Pretty Little Girl

A day in the life….

Archive for the tag “family”

A Letter to my Son

531598_446644458751601_1202222928_n

Hey Son. I need to talk to you about something. And before you start, I am a writer. I write. This is my way of expression so hear me out. Now I want to tell you a story. I know you don’t want me to but I am anyway.

The story is of a woman who has no commitments. She lost her husband. She has family but it’s emotionally removed. They do not get together or say “I love you”. They are there for one another in times when they are needed but they do not have the day to day closeness of “family”. This woman meets a man who is loving, kind, funny and most of all, sincere. He loves with his whole heart, which is more than most people ever do in a lifetime. They make a happy life together. Both feeling a happiness that neither has felt just being in a healthy, loving relationship where people could walk away, but they don’t.

This man has children by another marriage. Neither of them are his biologically but he has chosen to take all the responsibility for these children, UNCONDITIONALLY, for their entire lives. Again, he could walk away, but he doesn’t because he is too good a man to do so. One of the children is grown and has chosen to drift away from the man because he could no longer give to him like he did as a child. This man expected his child to be the person he raised, but hoped he had learned to be kind and in respect for all that had been done for him to be there for the man as a child should. This never really happened. Once the child found there was not anything to take but love from this man, he walked away.

The other child of this man’s was younger and didn’t understand all the things going on in the divorce of the parents, but saw the happiness in the father’s eyes in the new place he had made a home with this woman. A peacefulness that he had never known. This woman took in the man that she loved and his child into her home. They made a family. Subsequently had grand children together, all with the knowledge that no one was chained to each other and all could have walked away in rough times but chose to endure out of love.

The first of this couple’s grandchildren came at a bad time; unforeseen and undoubtedly unpredicted. The man’s child was too young to have children and doctors said it was impossible but yet here this child sat pregnant and married but too young to understand what either meant. After the birth of the first grandchild, the woman and the man doted on the child as neither had ever expected to be grandparents, but both felt blessed to have this miracle baby. So much so in fact that they did everything to be there for this grandchild and the child. They filled in as babysitters and were for the most part complete caretakers of the grandchild that the child and new spouse didn’t know how to take care of.

The woman and man bonded to the child as if it were their own. Being both mother and father to this little baby who was not expected but was loved more than life itself. They spoiled the child rotten and they watched the child grow into a little boy. Until one day the man died, the woman’s world fell apart. She depended on this man. They were soulmates. They were the most in love that they ever believed they could be. Seeing her sisters marriages being routine, average, loveless, but her life was rich in a fulfillment that was more like a movie than real life and now that bright light was gone.

She wondered if the man’s youngest child would still be a part of her life even though she now had the grandchildren and moved away. She wondered if that grandchild that she took care of for the first 2 years of its life as more of a mother than a grandmother would ever know how special it was in her life with the only attachment, the man who died, gone.

To her surprise, the child still needed a mother who wanted to be a mother. Therefore, the grandchildren still needed a grandmother. In times of despair, the woman did all that she could for this child and grandchildren ​as any mother would do and in fact, more than the child’s mother ever did. She gloried in being a grandmother and mother.

The child and the mother eventually had a rough patch​, a time of hurt that was that of the creation of the child. A great deal of hurt to go around but it was only temporary. The feelings of the grandmother to the grandchildren didn’t change and a love was always there even if there were hurt feelings.  The grandchildren had been taken in throughout this relationship. This woman having no connection to this child or her children took care of them in times that were trying. She loved unconditionally, even though there was hurt feelings, love still remained.  This woman gave her heart, home and self to this child and grandchildren. She still had a special place for the first grandchild because that child had been more like her child than grandchild. That was not to slight the other grandchildren. She simply didn’t have the connection of the day after day​ of the​ first 2 years. Those children never depended on her the way this first grandchild had.

