The photo above is us in 1966or 1967; not sure. My brother looks to be about 12, maybe thirteen. I didn’t get that dress until I was 15 (1967), so it’s a little confusing. We’re in Montana, visiting my grandmother. We were still pretty happy until 1966, then things went rapidly down hill.
In 1969, Dad’s still at home. My brother, too, mostly, and me, of course. It’s hard, really hard there, so I stay away as much as I can. That isn’t fair to my mom, but I can’t stand the fights. I can’t stand her. My brother? He’s dropping out of school. We all know it. He says he’s going to the “Street Academy,” a legit school, as it happens, opened up to give runaways and street kids an education, in downtown Colorado Springs, but he’s not. He’s doing drugs and panhandling. At least I know where to look when I need to find him. It is the first year of “Go find your brother!” A long refrain that turns out to be. At least I know he eats. He shows up at the drive-in on his new red ten-speed for baby burgers.
Dad spends most of his time on the end of the French provincial sofa that really WAS nice once upon a time. Since he’s not walking at all any more, they decide to carpet the living room; olive green, of course. When I looked at houses here in Monte Vista last summer I saw many empty houses decorated a lá 70s something. He spends his days there, watching TV and sometimes trying to read through prism glasses. At 9 o’clock we put him in his wheel chair and take him to his room and help him go to bed. He has a hospital bed, now, because it’s higher and easier to get him in and out of. When he needs to “use the facilities” we bring him a urinal and often hold it for him. Twice a week he gets an enema and a shower. MS. The party never stops. When we fight, my mom wins by threatening to “send” my dad to a nursing home. I’m terrified to live there without him.
Gwen — a Mennonite and a day care nurse — comes every morning in her little tan VW Beetle to care for my dad. She’s wonderful and I like her very much, she also likes me and we have lots of fun talking. My mother thinks she’s a lesbian and won’t let me go visit her.
I have a nice boyfriend. He has a small Suzuki motorcycle and a Willys Jeep he and his dad built themselves. For a while I have a big, red dog, Avis, but I don’t train him so my mom makes me take him to the pound where, of course, they tell me he will go live on a farm. The Stones come out with “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” I listen to the radio a lot; don’t get a stereo until 1970 and high school graduation. I make my own clothes (really). My mom goes to Denver and buys me a prom dress to wear to Eddy Bailey’s senior prom. I hate it. It is turquoise and white and frou-frou. I wear it to make her feel good, a hopeless effort, actually. She can’t feel good. Not surprising, but still… Even I know there’s more to life than my dad (whom I adore).
I work at A&W with my good friend Glenn. We both cook. I hate car-hopping and there’s more money in “the back” than in “the front” making drinks. I cook burgers, fries and chili and all that stuff, even deep-fried chicken. I learn to make root beer. That’s right. Back then A&W MADE its own root beer onsite.
I spend as much time as I can out with my friend Kathy and her dogs and horses, hiking in the hills. One Sunday, on a hike in the bluffs, I find my tree. It gives me instruction about how to deal with the hell in which I live.
None too soon, either.