Thursday, August 2, 2012

Meet my Stepfather/Grandfather

   I had no idea when my mother started talking to my Grandfather Bert. She never said. I had spent four or five months getting to know him right before we moved to Germany and I loved him. He was kind and sweet natured. He made me feel like I belonged, like I was special. He and my father, his son, did not get along. there had been a rift of some kind years ago and those few months when I was six or seven was an attempt to mend their relationship.  It didn't work and whatever lay between the two of them kept them apart. I did not mind leaving the states. I wanted a new school, one where I had not emptied my bladder in front of the whole class. One where the kids did not know my family. Once, when my mother came to the school, I don't know why. She had never come to any of those usual school things, but she appeared dressed in frumpy baby blue polyester pants and a matching top. With her thin straight hair, hanging down to her waist, no make up, unwashed and carrying around three extra chins and probably 200+ lbs on her 5'5" frame. She came and left, and everyone laughed. They laughed at her clothes and her hair and her largeness. They teased as only children can and before I even knew what I was saying it came out.  I told them that she was not my mom. She was my stepmother, ( I knew about this step thing now) that my mother had died. They were all stunned into silence and shame. And they never talked about her or usually, to me again. I was okay with that. So leaving was fine with me. But saying good bye to my newly discovered, much loved grandfather. was not. I cried and I begged, but it did nothing to change the fact that I was losing again.

   As with everything my mother did, there was a plan and while she would spring it on you  suddenly, she had been crafting it for much longer. She announced we were moving. We were going back home, to Washington. There were calls between my Grandfather Bert and my mother. He sent money for new tires, a tune up, for gas, and food, He paid her car insurance and we were on the move once again. I had barely been enrolled in my new school, so I didn't mind leaving it. I was going to see my grandfather; I was beside myself with joy. Our first stop when we arrived back in Washington was to my Mother's parent's home. They offered to let us stay, my mother was noncommittal. There was a tension between my mother and her parents. She had let them down and had caused embarrassment. And really, my mother and her mother as much as they were alike, didn't care for each other one bit. My sister said that my grandma decided if she liked you at birth and there was no going back once she had made up her mind. Being that she hated my father and my mother's marriage to him, I was not high on her approval scale. She muttered that I looked too damn much like him and that I was a tomboy. I just tried to stay out of the way while plans where being made. My mother would tell me my destiny in her own time. And she did. After two weeks or so she announced we were going to live with my Grandfather Bert. My grandmother didn't like the idea and as usual her husband, my Grandpa Mel, said nothing. So away we went. 60 miles down the road to a new home. My grandpa was welcoming and just as loving as I remembered. It became obvious that an agreement between he and my mother had already been reached. She would run his household, his second wife had cancer and was bedridden.  She would pay the bills and let the endless stream of health care providers in and then out again. He was a longshoreman and made his living on cargo ships trans-versing the Pacific Ocean. He needed someone to help with things while he was gone. So he put her name on his bank account, and left to travel the seas.

    In our first week at my grandfather's, my mother announced that she planned to marry my grandfather. She wanted to know what we thought. I was beyond stunned and dismayed. This was my father's father we are talking about here. I kept my mortification to myself. When my mother was plotting, objecting got you nowhere good. I don't know if my grandfather ever knew of my mother's great plans for their marriage. I highly doubt it. Being that she was his daughter in law and that his wife, while gravely ill, was still living. Again. this is my mother and this was her scheme. Everything went well while my grandfather was away on his first trip and we had a wonderful homecoming for him on his return. My mother, never one to stop spinning her web, asked for more. She needed money for our school clothes and school supplies and hair cuts and shoes. She needed things for the house and for his wife. My grandfather transferred more money into the joint account. He was a reasonable man, a kind man and he never questioned my mother's intentions. She counted on that.

  When he left again, she went shopping. She bought new clothes for herself and shoes and purses.  She went out all day and came home excited, carrying packages that she squirreled away in her room. Right before my grandfather was to return she took me to get a new dress and shoes to match. I was to wear it when my grandfather came home. And return he did. There were hushed conversations and tension I could not pin point the cause of. Something had changed. Over dinner my mother announced that she needed more money, she needed to buy more things for my brother and I. That things were SO expensive.  The next morning her constant wheedling brought things to a head. My mother broached the subject again and my grandfather, so mild and even tempered, snapped back. She had gone through $1,600 that was originally in the house hold fund. An amount meant to last three months. She had gone through $1,600 for school clothes and incidentals and still she wanted more? She became hysterical; naming all of my father's misdeeds, and wailed that she did not deserve this treatment. And in the end he called her out. He said she was a thief and a bad mother and ordered her to leave his house. He made it clear that I could stay. I was more than welcome. He offered me an exit from her and I could not take it. I cannot say if it was fear that made me go with her or something more. She was all I had and somewhere in my heart  I just knew, if I sacrificed enough, if I got the grades and cleaned the house and followed her plan she would love me. I just knew it.

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