by Joey Martin
synopsis of my life to date - the first part.
|Here is another year gone. I can't believe it. I turned 60 this year. God what a bummer! I don't look 60, certainly - or so I'm told - but I sure do feel it! I thought I'd write a little about me, not so much for others to read, but for me to remember - seems I forget a lot lately.
Each day seems to pass faster than the rest. I'd heard, when younger, that as you got older time flew by. It’s not that they fly by, it’s that you just don’t remember them even happening. I remember days that I thought would never end. Now I can't remember this morning, and it is already afternoon, and in another minute or so, it will be night. What have I done today? Nothing, absolutely, totally nothing but work, eat, play computer games or read a book then sleep so I can do it again. When did life become so mundane? Or was it always so? Possibly. Probably, once my kids grew up and moved on, once my husband (#4 by the way - another story) died. Life has become one foot in front of the other monotony. Yeah, Yeah, I know "poor poor pitiful me - NOT." Okay, so let’s look at my life and see if it was so flat for lack of another word.
Born in Philadelphia, PA in 1946. We summered in Philly and wintered in Florida. We were wealthy? Not even remotely close, just a compromise, my mom liked Florida my dad liked Philly, we had family both places so we swapped families once a year. At least I think that's why, no one ever said really. Then, when I was 8 my dad "left" us, I was told. I knew better, mom threw him out. Oh, not that he didn't deserve it, he was at the time a philandering and often mean drunk, but at 8 he was my hero, and I knew nothing of the other stuff. He wasn't mean to me or my sister, only my mom, but I have no memory of that if I ever saw it. My sister tells me I did, I just don't remember it. Maybe I started running away into my mind, long before my feet and a suitcase got involved at the age of 4 and I started that for real.. but that's yet another story.
I'm told I was a precocious little brat (my sister's description). I learned to read at 3 and thus began a lifetime need to read anything I could get my hands on - I still read at least one, sometimes as many as three or four books a day if I can squeeze them in. I wanted to go to school so badly I could taste it, surely they had LOTS of stuff to read at school! But since my birthday was in December I could not start first grade at 6 and there was no kindergarten then, so thinking it might help, my mother arranged a visit to the first grade class at the catholic school across the street to appease my hunger for school. When it came time to leave, I pitched such a fit (something as a spoiled child I was VERY good at) and they let me "sit in" on the first grade class at Saint Matthews in Sister Jean Mary's class. I did first grade twice - since catholic school didn't believe in advancing grades if the age did not fit, regardless of the abilities.... I don't remember second grade except for piano lessons and Sister Stanislaus. We had discovered I had a gift for the piano when, although I had never seen one, at a friend of my parent’s house, I sat down and started to play. By the age of 7 I was playing the organ for the nun’s choir at mass. At the age of 8 that all ended. My dad left, and so it seems did my talent for the piano. My parent's divorced and we were ALL thrown out of the church. I have been pretty much unable to play the piano since. Oh, I have rudimentary skills, I can peck out something with sheet music, but nothing compared to the skills I had even untrained. Oh well, a great talent bites the dust -LOL - my second big loss in my life that year, first my dad and then my music. Oops, another poor, poor pitiful moment...
Then when I was 9 my mom remarried. HIM I remember...I hated him on sight. Rationally, one would think it was because he was to be my dad's "replacement" - he even forced me to call him daddy. But honestly, it was because I knew he was a monster. Calling him daddy was only the first thing he "forced" me to do. The next was when he raped me - I was not yet 10 (at the time I thought boys were boys because they had short hair and girls were girls because they had long hair -- ah the 1950s such an innocent time. He told me if I told anyone about our nightly (it lasted almost nightly for 4 years) "games" he'd kill my dad, and I knew he would - I'd overheard him brag about killing a guy in a fight and getting off with a suspended manslaughter sentence because he "knew" the judge. Anyway, the next 4 years are pretty much a blur, I remember the first time he touched me and I remember when I made up my mind he'd never touch me again - at the time I thought he could read it in my thoughts because he never even attempted to touch me again. Later when I realized that, coincidentally the day I made that decision was the day I first got my first period, I understood that he only "liked" children and I was no longer a child. Children? Makes you wonder why he married my mom doesn’t it? Well, she was barely 5 foot tall, and looked like a very young girl. My bad luck was I looked younger and more appealing I guess. Anyway, within a few months he was gone from our lives.
I do not remember too much of that following couple of years except for numerous moves on my part running away – and yet another story - and running back to mom and numerous boyfriends of my moms. I was molested a time or two by her “friends” but again I said nothing, this time because I was ashamed. I hated being female. Hated it with a passion.
