Living in the same house as an adult that you grew up in is quite the experience. It has its good sides and then also it has its bad sides. Memories are on both sides of this teeter-totter, there are so many good memories and yet there are some that bring you to your knees.
Last night for some reason, a memory came to mind that I think is in the middle of good and bad. Moreso, bad for the person in the memory as I feel it was a sad situation. But in the grand scheme of it all, it was a bit humorous for us as children.
You see, our neigbors across the street at the time were a mixture of good and bad. I mother had a friend that she could talk to, we only thought they talked about laundry detergent but I found out years later that it wasn’t. Her husband was very abusive and I think mom was her person to talk to while he was at work. A very old school German man, so hard of hearing that they would yell so they could communicate. Some said he was deaf but if he was deaf, why did they still yell and he yelled too.
They had three children, boys, the boy in the middle I’m sure was mentally challenged in some way but back then, doctors didn’t diagnose things like they do today. I don’t think the other neighbors knew just to what extent the abuse carried through that house because they didn’t see it. The father would drag them back in the house by their ear sometimes but no one thought anything of it. Yet I remember being in their house one time and I don’t remember what the boy did, I just remember a cord. If anyone remembers having a percolator that you could sit on the table, with a removable cord so you could keep it hot while plugged in, it was this cord that I still see. The father chased that young boy into the bathroom where he fell into the tub and to this day I can hear him begging him to stop all while the father beat him with that cord. When he was done, the father came out with a look of pride, pipe still in his mouth and folding up the cord saying something about doing it to someone else. I’m sure the two other boys got the same thing but nothing like the middle boy.
It was a few years later that the mother finally worked up the means and the courage to leave him. Back then it was still unheard of a woman leaving her marriage, no matter what because she was the woman of the house and should fix it and not leave. I praise her for getting her children out of that situation but I fear for what it actually did to the one boy. We heard they went to be with her family and that was calming for mom as she was close to her. Her friend was there when my father passed and helped my mom learn a lot of things including how to drive and write a check….seems silly but it truly is how it was back then.
This man had his mother come and live with them off and on over the years. She was a short little German woman that hunched over a bit when she walked. As far as I remember, she didn’t speak English at all and could only talk to the father, her son. She was a short bottle of piss and vinegar if you know what I mean, so we knew where he got it from.
Later on, after his wife and children left him, the mother came and stayed for a while, longer than she had before. But unbeknownst to us, her age had been catching up with her mentally. Being the young children that we were, we didn’t understand and felt a bit of fear when it came to her.
Being in a house of seven children, five of us girls, there was a lot of activity as we were able to play in the yard and the street back then. We used to have my older brother and sisters friends over and my mom was always their mom when they came over. Kids going in and out all the time while laughing and sometimes arguing.
With all this activity, it never dawned on us, until one day, how the man’s mother would see this. Early one Saturday morning we looked out the window and she stood at our fence with a bible in her hand and yelling at our house in German. I’m assuming that with all the girls we had here, that she probably thought it was a house of ill-repute. Little did she know that the man two doors down was actually running girls out of his house but who knows. She did this a few times over the course of a year or so before the man passed away. Being a child, I don’t know what happened but I know that someone came and took her away to live in an assisted living facility. She would occasionally escape there and come back to the house and actually did so while someone was there working on it to resell it. I felt a bit heartbroken for her at this time. I can’t imagine how it would be to only speak a language that no one else knew and the one person that understood was gone. That her mind probably was back in a time that only she knew of and yet nothing looked the same. She had to know enough to make her way back to the house so her reality might have been in and out at some point.
We as children only knew that for some reason, this old woman would come and stand at our fence, bible in hand while we think, praying in German. She would yell sometimes too so I’m not sure those times were actually praying. It’s both a silly and a sad memory, even though I know she’s passed some time ago just due to her age. I do hope she was well cared for and was at peace when passing. She must have had a hard time growing up and that’s what she passed down to her son who in turn passed it on to his family.
Until one day, a woman became strong enough to leave and stop the cycle. Stop the cycle, I do hope it was in time.