Stories From The 80s. Parenting thru the Generations.

 

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**everyone’s real name has been changed. 

Social media brings up a lot of feelings for me lately. I have to constantly remind myself that for most people, social media is showing their “best side”.  Even sometimes for me.

 

I hesitate to even share this story because the immediate reaction can be, “What does this have to do with your life?  Mind your own business. “ I want to point some things out, and some differences that I process between my life, and other people’s life. I feel like I am processing good thoughts and good concepts. It is the things like this that I ruminate about.  Maybe not what I ruminate the most about, but it does bother me! And I bet other people wrestle with similar concepts.

My mom has had a best friend for just about 30 years. Its been a very awesome and interesting journey, and I say that only as the observer along for the ride. I think most people  want a friend like Sue for more than half your life.   In the course of 30 years, the friend we will call “Sue” was our neighbor, not once, but twice!    That’s right. In two different neighborhoods. In the first neighborhood,  Sue lived across the street at the end of the block. If you squinted, you could see each others houses.   I would believe my mom and Sue were fast friends because they had kids the same age.  Sue has a daughter  about two  years older than me, I am one month older than Sue’s  son, (uh, we’re the same age, same grade in school—same class in 5th grade!); and she would have a daughter with a new relationship in 1987.

That youngest daughter is who this post is going to focus on, But after some down –memory-lane backstory.  Prepare to go back in time to the 1980’s.

Sue had a husband named Dan. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember him at all. All I remember are the stories  about Dan. Also,  thanks to “throwback Thursdays” on social media.   If it’s not obvious yet, Dan passed away as a very young man. More on that in a moment.

 

The circumstances surrounding Dan’s death are cloudy at best for me. Mostly because I was no more than five years old.  But that part is verified, because there is a photo of me opening a birthday gift at our house, with Sue’s kids looking on.  I remember a comment that was made so very long ago.  “That was JUST after IT happened”.

You’ll notice that,I don’t know if it was my specific parenting, or this baby-boomer generation but WE WILL NOT DEFINE ANY TERMS.  JUST BE AS VAGUE AS POSSIBLE.

I am not convinced it wasn’t a suicide, but my mother was aghast when I even suggested that.

How it came be is the big mystery. From what I’ve been told  Dan had a known medical condition.  Kind of like narcolepsy, but maybe it wasn’t.  One night, Dan came home late.  Whether it was a night of working late, or a night out with the guys– I don’t know. Probably around midnight.  Dan pulls into he garage of their home. He has an “episode” perhaps, and falls asleep in the car.  But the car is still running.  AND, he closed the garage amidst all of it.

I tend to think “passed out drunk, but closed the garage first” but that’s just me.  Tragic no matter what the circumstance.

Sue found him early the next morning.  I think they both were no more than 30 years old. Two children left behind, 6 and 4.

That’s how Sue and my mom became close. Sue started spending lots of time, as she would say, “on your couch in your family room”.  The miraculous part for me is that Dan must have had quite the life insurance policy, because Sue didn’t ever work until sometime in the mid 90s.  Dan died in the mid 80s!  So she essentially was a stay-at-home mom, even though her husband had died.  Someday I will need to ask her more about that situation, because that blows my mind. As the s

I had a father that traveled for a living.  From the time I was born, til the time I left home. The pattern was he would leave on Sunday, and return Thursday night.  That’ another post for another time. But as the story goes, Sue says when my dad would finally get home, we would flash a look like, “You Again? ”   I kind of get it.  Find something else to do.  But that’s all they did. Kids had constant playmates, and mom’s sat and drank Tab and watched Oprah.

Just imagine being 30 and widowed?  I am sure the loneliness feels like it will kill you.