Now the woman sits on the edge of the end of her life. She beams from the pride of having the only grandchildren she ever knew and was never supposed to have. A gift given because she fell in love with the love of her life. September 11th was the old woman’s birthday. She sat by the phone, hoping for the reminder of the love of her family that no longer are seen day in and day out.  They have no real obligation to her because she is not biologically tethered to ​them​ but as the man had expected of his first child, but never got, she expected the return of the love she selflessly gave to these children.

Advertisements

Putting All the Lies Together

After the conversation with my brother, I spent the next year remembering every moment of my childhood. Every instance that now was a red flag. Encounters, conversations, interactions between everyone. I started asking people. I started with Patti Warren Lett. She was like a sister to me. Her mother, Jo Ann, was the woman who took care of me the first 2 months of my life as well as most of my childhood. Jo Ann was my babysitter  She was my surrogate mother. I loved her so much. Patti was leaving the nest when I spent the bulk of my time with Jo Ann. She was 10 years older than me and 2 years younger than John.

Patti told me that she knew Jim wasn’t my biological father. She remembers hearing him say that no one had the right to take me away. I was his little girl. The rumors had suggested that the man who contributed to my birth might have something to do with my PawPaw Ernest. She said somehow he was involved. It made sense since it was his brother Joe. She never saw Joe. Patti was able to corroborate the tale my brother told. So if Patti and her family knew who else knew?  I contacted Kim Aaron Lloyd. She had an Ancestry account with Ernest and Joe in it. She was part of their family. So in the most awkward email of my life, I told her my tale. She responded by putting me in touch with her aunt, Sonia Stephens. It seems Sonia worked with my mother while she was pregnant with me. She knew my mother and grandmother.

When I called Sonia, I was nervous.  This all seemed so unreal. Sonia talked about my mother, being young, pregnant, enamored with Joe Aaron when they worked at Lamar’s Drive In. She said my uncle Mike was always around and he smelled so good. None of the kids wore aftershave but he did and he smelled so good. There were 2 red flags in that statement. The fact Mike was there, when I know he was in California by the time I was born through pictures and stories and that none of the “kids” wore aftershave. My mother was 30 when I was born…this is not making any sense!!!!

My Village

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  In my case, I guess that’s true. I found out the man who was a superhero to me, is not my father. The worst part is the story leading up to my birth. My mother is 18 years younger than Daddy, Jim. My brother, John, is 12 years older than me. He saw what happened in the months prior to my birth. He proceeds to tell me that in the later part of the year of 1973. My mother left my Daddy. She ran off with a man named Joe Aaron. The relationship is convoluted. He was her step-father’s brother. As I have come to find out, he was an evil, mean, hard drinking man. He was married; he ran around on his wife, beat her & he is a suspected pedophile. My mother left my brother with Jim, who is not his biological father, to be with Joe. That is screwed up.

Oh but wait…there’s more. In the early part of 1974, my mother came back beaten SEVERELY, and pregnant. This is where God steps in.   My Daddy takes her back, gets her taken care of and agrees to raise me as his own. He had always been sterile due to an illness in his teens. He wanted a family and the agreement was that he was to be listed as my father on the birth certificate. Now, it must be understood, that my Daddy married mother in part because of her already having a child, my brother John, who was 18 mos. old when they married. But he always carried the name “Maddox”, a separating moniker placed their by my mother. To remind my Daddy, who’s son he was. Now that kind of option was off the table. I was to be a Barnett. He would name me. I would be his child–period.

me & daddy with that damn turtle

This decision broke my heart. He knew I was the illegitimate child of my mother and this mess of a man from a very painful time. How does a man reach such a place of forgiveness in the eyes of face of such pain?  I believe this is my divine intervention. After a hard pregnancy due to the injuries to my mother in her beating by Joe, I was born. My mother stayed in the hospital for over a month so that the doctors could fix some of the damage done by Joe that couldn’t be done while she was pregnant. In the meantime, my Daddy took me home. He couldn’t take care of a newborn, give John the attention he needed and work. He was also scared he’d break me. His solution to this problem was another one that would positively affect my life forever. He went to a neighbor lady who had 2 kids–one in high school & another a little younger than John.Her name was JoAnn Warren. He asked her to take care of me. These 2 people, not related to me, would be the biggest 2 influences in my life.  This is just the beginning of my village.

