A LETTER TO NEAL

 Hi, Neal - It's Morrene.  Since I have not heard back from you, I am going to make the assumption that you have talked to my mother, Helen. 

To give you a little bit of background, Helen and I stopped talking in approximately November of 2016 when I finally started to acknowledge the years of sexual abuse that I suffered as a child at her hands and the various men that she brought into our lives.  When I tried to talk to her about the first incident of abuse that I remembered, first she feigned ignorance, then she refused to discuss it.

As a healthy parent, if your child brought up allegations of sexual abuse against you, and you knew you weren't guilty, wouldn't you ask what happened?  Where is this coming from??  I don't understand.

Not Helen.  Not once did she reach out to ask me what happened.  She simply stopped talking to me.  She knows she is guilty.

Growing up with Helen as a mother was not easy.  Throughout most of my childhood, I was verbally, physically and sexually abused by my mother and the various men she brought into our lives.  While I always remembered the physical and verbal abuse, I had buried the sexual abuse in the back recesses of my mind.  Unfortunately, I suffered frequent flashbacks over the years, and the memories couldn't be buried completely.

There were six men in my life by the time I was nine.  My mother made some very poor choices in the men she got involved with.  We moved several times while I was growing up, state to state, city to city.  By the time I was in twelfth grade, I had attended eight different schools (almost nine). 

Constant turmoil, constant upheaval, constant commotion.  That was life with Helen.  She thrived on drama.

When I was nine, my mother married her fourth husband, a truck driver named Emil, whom she had known for less than two weeks.  Emil was a pedophile, as was her third husband.  Emil was definitely was one of the worst men she brought into our lives. 

After my mom and Emil got married, we moved back to Wisconsin from California, and that's when the serious gaps in my memory started due to the horrific abuse.  I believe my brother, Jon, has better recall of the past, but I don't believe he has faced it as of yet.  We haven't talked in years, unfortunately.

In 1975, when I was ten, and my brother was eleven, we spent our summer vacation traveling over the road in semis during the week while my mom worked.  My mom said the babysitter had cancelled at the last minute, and she had no choice.  I rode with her friend Elaine while Jon rode with Emil.

It wasn't until I was 52 years old that I started to remember that summer and the disturbing things that happened in that semi.  I had completely blocked it.  It was that horrific.  Although I have always had flashbacks of traveling in a semi with Elaine, I couldn't give a name to what happened.  I am still trying to wrap my head around the memories.

These were and are some very sick people that raised me (some have passed on).  It's shocking.

When I was 15 years old, I tried to commit suicide after Emil raped me.  Later that year I ran away from home.  I just couldn't take the abuse any more. 

While I always remembered the physical and verbal abuse, I had forgiven my mother.  (Again, I had not acknowledged the sexual abuse at that time).

I wanted a mother.  I needed a mother.  I desperately craved the love and support that a healthy mother should give to her child.  Unfortunately, Helen was not capable of being the kind of mother that I needed, or any child, for that matter.  But in my desperation for her love, I closed my eyes to the abuse.  I forgave, minimized and repressed her cruel words and actions over the years, something I continued long into adulthood.

While the memories of the sexual abuse were always in the back of my mind, each time I suffered a flashback, I kicked it out.  They were disgusting and repulsive.  I had no idea where these images were coming from and why they would flash in my head at various times.  They just didn't make any sense to me.  I knew Helen was not a good mother, but I refused to give credence to the many flashbacks that I suffered over the years. 

As the years passed, the flashbacks started pounding me with increasing frequency.  And each time they came in, kicked them out.

In November of 2016, I was at my lowest point, financially, personally and professionally.  My marriage had ended, we had just moved to a new house, my finances were in disarray, and I was no longer able to work as a court reporter, my profession for the past 30 years, due to the high level of on-the-job stress. 

My strength was at its lowest, and I no longer had the energy to kick the disturbing memories out of my head.  I had lost the battle, and it was time to face the past.   

When I finally started to confront the sexual abuse in my childhood, I was  filled with grief, shock and horror.  Again, I knew my childhood was dysfunctional, but accepting the fact that it was that bad was very, very hard for me to process. 

In January of 2017, more of the sexual abuse came to the surface of my memory, and I sought counseling.  At that time I was diagnosed with severe PTSD, something that I had been suffering for years, unbeknownst to me. 

For most of my life I also suffered from depression, insomnia, anxiety and panic attacks.  Those were some very tough years.

I am still missing large blocks of my childhood that have been deleted due to the abuse, but slowly the memories are coming back to me.  Recovering those lost years will be something I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.  

Somehow I was able to overcome the adversities of my childhood, go to college and become a productive citizen.  I believe I have some very powerful angels that have guided me throughout my life, and for that I am grateful.

But most importantly, the cycle of abuse stopped with me.  I have always worked hard to become the mother to my children that I never had.  I have no idea if you are a parent; but if you are, I would hope that you feel the fierce love and protection that a healthy parent should have for their children.  My children are my world, and I would do anything for them.

It wasn't until I started dealing with my past that I started to heal.  I have an amazing counselor and a couple of very close friends that give me love, guidance and support when I need it.  I would be lost without them.  I no longer suffer from depression, anxiety or panic attacks.

I have always been a loving and kindhearted person, and hurting somebody, especially your own children, is and was beyond my comprehension.  It will take me the rest of my life to accept what has happened to me.  I still shake my head in disbelief and wonder how I am still here.

I am starting to work with adult victims of abuse to help them come to terms with their past and learn how to lead a productive and peaceful life.  It is possible.  I am living proof of that. 

While my heart goes out to Helen for what she must have endured as a child to become the person she is, my compassion for her ends there because she did not stop the cycle of abuse.  There is no excuse for passing that sickness on to me and my brother. 

My brother is also a survivor, but I am not sure if he is dealing with the past as of yet.  I suffered years of physical and verbal abuse from him which went way beyond sibling rivalry.  I was absolutely terrified of him by the time we entered our teenage years.  I believe my brother's anger at me was the only way he could deal with his pain.  He was as powerless as I was to stop the abuse.

Unfortunately, I have not talked to my brother in years, although I have tried reaching out to him at various times to re-establish a relationship.  I hope he knows that I will always be there for him if and when he decides to confront the past.  It's not easy, but, again, he is a survivor, too, and survivors are very strong people.  Every day I pray that he reaches out to me, and we can unite and heal together.  He was as much of a victim as I was.

Lastly, Neal, please remember there are two sides to every story.   If you have talked to Helen, I am sure you have gotten an earful.  When you have time, if you could please read my blog, I would appreciate it.  Www.heartofsolace.com.  I have not posted everything that I have written, because some of it is very disturbing, and I am still trying to process it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Morrene Hauser

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART TEN

After we got back to California, Mom and Fred's fights escalated.  One evening when we were out at the stables feeding the horses, Fred showed up, and he and Mom got into a fight.  At one point Mom angrily leaned over and started poking Fred in the stomach with her finger trying to make a point.   Incensed, Fred hauled off and slapped her face.

Upset at seeing my beautiful mom being hit, I started to cry and yelled out, "Mom!"   

"Be quiet, Morrene!" Mom said as she roughly wiped the blood off her mouth.

Not long after that fight, Fred moved out of the house, and Mom filed for divorce.  Needless to say, I was very relieved that Fred was gone.

Unfortunately, when Fred moved out of the house, I was no longer allowed to see Sunshine.  I was absolutely heartbroken knowing I would never get to ride my little pony again.

- - -

When fourth grade started, my teacher that year was a man named Mr. Sidman.  On the first day of school, my classmates and I stared at him in fear.  Most of us had never had a man as a teacher before, and we didn't know what to expect.   

Thankfully Mr. Sidman was a kind and patient teacher, and our fears subsided.

- - -

One afternoon shortly after school started, Mom came to pick up me and Brother from Marion's house.  Sitting in her car was a man we did not know.

"This is Emil.   We're getting married, and we're moving back to Wisconsin.  He's here visiting for a couple days," Mom said after we got in the car. 

Emil was a muscular man of medium build, receding blond hair, vivid blue eyes and a paunchy stomach.  

"Hi," Emil said kindly as he smiled at me and Brother.  When our eyes met, I smiled and shyly turned away.

That evening we went out to the stables to feed and water the horses.  While the horses ate, Emil petted them and told us how much he loved animals.   

When we were done feeding the horses, we went out for dinner, and Emil told us all about his beautiful house in Wisconsin and his new car.

I listened excitedly as I ate my hot fudge sundae.  I couldn't wait to see his house and ride in his new car! 

The next day Mom and Emil went to Knott's Berry Farm, and Brother and I were left home alone. 

After they left, I went to my room and played with my Baby Beans doll.   A short time later I heard a knock on the front door and got up to go answer it. 

Standing on the step was Fred.  When he saw me, anger distorted his features.

"Where is your mother?  GODDAMNIT, WHERE IS YOUR MOTHER?" he said as he looked at me with hate-filled eyes.

I stood rooted to the spot speechless with terror as he towered over me.

Receiving no answer, Fred roughly pushed me aside and walked back to Mom's room.  A few minutes later he angrily stormed out of the house.  I knew Fred had seen Emil's open suitcase on the floor in Mom's room, and he was not happy.

- - -

At the end of Emil's visit, we all piled into Mom's car to take him to the airport.    

When we got to the airport, we walked Emil to his gate.  Emil leaned down with open arms to give me a hug.  I shyly smiled at him and backed away.

