Jean Lund's Blog











CHAPTER FOUR

     I never quite understood Ma’s thinking but there must have been a method to her madness. Realizing she couldn’t keep asking the enemy over for dinner, she finally demanded that Dad take her along one night and I decided to go along to watch what would happen. We drove into Lastrup, a little four corner town and there at the bar sat the big fat ho that had destroyed our family. My Mama who had always been a classy woman bellied up to the bar with them and in disgust and confusion I went with Josie’s sister Irene into Pierz to drink and hang out with the friends I made there. These guys weren’t my true friends. My true gang was from Harding but I had spread myself thin trying to balance out being there for Ma and running with my own group. I hitched a ride later that night back to Lastrup where I was dropped off at the same cheesy bar. I walked in to this dingy tavern and heard Strangers In the Night playing. I imagine either Dad or Josie put the dime in the juke box for that one. All three were pretty drunk and when it was time to leave Dad asked me to drive. I freaked out because I had never driven a car before much less have a license but it was obvious that none of them could. So Ma climbed in the frontpassenger seat, and Dad and Josie got in back. I chugged along taking a side country road hoping no sheriff would catch me behind the wheel. Josie was slurring her words and becoming more and more hostile towards my father. She started screaming at him for letting me drive saying “You never let me drive your car.” It was a sign of jealousy that I was getting something she wasn’t. Perhaps that really was a sign of an under-current with respect to the fact that Dad had not yet left his family to start a life with her. As the argument escalated in the back seat my hatred and rage for her escalated as well. Finally my Dad yelled for me to pull over. I pulled off to the shoulder and the two of them got out and continued their battle. Sick of it all I got out to stand up for my father and got pushed by Josie down into the ditch. I fought back like a wild animal until she bashed me in the head with a rock. Dad stepped in at that point and punched her in the face knocking her false teeth out. Drunk and enraged she crawled under the car and kept screaming for someone to run her over. I scrambled up the hill and got behind the wheel and was about to oblige her when my Mom started screaming, “JEAN!  DON’T DO IT!! YOU’LL GO TO JAIL!!!” And I screamed back, “I DON’T CARE! I HATE HER GUTS! SHE’S RUINED OUR LIFE. I WANT TO RUN HER OVER!!” But Ma kept talking to me until I calmed down enough to put the car back into park and take my foot off the pedal. Nothing would have made me happier though then to crush this woman to death under the wheels of the family car.  Life continued and I continued to run with my friends and drink. I came close many times to being promiscuous but could only manage heavy making out and petting. Mom made a habit of drilling into my head how bad, wrong and painful sex was. And more than likely just to scare me so I wouldn’t get pregnant she threw in, “And when-ever you do have sex, it’s ten times more painful to have a baby.” So I could be close to passing out from too much alcohol and would come to just in time to say no. Her drill tactics caused me to be sexually dysfunctional for the rest of my life so I guess you could say she succeeded and then some. By 1967 it was well known that Harriett O’Brien had a “chippy chasing” husband. It was the talk of the neighboring farms and single family homes alike. It was the talk of Lastrup, Pierz and Little Falls where everyone knew my Dad when he was a salesman at Theilen Ford until Ted Theilen started selling Chevrolets. Then Dad went into partnership with a friend and opened Lighthouse Ford  which sat at the south end of the main drag in the town.

    Aunt June and Uncle Pete were still living in Milwaukee so were too far away to be of any help to Ma. Aunt June, who had been a Daddy’s girl too when growning up, now hated her father just the same as me. Uncle Dan and Aunt Mary lived in Minneapolis a hundred miles south and were very busy with work and raising a family but Uncle Dan was broken hearted that his Dad would be such an asshole to his mother. And Patty continued to push Ma to pack up some things and bring me with to California. Ma’s Aunt Kate lived in Minneapolis and decided to come up to the lake and spend a week. She too knew what was going on and came to be of moral support for Ma. Aunt Kate was a tiny woman and older and it was the only time in my life I remember seeing her. She stayed in my room while I slept in bed with Ma. Ma got the idea to invite Josie back over for dinner again so her Aunt could check her out and I’ll be damned if Dad didn’t have the nerve to bring her! Naturally the kitchen table was full of cases of beer and they even hit the bottles of hard stuff in the cupboard that night. I, as usual, would sneak into the kitchen and grab some beer and go off and drink it somewhere. The hard alcohol must have set off a bigger chain of violence as Ma and Josie got into an enormous argument with Ma spewing accusations at her of “being a tramp and a whore who would screw someone’s husband,” and Josie firing back, “Why don’t you give it up old woman? He’s mine now!” Huge disappointment and anger filled me when Dad sided with her instead of Ma. I turned my back for a minute and missed the actual punch, but Dad took a shot at Ma and punched her right in the eye. Aunt Kate ran and hid in my bedroom. It was momentary chaos in the kitchen and I remember screaming at the top of my lungs, shoving Dad as I screamed in horrified panic, “STOP IT….GET OUT, GEEEET OUUUUT OF THIS HOUSE!!”  My comment was meant for Josie but Dad and Josie both left in his car and I looked at Ma and her face was severely bruised. I cried and cried in anger and pain and worry. I got her a cloth with some ice and then she told me to call the Sherwood’s across the road. Lawrence Sherwood came and drove Ma to Little Falls where she stayed overnight in the hospital. They took pictures of her face and the shiner she had on her right eye but she refused to have him put in jail. He stayed away for a few days until he called one night and said he’d been in an accident. He was okay and the car had some damage but what I found more interesting was A) He called Ma. Why? Was it because when it came right down to it he still loved her? And B) Ma had always kept a cloth Aunt Jemima doll and a pin cushion on top the fridge. One day I noticed the stick pins sticking out of the doll and asked Ma why. She said, “I’ve put a hex on your father and that woman.” Ma and I had that conversation just two weeks before Dad had the accident. That was pretty spooky. It would be years later before I learned it was a form of black magic. You might be wondering why I am sharing all of these stories with you. It’s because they are part of my life. A huge part, that shaped me and how I lived later. Because they were the beginning of a life filled with chaos that I could remember. I couldn’t remember the chaos during Patty’s pregnancy with me or those first six months in Milwaukee. But I could remember these years and how it was me trying to take care of and comfort Ma, rather than the other way around. After Dad smashed Ma in the face, I think she finally decided we should go to California and stay with Patty. It was obvious to her that this time Dad wasn’t going to give up the woman and she had no way to support herself and me or get around when she needed to.