The Power of Understanding

316659_2325112565408_739491_n

Not long after my mysterious jaunt to California, my mother, recently divorced from my dad, ended up letting me go live with him “temporarily”. She planned a moved to Pensacola, where my dad and his new wife lived. I had spent the summers there. I loved it because it was peaceful. No drunken, bipolar hissy fits. No mind games. No belittling. I was just a kid. I was away from my mother, brother, uncle and grandmother. Each day was me and my dad. He and I had always had this special bond. He loved me more than anything and he was my hero. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but I couldn’t imagine what a better daddy would be like. His flaws made him human and made me feel like I didn’t have to always be perfect. I could be me without hindrance.

During my life, I clung to my Daddy. He could always talk me through things. I would get upset; he & I would sit down and talk about it. Usually, it wasn’t as bad as I perceived. He was a calming, reasoning and enlightening force in my life to rival no other. His death in 1997 broke a portion of me, because at 22, I was not prepared to give up the part of my soul that he occupied. He physically, emotionally, & psychologically was a part of me. Jim Barnett’s influence in my life will resonate forever. When he saved me, he saved my future, my children. I married a man that cherished me who is much like him. He showed me how to live peacefully without drama. He taught me how to think things through. His actions reverberate in every faction of my life.

Then one day, I get a call. It is my brother, who I have not spoken to since my mother’s funeral. I had medical issues I wanted to discuss with him. I had emailed him begging him to talk to me about such issues. It was May 14, 2012. The day after Mother’s Day 9:30 AM.  The words he spoke I was not prepared to hear.  Jim wasn’t my Daddy.

 

 

Reflections from the Looking Glass

Image

Funny.  When I replay this amateur screenplay of chaos, Salvador Dali is the only thing that comes to mind. Surrealism, simply. Nobody has these kinds of things happen. No one has the bizarre juxtaposition of people who make up their lives, like I do, but I digress.

The next “safe house” my mother and I went to was a much better place. It was house on top of a mountain in Pine Valley, California. When Uncle Mike drove up there, he said the house was just like the Ponderosa, which happened to be the name of the road where the house was nestled. In the back of the house was a horse stable with horses.

Image

My Aunt Dee was there with my cousins, David, Curt and Anna. For this brief spell, we were a family. My mother & Dee giggled like school girls and seemed to be always fascinated by each other.  I was able to play with my cousins. I could PLAY for the first time since this all started. I felt like things were going to be alright. There were even plans made to talk to my Daddy!  I was so excited. I felt less like a prisoner and more like a kid. We played with very little toys but back then you didn’t really need stuff to play. The imagination of a child can take you to so many places.

My little cousin, Anna, was a scamp. She was devious for a 5 year old. I remember her pinching me and then pinching herself. She’d holler for her mother to say I was hurting her. At the age of 5, REALLY?? This was foreshadowing for the future in a very storybook way. She was the only girl.  My boy cousins did their own things that I had no interest in.

156504_1711110975752_566141_n

Curt was a little younger than me–a few months. He and I were the most alike. Tender hearts. We did not meet the Maddox standard of brazen & deceitful.  My cousin David was like a kid version of my Uncle Mike. He was a schemer, leading us into trouble, allowing anyone to take the blame for his “brilliant” ideas.  Anna was Anna–enough said. But Curt wasn’t wired like them, he was more like me. He was sensitive and I worried about that. My uncle’s rages were so monstrous. I didn’t know how Curt dealt with it. I couldn’t have.