"Next time I will get a hug," Emil said with a confident smile as he looked in to my eyes.

After saying goodbye to Brother and giving Mom a hug and a kiss, Emil boarded the plane to go home.

Little did I know that Emil would be far worse than Fred and would stay in our lives for many, many years.

- - -

After Emil went home, Mom spent a lot of time with me and Brother taking us to parks, the beach and Knott's Berry Farm on the weekends. 

I felt very close to Mom at this time and basked in the rare love and attention she showed me.  I eagerly listened to Mom when she talked about Emil and how much she loved him.  Mom even told me about the first time she and Emil kissed.    

Mom was patient and loving with me and Brother, and she rarely yelled or hit us.  But best of all Mom didn't push me away when I tried to hug her.  When she wrapped her arms around me, I desperately clung to her waist enjoying the feeling of safety and comfort I so craved.  

Sometimes Mom would put on country music, pick up our little dog, Muffin, in her arms and happily dance around the living room. I laughed as Muffin’s little ears bounced up and down as Mom twirled her around the room..

- - -

While Brother and I were in school, Mom packed for our move back to Wisconsin.  While she packed, she cleaned and threw out many items that she felt we would not need. 

Unfortunately she threw out all of the pictures and home movies of us with Fred in them, and a portion of my and Brother's life were completely destroyed.

Mom had not told Emil she was married to Fred because she wanted him to think that she had only been married twice.

- - -

When Halloween came around that year, Mom told me and Brother we were too old to go trick-or-treating.  She had plans for the day, and Brother and I were left home alone.

Brother and I sat outside and enviously watched the trick-or-treaters as they went from house to house begging for treats.  Not having candy to pass out, Brother kindly went to nearby homes trick-or-treating without a costume on so we would have candy to hand out.

- - -

In early November Emil flew out to California to move us back to Wisconsin.  Before we left, Mom dropped me and Brother off at Marion's house to spend the night.  Mom's divorce from Fred was finalized, and she and Emil were going to Las Vegas to get married.   

The next day when Mom and Emil got back, they picked us up from Marion's house and took us home.  After we got in the house, Mom played a tape recording of their wedding vows.  As we listened, Mom and Emil held hands and smiled lovingly at one another.

As I looked at them, my heart filled with happiness that my beautiful mom had found somebody to love again.

To be continued…..

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART NINE

At the end of the summer Mom started packing for me and Brother's annual visit with Dad and Stepmother.   

Even though I tried not to show my excitement over our upcoming trip in front of Mom, sometimes my heart overflowed with such joy and excitement, I couldn't help but run around the house yelling, "We're going to see Dad!  We're going to see Dad!"

"Goddamn it, SHUT UP!  Your dad is a horrible father!  Now, go watch TV and be quiet!" was Mom's angry reply when she heard my shouting.

I immediately quieted down when I saw how angry Mom was. 

This year Mom was going to fly to Wisconsin with us, and that made me very happy.  While Brother and I were visiting Dad and Stepmother, she was going to travel over the road in a semi with a friend of Grandma's, a truck driver named Elaine.

- - -

Finally the day came when we were to leave for Wisconsin.   After we loaded our suitcases into the car, Fred drove us to the airport.

When we got to the airport, we said goodbye to Fred, grabbed our luggage and walked to the counter to check in.

After we got to our gate, we boarded the airplane.  I settled into my seat next to Mom and Brother and prepared for the long trip ahead.

- - -

Several hours later we landed in Wisconsin.  When we got off the airplane, Dad and Stepmother were once again waiting for us at the gate.  When Brother and I saw them, we eagerly ran into their arms for hugs and kisses. 

Mom had a short conversation with Dad confirming that we would meet at the airport in two weeks to catch our flight home.  Afterwards she gave me and Brother a hug and walked away to go meet Elaine.

- - -

Brother and I spent two weeks with Dad and Stepmother much like we did the year before, going to the local beaches, swimming and picnicking, visiting our cousins and friends.  Brother continued to go to work with Dad and spent hours in the repair shop learning how to fix cars.  Brother and Dad had a lot in common, and they were very close.

- - -

That summer Grandma again picked me up on her motorcycle and took me to her house for visits.  Before we went back to her house, we always stopped to eat.  Sometimes we went to Mickey Lou's and ate hamburgers and chocolate milk shakes or we went to the A&W and had hamburgers and root beer.    

One day Grandma picked me up in her car instead of her motorcycle.  After we ate, Grandma drove to the Piggly Wiggly and bought groceries for another one of our favorite meals, Swedish meatballs.

After we got to her house, we went to Grandpa's shop so I could say hi and see the car that he was restoring.  Then we went in the house, and Grandma got dinner ready and put it in the oven.  When she was done, we went outside to go fishing.   

This year Grandma decided to teach me how to fly fish.  After she gathered up all of the fishing gear, we got in the boat, and she rowed us a little ways from the shore.  

Grandma got her pole ready and demonstrated for me how to cast the line and use the little lever on the handle of the pole to control how far the line would go before it went into the water.  When she was done, Grandma gave me the pole so I could give it a try.

I took Grandma's fishing pole in my hands and awkwardly tried to mimic her movements.  Unfortunately, I forgot to use the little lever on the handle to control how far the line went after I cast it, and it flew far and landed in a tree near the shore. 

With a frustrated sigh, Grandma rowed us over to the tree and slowly stood up in the wobbling boat and untangled the lure.  Then Grandma rowed us back to shore, and we went in the house.   Thankfully, we were through fishing for the day.

- - -

Towards the end of our visit, Dad and Stepmother took me and Brother to Mackinaw Island for the weekend. 

Before we could get on the island, Dad had to drive over a long and scary bridge.  As I looked out the window, I felt my stomach jump in fear.  That bridge seemed to go for miles far up into the sky.  Once we reached the top, we descended down towards the island.   

When we got on the island, Dad parked his car in a big parking lot.  Cars were not allowed to be driven on Mackinaw Island, so Dad rented a golf cart and drove us to our hotel. 

We spent two wonderful days swimming in the hotel pool, eating in restaurants, eating their famous fudge, walking around the island and riding bikes.  And best of all, we got to ride in a horse-drawn carriage!

On Sunday Dad drove us back to Peshtigo, and Stepmother started packing for us to go home.  Before we left, she once again took us shopping for school clothes.

- - -

While Brother and I visited Dad and Stepmother, Mom traveled with Elaine in her semi throughout Michigan, Oklahoma and Wisconsin picking up and delivering load after load of goods. 

Sometime during that first week Elaine introduced Mom to a co-worker of hers, a truck driver named Emil. When Mom and Emil met, they were immediately attracted to each other, and she started riding with him in his semi.    

By the end of the following week Mom and Emil had fallen in love.  Before Mom left to go to the airport to fly home with me and Brother, she and Emil made plans to get married and move us back to Wisconsin.

But first Mom had to go home and get rid of Fred. 

Mom did not tell me and Brother about Emil, and we had no idea of the big changes that were in store for us.

To be continued….

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART EIGHT

Dad co-owned a business in town that he bought from his father called White Front Garage.  White Front Garage was a small used car lot located on the main thoroughfare on the outskirts of Peshtigo. 

During the day Dad sold cars while his employees worked in the repair shop fixing cars.  Brother was very close to Dad and often went to work with him and spent many happy hours learning how to fix cars in the repair shop with the employees.

Sometimes Brother stayed home, and Stepmother took me and Brother to our cousins' house to play for the day.  My cousins lived on a beautiful farm on the outskirts of town where Mom and her half siblings were born and raised.

On the farm was a well-kept white farmhouse with green shutters, a large red barn and white board fences.  Best of all, they had horses!  Sometimes my aunt would get out two of the horses, Nimah and Beauty, and my cousin and I would hop on bareback and go riding.  Beauty and Nimah were kind and gentle horses, and they would patiently take us wherever we wanted to go.

- - -

Before we left to go back to California, Stepmother kindly took us shopping for school clothes.  I couldn't wait to go back to school and wear my new clothes!

At the end of the visit, Stepmother packed our clothes, and we got ready to go home.  Although I would miss Dad and Stepmother and the regular meals she cooked, I started missing Mom and wanted to go home.

- - -

After we got back from our visit with Dad and Stepmother, Brother and I started school.  In to the third grade I went, and Brother the fourth.

My teacher that year was a very pretty woman named Mrs. Sorenson.  I stared at Mrs. Sorenson's shoulder length blond hair in envy wishing my hair looked like hers. 

Sometimes Mom didn't cut my hair for a while, and it would start to grow out.  I always tried to talk Mom in to letting me grow my hair long, but she refused.  When I tried to explain to her that people thought I was a boy and that made me feel bad, she would say, "Oh, for Christ's sake, Morrene!  Stop your damn complaining! You'll fill out someday and look like a girl."

I looked down at my flat chest in dismay.  I knew it would be a long time before I looked like a girl.

Many times when Brother and I went somewhere with Mom, we were often mistaken as twin boys.  Each time I heard, "Oh, look at the twin boys!" I would look down in shame and embarrassment.  I hated looking like Brother.

At home when I played school with my stuffed animals, I would put on a pair of Mom's high heels and balance a towel on my head to pretend I had long hair like Mrs. Sorenson.  While I taught my class, the towel would slowly start to slip off my head.  Time and time again I would patiently reach up and readjust my pretend long hair. 