Then, when I was 16 “he” (He being the dreaded first stepdad) came back into our lives one night. He was wanted in the state of Florida for robbery and fraud - he’s stolen money from my dad among others - he (my stepdad - his name was Paul Vincent Perry - or so we thought) was a con man extraordinaire and good at his job but he’d finally gotten caught in Florida (our lives with him is yet ANOTHER story I’ll share someday). He showed up at our house - how he found us we never knew. He took my mom out - forcibly - she had whispered to me that if she wasn’t back in half an hour call the police. They were back in 15 minutes, my mom was beaten up and he was so livid he as almost foaming at the mouth demanding to know if I’d called the cops. I told him no, but my friend who’d just ducked out the backdoor had gone to do just that, then while he turned to yet again hit my mom, I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a butcher knife fully intending to kill him - but my boyfriend intervened. Just as I reached Perry’s back and raised the knife, my boyfriend, who was a big guy, a really big guy, grabbed first me and pulled me away, and then he grabbed Perry by the neck of his shirt, lifted him off the floor and took him outside like the garbage he was and beat the crap out of him. Threw him in the car as sirens were heard in the distance, and Perry ran for his life.
Later that year, after yet another runaway trip for me, I was in Philly at my grandparent’s house when, one night, looking out the kitchen window, I saw him, sitting in a car across the street. By this time we had learned that he’d scammed some insurance company using my mom’s cousin as an unknown beneficiary and had faked his own death, and had come to collect his money from them. I ran downstairs to my uncle’s apartment and got a gun I knew he kept there, ran back upstairs and turned on the light so Perry could see me, I lowered the gun aiming right at him. He knew I could shoot, my dad had taught me, and he knew I was good. He took off like a bat out of hell and I NEVER saw him again, I guess he figured I had already had 2 chances to kill him and the 3rd would be the charm. I’d have done it without batting an eye. I am not a violet person, I abhor violence in any form but for him I’d have made an exception - happily.
So I ran away a few more times and then it was my senior year in high school. Not my finest hour, I quit in November and, of course, ran away again. This time I ended up in Valdosta Georgia with my mom and my “new” stepdad. This one beat up mom but just ignored me - thankfully. Here I met Husband #1 on a blind date. We went out once, then I had another “blind date” with someone else set up by a friend of mine - who I was unaware was the town prostitute - I truly had no idea. That night we ended up at a motel - I did not want to be there but was outnumbered 3 to 1 and was told it was just a “quick stop” to pick something up. Yeah, right, well even though I’d had a less than ideal life to this point, I was still pretty naive. So you guessed it, date rape - only in 1965 they did not call it that. I told no one, but that was then I decided that if this sex thing was supposed to be so great, and it appeared I was going to “have” to do it whether I wanted to or not, then I’d become a pro like I found out that night my friend was. I knew I needed more practice though since I had not enjoyed anything about it to this point and had no idea what I was supposed to do besides lie there. So I picked blind date #1 to practice on. Luckily we did go out again - and after 12 weeks of practice, we were married. So much for ending another great talent I apparently had - LOL. I’ll always be grateful to my first husband for being so kind and such a good teacher and showing me this whole “sex” thing was what it was cracked up to be - who knew?
Six years and two children later, I ran away again – you guessed it yet another story. It was the start of the sexual revolution and women’s lib and at the ripe old age of 24, I was a full participant. Looking back I guess it’s not something I’m proud of but it sure was fun! I did get tired of doing the mother thing though (I know tacky and awful - luckily it did not last long) and sent my kids to my mom in California. When my divorce from their dad was final in Florida I packed up and moved west the very next day - boyfriend in tow - and California and I hit it off wonderfully. At the beach I had found my Mecca, my home, my universe. I raised my children in San Diego, in Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. I was wild, crazy, insane, and a party animal. I worked as a professional office temp so I wouldn’t be tied to one job if the sun was shining and I wanted to skip out to the beach on what I loosely termed a “no” day. That’s when you wake up, look outside, look at the work clothes in the closet and think “ah, No, not going to work.” Okay, I admit it, not my most shining moment and how my children came out sane and in one piece I have no idea. Truly. I look at the women they have become, the wonderful mothers they have become and wonder where did they learned all that? Surely it wasn’t from me. I never learned it from my mom and as I said, I’ll be the first to admit, they did not learn it from me. But they are wonderful wives and mothers. They say I’m a way better grandma than I ever was a mom. Hey at least I finally got SOMETHING right!
Anyway, husband number 2 was a fluke, my boyfriend at the time told me I should meet someone nice (which obviously didn’t mean him), get married and give my children - then 7 and 8 - a stepfather. My experience with stepfather’s wasn’t all that good, but I figured, why not. I did meet a nice guy, he asked me to marry him after we’d known each other about 3 months and I said yes. It lasted 8 weeks and that’s because it took me 4 weeks to find an apartment (yep, another story).
