we would somehow get the law involved in our tidy little home and lives. That was never going to happen. Never.
This went on for years as we moved from house to house in the Aberdeen/Hoquiam area in Washington state. As I said, my mother was not a skilled worker, so she made very little hourly wages, and tips were her supplement. I can remember living in houses that no one should have been allowed to live in. At the time, none of us boys knew any better. We hadn’t known anything better and were just starting out. We had seen no precedent. My mother didn’t make nearly the money it took to take care of three boys by providing school, food, shelter, clothes, etc. Immediately when I turned 15, I got a job at the local supermarket upon my mother’s stern insistence. “Swanson’s” is the name, a huge supermarket. It still stands in Aberdeen. I made $1.85 an hour. My mother made me pay rent. Yes, 15 1/2 years old, working under a state work permit, I had to pay rent. I certainly understand “Times are tough,” and they were, but making your 15 1/2 year old son, the kid that kept the other two boys in line for the past seven years, pay rent. I never really had any money for dates or anything. An Aurora model of Frankenstein or Dracula or those cool Rat Fink cars now and then, but not much else. Actually, nothing else. A record album now and then as well, but not much more. I hated growing up.
So, nearly 16 years old, had been bullied for at least eight years (neighborhood kids, school kids and a family member,) I had been through the divorce, I was stuck at home with no life, keeping two younger brothers in line, answering the door when a knock came. I really didn’t mind looking after my brothers, but I really missed seeing “the sights.” Moving around Aberdeen/Hoquiam, WA. every year, constantly changing schools, making friends then moving away, never dating because I had to stay home constantly, no activity socially at all. Once in a while I would be asked by a friend if I could go to an event, usually at a theater or the skating rink or a game at the school facilities in town. I always had to refuse. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to go because of my brothers being home. Yeah, life was rather dismal. If I was granted permission to attend, I would always have to dig up any money I could spend through my own efforts. Usually by collecting beer and pop bottles along any highway leading out of town. Cash them in at the local supermarket. Admission to whichever event I was allowed to attend.
Of course, I was nearly a typical teen. I hit 11 in 1965. Beatles, girls, kids parties. Not for me, though. It was like living in an Amish village. I went nowhere. Ever. I was not allowed. Not, as I said, because of any consequences, but because I was assigned as father with no previous experience or training. No time off.
Now, there was another motivation for this idea and plan to keep me home and over my two brothers.
My mother liked companionship, and being a waitress and bartender, it was a rather easy effort for her to garner that companionship she desired.
OK, this isn’t pretty, but it’s real.
My mother worked for years in the early 1960s in a few bars around Aberdeen. One of her longer tenures, or “job,” was at a place called ‘The Wigwam.’ It was a rather large bar, had live bands, bouncers, etc. It was located on Highway 101 on the way out of Hoquiam, WA., now a storage area for logs the Mayr Brothers Logging Company have logged from the Grays Harbor area. The building was razed at least 30 years ago. Quite a few famous musicians would stop by the Wigwam and sit in with whomever was playing at the time. Aberdeen is somewhat directly between Seattle to the north and Portland, OR. to the south. So Aberdeen/Hoquiam, if they were driving, is a good layover.
Anyway, us boys, three of us, had quite a few “uncles” over the few years that mother worked for Gene Carlson at the Wigwam. At the time, mainly because we were so naive because of our assignment to ‘prison’ we never really knew what was going on. One ‘uncle’ was not much different than another ‘uncle.’ Not much to be proud of, but it happened.
As I got older, I desired more independence. This jeopardized my mother’s freedom. She would need to assign or hire someone to take my place if I were to leave. This would mean that there would be one less money maker in the house, and someone would have to be paid to babysit my two younger brothers. Although, if I were old enough to be on my own, that would happen later than mom wanted, so just before I was to attend Weatherwax Senior High School in Aberdeen, I was seen by her to be too “unruly” to keep around and I was “shipped off” to my father’s and stepmother’s house 150 miles away in Seattle. “Shipped off to” was a popular term for her to hang over my head. Well, at the end of the summer of 1971 I was “shipped of to” Seattle.
I arrived, settled in, read the rules and enrolled at Lincoln High School in Wallingford Seattle. A borough of the metro Seattle area. Just north and east of the ship canal and west of the University District.
Now, a bit of history here. This was told to me years later, but I can draw the connection to what was about to happen.
At some point a year or two before I was “shipped off to” my father’s custody, (I was just 17 when I left Aberdeen,) my younger brother was “shipped off to” my father’s house. The start of a pattern. My recollection of what I was doing while he was gone is not to be found. I DO know that while he was living in Seattle with my father, he stole a car from a car lot late at night, got caught, did his penance, then burglarized the very house he lived in with a bunch of his friends from school. Guns, rare coins, money. He was again implicated. I don’t know what the disposition of that case was. However, I DO know, after my brother was “shipped off to” Aberdeen, my bed was prepared and I would now have to sleep in it. I look at this and just can’t ‘get’ what my brother was thinking. He had it made but shit in his bed anyway.
