After my mother died in 1969, I lived a short while with my step-father Norman. Life wasn’t easy for me at 13, and he was not an ideal father (My mother remarried in 1962 after the death of my father in 1959). He did not know the first thing about raising a young teenager so instead he spent much time away from home leaving me to fend for myself.
I did my best to replace my mother. I had home economics at West Junior High school and we were learning the basics of cooking and sewing. My first meal I made for Norman was fried chicken and rice. The chicken looked like it came straight out of a cook book, a nice lovely brown skin. The rice however flowed right over the top of the pan I made it in. I didn’t know how rice doubles when cooked. We sat down to eat, and bit into the chicken only to discover it was bloody in the middle. The only edible food was the rice and we dumped soy sauce on it. The chicken found its way to the garbage can.
I was not dealing well with the death of my mother and was withdrawn. Up until the day she died of cancer, no-one informed me she would not live. I don’t know what my mother expected me to think, but even then she kept death away from me. The last thing she said to me before her death was her desire I go live with a cousin of hers. Surprised I said, “Mother why would I want to do that? You’ll live to be 100 and see your grandchildren grow up.” I will never forget how she sat propped up in bed with pillows behind her and how the tears coursed down her face when I said that. Still, she refused to tell me she was dying only that she was sick.
I was not prepared for her death. Shortly thereafter she slipped into a coma and within 3 days was gone. I remember clearly as though it was yesterday. It was the wee hours of the morning 2:22 exactly when I heard a car drive into our driveway. I got up and looked out the window it was dark, but I saw the back door of this car swing open. Out came a gurney looking contraption.
I remained in my room and wondered what was going on. Norman opened the front door and it was wheeled down the hall to their bedroom. I peered through the crack of my bedroom door in my darkened room and within a few moments it was wheeled back down the hall with my mother strapped on. I was too stunned to move and went back to bed. I did not realize she was gone until 6:30 a.m. when Aunt Cloyd arrived and came into my room and informed me she was dead. I’ll never forget her words, “Carol Violet died last night, and you don’t have to go to school today you can stay home.” I told her no, I wanted to go to school and I did.
I walked numbly to school that morning, I don’t even recall arriving and sort of floated class to class not hearing anything the instructors said. But for my idea it was better than staying home, I didn’t want to hear others lament and paw over me. I just wanted to be left alone and tried to understand why everyone always wanted to keep me in the dark. I began to wonder was this a cruel game? Let’s see how Carol reacts this time to the next shock?
Norman and I ate out after that, I was never given a fair chance at cooking again. But most often he spent his nights away. Again, I was left to fend for myself. Much of my life was a blur and I remained a loner, never venturing out except to nature. I climbed trees or went to the old ladies house on Rive Avenue. She was alone too and had a menagerie of animals on her property, mainly exotic including an alligator pond. She never came outside and always peered out her curtain at me. I was given permission to be there, but she was a recluse and I never knew why.
I did have friends on my street I grew up with, all boys and one girl. Becky Oehlman, but she was a girly girl and I wasn’t. I preferred doing fun things like building a tree house, or dirt hills I could fly off with my sting ray bike. My close friends were Mark, Dean, and Perry and they considered me one of the guys. I would quietly tag along with them and I was accepted and that made me happy. Even in my teen years I was an observer trying to understand people and my peers.
During that time Norman dated a slew of women with one I liked immensely her name was Isabel. She was kind and sweet and she paid attention to me. I was very ill with bronchitis that winter and she made me soup and gave me seven-up and sat at my bedside. I thought she was wonderful. I hoped my step-father would marry her, but he wouldn’t. Isabel had a son named Billy, Billy was slow but very nice. He was 20 and we got on very well. We played board games and talked and he was such a gentle soul. I would have to say he was more at the level of 16 which I was and he looked normal. He had beautiful silky ear length hair that was blonde and the biggest blue eyes I ever saw.
Shortly after my illness subsided Norman was no longer dating Isabel. I asked Norman why and he said he didn’t want the responsibility of her son Billy. I was crushed. Once again Norman was back on the dating game role and then he met Helen. I immediately did not like her, I sensed something about her and I knew I didn’t like it. Perhaps it was that beehive black hair or her shockingly red lipstick and pale white skin, but overall I did not like her.
One day I arrived home a little later than expected from visiting my friends it was 8:20 p.m. and there sat Norman and Helen on the couch. Stepping back a little, when I was 16 I had a curfew on the weekends of 8:00 p.m., during the weekdays when school was on it was 6:00 p.m. When I walked in Norman didn’t say a word, but Helen in all her wisdom (and to this day I don’t know why) chastised me. Up until this point I had always been polite and courteous to her, but what followed was my demise. She proceeded to tell me I should be ashamed of myself for arriving home late and that my mother would turn in her grave. BOOM, I snapped!
For the first time in my life I exploded and proceeded to say to her, “You bitch don’t you ever bring up my mother’s name in this house you didn’t know her!” Norman was on me like a wild man, he threw me across the room picked me up and threw me into the wall and pounded me with his fists. I did all I could to shelter myself with my arms covering my head as he pounded and kicked me like a ragdoll until Helen pulled him off. I ran to my bedroom terrified and locked the door. My mouth was bleeding; my nose was bleeding, my head had a gash above my ear and was bleeding, and every muscle in my body hurt. I refused to come out. I didn’t know what to do, I was sure he was going to kill me. I stayed there all night until I was sure he went to bed. I crawled out my bedroom window and ran away, no idea where I was going and ended up at a junk yard. I crawled into an old car and fell asleep on the bench seat in back.