Dad had a rough time growing up – his dad had married a woman who had died in childbirth having my oldest aunt. My grandfather joined the army and left the baby with his parents to raise. During WWI he was gassed and had some sort of bayonet injury – while he was recovering in the hospital, he met my grandmother. They were married, but the first daughter was nearly grown and didn’t stay there long, she got married herself. My grandparents had two more children, my dad’s other older sister and of course my dad. There are about as many stories as to what actually happened as there are days in a year, but for one reason or another, my grandmother chose to leave her husband, and he got the kids – I think in order for him to get a divorce she had a pretend nervous breakdown of sorts. According to my oldest Aunt, and it may well be true, before she went to the hospital, or wherever, she interviewed “house keepers” and selected one that she thought my grandfather would be attracted to so that he wouldn’t be too long without a wife and these two kids. It worked. He married the housekeeper and they had two more children, both girls. By that time, my other aunt had also married, but my dad was still a young teen. Since his step-mother was wicked, really awful and wicked, by nature, she had him sent away. It wasn’t very hard to do as my grandfather was downright abusive of the kids and particularly my dad himself. He lived with his uncle on a farm so that he wouldn’t be near the babies. Then he pulled a few normal teenaged boy stunts and the uncle sent him to a sort of a catholic boy’s reform school. The priests knew that he was just a normal kid and not a troubled kid and didn’t want him in there with the other more worldly kids – so they helped him run away. He ran away and came west. He was in Colorado and Nebraska in those early years and met his first wife. Interestingly enough, the two younger sisters were never told they had a brother or other sisters until they were grown women and their maternal grandmother was dying – on her death bed she told the family secret – that their father had other children.
Mom had an equally rough childhood. Her parents were married out of necessity when she made herself known to them. They were deeply in love, and maintained until they died that they both loved each other and never their later spouses. Grandpa would say he only loved two women, my grandmother and some red-head in Florida. My grandmother would only say that the only time she was truly in love was when she first met Grandpa. They were also divorced, but getting married at 18 is not a great choice now and wasn’t a great choice then. Grandpa wanted to fly and ride motorcycles and horse around and didn’t really want to sell furniture and come home to the little family every night. My grandmother was equally as wild and hated children. She was a musician, she wanted to play in nightclubs, fly, ride motorcycles and horse around and didn’t really want to stay home and do housework and take care of babies all day. Also, due to her own baggage, babies and children really truly disgusted her – she didn’t just hate babies, she was completely averse to them. She was extremely abusive to my mom and uncle – and Grandpa would defend them on the rare occasion he was aware of it, but he was so into just doing his own thing he didn’t always realize what was going on. My great-grandparents were very disappointed in their son-in-law, and though they knew that my grandmother was not a great parent, they made certain he didn’t have any contact with them after the divorce. My grandmother eventually took her music to New York City and left my mom and her brother with my great-grandparents, those years were a reprieve from the nasty abuse – but then she eventually returned when they were teens. She promptly shipped my uncle off to military school – she felt he was too “milk toast” and needed toughening up. She re-married and set up house with her daughter and new husband. It was during these years that she really screwed with my mom’s mind – she didn’t completely hate her anymore, because she wasn’t a child – and she would introduce her as her sister most of the time – but she would also manipulate her in the worst ways, and was very unpredictable and often violent, particularly when she was drinking – which being a musician in a nightclub, meant most nights. Mom couldn’t wait to get away, but when she fell in love in High School, her mom sent her away to boarding school to keep her from that happiness. Mom escaped from boarding school, came home and married a different guy.