- - -

When Halloween came around that year, Mom dressed me and Brother up as movie stars.  In dresses, make-up and long-haired wigs, Brother and I clopped from house to house in Mom's high heels carrying orange plastic pumpkins and gathering our sugary treats. 

I absolutely loved the feeling of long hair on my shoulders. 

- - -

One evening Mom picked me and Brother up from Marion's house, and we went out to the stables.  When we got there, Fred was standing at the tack shed.  The lock on the door had been broken, and the saddles were gone.

Fred called the police and filed a report, then he called his insurance company and reported the theft.

Later that afternoon the saddles were returned to the tack shed by the guy whom Mom and Fred had hired to steal them.

A few days later Fred and Mom received a check in the mail from the insurance company for the saddles.

- - -

Mom knew her marriage was coming to an end and she would have to start working again.  Bound and determined not to go back to work as a low-paid secretary, Mom decided to make a career change. 

She decided to go to school to become an over-the-road truck driver.

Shortly after Mom made her decision, she started going to school at night to learn how to drive a semi.

After several weeks of training, Mom completed the course and successfully passed the driver's test and received her commercial driver's license.

- - -

When I turned nine in March, Fred and Mom threw me an amazing birthday party with ponies, cotton candy and popcorn in the cul-de-sac where Marion lived.  Fred even brought Sunshine.  I was very happy and proud to show my friends my sweet little pony that they had heard so much about.

One of the birthday presents I received that day was a Baby Beans Doll.  I stared at her yellow pajamas with white pompoms that cascaded down the front.  On her head was a yellow bonnet with white lace that perfectly framed her sweet, little plastic face.

As I looked at her blue eyes and smiling mouth, I fell instantly in love.  I clutched Baby Beans lovingly to my chest and inhaled her plasticky scent.

I never questioned why I got that wonderful birthday party considering how cruel Fred and Mom were to me.  I was very happy for the rare love and attention I received that day.

After my party, Mom picked me and Brother up, and we went to the stables to feed and water the horses.  Mom took a picture of me and Brother sitting on the railing of Jazon's pen.  

I sat on the fence in my red dress, blue tennis shoes and white socks smiling happily at the camera.

It was my birthday!  I felt like a superstar!

- - -

In June school let out for the summer.  On the last day of school, we once again participated in field day.  

That summer Brother and I spent a lot of time at Marion's house during the week playing with her children while Mom was at the stables and Fred worked. 

Sometimes Marion opened the hatchback on her little yellow Maverick, and we all piled into her car, and she drove us to the park.  I loved going to the park. 

At the end of the afternoon, hungry and tired, we once again got in Marion's car and went back to her house for an afternoon snack. 

Sometimes Marion took us to the movies, and we saw Pippi Longstocking, the Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof.  I loved going to the movies and sat transfixed in my seat as I stared at the screen.

In the evening Mom picked us up and took us to the stables.

- - -

On the weekends Brother and I continued to go to work with Fred and his father while Mom went to the stables and trained Quazar.

Sometimes Mom let me stay home, and we would go to  Griffith Park or Whittier Narrows and go riding.  Sunshine's behavior had not improved, and she continued to get us in trouble on our rides.

- - -

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART SEVEN

Some Saturdays Fred didn't have to work, so after Brother and I woke up, we watched cartoons, Mighty Mouse, Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, Bugs Bunny, Magilla Gorilla and Quick Draw McGraw.   

My favorite show was Gumby and Poky.  Although I enjoyed watching their wild adventures, I never understood why Gumby didn’t ride Poky everywhere they went.  I mean, Poky was a horse, and horses are meant to be ridden.  Poor Gumby just didn't get it.

- - -

Before school started Mom began packing for me and Brother's annual two-week trip to Wisconsin to visit Dad and Stepmother.   

Dad and Stepmother lived in Peshtigo, a small town in Northern Wisconsin, where Brother and I were born. 

Brother and I loved Dad and Stepmother very much, and we were always very excited to go see them.

"We're going to see Dad!  We're going to see Dad!" Brother and I yelled excitedly as we ran around the house. 

"GoddamnIT, SHUT UP, YOU TWO!  Your dad is a horrible father!" Mom yelled as she looked at us with hate-filled eyes.

Mom hated Dad and did not like it when we talked about him. 

Although I didn't like it when she said bad things about Dad, I knew to keep silent because I didn't want to get hit. 

Keeping my excitement to myself, I helped Mom pack for our trip.  

Later that day I wrote Mom little notes telling her how much I loved her and left them in her room for her to read in case she missed me while I was gone.

- - -

The next day Mom finished packing, and we went to the airport.

When Mom parked the car, she grabbed our suitcases and walked us to our gate.  After giving Mom a hug, Brother and I followed the stewardess onto the airplane.

As we boarded the plane, I looked around in nervous excitement.  I couldn't believe we were going to fly on an airplane all by ourselves!  And best of all, at the end of the flight we would see Dad and Stepmother! 

- -  -

After we landed in Wisconsin, I could hardly sit still in my impatience to get off the plane and see Dad and Stepmother. 

As we followed the stewardess off the plane, I saw Dad and Stepmother waiting for us at the gate. 

Brother and I excitedly ran into their warm and loving arms for a big hug.  I loved my handsome Dad with his black hair, black goatee and dark brown eyes.  I always felt safe and protected when I was with him.

Stepmother was a schoolteacher and did not work in the summer, so she had plenty of time to spend with us.  She loved kids and always lavished me and Brother with lots of love and attention.  In her kind and caring arms I would often snuggle feeling the safety and security I so desperately craved.  

Stepmother had honey blond hair, blue eyes and wore glasses.  I thought Stepmother looked very pretty in her glasses, and I couldn't wait to grow up and wear glasses just like her.

Although Dad and Stepmother loved kids, they did not have any of their own yet. 

Brother and I spent many happy hours with Stepmother that summer picnicking and swimming at the local beaches and playing with our cousins and friends.  On the weekends Dad came to the beach with us and swam and played with me and Brother.

That summer Stepmother also took us to the local museums that detailed the history of our small logging town.  One of my favorite museums was the Peshtigo Fire Museum.  The fire museum housed artifacts and old pictures of the devastation caused by the Peshtigo fire that started the same day as the Chicago fire, October 8, 1871.   The Peshtigo fire was the deadliest wildfire in American history, much bigger than the Chicago fire, and burned over 1,000,000 acres and killed an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 people.

- - -

Several times during my visit, Grandma, Mom's mom, picked me up on her motorcycle from Dad's house and took me back to her house for a visit.

I always looked forward to spending time with her because Grandma and I had a lot in common.  We both loved to eat. 

When I heard Grandma's motorcycle roaring up the driveway, I ran outside to greet her.  As soon as Grandma saw me, she broke out into a big smile. 

After Grandma parked her bike, she took off her helmet and leather jacket and opened her arms wide for a hug.  As I wrapped my arms around Grandma's waist, I happily inhaled her scent.  Grandma smelled just like fresh air and Listerine. 

Grandma had steel gray hair, brown eyes and a beautiful smile.  She was tall and large boned and handled her Kawasaki motorcycle with ease.

After Grandma hugged me, she came into the house and visited with Stepmother.

When it was time to go, I gave Stepmother a hug and followed Grandma outside.

Before we got on her motorcycle, Grandma carefully wound a long scarf around my neck because she didn't want me to get a chill.  Then she put on my helmet.  I climbed on the motorcycle behind Grandma and wrapped my arms around her waist, and off we went. 

Our first stop was to the A&W root beer stand where we ate delicious hamburgers and onion rings and drank sweet, syrupy root beer out of frosty, glass mugs.   Afterwards we went to one of our favorite restaurants, Mickey Lou's, and ate hot fudge sundaes.

When we were done eating, Grandma drove us to her house.  Grandma and Grandpa lived in the country in nearby Marinette on the Peshtigo River.  

Grandma had a beautiful yard filled with colorful flowers, plants and trees.  In the middle of the yard was a big tree with a pretty wooden bench built around it for people to sit on and watch the river as it lazily floated by. 

Many birds flew around Grandma's yard singing their merry songs and eating from the bird feeders.  Rabbits, squirrels and other small animals roamed around the property.  Sometimes deer walked through her yard.  One time Grandma even had a bear in her front yard that was trying to get into the bird feeder!

Before we went in the house, Grandma and I went to Grandpa's shop.  Grandpa was restoring a Model T, and he proudly showed me what he had done so far.

After we left Grandpa's shop, Grandma and I went in the house.  As soon as Grandma opened the door, we were greeted by the intoxicating aroma of pot roast with carrots and potatoes that was cooking in the oven.  My mouth started to water at the thought of that yummy dinner that we would soon be eating.

Grandma opened the oven and checked on the pot roast, then she went to the cookie jar and got us some cookies to eat.

While I ate my cookies, I stood at the big window in the kitchen and looked out at the yard.  Grandma's house was very peaceful, and I always enjoyed going there.

- - -

Although I enjoyed visiting Grandma, one thing she always wanted to do when I got to her house was go fishing.  I did not like fishing, but I never told Grandma because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings. 

That afternoon Grandma gathered up all of the fishing gear, and we got in her little metal boat.  Grandma rowed us out into the middle of the river, and she dropped the anchor.  Then she pulled out a bucket of slimy, slithering worms to use as bait.  When I saw those worms, I squealed in fright and refused to touch them. 