Now between the move to San Diego and husband #2 there was Al. That is a story in and of itself and needs to be a standalone but let me summarize. He was the spitting image of my daddy, same attitude, same drinking habits, same ladies man, killer smile, incredible body, same everything. He was in and out of my life for 14 years. He was about to be in again when he accidentally overdosed and killed himself. I’d always known one of us would have to die for us to really separate. Funny, I always figured it would be me.
Anyway, after husband #2, there was Al again. I ran away a couple more times, leaving San Diego to run Lake Tahoe - lots of fun, but not a good time, returned to San Diego. Met someone I thought was special - oh he was special all right, a special loser. I had gone back to school, was working as a psychiatric nurse, go figure a crazy, textbook codependent person mentoring crazy codependent people and here’s a shocker -- I burned out. I had what is loosely termed as a “nervous breakdown” Anyone besides me surprised? I sent my kids to go live with their dad, drank my way through 8 weeks of disability and daily psychiatric counseling with an amazing doctor, and when I was cleared to go back to work, they fired me. Guess that shouldn’t have been a surprise either, but it was. My recovery was slow. My kids came back about 5 months later, they’d had enough of their dad and wanted to come home. I wasn’t ready but I said okay. There were 14 and 15 at this time. We lasted another 5 months at the beach, then ran away and headed to San Jose – which sucked, as San Jose is truly the arm pit of the universe. Even if you know the way to San Jose, trust me, do not go there. We lasted 3 months there, then I headed back to Philly, a place I swore I’d never go to again. But I did, and here’s a shocker, I healed quite a bit there. Did not party as much, did not date much, mostly stayed home and played cards with my mom. The girls were in 10th and 11th grade when we arrived. They graduated there. Shannon, the oldest, she graduated and joined the Air Force. The youngest, Sheri, she went away to college and me, well, I went home - back to San Diego.
But you see, it’s true what they say that you can never go “back”. When you have grown up, never-never land just isn’t the same. I was the grown up amongst a bunch of old but not grown up children. I met someone, he asked me to marry him and I did - really big mistake on my part. He lasted two years. I loved his kids like my own but lost touch with them when I left him. I miss them and think about them every day, its been nearly 20 years since I left him and I still miss the youngest two, Annie and Brian. Then, since when I left #3 he attacked me, tried and succeeded to physically to hurt me, stole my car, trashed my replacement, and threatened my life -- if he’d put that much energy into the actual marriage, it might have lasted another year -- anyway, the police told me they couldn’t protect me, and to get out of town if I could, so I did. I went back to the arm pit, yep San Jose, because my best friend lived there, and she let me come stay with her to lick my wounds. Then the big 1987 earthquake happened. I’d always loved earthquakes, they had always been kind of fun. But this one was different. I had nightmares for weeks. Then I got sick. Really sick. No insurance (and since I was still working temps, no job) so I had to tough it out, and it took nearly six weeks before I could even get out of bed. I had no job, no money, and no way to live, so tucked my tail between my legs, and I called my mom and grandma for help and yep you guessed it, ran away again, back to Philly. Now, before I left San Diego, a psychic told me that I’d eventually take a trip that would end my running and that I would, within one year, be happy at last. I just thought he was crazy. I went back to Philly in October and met husband #4, my soul mate in March. We married in October 1990 and he died in 2004 of a massive stroke. He was 4 years younger than me. I still miss him. The funny (or not) thing is, when we met we talked about where we wanted to be when we grew up – both currently in our 40s and living with our mother’s when we met - and I said “West Virginia. I do not know why, I’d never been there but it just feels like home to me.” He said “Me too, I have been there and I love it and have always wanted to live there” So three years into our marriage, we moved to West “by God” Virginia. I had told him, “Okay, now I know I’m a gypsy (truly by heritage a French-Romanian Rom), but if we move to West Virginia, we die there, I’m done moving.” He said okay. Who knew?
We moved and he died there and still life goes on. I’m still in West Virginia and oh yeah, married to #5 (and final I promise!). Go figure. This one is 12 years younger than me, (which makes my kids happy because now HE will take care of me when I forget everything else instead of them having to) and he is not my soul mate but has become my best friend. So here I am, 61 years old, and starting yet another adventure.
I’m kind of interested to see if life it still moves fast now that I can barely walk thanks to old age and arthritis, and all I truly the desire to just sit still, read and watch life pass by. Bored? Not really. Content? Maybe. Alive? Yes for now. Happy? Not sure. Loved? Yes by my kids, my grandkids, my friends, and #5, but by the most important person – myself? Don’t know, don’t care. I’m just living in the moment.
© Copyright 2006 The Gypsy Widow