One would think that someone would have thrown in the towel but they didn’t. Why Dad just didn’t up and leave I don’t know. Ma was trapped. It must have been a horrible feeling to be fifteen miles from the nearest town, without a car, not even knowing how to drive and living with the fact you couldn’t stop your husband’s affair. But Ma, God love her, tried everything there was. We went on what would be our last “family” vacation camping. Ma invited Josie to come with us for Gods’ sakes!  and she came!!!  What a fricking disaster thatwas! We were camping in Devils Tower Wyoming when Dad and Josie went to shower and Mom looked through someone’s suitcase. She found naked polaroids of Josie taken with Dad’s camera. Craziness ensued and we quickly packed up and had to drive together through South Dakota and half of Minnesota. This is all another blur to me, surely from the shock I must have suffered at the time. I cannot tell you anything more that happened but they should have all be locked up in the loony bin at this point! After careful and I’m sure quite painful thought, Ma told Dad that she and I were going to Inglewood California to stay with Pat in the spring. For me that made 1967 a colder winter than any snow that came.

     I was as sad as could be that winter. I stared out my window taking in every naked branch on every tree, and thinking back on my young life and memories. How did this happen? This was my home!!  I didn’t want to leave here. I didn’t want to leave my friends. Yes, California was a nice place to visit with the ocean and the palm trees and warm weather but it wasn’t home! And Cindy was my best friend and didn’t come up north to the cabin much in the winter. I had to tell her by writing her a letter. I asked if I could stay with her and her folks or if she knew any place where I could stay. I would have rather run away from home than go to California. The next few months were a blur until I saw Ma packing boxes. It made me face reality and I hated it. I was devastated. I lie on my bed and stared at my room and counted all the knots in the knotty pine walls. I walked the house staring at everything and roamed the yard trying hard to engrave every inch of every piece of every thing into my mind.  Dad was going to have to drive us to California. He had lost face in all the neighboring counties as everyone thought he was a louse for screwing around on his wife and they wouldn’t buy a car from him. He just wanted us to load up enough things to fit in the trunk and in the camper trailer. This gave me hope and made the idea of moving seem more like a mini vacation because I was sure that once we got away from “her” things would get back to normal so we could come back home. But just incase I wanted to give my friends things to remember me by. I gave away all of my record collection which included every Beatles single there was to my closest friends. I smacked myself in the derriere about that about 20 years later but was glad I had kept their albums! But at the time I felt like I was giving a piece of myself to those closest to me by giving something that was in my room, on my wall, on my dresser. I wanted them to have something that was a part of my life and where I lived that life. While we packed our clothes I packed the Beatles albums, my record player, my high school year books, and the small soft Norwegian doll that my grandparents on the Lund side had given me for my birthday one year. I also took the ballerina jewelry box that Patty’s boyfriend Sidney had given me.

     The spring of 1968 came and the plans to move came into frutation. Ma finished packing up boxes of belongings and filled the little Jayco pop up trailer. The snow had melted and winter’s dark death had been reborn by way of the leaves turning green and the birds and squirrels dancing on the grass. The red winged blackbirds could be heard singing in the marshes beside the deserted highway. When the day came to leave, I had an emptiness overcome me like I’d never felt before. Not even like when I was little and would scream and cry when Dad left for work. Not even like when my real Mom left after visiting. Not even like when my one and only dog, Butch was shot and killed by a local farmer or when the chipmunk I caught in a trap died from fright before I could let it go. My heart felt like it had been yanked out completely leaving the hollowest space I’d ever known. I wandered the outside, going down to the shore in the front yard, watching the ripples on the still lake where the fish took their breath. I gazed across the water to the cabins in the clearings with thick trees on either side. I remembered the buzz of summers when the speed boats were roaring pulling skiers and children’s laughter on the docks of the cabins to the north. I visualized all the summer storms that darkened the skies and the rainbows that ended on the far shores. I saw little Jean stuffed in winter clothing, wearing a heavy coat and ski mask waddling out over frozen water to the ice house or to fetch her sled that landed nearby. It sounds silly but every blade of grass meant something to me. I circled the house and stood on the big gray rock where I had played when I was younger, conquering anyone imaginary who tried to threaten the land that belonged to me. As I walked that walk I felt death and through survival instinct only, kept repeating to myself that we’d be back. When the time came, my mother, father and I got in the car and backed away from the house heading down the dirt road driveway to the highway. I can’t imagine what Ma was going through. I don’t think I gave her feelings much thought back then. But at sixteen years old, as if going through puberty wasn’t enough, I was now being taken against my will to a land that may as well have been a planet away. Still to this day, I can recall without faltering, the left hand turn out on to the highway as we headed south. From the moment we made that turn, my head turned back out the rear window and I watched the house fade until all that was visible was the garage near the highway. I bore my eyes into the garage and everything that surrounded it as we made the assent over the hill where I finally lost sight. I felt like I was going to puke.

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