Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Desperate times .....

In previous posts, I mentioned that my father was a civilian mariner in the Military Sea Transport Service.  He would be home for one week, then gone for three.  It was during one of those weeks home that I was conceived, and my birth occurred 13 months after my older siblings were born.

Thirteen months after I arrived, our younger brother was born.

And here's where I have to rely on my imagination once more.

My brother was born in late May of 1958, so he was conceived in August or early September, 1957 -- when I was approximately four months old -- and our mother would have known she was pregnant by, at the very latest, Christmas.

Was our father pleased at the news?  Most assuredly not.  Given the family's precarious financial situation, I doubt he was pleased about MY birth.  The addition of a fourth child was more responsibility than he was willing to assume.

At some point during my mother's pregnancy, he left.

I've tried to imagine how devastating this, a failed marriage (again), must have been for my mother.  Granted, she'd likely spent much of their married life alone with the children, but now that would be a permanent situation -- and without our father's financial support. 

Another desperate telegram went winging home and, this time, her parents sent enough money for her and her three children to fly back to the Midwest.

This is one of only three pictures I have in which my mother is holding me:
She looks ready to pop but, given that we're all wearing coats and there's a smidgen of snow on the ground, I'm guessing this was taken in January or February.

What conversations would have transpired around the dinner table?  Her father would have tried to be supportive.  Her mother, less so.

They probably suggested that she move back home.  Not to live with them of course, but nearby, and they could help with child care. She would have said she'd think about it, but never really give it serious consideration.  "Home" was not a place of refuge for her, especially given the constant disapproval from her mother.

She may have disapproved of my mother, but my
grandmother obviously thought I was cute as a button!
Perhaps she suggested the possibility of going on welfare.  But twice-divorced AND on welfare?  The shame would have been unbearable. 

(For her mother.)

At some point, the idea of adoption was raised.

In later years, I heard different variations of the discussion.  It all depended on who was telling the story.

Version 1: she wanted to give up all four children, but was persuaded to keep the older two.

Version 2: she wanted to keep all four children, but was persuaded to give up the younger two.

Version 3: she wanted to keep the twins but thought the younger two would do better with other families.

Whatever the truth actually was (and it might have varied on a day-to-day basis), no final decision was made during that visit.

She, and we, returned to California -- but if we landed in San Francisco, our stay there was only temporary.  By the time my brother was born in late May of 1958, we had somehow made our way to Riverside County, 500 miles south.