So my mom and Pam became what we call, “The Single Mom’s Club”. This played out in a memory that I we always laugh about when we talk with Sue.  There was a diner/chain restaurant in town (that doesn’t exist anymore, sadly, but just a Denny’s type place) that had Kids Eat Free on Tuesday nights.  So, Mom, Sue, and another single mom that was a friend of Sue’s packed up all the kids, got a huge booth, and they COPED.  Kids ran around, hit each other with balloon animals, and the mom’s just talked.  I am sure there was complaining. There was definitely laughter.  But it was a tradition, and I remember it fondly.  Our families were each other’s tribe.   They were there for the good and the bad. Now that I am an adult, I understand that it is not easy to raise multiple kids without someone to “take a shift” every now and then.

I am happy that Sue is still “in my life” via social media, and I try to visit her when I go back to my hometown. I feel privileged that she can say. “I’ve known you forever”.

Sue, being barely 30, of course hit the bar and dating scene after Dan’s death. Sometimes she brought my mom with her when a babysitter was retained.   Sue met her new husband and they married around 1986.

Sue and *Bill had a daughter together the next year.  We’ll call her LEAH.  And Leah, I have a  bone to pick with today.

Leah is now.. what, 28 years old? Something like that.  Well into adulthood.  I only remember Leah like as a pre-schooler.  I left home relatively young. So I remember her not much older than elementary age. Leah has had a bit of a tragic story herself.  Leah met a guy, and they fell in “looove”. And wouldn’t you know it, Leah gets pregnant like 30 seconds later.  A few months before the baby is born, Leah and the baby’s father get married.

All is well, right?  Nope.

Now you want to talk about sketchy details.. I think this set are sketchy because no one really wants to talk about this story.  It’s quick to be swept under the rug..   But I guess from the very SECOND Leah married this guy, he SNAPPED.   My interpretation.   The word that was described to me was “controlling”.   But controlling moved in the next breath to “No Contact Orders”. I don’t recall ever hearing about any physical violence, or anything that would be OBVIOUSLY dangerous, but at some point a judge agreed.

But things must have progressed rapidly, because soon after, he had no visitation and no contact with the baby either. He has a court order for child support, but no visitation or contact.  He is the baby’s father by check and last name only.

So Leah obvoiously moved home. With a newborn. It makes sense. She needed a safe place to shelter and to raise a newborn. In the meantime, Sue and Bill both love their grandson. They love all the hands-on.

But I would think— and here comes my RUMINATING— that there would be some rough plan in place. A rough timeline.  Stay for a year or two. Get on your feet.  She had just been accepted to a 4 year university when she got pregnant. She told me she was moving to the dorms. When I heard she was pregnant, my thought was, “Well,I guess moving away to school is out!”

Okay. Here we go.  Leah is now 28, and her son is going into 2nd grade. He’s 8 years old.  Leah, still living in her childhood home, a 2 blocks from my own childhood home.

“So who cares Sarah? Whats the problem?!”  JUST WAIT.

Leah is a bartender so she works until 2 or 3 am. That means that Sue and Bill put her son to bed EVERY night. I tried to stop by and visit with Sue when I was in town last spring.  She said only had a 2 hour window. She had to drop her grandson off at afternoon-half-day-kindergarten; she had to run an errand, and she had to be back to pick the boy up in like 2 hours.  (W.

 

But here’s what’s really been bugging me. Obviousy, Bill, Sue,and Leah have some tension.  Sue told me that “If it wasn’t for [child], Leah would be gone.”  She said that when Leah is home  on a rare night, she will ask her mother, “When was the last time he had a bath?”  Sue takes offense at this. As if she is eluding to the fact her mother is neglecting her grandchild.

Sue rightly tells her, “Look, if you think he needs bathing, then give him a bath.”

I agree.  DUH!

I guess there was also an incident where one night Leah went out on a date with a “new” boyfriend.  Her parents were not opposed to babysitting so she could go out. Of course, my thought is I am sure they have hopes that she will find another stable and lasting relationship.   They appear supportive.

This particular night though, the child was throwing up. Unexpectedly. As kids tend to do.  Sue texts Leah:

“He is throwing up. I need you to come home.”

Reasonable, right?   Leah texted back, that she was on her way, and would be home soon.

Sue said two hours later, still no Leah. So, she texts her again, “I really need you to come home and help me with this”.