Sighing in frustration, Grandma grabbed a worm and impaled it onto the hook at the end of my fishing pole.  Then she got her pole ready.

Grandma said we had to be real quiet and sit very still because if the fish heard us talking or saw the boat moving around, they would get scared and swim away.   

After we threw our lines into the water, we sat silently staring at the river waiting for a fish to bite.  Soon I got tired of staring at the water and sitting still, and I started fidgeting and talking to Grandma.  Grandma admonished me to sit still and be quiet.

I tried to mind Grandma, but I was hot and bored, and soon I started fidgeting and talking.  Once again Grandma asked me to sit still.  After a little while I again started fidgeting and talking.  Grandma finally became frustrated and rowed us back to shore. 

After we got out of the boat, I breathed a sigh of relief glad that we were done.  I really did not like fishing.

- - -

At dinnertime, we all sat down at Grandma's little table in front of the kitchen window.  While we ate, we watched the squirrels and rabbits running around the yard and playing with each other.  For dessert Grandma made one of her favorite treats, smooshed up strawberries with lots of sugar.

When dinner was over and the kitchen had been cleaned up, we went into the living room and watched Hee Haw, the Barbara Mandrell Variety Show and The Lawrence Welk Show.  When Lawrence Welk was over, it was time for bed.       

Before we went to bed, Grandma went into the bathroom to brush her teeth and gargle with Listerene. 

I slept with Grandma in one of the twin beds in her room. Grandpa slept in the spare room.

Grandma had just redecorated her bedroom, and it was beautiful.  On the windows were frilly white and lilac colored curtains.  Soft white rugs were strewn around the carpet.  The twin beds were covered in white chenille bedspreads with several lilac pillows resting against the headboards.  On each bed was a stuffed Persian cat with a lilac bow wrapped around its neck.  With their long, white fur and blue marble eyes, the cats perfectly set off Grandma's beautiful bedroom.

Grandma’s room looked like a fairy tale princess lived there, and I wished I had a room like that at my house. 

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 6

Mom and Fred were not married very long before they started fighting.  Brother and I often hid in his room and watched our favorite TV shows such as Dragnet, Emergency!, Marcus Welby, MD and Adam-12 on his little black-and-white TV while they fought.  

When there was nothing left to watch on the three TV channels, Brother would turn the dial to UHF and flip through the fuzzy channels looking for another one of our favorite shows, Davey and Goliath.  

- - -

That summer Brother and I continued to go to work with Fred and his father on the weekends to the various events they worked at while Mom was at the stables.

If it wasn't dark when we got home, Brother and I played outside with the kids in the neighborhood and rode our bikes. 

Brother had a friend across the street named David whom he played with.  Brother and David frequently got in to arguments while they played.  Whenever Brother talked about David, he angrily called him an Egghead.

Brother seemed to be getting angrier and angrier as time went on.  He often found fault with his friends and would stop playing with them.  

Unfortunately, I did not escape Brother's growing anger.  I was beginning to fear his cruel fists and the hurtful names he called me, and I tried to keep away from him as much as I could. 

It was around this time that Brother started getting heavy nose bleeds several times during the week.  When his nose would start to bleed, Brother would start sobbing and moaning, and Mom would go into his room to try to comfort him.

- - -

I played with a little girl named Lois who was my age and lived two doors down from me.  Lois had a little black dog named Chaos, and we would often play with him in her yard. 

Across the street lived twin girls named Michelle and Mashent.  I was fascinated by these beautiful little twins, and I would often go to their house to play with them.  Every time I saw them, I called them  MichelleMashent until one day their mother corrected me and said their names were Michelle AND Mashent.  I was very surprised to learn they had separate names.

When there was no one to play with, I played with my roller skates that I got for Christmas.  

I had quickly learned that roller skating with one skate on was easier than two after I lost my balance several times, fell down and bloodied my hands and knees when I first got my skates.

After I got out my skate out of the garage, I put my foot in the leather boot and laced up the laces, and I was ready to go.  With a skate on my left foot and a tennis shoe on my right foot, hopping and running with my right foot and furiously pumping my arms, I soon gained speed.

Soon the wind was whipping through my hair, and adrenaline was flowing through my body.  As I skated, I pictured my neighbors lining both sides of the street clapping and cheering me on as I flew past them.

Once I got to the end of the block, I turned around and came back.  Over and over I skated up and down our street until I was sweaty and tired.  

I loved my roller skates! 

- - -

When it got dark, the streetlights came on, and our friends had to go home.  Eventually Brother and I got bored being outside alone and went in the house.

- - -

Several times that summer Sunshine and I went trail riding with Mom.  Sunshine continued to get us in to trouble on those rides despite my silent prayers.  Time and time again during those rides Sunshine would feel the sting of Mom's whip on her butt, and off she would go running and bucking down the trail with me on her back screaming in terror.

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 5

Every Sunday evening Brother and I would excitedly gather in front of the TV in Mom and Fred's room to watch two of our favorite shows, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom and the Wonderful World of Disney movie of the week.

I loved to watch the wild animals showcased each week by the host, Marlin Perkins, on Mutual of Omaha.  But my favorite was the Disney movie of the week. 

When Mutual of Omaha was over, the Disney movie of the week started.  My heart started to beat with excitement and anticipation when the fairy tale Disney castle appeared on the TV screen with colorful fireworks exploding behind it.  Soon Tinkerbell appeared on the screen flying in graceful circles, waving her little wand and sprinkling magic fairy dust on the castle. 

An hour and a half later, the movie was over, and Brother and I headed to bed.

- - -

 The school year flew by, and soon it was time for summer break.  On the last day of school, all of the children participated in field day.  Field day was a fun-filled day of games, races and good food to eat.  I happily participated in all of the activities and enjoyed eating the sweet treats. 

Before we left, Mrs. Gosney stood at the classroom door and gave each student a warm hug.

I couldn't wait to start my summer vacation!

 - - -

 Shortly after school let out, Mom told us that some of her friends and their kids were coming for a visit on the weekend, and they were going to stay at our house.  I was very excited to meet the kids and play with them.  And best of all, we were going to go to Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park near our house, on Saturday!

Friday Mom and I spent the day cleaning the house.  A bed with blankets and pillows was arranged on the small dining room floor for the kids to sleep on.

When Mom's friends arrived at our house that evening, we went to eat at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.  After we got home, Brother and I took our new friends outside and played while the adults sat in the living room and talked. 

At bedtime we crawled into our makeshift bed on the dining room floor while the adults sat in the living room a few feet away talking.  Being a light sleeper, I restlessly moved around trying to go to sleep over the sound of their voices.

"Morrene!  If you do not go to sleep, you will have to go to your room.  Now, stop moving around!" said Fred.

Soon the excitement of the day caught up with me, and I drifted off to sleep.  The next thing I knew, I was abruptly awakened when Fred roughly grabbed my arm, jerked me to my feet and dragged me down the hallway to my room and threw me in bed.  I cried myself to sleep.  I had no idea what I had done this time to make him mad.

The next morning we got up early and ate breakfast at a restaurant near our house.  Afterwards we went to Knott's Berry Farm and spent an enjoyable day riding the many rides, eating the delicious park food and walking through the western-themed exhibits.

Before we left, we ate a delicious dinner of fried chicken, corn and mashed potatoes and gravy followed by homemade pie and ice cream at their famous fried chicken restaurant. 

At the end of the day, happy and exhausted, we all went back to our house.  When it was time for us to go to bed, once again we crawled into our bed of pillows and blankets on the dining room floor.  Thankfully I fell fast asleep after the long and tiring day.

- - -

During the week, Mom dropped me and Brother off at Marion's house before she went to the stables, and we spent many happy hours playing with LuAnn, Cheryl, Brian and the neighbor kids. 

Marion had a metal swing set in her back yard that I loved to play on.  My favorite was the swings.  After I sat down on the swing, I would start pumping my legs as fast as I could, and in no time at all I would be flying high in the air.  Each time I swung forward, the back leg of the set lifted out of the ground, and when I leaned back, the back leg back crashed to the ground and the front leg lifted up.   

- - -

LuAnn and Cheryl were in the Girl Scouts, and Marion was the Scout leader.  She often held meetings at her house in the afternoons on the days the Scouts met.  If Brother and I were still at her house when she had a meeting, Marion would kindly include me, and I got to make arts and crafts with the other girls.    

In the evening Mom picked us up, and off we went to the stables.

- - -

At the stables one of Fred’s little ponies named Dolly was pregnant and was soon to give birth.  Day by day she got bigger and bigger.  Mom kept a close eye on her looking for any signs that she was close to going in to labor. 

One evening Mom picked me and Brother up from Marion’s house after school, and we hurried back to the stables.  Mom told us she thought Dolly was going to give birth that evening.  I was very excited to meet her baby and play with it!

When we got to the stables, Brother ran off to play, and Mom and I went into Dolly’s stall.  Dolly was laying down on her side and breathing heavily.  While Mom checked Dolly’s backside, I sat next to her and petted her head and told her what a good girl she was.

As the sun went down, I started to shiver in the cool air, and my belly growled in hunger.  It was well past dinnertime, and I hadn’t eaten since my afternoon snack at Marion’s house.

After a while, Brother's friends went home, and he came to Dolly's stall and started begging Mom for food.  Fred was working that evening, so we were at the stables alone. 

