Flashback Friday ~ Family Dynamics

This is the “I Can’t Believe It’s On Time” Edition of Flashback Friday
brought to you by Quilldancer.

Flashback Friday is the brain child of Linda from Mocha With Linda. This is the meme that takes us back in time to the days of our youth. Linda says, This meme’s purpose is to have us take a look back and share about a specific time or event in our lives. It will be fun to see how similar – or different – our experiences have been! This week Linda wants me to share my memories of my super dysfunctional family.  Apparently she doesn’t realize that somethings really are better left unexplored!

How was your family structured when you were growing up? Did you grow up with both original parents in the home? If your parents divorced, did you go back and forth between them? Whether divorced or widowed, did your parent remarry? How old were you? Was yours a multi-generational household with grandparents living with you? Did your mom work outside the home, and if so, was it full-time or part-time? Was there a clearly delineated division of labor between your parents (or parent and step-parent) and how traditional was it? Did your parents believe in child labor?! That is, how structured were chores? What responsibility, if any, did you have for things like doing your own laundry, fixing your own school lunch, etc.? Were your parents do-it-yourself-ers or did they hire people for repairs, painting, etc.? Is your current marriage/family structure similar to the way you were raised? What do you do differently than you did then?

My family was probably the strangest compilation on record for the 1960s, when people were still fairly conservative.  I know there were only two kids in my entire school that didn’t live with their own parents — and I was one of them.  We did have one [gasp] divorced family, but their kids still had two loving parents caring for them.

My father was divorced and had two children when he married my mother — a widow with 4 children.  Together they had me.  My mom died when I was three. Before my mom died, while she was ill, my maternal grandparents came to live with us.

When my mother died my father remarried almost immediately.  My new step-mom already had two sons, then she and my dad added two more boys to the family.  I was with my step-mom for about 2 years.  Most of that time I spent locked in the closet — and even after she started binding and gagging me when she put me in the closet, I was still safer in there then I was when I was within arm’s reach of her.

After my dad rescued me from that nightmare, I went to live with my maternal grandparents.  Dad came by to visit from time-to-time, but I only saw him two or three times per year; usually Christmas and Easter and/or my birthday (Spring).   My maternal grandfather died when I was six.  Gram and I lived together until I was 14.  At which point my father remarried again and made me go and live with him.

Dad didn’t think Gram was a decent disciplinarian.   He may have been correct.  Gram didn’t impose a lot of rules, but I was a remarkably well-behaved straight A student.  I wasn’t interested in boys and was very active in church.  If I had been less well-behaved, I likely would have had more rules …. we’ll never know.

At any rate, my Dad’s 4th marriage added two step-brothers and a step-sister to my list of siblings.  Contrary to popular belief, step-brothers and sisters are not evil creatures.  I very much liked and even came to love my new siblings and they treated me very well.  Unfortunately, their mother did not.

My step-mom was actually quite wonderful at first.  She climbed trees with me, we went river rafting, she taught me to dance, do embroidery, wear makeup and curl my hair. We even bought motorcycles together.  Then she got sick.  It started out slowly.  She would be short of breath, irritable, and she’d forget little things.  That always made her mad and she’d take it out on me.

One day she had a massive heart attack.  She had gone for a walk alone and the neighbor found her on the river path unconscious.  He started CPR and sent his son to call for an ambulance and find dad.  Turns out my step-mom had been having mini-attacks for quite sometime.  The massive attack left her brain-damaged.  Nobody knows how long she was unconscious and oxygen deprived, but it was more than long enough to drastically change her personality.

I am not going to tell you too much about the person she became, but I can tell you that for years I blocked all of the memories but our last scene when she hit me with the hot cast iron frying pan.  I ran away from home that day.  Since I was still a minor, when the whole episode came to a head (I involved the police) I was removed from my father’s home and sent to live with my sister, Caryl, and her husband and kids.   In that household I was the eldest child.

In going to live with my sister, I was forced to leave the friends I had gone to school with from 1st to 11th grade.  I didn’t take that move very well and became the wild, nasty, lying, sneaky, brat my dad and step-mom always said I was (until that point I remained a well-behaved, straight A student, but if one is going to be punished for a crime, one might as well commit it).  I took up smoking (cigarettes) and skipping school.  I didn’t drink but that was only because I tried it and didn’t like it.   I gave my sister fits.

