POST 2: Mommy and Daddy Dearest

I think Frances did make a genuine effort to take care of me (at least for a time) but she had so many mental, emotional, and physical problems that caring for a newborn was far out of her scope of capabilities. Bud was still working for the same lumber yard, but he would receive daily calls from Frances asking him to come home to give me bottles or change my diapers or would complain to him that I was too fussy. Happy to finally have a family, he would leave work each time she called which eventually led resulted in him being fired from his job. He did not work again until I was eleven-years-old.

With Bud unemployed and Frances incapable of working, they managed to survive on welfare, charity, and Frances' paltry monthly disability checks. When we finally moved next door to my grandparents' home when I was two-years-old things made a marginal improvement. My grandparents were there to make sure I was cared for with at least the most basic of necessities and looked over us three pitiful creatures with relative care and interest.

An aunt of mine once described Bud as "just disabled enough to need help, and just smart enough to reject it." This is an almost perfect description. For all of my childhood, Bud was in constant need of help to purchase our food, pay our electricity, and keep us clothed, yet the same help that sustained his family, he also fiercely resented. There was a constant looming question in my extended family as to "what should be done about Bud and Frances."

Barely into their second year of marriage, Bud and Frances were hanging on to their marriage and emotional stability by tattered threads. Neither of them had good examples of what a healthy marriage should look like. Frances' parents were twisted beyond belief and divorced in her early years. Her stepfather was a monster - an alcoholic, an abuser, a manipulator - and her mother was a mixture of manipulation and a doormat. A manipumat. Bud's parents had their share of domestic issues but were at least married. My paternal grandparents were never affectionate with one another but they were stable. They were married for over fifty years and my grandfather was one of the only bright spots in my child.
As time went on, Frances began to show little to no interest in mothering however this did not stop her and Bud from having a second child just after they moved next door to my grandparents. My brother Buddy was born in 1984. I think in an effort to stop the insanity (in a manner of speaking) my grandma convinced Frances to have her fallopian tubes tied. I am not an advocate for sterilization, but in this case it was one of the single smartest things my family ever did for us.

Frances' married life was little better than her childhood life. She was really only slightly safer than before. I never witnessed any abuse from my father toward my mother. However, on the days when Bud would run into town for errands or mow some one's grass for a few dollars, my mother would entertain "guests in our home. I do not know who these men were. I don't remember them in any other times in my life. I think just as human suffering can attract great sympathy and compassion, it can also attract great evil like how sharks can smell the blood of wounded prey in the ocean. One small opening for evil and SNATCH - you're gone. So it was with Frances: she was slow; she was vulnerable; she had been abused, neglected, and mistreated her entire life and I think some men knew it... and took full advantage. To her credit, I do not remember seeing or hearing her trysts; only witnessing her and some random oaf parade to my parents' bedroom and close the door.

I believe that Frances' infidelity must have been a large reason why Bud never returned to work. I think he knew he needed to be home to try to take care of us and keep her from straying and to watch out for my brother and me as best he knew how. Prior to marrying Frances, Bud held many jobs and while they were all simplistic manual labor jobs, they paid money and made him feel like he had some worth in life. After Frances began to pull away from their marriage, after he stopped going to work, after he stopped having anything to be proud of, it was hard to tell which one of them had the greater battle with depression. They were both so lost. They were sinking. Family members and folks from their church would make a contribution or two - a few dollars here; a bag of clothes there; an electric bill paid for them; a tank of gas. Mostly, though, everyone just went on with their lives and tried to forget about the problem that lived in the brown trailer next to my grandparents. If Bud and Frances were drowning in frigid, dangerous waters, the people in their lives did not have room in their boats for any extra souls.

So, my brother and I learned how to tread water just like Bud and Frances. And maybe one day, just maybe, someone would come and throw us a little rope.


Andrew Brown said...

Wow Crystal, you are a very good writer. I knew a lot of your background, but I have never heard it so honestly and well put. Thanks for being willing to share this personal stuff with me.

Kari May said...

Sweet Cris Cris Wyatt. You are and forever will always be my best friend and kindred spirit. Just when I thought I knew all I could know about you, you surprise me. You were supposed to be named Crystal Chandelier?! Props to whoever voted against that. Thank God for small favors! I like reading your blog. It makes me feel close to you again, even though we are thousands of miles away. I always knew you were an excellent writer, but you could seriously write a book. You captivate me with each new post. Keep them coming!