As usual Brother was quite vocal about his need for food. Finally he wore Mom down, and she took us to McDonald's.  As soon as Brother and I got our food, we hungrily opened our hamburgers and started to eat.  

When we got back to the stables, Dolly had given birth.  Lying next to Dolly was an unopened sac containing her little foal.  When Mom saw the unopened sac, she ran to Dolly’s pen and frantically tore it open.  Mom and I started to cry when we saw the little foal’s lifeless body. 

Although my stomach was full, I felt deep shame and guilt that Brother and I had asked Mom to go get us food.  If I had waited a little bit longer, Dolly’s baby would be alive.

I stood there silently while Mom cleaned Dolly up and removed the foal from her pen.  Afterwards I went into the pen and hugged Dolly's little face and told her how sorry I was that her baby had died.

To be continued…..

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 4

My small room at our house in Anaheim absolutely terrified me.  When I went to bed, I would lay frozen in fear as I pictured a frightening man flying through the window over my bed with an axe in his hand, and he was going to kill me.  Night after night that scene played out in my head until I felt the sweet relief of sleep overtake me.  

Several times during the week I would be awakened late at night from terrifying nightmares.  With my heart pounding in my chest and my body paralyzed with fear, I lay curled up in a ball as I pictured the walls of my room getting bigger and bigger while I got smaller and smaller.

One night I woke up late at night and had to go to the bathroom.  When I got out of bed to walk to the bathroom, my legs refused to move.  For some reason, I was absolutely terrified to leave my bedroom.  Finally, unable to ignore my aching bladder, I squatted down and peed on the floor.

Some mornings Mom would laughingly tell me that she had found me wandering around the house sleepwalking.  One time, late at night, I walked past her and Fred in my underwear while they watched TV in the living room.   When Mom asked where I was going, I told her I was going outside.  Mom thought that was very funny.

- - -

 

My second grade teacher was a very kind lady named Mrs. Gosney.  Mrs. Gosney had Brother in her class the year before, and she was very happy to be teaching me this year.   

As in first grade, I still found it difficult to stay focused and complete my assignments.  Mrs. Gosney was always very kind and patient with me, and she would often sit next to me and help me finish my work.

I loved and trusted Mrs. Gosney and did my best to work hard for her.

- - -

 

My favorite part of school was recess.  I spent most of my recess on the monkey bars swinging hand over hand down the bars going from one end to the other.  When my arms got tired, I would loop my knees over the bars and hang upside down for a while.

Playing on the monkey bars was a lot of fun, but it caused painful blisters to form on the palms of my hands.  Most of the time I was able to ignore the pain and continue to play, but when the blisters broke open, the skin peeled back, and my palms became raw and painful.  When that happened, I was forced to take a break until they healed.

- - -

In math class we were learning to count by two.  I practiced and practiced and practiced.  One day when Mom, Fred, Brother and I were riding in the car, I started trying to count by two.  I sat in the back seat and recited my numbers out loud often making mistakes.  

Fred reached back and roughly pulled me over the seat to the front and sat me on his lap. 

"Now, starting counting!" he said.

Every time I made a mistake, Fred spanked me.  It did not take me long to learn to count by two with Fred's specialized tutoring.  By the time I could count by two perfectly, I was sobbing so hard I could hardly breathe.

- - -

During the school year Mrs. Gosney and the other second grade teachers planned various field trips for us to go on.  Those trips were always a nice break from the everyday monotony of school, and I always looked forward to boarding the school bus for our exciting adventure of the day.

When I started to get upset at the bad things that were happening to me at home, Mom would do something nice for me.  Today she was going with us on our field trip to the Japanese Village and Deer Park.

Mom had never been on a field trip with me before, and I was very excited to show my beautiful and smart mom off to my classmates.  I felt very loved and special that day.

The morning we were to leave for the trip was sunny and beautiful.  Mrs. Gosney had the door to the classroom open to welcome the parents that were coming along. 

While we waited, Mrs. Gosney took out flashcards, and each student read aloud the word on the card.

When I saw Mom walking up to the class, I was excited to see her, and my heart swelled with pride.  I couldn't believe how lucky I was that she decided to go on the field trip with me!

Before we got on the bus, each parent was assigned a small group of children to watch over for the day.

After we boarded the bus, I sat next to Mom in the seat.  I kept a close eye on Mom and listened jealously when my friends talked to her.  Although I was happy Mom came with me on the trip, I wanted her all to myself.

When we got to the park, we separated into groups.  We spent the day walking through the beautifully-designed Zen gardens with brightly colored buildings, lanterns, waterfalls and ponds and looking at the beautiful Geisha women that worked at the park.  My favorite part of the day was when we got to feed the deer that roamed freely throughout the park. 

Later in the afternoon we gathered in a grassy area and ate the sandwiches and cookies that we had brought from home.

After lunch we again boarded the bus to go back to school.

That was the only field trip Mom ever went on with me, and that was a memory I cherished for many years.

- - -

After Mom bought Quazar, we spent more time at the stables, often staying late into the evening, while she broke him to ride. 

In the evenings Mom picked us up from Marion's house, and we went to the stables.  Before Mom went to work with Quazar, she put Sunshine's bridle on, and I rode her around the stables.

When I was done riding, I played in the dirt and made little mud pies.  

Soon dinnertime passed and the sun went down and it got cold out.  My stomach growled with hunger, and I started to shiver.  Brother was off playing with his friends, so I could not count on him to beg Mom for food.  I was afraid to bother Mom when she was working with Quazar, because I knew she would get very angry.

A couple of hours later Mom got hungry and left me and Brother at the stables and went to go get us something to eat.   

When she came back, she handed me and Brother each a little red-and-white striped box full of chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy and coleslaw from Kentucky Fried Chicken. 

I sat down on a bench and hungrily opened my box of food and grabbed a piece of chicken.  As I sank my teeth into the juicy and flavorful meat, I moaned in happiness.  I loved Kentucky Fried Chicken!

To be continued…

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 3

One weekend Fred and his father were hired to work a large carnival, and Mom had to go along to help.  

Early Saturday morning Mom, Fred, Brother and I left our house and piled in to Fred's truck.  Our first stop was to the stables to load the ponies and mules in to horse trailers and then on to Long Beach to pick up the rest of the equipment and the workers.  Then off we went to the carnival. 

After the popcorn and candy machines had been set up, the animals harnessed to the wagons and ready to go, Mom wearily crawled in to Fred's truck to take a nap.  Her chronic insomnia had not improved very much, and she was often exhausted and tried to sleep whenever she could.

Brother and I were left to wander around the carnival alone as usual.    

As I walked around the carnival, I slowly weaved my way through the amusement rides, the ferris wheel, the merry-go-round, the Tilt-A-Whirl and the roller coaster.  I stopped often to watch the kids on the rides screaming with laughter.  I stood there silently wishing I had money to buy a ticket so I could join them. 

Soon the intoxicating aroma of fried food, hamburgers, hot dogs, popcorn and corn dogs coming from the food trucks caught my attention, and my growling stomach painfully reminded me that I hadn't eaten breakfast that morning in Mom and Fred's haste to leave the house. 

Suddenly I spotted a table laden with cupcakes, brownies, cookies and other baked goods.  I absolutely loved sweets, and my mouth watered at the thought of sinking my teeth into one of those yummy treats.

As I stood there staring at the food, the lady behind the table asked me if I would like to buy something.  Everything cost 15 cents.

"Let me go ask my Mom for some money," I said.

Slowly I walked back to the truck where Mom was sleeping trying to figure out a way to ask for money without getting yelled at.  I knew she would be very angry if I woke her from her nap, but I was getting light headed from hunger and decided to take a chance. 

When I got to the truck, I carefully opened the door.  Mom was laying stretched out on the bench seat sleeping soundly.

"Mom, can I please have 15 cents so I can get something to eat?  I'm hungry," I asked in a timid voice.

Mom groggily opened her eyes.  When she saw me, anger distorted her features.

"Goddamn it, get out of here and let me sleep!" she yelled.

I closed the truck door and walked away.

Now what was I going to do?  I couldn't ask Fred because if I bothered him while he was working, I knew I would get in big trouble later on.

I walked back to the table of baked goods and told the lady that my mom didn't have 15 cents. 

"If you can get a penny, I will let you have a cupcake."

I stared at the lady in humiliation.  I had no idea where I would get a penny. 

"Can I please have something to eat?  I'm really hungry," I said as I looked down in shame.  

After a moment, the lady reached over and handed me a cupcake.  After thanking her, I walked away gratefully eating my sweet treat.

At the end of the day, the animals and equipment were packed up, and Brother and I piled into the bed of one of the pickup trucks with the workers. 

Cold and tired, I curled up under an old tarp for warmth and took a nap during the long and windy ride on the freeway back to the stables to drop off the animals.     

- - -

I never told Mom about that cupcake because she would have been furious.  Mom did not like beggars.  At all.

Since Mom didn't like to cook, Brother and I did not get fed regular meals, and we were often hungry.  When we would ask Mom for something to eat, her usual response was a vague, "Later."   I patiently tried to wait until Mom got hungry so we could eat.  I didn't want to make her mad.

Brother was not as patient as I was, and his cries for food got louder and louder and more persistent, and that made Mom very angry.

Turning to Brother, Mom yelled, “GODDAMNIT, STOP YOUR FUCKING BEGGING!  What do you want from me?  I owe you NOTHING!"  