Finally I ran away from her house and in so doing obtained permission to return to Gram’s and finish high school.  Once at Gram’s I was back on the honor roll and a well-behaved kid again.  I took up with my church friends, resumed attending youth group and even got a job as the baby-sister for the Assembly of God’s Sunday afternoon and Wednesday night services.  I graduated from high school with my classmates.

When I became a step-parent at the age of 23, I did things very differently.  First off, my step-children already had a wonderful mother.  I consulted her before I made any decisions in regard to her children.  When the kids were with me, I treated them the way I would have liked my step-parents to treat me.  I loved those kids and I was an authority figure in regard to the rules in my home, but never did I presume to act like I was their parent.  My step-children liked and respected me — most likely because I genuinely liked and respected them.  I also genuinely liked and respected their mother, which I am sure helped.

As for chores — at Gram’s house I had none, which was a bad thing, but since my first step-mother had me cooking meals, doing dishes (even pots and pans) and mopping floors when I was 5, Gram may have over-compensated.  After my second step-mom became ill, I ran the house.  I did the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the meal planning, etc …..

20 thoughts on “Flashback Friday ~ Family Dynamics

  1. Quilly, praise God for your Gram! There are so many different ways this whole situation could have turned out for the worse. Instead, you’re a stable, loving woman who loves the Lord…and you have an understanding that helps you minister to people in need, particularly in teaching children.

    I rejoice that you can share this story without condemnation, just facts, and praise the bright moments and people He led to you to give you Hope.

  2. So much comes to mind when I read this, even though I have heard most of your story before in bits and pieces. Southlakesmom sums it up very well.

    Thirteen siblings!!

    • Karen — generally I only count 12 because Don was only around for a couple of months before heading off to college. For years I didn’t even remember his name, but about 10 years ago a reunion with the brothers we have in common brought him back to mind.

      Mom’s kids: Jean, Jackie, Caryl, Harold, (me)

      Dad’s kids: Bruce, Sue, (me), Randy, Ronnie

      Steps: (1st) Don & Ricky; (2nd) Gary, Pam & Brian

      We never all lived in the same house at once.

  3. Though sorry you had to go through all of that, I’m thankful God provided some stability with your grandmother and that you turned out so well after all of that. I’m thankful, too, the Lord used those experiences to give you a heart for children and a perceptive eye for their troubles.

    • Barbara — my mother’s family was and still is my anchor. My Grandmother, sisters, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins all provided love, acceptance and security. I was and am blessed to have them.

    • Linda — I took that verse to heart when I was in my 20s and looked for the good in my childhood. There was a lot of it. I wouldn’t change anything because the trauma I went through then gave me the strength I have now.

      Also, I don’t think anyone actually intended me evil. I can see so much more clearly now that I am not a child, they were really as much victims as I was. They made do the best they knew how.

  4. .
    Quilly, God was watching you! He was helping you to grow up to be the fine lady and mother figure you turned out to be.

    I tried to count your part-brothers and sisters but got lost in the higher math. 🙂

    Now to, besides Amoeba to be with you have all of us (blogger buds) to ‘mother’ a little. But mostly you are like a much longed for sister to us.
    ..

    • Jim — look above at my comment to Karen and you’ll find a break down of my family, including halfs and step siblings. I am also an only child — the only child my parents had together.

  5. Thank God He was watching out for you! Bless your heart! And I am so glad you had your Gram. Thank you for sharing your story.
    until next time… nel

  6. I am with SouthLake… God used your Gram as the glue to hold you together! She probly wasn’t perfect… so few are… but she got you to the other side of a whole LOT!

    • Melli — Gram made a lot of mistakes, but she always erred on the side of kindness rather than retribution. It’s hard to fault her for that.

  7. Your Gram sounds a lot like my Grandmother. Someone very special and yes not perfect but she got you through some things that were difficult. Thanks for sharing this Q. 🙂 And I’m thankful to your Gram for you 🙂

  8. The people who need to read this – the ones who expect life to be handed to them on a plate, including a fair chunk of those with Ph.D.s – probably won’t.

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