[promoted by BooMan]
I grew up in a large Catholic family that was overwhelmingly made up of females. I had six sisters and only one brother who was several years older than I.
My father was an alcoholic, but a very quiet one. He didn’t get roaring drunk and hit us or go on rampages through the house. Mostly he just sat on the couch drinking beer after beer; Pabst Blue Ribbon to be specific.
Or he sat on a barstool at Bud’s White Door, drinking beer after beer. In fact, the only time I can remember going out with my father was when he took me to Bud’s and sat me down at a table in the darkened bar and gave me a piece of blank paper and a single blue crayon. I was 5 years old. I drew for a few minutes but there’s not much you can do with only one crayon, so I watched the men sitting at the counter smoking and drinking in the middle of the day. Then I believe I fell asleep.
I’m the little one. Dad is on the porch with his mother, both of them probably had a beer next to them even though this is early in the day.
My father didn’t work much. I remember a couple of the jobs he had. One was a security guard at an office building. I think he had that for a month or two. Another time he got paid for cleaning the hoses that led from the beer taps at area bars. I’m not sure if he got paid in actual money or in free beers because we never had any money.
My parents owned a house and their mortgage payment was $75.00 a month. Most months they couldn’t pay it and I remember my mother crying and begging her mother for money over the phone. She never gave it to her because she was practicing “tough love” or something.
So my mother went to work as a telephone operator and the eight of us were home alone all the time. My father was either gone, or he was passed out on the couch. It was like growing up in a pack of wolves, with the older ones taking care of the younger ones as best they could and all of us running wild around the neighborhood.
My mother wore the pants in the family. She was the disciplinarian. She was the one to be reckoned with. She was the one whose approval we sought and whose word meant something.
My father was a total non-factor in my life. Even his death of cirrhosis when he was 51 and I was 14 was almost a non-event.
The memories I have of the week following his death are mostly happy ones. We got lots of attention. We saw friends and relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time. And for the first time ever we had lots of food – food that normal families ate like lasagne and brownies. We were used to having oatmeal for dinner and being forbidden to eat anything between meals. I didn’t want that week to end.
Jump ahead a decade or so. I’m now a mother of four children, 3 of them sons.
I love them ferociously and with an intensity that still shocks me on occasion. I cannot possibly believe my parents loved me this way. I just know they didn’t.
Through the years i’ve tried to be a good mother to all of my kids but it hasn’t always been easy. I’ve had a couple bouts of severe depression. We’ve had financial hardships that sometimes made my children feel different from their friends. My children have had to grow up quickly and with few of the luxuries their peers had. Their father and I divorced after 20 years of marriage. Their father was almost a non-factor in their lives, just as my father was. Irony abounds.
My question is this, directed to both BooMen and BooWomen. Knowing that my history is one of not trusting men and in fact the belief that men are expendable and not to be counted on, how do I possibly raise sons who feel important and a daughter who doesn’t feel the same way that I do?
My children are mostly all raised now but I’d like to think that it’s not too late to have a positive impact on them. I would count it as the greatest failure of my life if my sons grew up to be ineffectual, uninvolved fathers, and my daughter married one.