Not deterred by Mom's anger, Brother continued to cry for food.  Finally in anger and frustration, Mom started slapping Brother repeatedly in the head until he was sobbing hysterically.

Hiccuping and trying to catch his breath, with tears streaming down his cheeks, Brother continued to cry for food.

"Oh, JESUS CHRIST!" Mom yelled, and she finally went and got us something to eat.   

- - -

Brother and I were babysat by a very kind and loving woman named Marion Cox.  Marion was a petite strawberry blond and wore glasses.  She was a stay-at-home mom to her three children, LuAnn, Cheryl and Brian.  We rarely saw her husband, David, since he worked during the day, but he was always kind to me and Brother when we did see him. 

Brother and I spent a lot of time at Marion's house playing with her children during the school year and summer in the cul-de-sac where she lived.  I was learning not to trust the adults around me, but I loved and trusted Marion. 

After school Brother and I walked to Marion's house.  Upon entering her house, often we would be greeted by the smell of freshly baked bread.  My mouth watered at the thought of that soft, warm piece of bread with butter on it that would be waiting for me at the kitchen table.

To be continued….

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 2

After Mom and Fred got married, I started riding one of Fred's Shetland ponies named Sunshine.  

Sunshine had brown hair, blond mane and tail and soft black eyes.  I absolutely adored her.  I loved to wrap my arms around her head, rest my cheek against hers and inhale her sweet horsey smell.   I thought of Sunshine constantly.  

In the evenings after the horses had been fed and watered,  Mom would put Sunshine’s bridle on, and I would hop on her bare back and ride her around the stables. 

Sunshine was very headstrong and stubborn and would rear if she didn't want to go in the direction I wanted.  I quickly learned to let her take the lead and go where she wanted after she bucked me off one day and ran back to her pen. 

- - -

Sometimes Mom let me stay home on the weekend, and she would trailer our horses to Griffith Park or Whittier Narrows to go horseback riding on the miles and miles of beautiful trails.

After Mom saddled up Sunshine, I put my foot in the stirrup, threw my leg over her back and settled in to my little black saddle.  When Mom was done saddling up Jazon, off we went on our ride. 

As I rode next to Mom and her horse in the soft dirt of the trail, I listened to the gentle creaking of the saddles and felt the sun warm on my face, happiness washed over me as it usually did when I was riding.

Unfortunately, the peace didn't last long because Sunshine always got us in to trouble on those rides.

Mom had no patience for Sunshine's stubborn and willful nature.  Many times during our trail rides Sunshine would plant her feet and refuse to walk if she didn't want to go in the direction Mom wanted to go.

With fear coursing throughout my body and saying silent prayers to Sunshine to be a good girl and walk in the direction Mom wanted to go, I would frantically kick her sides to make her move her legs.  Sunshine paid absolutely no attention to my frantic kicks.  Or my silent prayers.

"Hang on, Morrene!" Mom would say as she got out her whip.

WHAP! Mom's whip would land on Sunshine's butt.  Sunshine would take off down the trail running and bucking with me clinging to her back screaming in terror.  Eventually I would get her slowed down, and Mom and I continued on our ride.

Riding through streams on the trail always proved a problem for Sunshine, because she couldn't resist laying down in the water to cool off.

Midway through the stream, Sunshine's legs would start to buckle.  

When Mom saw what Sunshine was doing, she would yell, "Morrene!  Keep her moving!"

With my heart thudding fearfully in my chest, and once again saying silent prayers to Sunshine to be a good girl, I frantically kicked her sides to keep her walking.

As usual Sunshine paid no attention to my frantic kicks, and once again she felt the sting of Mom's whip on her butt, and off she would go running and bucking down the trail with me on her back screaming in terror.

Time and time those scenes were repeated throughout our ride.  Poor Sunshine never seemed to learn her lesson.

- - -

After Mom married Fred, she decided that she wanted to cut my hair short again.  My hair had just started to grow out, and I loved the feel of it on my shoulders.  I finally looked like a girl and was no longer mistaken for a boy.

After much coaxing from Mom, I finally agreed to let her cut my hair.  I loved and trusted my beautiful mom, and I didn't want to disappoint her.

Sitting on a couple of phone books piled on a chair in the  kitchen, I watched as long slices of my hair slowly drifted to the floor around me while Mom snipped away. 

After Mom was done cutting my hair, she took out a pair of old thinning shears and quickly made cuts through my hair to thin it out.  Tears were brought to my eyes when pieces of my hair got yanked out after getting caught in the dull shears.

When Mom was done, I went to look at my new haircut.   

As I stood in front of the mirror in Brother's hand-me-down clothes, I stared in sadness at my short brown bangs and hair that ended just below my ears.    

Once again I looked just like a boy. 

To be continued…

FRED, THE THIRD HUSBAND, PART 1

Shortly after I started second grade, I came home from school one day and saw a man I did not know sitting across from Mom in a living room chair. 

Mom looked at me and said, "This is Fred, and we're getting married."  

Mom was dressed in a bright red corduroy pantsuit with  matching short jacket and two skinny white belts encircling her slim waist.  With false eyelashes enhancing her brown eyes, black teased hair and wig, high cheekbones and beautiful smile, Mom was a stunning woman.  

Excited to meet Fred, I sat on the floor beside his chair and proceeded to tell him about my day at school.

"Morrene, be quiet!  Nobody wants to hear about that!" Mom said.

"Well, why do you think anyone wants to hear what you have to say?" I shot back.

When I saw the furious look on her face, I started to crawl away in panic.  I knew I was in trouble.  Fred grabbed my leg, dragged me back to him and spanked me, and I was sent to my room crying.

That was my first introduction to Mom's third husband.

- - -

When Mom met Fred, she was working as a secretary for Congressman Hanna, a job she hated.  Mom could barely make ends meet every month with her low salary and the money Dad gave her for child support.  The financial stress intensified Mom's chronic insomnia and made her crabby and short tempered with me and Brother. 

Mom was tired of struggling, and she felt Fred could give her the life she wanted, to not have to work, free of financial worries, someone to help watch me and Brother and plenty of time to ride her horse, Jazon. 

After Mom and Fred got married, she bought a young Arabian Thoroughbred stallion named Quazar, and she started breaking him to ride.

- - -

Brother and I frequently fought as siblings often do, and that made Mom very angry.  Although I tried hard not to complain when Brother hit me or called me cruel names, sometimes the injustice was too much, and I would cry out in pain and anger.  

"Goddamit, SHUT UP, YOU FUCKING LITTLE BASTARDS!"   Mom would yell furiously when she heard us arguing.

Sometimes I made the mistake of trying to tell Mom what Brother had done to me, which only made her more angry, and she would start slapping me and Brother in the head repeatedly until we were both crying hysterically.  

I didn't like it when Mom yelled and hit us.  I loved my beautiful mom very much and didn't like to see her upset, so I tried not to complain when Brother called me names and hit me.  

- - -

After Mom and Fred got married, Fred and his dog, a German Shepherd named Jasper, moved in to our little house in Anaheim.  Shortly after Fred moved in, Mom quit her job.  Happy to have time to herself to do as she pleased, Mom's mood seemed to improve. 

- - -

Fred and his father, Fred, Sr., a tall, elderly white haired man, owned a company in Long Beach called Taylor & Son Decorating that manufactured cheap plastic holiday wall decorations, Santa Clauses, reindeer, Easter bunnies and garland for Christmas trees.

Fred and his father also owned popcorn and cotton candy machines, several ponies, a couple of mules, a stagecoach and a wagon.   On weekends Fred, his father and the migrant Mexican workers who worked for them  loaded up the animals and equipment and worked at various carnivals, company picnics and other events around Southern California selling popcorn and cotton candy and giving people rides in the stagecoach and wagon that the mules and ponies pulled.

Many weekends Fred and his father worked at Calamigos Ranch, several acres of land located in the hills of Malibu. 

Mom often sent me and Brother to work with Fred and his father on the weekends, and we would wander around alone at the events.  

While we were gone, Mom was free to do as she pleased and often spent the day at the stables with her horses where she was the happiest. 

- - -

Fred was a tall man of medium build, dark thinning hair combed straight back, and he wore black rimmed glasses.  He had cruel dark eyes and an angry downturned mouth.  He did not live with us very long before we all felt the impact of his anger and cruelty.

Our little dog, Muffin, did not escape Fred's abuse after he stepped in a puddle of her urine on the living room carpet one day. 

"Bad dog!  BAD DOG! BAD DOG!  You do not piss on the floor!" Fred yelled at Muffin.

Poor Muffin looked up at Fred with terrified eyes as he towered over her, her little body shaking in fear and urinated on the floor where she was sitting.  Incensed, Fred grabbed her by the neck and roughly threw her in to the back yard.

Fred did not like me at all, often cruelly mocking me and laughing when I talked.   My very existence seemed to annoy him to no end.

Brother and Fred seemed to get along well, and Brother escaped his abuse.

- - -

 Mom didn't like to cook, so we often went out to eat in the evenings when we weren't at the stables. 

I absolutely loved eating in restaurants.  My usual dinner of choice at that time was a hot fudge sundae.  When I found out where we were going to eat, I would excitedly say, "I'm getting a hot fudge sundae!"

When Fred heard me, he would turn to me with hate in his eyes and angrily say, "Shut up!  Nobody asked what you wanted!"

Needless to say, it didn't take long until I was absolutely terrified of Fred. 

