It was a joyous early morning in 1968 and it was finally moving day for our young family. My sisters and I were 6, 4 and 1. We were heading on an adventure, a new beginning for us. Southern California. Where there was warm sunshine, a steady paycheck, and no worries. There wouldn’t be anymore arguing. No more fights. Everything would be better. But life wasn’t going to get easier; only harder. I don’t think any of us knew the extent of dad’s unhappiness. He was out on the road more than he was home. He had his own stress and emotions that he was trying to deal with. Taking care of a wife and three little girls was not easy I’m sure. None of us expected what was coming next though. We were only there for a handful of months. Just long enough to meet “the neighbors from across the street”, and become friends with them. But, whatever was going on in dad just got worse and worse until one day he walked out the front door and never came back.
The longer dad’s over the road trips were the more we began to visit with “the neighbors from across the street”. We went to their house for lunch and dinner and we played with their five kids. We were getting to know them pretty well in a very short time. Mom was getting to know him pretty well too. They were becoming fast friends. We had fun with him and so did she. He was nice to us. He’d play with us and make us laugh. He would come over and spend a lot of time with her while dad was off driving his truck. Dad would come home after long weeks of being gone and his jealousy would get out of control because of the time spent between mom and “the neighbor from across the street”. They’d have arguments and we were petrified. Mom was a very strict, devout catholic, though, and would never allow anything to happen between the two of them. She tried to convince dad that nothing was happening. But it didn’t work. He didn’t believe her. She didn’t have feelings for “the neighbor across the street” but dad refused to believe her. He let his anger and jealousy get out of control.
I went to kindergarten there and it was one of the saddest times in my life. I was such a sad little girl. I was always on the verge of tears. There was always so much fighting going on. It hurt to see dad so angry with mom. It hurt to see mom cry so much. I was so heartbroken and so sad all the time.
I remember one morning specifically, waking up and noticing that my sisters weren’t in the room. I remember calling out to them and no one answering. (Why I didn’t get up and walk through the house, I don’t know). I remember screaming then, “mommyyyy!!” I remember crying so hard by this time, and I was on my knees on my bed, bouncing up and down (probably in a frantic panic mode) and I remember actually pulling on my own hair while screaming “mommyyyyy”. I can remember my face drenched in tears. I can remember the panic, to this day. And then I noticed something. There, just under my leg, was a small clear wrapper with a Hostess cupcake in it. You know those ones that have the white swirl of cream on the top? I saw that and immediately stopped crying. I got the package, opened it up and stuffed it down. That was the very first time that I ever used food for comfort, and sad to say, it would not be my last. I ate that and fell back to sleep. Mom eventually came home, and I started crying again when I saw her. She had been over at the neighbors, across the street.
It didn’t take long for dad to get to his breaking point. They were fighting pretty much continually then, and it was all over his jealousy over “the neighbor across the street”. The fighting got so bad, that eventually dad just could not take it anymore. He called all three of us together and had us all stand in front of him and told us that he was leaving and that he would not be coming back. When I heard that, it was as if all of the air got sucked out of the room. It was as if I was hit with a ton of bricks. We all cried, and we cried hard. My heart was so devastated. Daddy wouldn’t be coming back. My little heart was crushed into millions of pieces.
Mom tried hard to convince dad that nothing was going on. That she would never let that sort of thing happen. And that she loved him very much. But he wouldn’t listen, and walked out the door. So here we were 3,000 miles away from home, in a strange home, unfamiliar territory, and daddy was gone. I was heartbroken, crushed beyond words. We all were. I can’t imagine now when I look back on it all, how mom must have felt. Abandoned. Alone. Deserted. No one to turn to. And a long way from home. How scary that must have been for her.
So mom, in her frightened state, called her brother back in New York and asked him to come and get us. Well, he wasn’t the only one that came. Her brother, her twin sister, and her mom and dad all showed up. Boy was it good to see them all. They all came to our rescue and brought us all back home. She wouldn’t dare have anything to do with “the neighbor across the street”, because in her heart she was still married to dad. She’d never do anything against the Holy Bible.