154697_1711095615368_4196064_n

I remember going to Swanson’s for ice cream down in the little town of El Cajon. I remember brushing the horses with Anna. I remember my Mother driving Aunt Dee’s “fire engine red” Camaro over a flooded bridge trying to get to the general store. My cousin David orchestrated that one. My mother couldn’t remember how to go the “back way” off the mountain to the town below. These were the high points of the trip. This was the last time we were a family.

Inside the Looking Glass

When people recollect about their past, it gives rise to all kinds of emotions.  Many of those emotions are thought to have dwindled on the vine, but in reality, they are just dormant, resting  and waiting for the sprinkle of acknowledgement that revives them instantaneously.  My California experience is no different. It could have been a dream with all the strange happenings and truly surrealist environment.

Our fantastic excursion continues as we arrive in LAX late at night.  My mother tells Ray that my uncle will be picking us up in a “MACK” truck.  Ray stopped and just looked at my mother. He was just as surprised as I was.  I didn’t know what a MACK truck was. We walked outside to the pickup and drop-off outside the airport. When, out of nowhere, my Uncle Mike came running from the passenger side of an 18 wheeler. He ran towards us and grabbed me as he ran. My mother and Ray followed behind. We circled back around to the truck, where he tossed me into the cab as he grabbed my mother and helped her in. He closed the door and we drove off leaving him and Ray on the curb.  I scraped my ankle as I got into the truck. It wasn’t bleeding but  sure did hurt.

The driver of the truck looked over and introduced himself as Bobby Riggs. He had a black cowboy hat, scraggly long jet black beard and he was wearing dark tinted glasses. His shirt was a black country-western shirt with white pearl buttons.  He made small talk with Mother about the plane and the ride. The only thing I remember him saying was “now you are safe, little one.” I suddenly became concerned about my Uncle and Ray. Where they safe? I asked my mother about them. She said something I would always remember. She said ” Don’t you worry about your Uncle Mike. He can handle anything.”

223447_1995112035601_8324228_n

“My Baby”

When I tell  people about my family, I have to remember who my family is. People can’t wrap their heads around the reality of my family.  Every single relative has a chemical dependency problem. How do you make that normal or coherent for somebody? On our spontaneous jaunt to California, I realized for the first time how unconventional and off the chart my family was as a whole. A stranger skulking our house early on a Sunday morning. I heard my grandmother feverishly making phone calls to what seems like random people. My Uncle Mike in California was screaming through the phone. My mother was recovering from a drunken bender the night before at a friend’s house. This wasn’t the most odd Sunday but it wouldn’t be a typical day in the life of any of my friends.

It was a crisp Sunday morning. What the hell was going on? By the end of the day with virtually no clothes or possessions we were on a plane L.A.X. Before we boarded the plane, an older man with kind face walked up to my mother and hugged her. He said it had been a long time. He was trying to calm my manic mother. They discussed what my uncle wanted us all to do. She finally introduced me to him.  “This is Ray. He’s Ernest’s brother.”

Image

Ernest was my Paw Paw. Even the mention of his name, made me smile. He died when I was 3 years old, but I remember him being the source of continuous laughter and him being a clown all the time. It wasn’t until I was older that I was told he was just “a damn old drunk”.  He couldn’t hold a job; he sponged off my grandmother who worked midnights at Waffle House-esque diner known as the “Steak and Eggs”. But to me, he was my crazy Paw Paw telling jokes, pulling the chair out from under my mother or taking me to the little general store to buy me whatever kind of candy I wanted.

