Tuesday, October 24, 2006

What about Bob?

Well, I ran to the end of the fence. When I got there, I figured I might as well run to the end of the road. When I got there, I figured I might as well run to the end of the county.....

That's me. I get started, and I'm off! Washing a window turns into washing the house. Writing a poem turns into writing a collection of poetry made up of 100 poems. So, in keeping with my inability to stop while I'm ahead.... ;) here is the rest of the story about my dad, Bob.

Bob, as I mentioned, was the baby of the family. Part of Bob's problem is/was when he was a teenager, my grandmother, Mildred, (his mother) received a sizeable inheritance from her dad's estate.

A little history: When my great-grandparents (Carl and Grace) got divorced back in the 30s, it was unheard of. Leading up to the divorce, they lost a baby at birth. Right after that, the second youngest child died of blood poisoning at eight years old. Carl wanted to keep having children. Grace did not want to have any more children.

The stress of it broke them down, and they divorced. Mildred was ten years old at the time, and she was the youngest living child. She told me she remembered feeling like an outcast among her peers. No one in her class had divorced parents.

All of my grandmother's siblings stayed with Grace. Mildred went with her dad, Carl. Later on, she admitted that it was only because she felt sorry for him. Carl was an angry, strict, legalistic man. When Mildred was 14, she moved to another county to clean cottages with her mom. At 17, she married my grandfather (Harry) and started her own family.

So, we fast forward to Bob's teenage years. His two older brothers were out of the house and on their own. He, born 9 months to the day that my grandfather returned from WWII, was the only child left at home. When Carl passed away, he left Mildred everything he had. He did not leave his other kids anything. He held a grudge for all those years ago when none of them went with him when the divorce took place. There was a pretty good chunk of change that Mildred received.

So, basically, she spent a good amount of it pampering Bob. When Bob was little, the doctors thought he had leukemia. It turned out to be a treatable blood disorder, but he missed a whole year of school and my grandparents were sure they were going to lose him.

So whatever Bob desired, he got. He was 21 when he finally got a license to drive a car. He wasn't especially motivated to do anything, because everything was handed to him.

When Bob was 21 he was playing football in a local field. While running, his leg went down in to a rabbit hole. His body went forward, but his leg remained stationary. He tore all the ligaments and tendons up and down his leg.

This injury required surgery. In the hospital, he met my mother, Arlene. She was a nursing assistant. She had been raised in a children's home, and as part of their work/schooling program, she had secured a job at the hospital.

When Bob was released from the hospital, Arlene continued to see him and take care of him. Bob almost died when a blood clot hit his lung as a result of the surgery. Everyone, again, was worried that they were going to lose him.

Arlene pampered Bob. He ate it up. She spoiled him and cared for him to the point that it even annoyed my grandfather. He accused Bob of making Arlene his personal maid. When Bob healed, he and Arlene got married and struck out on their own.

According to all of the accounts from my Aunt Marlene and even dad's older brother, Ron, Bob spent the five years of he and Arlene's married life living it up. She worked, they partied, he let her support them both. He didn't contribute even when my brother came along. From time to time he was even physically abusive to Arlene. If she asked about whether or not he had applied for any jobs, he would slap her. Her job was to take care of him and not ask any questions.

Bob had dreams. He had talent. He was going to be a guitar player and be famous. Everything else was secondary.

After their divorce and after his incarceration, he was released.

What to do with his life now? His parents had his kids, so he was free to live his life the way he wanted.

The only problem was money. That, too, was soon a non-issue. My grandparents had just finished paying out of pocket for my brother and I to have our tonsils removed. They were still working out the kinks in regard to getting us covered by Grandpa's insurance. At that point, due to an administrative error, (the adoption having just taken place) the reimbursement check was made out to my dad instead of my grandparents. Imagine his luck when he checked the mail and discovered this! Several thousand dollars was right in his hand to do with what he liked!

He went off to the bank and cashed the check, secured a plane ticket to Florida, and said goodbye to Ohio.

My grandparents were hurt and angry, but didn't have the heart to prosecute their own son.

So, off he went.

A couple years passed, and he didn't find fame in fortune in Florida. Just some good party spots, women willing to take care of him, and a pretty decent tan.

When he grew bored with that, he came back to Ohio. It would have been better for my brother and I emotionally if he would have stayed gone.

He moved in down the road from us. He came over to watch baseball on Sundays and to to have Sunday dinner. He pretty much ignored us and was clearly irritated any time we sought his attention. He would come and go, often making promises to be there for events or birthdays. More often than not, my brother and I were left standing at the window, waiting for him to show up, and he usually did not.

Eventually, he moved to the nearest city and started drinking himself into a stupor. His neighbor came to check on him one day, and he was near death with pneumonia. She nursed him back to health (anyone see a pattern here?) and eventually they got married.

His new wife was the best thing that ever happened to him. He stopped drinking, started holding down a job. In fact, he even adopted her 2 year old daughter. A few years later, they had a son together.

He actually started taking an interest in our lives. He kept us on weekends on occasion. He suddenly started remembering birthdays. We actually got Christmas presents from him. We thought going to his house was cool, because he didn't have any rules and he had cable. Music videos! Who could compete with that? They even took us to the drive in a couple of times.

When I was about 12 or 13, he brought us home several hours after he had promised my grandparents he would have us home. A huge argument ensued, and my grandparents decided it was in our best interest that we not see him anymore.

We were crushed. At the time, we didn't understand any of it. All we knew, is we wouldn't get to see our baby brother anymore. No more music videos and staying up late.

My brother left home the day before he turned 18. I felt totally alone and abandoned. We had gone through so much together, and he left without looking back.