It was not long after Mom and Fred got married that they brought me into their bed and started sexually abusing me.  Child abuse was not talked about when I was growing up, and I had absolutely no idea that the uncomfortable things that they did to me were wrong.   Each time they brought me into their bed, I did my best to put it out of my head and not think about it. 

Mom frequently warned me and Brother not to talk about what went on at our house.  Brother and I were also taught from a young age to always obey and respect adults. 

So I kept silent.  That's just the way it was in our house. 

 TO BE CONTINUED…

THE GOOD GIRL, by Morrene Hauser

THE GOOD GIRL


"My child arrived just the other day,

he came in to the world in the usual way"....

 

When I was nine years old, Cat's in the Cradle was the number one song that was playing on the radio

a beautiful song written and sung by Harry Chapin

over and over and over I would hear that song

The year was 1974

 

Mom had just divorced her third husband

Goodbye, cruel, terrifying Fred.  You will not be missed

 

...."but there were planes to catch and bills to pay.

He learned to walk while I was away"....

 

"This is Emil.  We're getting married,  and we're moving back to Wisconsin where he lives" was my first introduction to the man who was soon to become Mom's fourth husband

I looked at Emil shyly turning away when he smiled at me

 

Off to Las Vegas Mom and Emil went to get married

And soon the packing began for yet another move

 

..."and he was talkin' 'fore I knew it.  And as he grew, he said, 'I'm gonna be like you, Dad.  You know, I'm gonna be just like you'"....

 

"Wait until you see my beautiful house.  And you will love riding in my new car," said Emil

Oh, the excitement of seeing that amazing house and riding in his new car!

 

Somehow in all of the packing my Baby Beans doll got lost

Running in frantic circles with tears flowing down my cheeks

I looked and looked and looked

where is my Baby Beans doll?

 

Baby Beans!  Where are you?  It's not nice to hide from mommy

Please come out.  I miss you

My baby was nowhere to be found

 

Crying out my heartbreak

with my arms aching to hold her again

between sobs I asked Mom if she saw my baby

 

"Oh, QUIT feeling sorry for yourself and stop that fucking crying!" was Mom's angry response to my pleas

I did my best to stop crying

for I didn't want to make Mom mad

 

Good girls don't cry

And I was a good girl

 

 

Baby Beans, momma loves you

I hope I see you again someday

 

Shortly after I started fourth grade, Emil came back to California to drive us to Wisconsin

Brother and I were taken out of school, and we began the long drive to his house

Goodbye my friends, my beloved pony Sunshine

My Baby Beans doll

And my babysitter I loved and trusted so much

 

Hugs and kisses

Goodbye, little one.  We love you and will miss you

"I love you, too," I said

 

..."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 

"'When you comin' home, Dad?' 

"'I don't know when.  We'll get together then, Son.  You know we'll have a good time then'"...

 

Over and over that song played on the radio during that long and boring drive to Wisconsin

 

"We need to find a place to live when we get to Wisconsin.  I have a roommate,"  Emil said

"Well, kick him out!" said Mom

Emil's roommate was not a "him," it was a "her"

He must have forgotten to tell Mom about his girlfriend who was living in his beautiful house and driving his new car. 

Brother and I were dropped off at Great Uncle's house in Illinois

while Mom and Emil drove to Wisconsin to find a place for us to live

 

Back in to the fourth grade I went for the second time, Brother the fifth

 

Standing in a group of girls at recess

trying to keep warm in the windy and cold winter in Illinois

was hard to do in my thin clothes from California

Thank God for the warm scarf I had crocheted and wrapped around my head

 

It was decided that I would share a bed with Great Uncle

which turned out to be a very bad idea

 

...."my son turned ten just the other day.  He said, 'Thanks for the ball, Dad.  Come on, let's play.  Can you teach me to throw?' 

"I said, 'Not today, I got a lot to do.'   He said, 'That's okay'"....

 

Night after night I lay paralyzed with fear in that lonely and frightening bed with Great Uncle

while his hands touched the most private parts of my body

 

The sadness, the fear.  The guilt.  The shame.  And the loneliness.  Always the overwhelming loneliness.  

You don't argue with adults! 

Do not be a tattletale! 

were words I heard over and over

 

And I was a good girl

And good girls kept their mouths shut

 

...."and he walked away, but his smile never dimmed.   He said, 'I'm gonna be just like him.  You know I'm gonna be just like him'"....

 

Mom and Emil found a place for us to live in Wisconsin

and back to Illinois they came

to pick Brother and I up

and we continued on our trip

to our new home

 

On the way back to Wisconsin we stayed in a motel

Awakening to strange sounds in the bed next to where Brother and I were sleeping, I looked over at Mom and Emil

"Harder, Honey, harder!" said Mom.

Mom and Emil were having sex in that bed next to us

 

Frozen in terror, hugging my knees to the sickness in my stomach

and trying not to look I kept quiet as a mouse as my pillow slowly became soaked with silent tears

I knew better than to let them know I was awake

 

For good little girls kept their mouths shut

And I was a good girl

 

...."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon. 

"'When you coming home, Dad?' 

"'Son, I don't know when. but we'll get together then.  You know we'll have a good time then'"....

 

The next morning I cried and cried and cried

"What the fuck's your problem now, Morrene?  You drive me nuts!" said Mom

Knowing I would be in trouble if I let Mom know what I saw them doing, I blurted out, "I'm afraid for Emil because he smokes."  That was all I could think of to say

 

Slowly Mom gathered me in her arms and said, "I know, Honey, I know."

Feeling the rare warmth of Mom's arms wrapped around me somehow did not take away the sickness in my stomach

 

But I was a good girl

And good girls kept their mouths shut

 

...."well, my son came home from college just the other day so much like a man I had to say, 'Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?' 

"He shook his head and said with a smile, 'What I'd really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys.  See you later, can I have them, please?'"....

 

In to the townhouse with green carpeting

we moved

And back in to the fourth grade I went for the third time and Brother the fifth

 

Sitting in class after school

staring at my math homework

Fighting tears of frustration

Why don't I know how to do my math?

Why am I so stupid?

 

Asking my teacher for help didn't work

feeling my body go numb with fear as I hear the impatience in her voice

I watch her mouth soundlessly move

for in my terror I had lost the ability to hear

 

I do not ask Mom and Emil for help

Because I might get hit

 

But I am a good girl

And good girls do not get hit

 

...."and the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon.  Little boy blue and the man on the moon.

 "'When you comin' home, Son?'

"'I don't know when.  We'll get together then, Dad.  You know we'll have a good time then.'

"I've long since retired, my son's moved away.  I called him up just the other day. 

"'I'd like to see you, if you don't mind.'

He said, 'I'd love to, Dad, if I could find the time.  You see my new job's a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it's sure nice talkin' to you, Dad.  It's been sure nice talkin' to you'
                                                   "And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me, he'd grown up just like me.    My boy was just like me."

 

All of these years later, at the age of 53, I still cannot listen to that song on the radio the whole way through without feeling the sadness, the depression and the fear of that      nine-year-old little girl that I once was.  And the gut wrenching loneliness.  Always the loneliness.

When the feelings become too frightening and start to overwhelm me, in desperation I reach over and turn off the radio.

 

Maybe someday I can listen to that song the whole way through

Just not now

Read More

THE BEST PART OF MY NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, by Morrene Hauser

Now, before I tell you the best part of my nervous breakdown, let me get something straight.  I am not and never would make light of a mental health disorder.  Never.   I suffered a nervous breakdown and was voluntarily hospitalized for one night in January of 2017.  I know the pain and the fear.  Trust me.

As I was saying...

Right before the first set of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse came to the surface of my memory, for a period of about three weeks, I laughed and laughed.  I laughed until I was bent over double leaning against a wall, tears rolling down my cheeks. 

Laying in bed at night trying to get some sleep was difficult.  Because I couldn't stop laughing.  Night after night I lay in bed curled in to a fetal position hugging my knees laughing silently in to my pillow until it was soaked with tears.  Now, that does not make for a good nights' rest.

When I wasn't laughing uncontrollably, I got the giggles.  Putting my hand over my mouth to try to stop them didn't work.  It just made me giggle all the harder.

Forget trying to talk to me about anything serious during this time.  It just didn't happen.  I couldn't have kept a straight face if my life depended on it.

Going to the grocery store, the gas station, a visit to my doctor's office was difficult.  Again, I just couldn't control myself.

I always tried to warn whomever I was talking to that I was a bit loopy because I was getting a dissolution and please forgive my laughter.  Of course, my words of warning came out in bits and spurts between bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

I completely stopped working during this time.  Working in court, a hearing, an arbitration or a deposition is serious business.  And it would not look good if I, as the court reporter, was in hysterics.  I simply didn't trust that I could conduct myself properly in a professional setting.

Being self-employed has a lot of perks.  But no work equals no pay.  And that hurt.

Anybody that knows me well knows how much I love to laugh.  But, really, this was a bit over the top.  Even for me.

But I never questioned why I felt the need to laugh so much.  I just accepted it and enjoyed the ride.  I thought since I was able to laugh that I was finally coming to terms with the difficulties in my personal life.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Sure, I had a few problems.  Nothing these broad shoulders couldn't handle. 

My marriage had ended.

Living with my soon-to-be ex-husband was very stressful, to say the least.

My children were hardly speaking to me they were so hurt and angry at me for leaving their father.

I was suffering extreme burnout professionally.