Image

Ernest wasn’t biologically related to me. He had been my grandmother’s last husband many years after the death of my grandfather, Curt. He was younger than my grandmother by about 8-9 years. He died abruptly in 1977. I remember the night clearly. I was a sleep on the couch in our living room on Cypress drive. It was odd because my mother wasn’t there; it was just me and my Daddy.  My mother didn’t drive and I don’t know where she went. My normal routine was to sit down with my Daddy and watch TV after my bath. Daddy would carry me to bed, but this wasn’t what happened this night. Daddy said we had to go see Paw Paw. We drove up to their apartment. There were flashing lights everywhere. People were walking all around. It was the middle of the night or at least it seemed like it to me. I’d never seen people at their apartment before–not even the neighbors. My daddy and I sat down on the stairs amid all the chaos. He had a look on his face. It almost looked like anger. He was a mild man. He didn’t throw fits or anything. He would look at you with this look of disappointment and restrained words.  It wasn’t a scary look; it was a look that always made guilt well up in my chest. I remember asking where Paw Paw and Grandma were. He said Paw Paw was sick and Grandma and Mother had gone to see how Paw Paw was doing.

None of those words meant anything to me really. I never realized I’d never see my Paw Paw again. I was “his baby” as he’d always say. He came to our house all the time. I knew my Daddy didn’t like him or my Grandma for that matter. Daddy had never taken me to see them before. It was unusual but I couldn’t comprehend the truth of it all. My Paw Paw had died. Grandma had found him when she came home. Mother was at the hospital with her.

Now 5 years later we sit in an airport terminal with a brother of his, on the spur of the moment. I had school Monday morning. What had happened now?

So It Begins; A Reflection

Image

The  funny thing is I think I look a lot my uncle. As I look through pictures, I want to understand why he was the way he was. I see strength and uniqueness in this “beast” of a man. I don’t know what it is that makes his life so intriguing but I have to keep delving into the unknown abyss.

I just found something I wrote a while back.  It’s the beginning of a story that is giant portion of my recollection of my uncle. 

“Hey pretty girl, won’t you look my way, 

you can bet you’ll make this ol’ boy’s day, 

hey pretty girl, won’t you look my way”

I heard this song and a flood of memories came over me.  The low husky voice, those words..

 Image

March 1983

Cahaba Heights

A Sunday morning 8 am, to a 8 year old is THE most boring time. All my friends were in church.  My Grandma spent the night with me while Mama was out and  there was no way in hell Grandma was going to a church.  The closest she ever got was watching Jimmy Swaggart.  That was her religion.

 I was bored.  I went outside and kicked the gravel in the driveway.  I was pretty disturbed.  I missed my Daddy so much.  He worked out of town and came home every other weekend. A old truck rolls down Cypress Drive. This is odd because all the neighbors were in church.  Our street was out of the way for somebody to just be passing by. A dark haired man was hanging out the passenger side window.  They slowed down at the driveway.  So I started to walk towards them.  The man asked if my Daddy was home.  I said, “No sir, he is working in South Carolina”.   He asked me if I was alone.  I said, “ No sir, my Grandma was inside the house.”  He nodded and the truck drove on.   A few minutes later, the truck came back the other way.  This time the man was driving.  He stopped in front of the house again.  Again I walked up to him.  He said smiling “Hey pretty girl, you wanna come home with me?”  

 

I said, “No sir, I was just waiting on my Mama. She should be home soon.”  I thought maybe he was friend of Daddy’s.  He was more interested in knowing about him than anything.  Something about the man looked familiar but I didn’t know why.  

The old truck drove away. I went back inside.  I told Grandma that Daddy’s friends were asking about him.  And she asked me if I told them he was out of town and I said “Yes, m’am I told them he’s working out of South Carolina”.  She looked out the kitchen window and the truck was driving by again.  She told me to go play in my room.  I didn’t have anything better to do. She got on the phone and was talking.  Then the phone rang and she was yapping some more.  It was a little unusual.  Grandma wasn’t the social butterfly that talked on the phone very much.  I think I fell asleep on my bed.  The next thing I remember Grandma was talking to Uncle Mike in California.  That was just odd. Then all of a sudden my mother flies in the door.  She grabs me and tells me to get a couple of toys that we were going to California……that’s where the weird got even weirder…….