So when I was about 16, I started sneaking to see Dad and his family. I was sure my grandmother was to blame for everything, and that she was just too angry to see that Dad was really a good man. Without my brother in my life, I longed to be close to someone.

Time passed, and I also ended up leaving home the day before I turned 18. I moved in with Rob, and within weeks we decided to move to South Carolina, where Rob's mom lived at the time. His uncle and aunt also lived there, as his uncle was stationed at the military base there.

Once I got there, I was about a month pregnant and homesick, miserable and shellshocked. We were both working, and I was meeting new people, but I was out of my element. Many people were friendly until they realized I was with a black man. I was not used to the way things were done there. I wanted to come back home, where at least I knew who my true friends were.

So, Rob's sister took me home, and I stayed with a friend of mine for a few weeks. Rob stayed behind to keep working and pack our belongings.

Living with my friend turned out to be inconvenient. She lived in the middle of nowhere, and I had no car. I figured continuing my prenatal care would be easier if I lived in town. So, I called my dad and he agreed to let me move in....if I paid him $50 a month. Here is a man who never raised me and didn't pay a dime of child support, but I had to pay him to stay with him for a few months. Okay. Makes sense in a parallel universe, I guess.

When Rob returned from South Carolina, he went back to his old job, moved in with a friend, and we began to save for an apartment. I would take a cab across town to see him a couple of times a week. Or he would come visit me.

Toward the end of my pregnancy, Dad called a "family meeting," and announced that he felt my seeing Robert was a "bad influence on his 14 year old daughter." (It isn't like he didn't know I was pregnant when I moved in!) That I would have to stop seeing Robert or move out.

What really irked me about it, is that his daughter was far more experienced than I was, even at the age she was! She had been sneaking around with boys for two years! I kept my mouth shut, and a few weeks after Josh was born, Rob and I had our own place.

During the time I was pregnant and living with Dad, his wife (Joyce) treated me like gold. She would sneak me money, buy baby clothes when she could find them on sale, she bought me maternity clothes and was there for me during a very stressful time in my life.

This type of support continued after I moved out and throughout my adulthood. When I was in labor with all three kids, Joyce was my labor coach. If I needed a sitter, she was delighted to volunteer. She was more of a grandma to the kids than Bob ever was a grandfather.

The beginning of the end of my relationship with Bob came about seven years ago. We were getting ready to buy our first house, and the rental property we lived in was a huge, older home. All the windows were painted shut, and it did not have central air. I was talking on the phone to Joyce about the situation, and she said, "You know, there's an old air conditioner out in the garage that someone gave your dad. We don't need it, because we have central air. I'll ask him what he plans to do with it. I'm sure he'll just give it to you." Well, no. He offered to sell it to us for $100.

I could go on and on about these issues....actually, I already have. But sufficed to say I DO harbor ill will toward Bob. When Grandma was sick and in the nursing home, he did step in and come see her every week. (At my urging.) He did treat her well at that point. So, in my mind's eye, that does redeem him to some degree.

However, after her death, he was pushing me to sell her house, even though we wouldn't have gained more than two or three hundred dollars each after her estate was settled. He balked at signing the papers so I could buy the house. As the executrix, I was to decide who got what from the contents of the house. I gave him all the antique living room furniture, and he still drug his feet on signing the papers.

The final straw caused Rob put his foot down. He said that over the years he had watched Bob use and manipulate everyone around him. After this last incident, he didn't want to have anything more to do with Bob, no matter what the circumstance.

When we bought Grandma's house, Dad called me and told me that his car was repoed because he had gotten behind on the payments. Could I help? Did I have a car he could borrow or did I know of someone selling a car real cheap? The only thing I did have was a little bit of money in the bank, that I had been saving in case we needed a down payment to buy Grandma's house. I didn't end up needing it for that purpose, so I offered to loan him $500.

He stood in my office and agreed to pay me back when he got his income tax. Every year, he gets the same sizeable return. Every year, he e-files and gets his check in February. I knew this, and he confirmed it. I told him not to worry about paying me a dime until February. He thanked me time and again, and assured me he would pay me promptly. Rob said I had a good heart, and that he knew I was a good woman for still trusting Dad after all he had put me through. We both knew there was a chance that Dad would not pay us back, but we figured it was best to take the high ground.

February came and I had to be off work for surgery. Money was tight, my budget was falling apart. Did Bob come through with the money? You guessed it. No, not even after several desperate calls from me.

So, I decided to stop calling. I no longer make any attempt to contact Bob, nor has he tried to contact me. I don't hate him, but I don't have any desire to have a relationship with him.

So, that's the "Bob" story.

I ran to the end of the county, and then I figured, "I might as well run to the end of the state." Now that I've run that far, I'm tired. And that's all I have to say about that. :)


Elliemarie said...

Thank you for again sharing about your life. Children are a precious gift and one day Bob will realize how much he has missed out on. Unfortunately most people tend to realize this too late.

neicybelle said...

there was a time in my life when i cut off all contact with my parents because my mother had become so abusive to me and my girls. it's not easy...but i think in this case, it's the best thing for you and your family.

you know we love you all the more...thank you for trusting us with this part of your life!

Holli said...

You are such a beautiful caring person. With a heart so big it tears your shirt sleeve. Ellie is right, he will regret it when its to late. You have done the right thing, cut off contact even though it's so hard for someone as sweet and kind as you are!

pat said...

Amazing road you have traveled.... We all have those demons hidden in our closets.

PJ said...

Thanks so much for sharing more of your life with us! I'm glad to know I'm not alone. Wounds from a father are very painful indeed, as I'm well aware. My heart goes out to you.