Years later, my brother and I chose to be roommates in a two bedroom apartment in Cosmopolis. Once we were sitting around, listening to music and drinking beer. He decided to tell me all about this car theft and burglary that took place. He thought it was very funny. I laughed, but was a bit disappointed in what I was hearing. I kept my dismay to myself. However, many years later, it would dawn on me as to why my father’s attitude toward me was so terrible. I never got the opportunity to ask anyone, however, not too long ago, on the phone, I told my brother of my thoughts. He didn’t deny it. Actually, he sounded as though he understood how I could think this. As I said, he was buddy-buddy with my father. What a waste.
My father had a serious dedication to holding grudges. While I was on my own, after leaving Aberdeen permanently in 1981 at 27 years old, I would visit him on the Olympic Peninsula in the town of Poulsbo where he lived, always unannounced because he would never answer the phone so I could ask if he would be home. I lived across Puget Sound from him, so a Ferry ride and a 15 mile bike ride (which was half of the reason I made the trip) were what it took to go see him. He NEVER came to Seattle, where I lived, to visit ME. He and my brother visited constantly because my brother would always tell me he had just gotten back from ‘dad’s.’ Actually, one time, we were sitting in a bar, because there was no other way (for me) to visit with him, I always had to find him at a bar, I told him I would love for him to come by and see where I lived. His response? “Fat chance that will ever happen.” Yes, that’s what he said to me. I’ll never forget it. I don’t know why I didn’t, but that day I should have stopped trying to get him to like me. I should have stopped trying to be something he could be proud of because, at the exact moment, I knew I would never achieve that goal. I guess I didn’t want to accept that he simply did not like me. Ever.
Anyway, I always had to go to him, never him to me. Well, when I did actually see him, it was never a hug or hand shake at the door. Just a greeting. Usually, “Hey slick.” Nothing ever more personal or fatherly. When I did visit him, we always, at some point, ended the conversation with him talking about his divorce from my mother. Every single time we talked, the very last subject would be how my “c*nt” mother was the root of his troubles. Even into my late 40s, he couldn’t let go. I don’t believe she was the initiator of the divorce, as I said earlier. I believe he just wasn’t ready to marry and settle down even after he did exactly that. Also, as I said, my mother used to tell me that he would take off his wedding ring when he attended classes at Grays Harbor College. I don’t doubt that he did.
So, it seemed that he held high positions for people that, in his head, they could never attain or aspire to, either so they could be special with him, or so they would always fall short and he would feel superior. I don’t know which, but I know I was probably at the bottom of that list and I should have known better.
Well, back to the “shipped off to” scene.
As my brother had left and my father had a terrible taste in his craw for us brothers or children in general, I really had no chance of overcoming his grudge against my brother. I was doomed from the start. I never had a chance and didn’t even know it. He expected me to do something dastardly before I walked in the door. Well, I never did, but I was always treated as though I was about to do something terrible. Still, today, I wonder whether if my brother hadn’t burglarized the house, how would I have been treated?
While I spent a horrible year with my father, step-mother, two step-sisters and a step-brother. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and back to Aberdeen, a town I hated, but was much better than what I was going through in Seattle. Everyone but my father were nice, agreeable and accepting.
My father used to take me to bars while I was 17 and 18 years of age. He would tell the owners (“off the cuff”) to let me in, but never allowing me to drink alcohol. We would sit with his friends, The Blue Line was one of these places in Seattle, no longer standing at 2nd Ave. and Denny Way, and as we were sitting, laughing and joking, I was the butt of his jokes. Hurtful jokes. He would make fun of me, my clothes, my haircut, bring up any music I liked, just a terrible experience, but he would do this again and again and I never stood up for myself. Telling him I didn’t want to go with him would not have helped me in any manner. He stomped on anything that represented me in any way. I just couldn’t be mean back to him. I knew it would be dangerous to do so, but I have never been the type of person to do such a thing. My failure?
When he would get up and leave the table, his friends would ask me why he treated me so badly, why did he make me out to be a fool? Why did I never stand up to him? I never had an answer. I was always afraid to answer. Afraid that if I said what I thought, they would tell him and it would all get worse. I hated that year.
Well, in May of 1972 I finished school. My buddy Lee and I hung out for the summer, then in the fall, I was again “shipped off” to Aberdeen. I was now 18 years old and ready to start out on my own. I found a job, packed my bags and got an apartment. I worked at Saginaw Shake and Shingle in south Aberdeen for eight years, played music in the local bars and wedding receptions around Aberdeen-Hoquiam-Cosmopolis for the years from 19 years old to 27 years old. I lost my job at Saginaw because of layoffs and the industry was beginning to die out. When I turned 28, I decided to get out of Aberdeen, move back to Seattle with the intention of never looking back. I did just that.
Now, I know how this will sound, but I called my father and step-mother before I left to somehow arrange a short term place for me to stay till I got a job. I stayed in the basement for less than a month. I got a job immediately, put some money together and hit the big city under the power of my own wings. I was off and running.
I made my way, did my best and came out fine. That’s pretty much the story of how I became a person and finally grew legs.
So, now I’ll drag out how we, my ‘father’ and I, became familiar with each other 20+ years later.