My mother was born in the psychiatric ward of a Navy Hospital, hard telling what my grandma was doing there, but there is some speculation. Some say Grandma was raped, and the trauma was such in 1950, the only thing they knew to do was lock her up, others say, that her affair with the officer went sour and she truly lost it. Regardless, with a start like that she was bound to have the life she did and me in turn the life I led.
You would have thought that being born in a psycho ward would have been the defining moment in my mothers life, but there were others that ranked up there. The time she was almost raped in the cornfield, when she and her friend Tommy had been hitchhiking. I can still picture the scene in my head…
The car had pulled into a cornfield, and both Mom and Tommy were scared, Tommy in the back seat and my mother in the front. The man reached into the glove compartment and as he did Tommy slammed his legs against the bucket seat shoving the man into the steering wheel. The horn sounded, but all my mother could hear was the sound of Tommy’s strangled cry “Run Cheryl, run.” And she did, and she never looked back.
Mom told us that story numerous times, in the hopes that it would have us be more cautious or something when we were kids. Me, I thought for sure the man wanted Tommy and not my mom… he sounded adorable. Mom told us Tommy was her boyfriend, and had sandy blonde hair and a slim muscular body… I felt certain, looking at my obese mother, the man had to have wanted to boy.
Mom was the only child in Grandmother’s marriage that was not of her husband, and it was always thrown back in her face. She was the outsider, the one with the different color hair, the different body type and never treated as the others. Of course living in a violent, alcoholic home didn’t help. I’m sure my mothers life was shaped in those earlier years, and they affected her always.
First on a sawmill, and then on a ranch, life in rural Wisconsin was good for the family. There was money for schools and money for cars. Model T’s and A’s were stored like precious gems in grandfathers sheds even when I was an adult, truly they were a wonder to behold these ancient relics. They were so big, when you sat in them it was as if you could run over the whole world.
Grandfather was a mean drunk, a mean man in general, he not only beat on his wife and kids, he was also known to have beat on his horses and cows. Grandmother came up with a plan to protect the children, when he was in a particular foul mood she would say: Red light and they would run into the field until they thought he would pass out or take his fists to someone else, usually my grandmother. My mothers brother was the one he almost killed, grandmother saw it in his eyes the day Grandpa picked up the shovel and said “I’m gonna kill that son of a bitch, and then bury him.” Grandma urged her son to run as far and as fast as he could.. and it was years before he came back.