The Making of a Man

73718_1655833353846_2436897_n

Michael Maddox was a brute. He was massive and a force to be reckoned with. His size was a tool; his voice thundered. When he entered a room, every person knew it. Even at the age of 15, I am told by my aunt, Sonia who went to high school with my mother and worked with her and Mike after at Lamar’s Drive-In, remembers Mike as a ladies man. “He smelled so good and he was so handsome. I always had him come sit next to me, even though he was younger than us. He didn’t act  like it”, Sonia told me. One of his quotes from that time was that he loved Southside Baptist Church. He went there as often as he could. Why?  It was the best place to get laid. Enough said.

Along with being a cad, he was a huffer; he would inhale the pressurized chemicals in aerosol cans. Looking for a way to escape his meager life. Mustard and lettuce sandwiches were a commonality for my mother and Mike. Jo was too wrapped up in her personal demons to be an adequate mother. The kids were on there own. My mother Liz tried to step in to look after Mike but she had no role model to know what she should do. Jo’s lifestyle kept them from connecting with people for any length of time. Constant moving, beatings and generalized hell raising kept most away. Surviving the best way they could with an emotional not present mother and her present drunk, was life for them.

Mike was different. He wanted out. He had delusions of grandeur from early on. My mother and many others favored Mike. He had something as a little kid. He was unique but no one really knew why.  I can only assume it was the aura of being in the present of something great. I have heard this about many great men.  They had something intangible innate that radiates from them. No word to describe it but just a magnetism that was beyond words.  Recently in college studying psychology, a found out what that “thing” was.  It is, what is erroneously called anti-social behavior. It is not like it sounds. The dynamic, charismatic charmer is truly a well primed facade for the absolute inability to be human.   He was in a word– a sociopath. Calculated, cunning, charming, and evil with the inability empathize with anyone beyond his mother and sister.

As a teenager, he was a thief. He evolved into stealing cars. His biggest adventure took him to Florida in a stolen car. He was eventually arrested. This was the early to mid 1960’s. Vietnam was a reality for the youth of the nation. Mike was given the opportunity to go to Vietnam or jail for his interstate mischief. He chose Vietnam. This was truly the end of anything human in Mike’s personality.

388200_2716333385684_1781497205_n

Now Just Look at You

40757_1656048439223_2202756_n

“..You sure are a  pretty little girl” One of the scariest memories I remember as a child. My uncle, magnificent, bold, brash, and evil. His voice boomed. I prayed he wouldn’t notice me. His rage might find me and my mother wouldn’t be able to protect me. As fabulous and dynamic as Michael Maddox was, he was just as much a monster. A breeze might blow in the jovial, life of the party or it might blow in the rage of man that seemed more like a beast than a human. He was Elvis and the Devil all in one.

Mike was the youngest son of Curt Maddox and Josephine Leonard. They were my grandparents. My mother was 5 years older than him. Curt died when Mike was little. I believe there were memories there for Mike to remember but I never heard about them. When Curt died, Mike became the man of this end of the dysfunctional Maddox family. He was the protector for his mother and sister. Being 6’2″ and broad shouldered when he hit his teenage years, made him look like the “man of the house”.

I don’t know what his childhood was like. I never got to spend that much time with him but what I knew was that after Curt died, Jo, as she liked to be called, became a woman who couldn’t be without a man. Being a broken woman due to the hardships of poverty, loneliness and being a country girl in the city, she did what everyone did then–she drank. Barn dances were her favorite events and the men there were overloaded with testosterone and gin. They were looking for a submissive woman. While my grandmother wanted the security of a man, she was NOT submissive.  Her fiery dark red hair looked black in the old pictures but I have been told it was red and her personality like her hair was vibrant.

222235_1998337836244_4302838_n

Mike had his mother’s charisma. He was the life of the party as was she. But there were times that Mike felt impotent when his mother brought home the drunk du jour with a temper. As I was told, there were knock down drag outs that Mike was told to stay out of. However, there came a time when Mike stepped up for his mother. From that moment on, he was always in charge.

Post Navigation