[Note, the following was relayed by voice and transcribed here. Continued from last week. Not for the delicate of constitution.]
...and my dad told me a story that just made it even worse. It wasn’t what he intended and I’m glad he told me, but my feelings—the shame and disgust that I had for myself increased. And I’m gonna tell y’all that story now.
My dad was born in 1937. When he reached seventeen years old he went into the Air Force, and that of course would’ve been 1954. He got out in ‘57, but in the middle there he married his high school sweetheart, a lady named Faye, who was a good woman. But my dad, he was a drunk too at that time. And he was also a piece of s---. Well he had two daughters with Faye, but his drinking made it to where she could not be around that toxic environment, so she left him and took the kids with her—my older sisters, two of ‘em.
That tore him apart. They divorced in 1960, shortly after their second daughter was born. First daughter was born in 1957; the second in 1960. It tore him to shreds and he stayed drunk, raving drunk, for another seventeen years, and he got sober in 1977. He met another woman, and that woman was my mother.
To hear him tell the story...well let me tell you this. Daddy was a carnie. He was on the carnival. He was a grifter, a flim-flam man. He was a con-artist. Not very high—well, I wouldn’t say low morals—he had different morals. Different from what is considered socially acceptable, and the way he made his money and his living was completely unorthodox.
While he was on the road in Illinois, he stopped at a truck stop and he happened to meet this lady, my mother, who was a truck driver of sorts. She had a rollback, actually, and she was transporting a car from one place to another, and they met each other at this truck stop. They hit it off, so to speak, and Dad told her, I’ll be in this town down the road, and if you’re passing through and our schedules match, you can meet me and, you know, we’ll go out to dinner.
So that happened: they hit if off and ended up getting married. This was in 1977. I take something back: he got sober in 1974 and met this lady, my mother, in ‘77. So he’d been sober for three years when he met my mother. And she of course was his age; they were both forty years old at the time.
She had already had three children before, and had gone through a divorce, and she didn’t want any more. So after the marriage, she kept hounding Dad and wanting him to get a vasectomy. In order to shut her up, he showed her a scar on his groin that he had gotten when he was drinking. He had fallen asleep one night with a lit cigar, and he burnt the ever-living piss out of his groin and left a scar there for the rest of his life. He told her, “I got hurt in Korea and I can’t have children.”
Now, it was true that he was in the Air Force during the time of Korea, and it was technically true he was a Korean vet, but he stayed stateside—he never went to Korea. Course, she didn’t know that, and Dad never did think she’d ever get pregnant, because of their advanced age. But she did—she got pregnant with me.
She wanted to get an abortion, because she was convinced that having another child would kill her. Dad didn’t want that to happen. Now this was in 1980. So she kept threatening it, and kept taking off, and he would have to go and get her and bring her back, physically. She threatened him with guns and knives. He took all the firearms out of the house, all the kitchen knives...broke the blades and threw ‘em in the woods.
She was inconsolable...she was determined to have this abortion. But Dad was equally as determined for her not to have the abortion. And what I’m about to tell you is a complete and total crime. But both these people are dead and the statute of limitations is up in any case.
What he did was chain her to the wall of a trailer in rural Alabama, to force her to carry me to term. And what he did, he force-fed her baby food to keep her alive, because she went on hunger strike, refused to eat. She said, if I can’t get the doctor to do it, I’ll do it myself.
And so for about six months he kept her chained in that room, force-feeding her Gerber baby food, and bringing her in bowls of water and basins to wash up.
He only unlocked that chain when her water broke. And he took her to the hospital where she delivered me. And she went into the delivery room cussing him, and screaming obscenities. And of course he was able to pass it off as the pain and emotional trauma of having a baby, you know, to the doctors there.
After I was born they brought the baby in there, and you have to stay three days in the hospital. So dad would go and see me in the nursery, and he would be around me but wouldn’t be around her during that time. But on that last day, it was time for her to be released, and he was sitting in the room with her.
She was holding me and she was still angry. She had been held hostage and kidnapped, you know, and used like a broodmare. She was, I guess, trying to express this while she was holding me. She mentioned that she was going to the law and would tell them exactly what had happened. And Dad said, “Look, that will leave you of the responsibility of this child, and to be quite honest with you, I don’t give a damn if I die and go to hell. I was determined that this boy was going to see daylight. And my job is done.”
Him saying that infuriated her, to the point where she said, “If you want your baby, here’s your ----ing baby,” and she flung me at him like a football. And he caught me, in that hospital, and walked right out the door. Got on the elevator and left. Before he walked out he said, “I’ll have all your stuff packed back at the house. It’ll be out on the driveway. You can pick it up.”
And he carried me back to where he lived, which was on his mother’s land. Mama owned the land but Dad did the maintenance and all. Anyway he handed me to Mama, and said, “Mama, I’m gonna pack all Alice’s stuff and I’m gonna sit out here in the driveway. When she comes to get it, it’ll be okay. If she brings the law, Mama, I’ll be gone for a long time. And I’m gonna need you to raise him.”
And of course Mama agreed. and you’re going to have to excuse me, ‘cause I’m getting a little choked up right now.
To be continued...