Well.  The response? “You fucking bitch!  Don’t you know I am out on a date?  I said I am on my way as soon as I can”. 

This is where I fainted.

This is one issue where my mother and I are in agreement. “She’d be out of my house”. 

I can’t even believe that. Which is why I am writing about it.

In my experience, I was told in the EIGHTH GRADE, very vaguely, because obviously we can’t have frank conversations…  about sex.    But it was not, “One part goes into another part, and thats how a baby is made”.  SCHOOL teaches that. (and the playground).  We pay people to talk about that!

My conversation consisted of, “I Don’t Want You Doing It.  But IF YOU DO, and SOMETHING HAPPENS (happens being the wild-card word, I guess?  Fill in the blank??)  Then HAVE A PLAN TO DEAL WITH IT .  ”   The End. Very informative.

Proclamation at the end: “I’ve had MY Kids!”

There would be NO babies living in our home.  At any age.  Visit:  Yes.  Reside:  HELL NO.

“Sarah, I am lost. Where in heaven are you going with this story, it started out with something about’ ‘social media’ and “our best side’.  Wrap it up.  Jimmy Fallon is almost on… ” 

Just this last week, I pulled up some social media where Sue was sharing photos.  Leah was in Oregon; mind you about 1,800 miles or so from her home with her new boyfriend.  Sue was tickled to share all the nice photos of lush, green Oregon and all the hikes Leah was taking.

Well, I couldn’t resist. COMMENT!  “Are you babysitting, Grandma?”

“Yes,I am.”

Okay, so I AM NOT saying that a single mom shouldn’t have time to herself, or take a girls trip, or a trip away with a significant other.  Women are more than Mothers, and they have other sides to their lives to nourish.

But “you fucking bitch?”  and she stays home and takes care of your kid full-time while you’re off on vacation? I don’t know if that’s OWED to you.

I do think Leah needs to grow up already. I understand if you can’t afford an apartment. Although bartenders make pretty good tips!  GET A ROOMMATE OR TWO OR THREE. Do you know how many years I lived in relative boarding houses because I couldn’t afford a place of my own?  Here’s a clue: I was 31 when I got my OWN place!  Give your parents some peace.

 

That’s this :”unconditional love ” thing that Sue REALLY seems to get.  Maybe my mom… not so much.  Because go back to her “sex talk” with me:   What that’s really saying is, “I will only love you, if you obey what I say.”  To this day, if I would ask her, “hey, what if I had gotten pregnant at 15… what would you have done?”  Without hesitation, she said, “You would have been sent away.  To the ‘Unwed Mothers Home”, (DOESNT EXIST) , Foster Care, You would not have been in my home.”

So after all this, HOW ARE YOUR MOTHER AND SUE THE BEST OF FRIENDS??   My mom is like the head-cheerleader of Retirement Life.  or as I refer to it, “Second adolescence.”

My answer:  Who the hell knows!  They are VERY different in how it comes to child rearing.  Mom mom’s opinion is that Sue “has a need to be needed”.  She has shared with me that “Sue’s mother was schizophrenic, and was hospitalized for most of her youth (think the 60s  era of  long-term, months of hospitalization). She is used to taking care of everyone.” 

While Sue was our neighbor in two different neighborhoods (only separated from 1988-1992 .Then Sue and Bill bought a home in our neighborhood, again!) The women are now separated by more than 1,000 miles.  They have a set appointment phone-date every Monday. They talk about soap-operas, TV shows and movies, politics,and everything in between.  Mom says that they RARELY talk about our kids.  She said that “occasionally something will come up where we will talk about you guys, but we don’t call to talk about kids. We talk about fun things.  But I have told Sue when she complains about Leah, that “I just never would tolerate what you do”

And that’s adorable.  I wish I had a phone date  once a week, with ANYONE!  Hashtag jealous.  And they really are, the BEST of Friends. It’s a pleasure to have been a part of,and to even watch them interact on Facebook.  They have a sisterhood.

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Filed under Authenticity, random, rants, Relationships

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