We had just moved to a smaller house, a decision that I alone made with no support from my husband.

Major financial stress.

And, unbeknownst to me, the repressed memories of my childhood abuse were coming at me like a speeding train that would ultimately knock me off my feet.

A year and a half later, as I write this article, I can finally put the laughter in to perspective.  I now realize how good it was for me.  I desperately needed the release, and laughter provided that. 

The events leading up to my breakdown and the year and a half it has taken me to finally feel "normal" have been eye opening, to say the least.

And that, Reader, is my firsthand account of the best part of my nervous breakdown.

AHHHH, SLEEP..., by Morrene Hauser

AHHHH, SLEEP...

I hope I am not out of line or going to embarrass myself (yet again) by sending you this letter.  You rarely answer me when I reach out to you for help, but I will try, and hopefully you will respond this time.

I am begging you, Sleep, to please read this letter to the end.  Throw it away, burn it, rip it up when you are done.  I'll leave that to you to decide.

I will try not to bother you after this letter, but I cannot promise.  I have no pride where you are concerned, Sleep.  None.

Please do not feel I am attacking you, but, Sleep, my friends tell me that you are sleeping with them.

"I slept with Sleep until 10:30 this morning!"

"Me and Sleep slept like a rock!" 

"I took the most wonderful nap with Sleep today!"

Smirks on their faces, laughter in their voices as they look in to my eyes knowing of my obsession for you.

And, yes, a little voice in me says go to hell! 

Go to hell.

But that doesn't last long.

I am a lover, not a fighter. 

And a forgiver.  Always a forgiver.

I awoke with another panic attack at 2:00 a.m. this morning, Sleep. 

Whose bed are you in at this very moment?  My heart pounds.  My mind races.

When I find out whose bed you have slept in, I feel as though somebody has punched me in the stomach.   

Sleep, the days on end where I have to go to bed at 6:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m. even on weekends because I know I need to get some rest before I wake up at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m. and be awake for the rest of the day.

Thinking of you

Loving you

Longing for you

Ahhhh, Sleep...    

The ruined weekends.

The ruined evenings.

Gritty, aching eyes, pounding headache, the mental and physical exhaustion that haunted my days while I tried to work and care for my babies when they were little.   I learned to lay in bed awake for hours with eyes closed so at least they would not hurt.  

Sleep, I am so very tired of disappointing my children because I am just too exhausted at times to do the things they want to do.

My kids would say, "Mom, you just don't want to spend time with me!"

"You don't care!"

Not true, my babies, not true I would say to myself all the while knowing they would not understand at their young age if I tried to explain. 

The missed soccer games.

The missed parties.

The missed school events.

The activities that I did do with my babies all the while concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other.

You can do this I say to myself.

Adrenalin was my drug of choice to get me through those long, difficult days.

The guilt, the shame, the depression, the sadness over disappointing my little ones.  I am so very sorry.

Guilt, guilt, guilt.  The gift that keeps on giving.

Ahhhh, Sleep...

The one-night stands we have.  I never know when you are coming, and that is the best!  I wake up the next morning, and there you are, Lover, sleeping next to me.  It would not be appropriate to write down on paper the pleasures we share in those moments.

The next morning I am endlessly happy!  The sun shines brighter, the birds sing clearer, my obsession for you goes away!

But, Sleep, you cruel, fickle, heartless lover,  the next night you again sleep with one of my friends.   And when I find out who you had slept with, I am crushed.   The depression and sleepless nights return in full force.  Once again, I lay awake in bed wide awake 

Thinking of you

Loving you

Longing for you

The sun does not shine, the birds no longer sing, my obsession for you continues.

Damn you, Sleep.  Damn you

And, Sleep, you must have adored my pregnant body, Lover, because you slept with me night after night.  And, oh, yes, the naps we would have!   

Perhaps you have forgotten. 

But, Lover, I have not. 

But as soon as my babies were born, Sleep, you left me without a good-bye.  Cruel, heartless, fickle Sleep. 

Even when my baby girl was born still, you left me. 

Thank you, Sleep, for at least staying in the hospital with me during that long, difficult birth. 

Again, I am a lover, not a fighter. 

And a forgiver.  Always a forgiver.   

So I forgave you yet again.  Again and again and again...

Ahhhh, Sleep...

please come back to me. 

I beg of you.

I will take one-night stands.  I will take anything.  Join me in the middle of the night, early morning after you have left another's bed. 

I don't care, Sleep.  I am that desperate for your love.

I have not slept with you in several weeks, Sleep.  And I am very, very tired.

Ahhhh, Sleep...

 I beg of you please come back to me.

Please come back.

THE SILENCE OF CHILD ABUSE THAT FOLLOWS IN TO ADULTHOOD, by morrene hauser

When I was a young child, I was taught from an early age to not talk about what went on at our house.  Ever.  For years I heard those words over and over.

"You do not talk about what goes on at our house!" said Mom.

kristina-flour-185592-unsplash.jpg

So that's what I did.  I kept most of those secrets throughout my adult life without even thinking about it.  That's just the way it was.  Silence!

Sure, I talked some about all of the husbands and boyfriends my mom had, the moves and the number of schools I went to.  Even when I did talk about the past, at times I felt some guilt.  I was giving away family secrets.

I did not talk about the sexual, physical or verbal abuse.  I repressed most of the horrible memories.  File the ugliness away in the back recesses of my mind.  Just don't think about it.

Until I turned 51.  That's when the floodgate of my sickening childhood started spilling out.  I will talk about my subsequent nervous breakdown when the memories surfaced.  Just not now.  Now I want to focus on silence.

When I started recovering my repressed memories, my friends tried to be very helpful.

"Just don't think about it!" 

"Don't think about the past.  Look to the future!" 

"Forget about it!" 

"So you're sitting home feeling sorry for yourself?" said an ex-friend.

As in my childhood, my friends were encouraging silence.  Ouch. 

For years I drank too much.  I suffered panic attacks at night.  I had severe insomnia.  Depression.  Anxiety.  And the list goes on.

All because I didn't think about it.  I couldn't think it.  It was just too frightening and painful.

My friends, don't you see?  In order to move forward with my future, I have to deal with my past.  Facing the grief, the horror and the sadness of my childhood has helped me immensely, as hard as it is.  For 18 years I was abused to varying degrees.  Now, that's a lot to process.  I will be dealing with that for the rest of my life.

Thankfully, I rarely feel a need to drink now.  The anxiety and depression that were my constant companions almost on a daily basis for years have significantly decreased.  Panic attacks at night are minimal to non-existent.

I still struggle with insomnia some nights.  But it's much better.

If you know of someone that is dealing with abuse, whether present, past or both, please do not tell them not to think about it.  That is one of the most painful and hurtful things that can be said to a survivor who has suffered in silence most of their life.

 

 

PANIC ATTACK, by Morrene Hauser

 "No!  NO!  NOOOOOOO!!!!" I scream as I am violently awoken from sleep

I sit bolt upright in terror

sheer terror

as I feel my heart jump in my chest,

gagging and choking

I struggle to breathe

feeling my heart travel up my throat

watching in horror as it flies out of my mouth

bounces onto the bed

and out the window

What just happened?

OH, MY GOD, WHAT JUST HAPPENED??

                 - - -

Panic Attacks...

...I am tired

So very, very tired

Please release me from your loving grip

Through the long, lonely nights of my childhood you tried to guard me from the many abusers in my young life,

the many states,

the many men,

the many houses,

the many lonely and scary rooms I slept in you watched over me,

mothering me,

worrying for me,

caring for me   

You woke me up at the least sign of danger 

You held your head in your hands and cried tears of grief and anger

body shaking with rage

at your helplessness to stop the horrors inflicted upon my young, innocent body

But it's okay, Beautiful Heart.  You have done nothing wrong.

Please do not be hard on yourself.  I know you did the best you could.

I thought you were my enemy when I recognized who you were.  But now I know you were one of my greatest allies.

But, please, it's time to let go. 

Your work is done.

REMEMBER!, by morrene hauser

In May of 2016 Mom and I took a road trip.  Unbeknownst to me, it would be the last trip we would ever take together.

With the combination of stress at home with the ending of my marriage, a recent move to a different house and the pressure of my career, this was a much needed vacation.  I was very excited to see Mom, laugh, relax and travel with her.

I arrived in Phoenix on a Thursday.  My flight was due to leave the next Sunday, ten days later.  Before I booked my flight, Mom repeatedly told me that to keep to our itinerary, we would need a full ten days for this trip, a trip that would take us from Phoenix up to Kearney, Nebraska and back down to Phoenix with stops in between.  It was usually hard for me to get away for that length of time; but with my kids getting older, being gone this long was doable.

I arrived in Phoenix, excited to see Mom and her little dog.   As usual it took me a little time to wind down from the three-hour time difference and the long flight from Ohio. 

Me and Mom took off from Phoenix, not stopping at her house as we usually would do.

We had a nice time talking and laughing.  Again, I was looking forward to the relaxation of this trip.  Mom loved to drive, and I enjoyed being a passenger relaxing and looking around at the beautiful countryside.

It took me a couple days to finally hear what Mom had been saying since I got there - which I hadn't been paying attention to in my excitement at seeing her - that we would have to travel fast to be back in Phoenix to meet my flight on Friday. 

"Wait, Friday?"

"Yes.  After I drop you off, I will have to do a lot of driving to meet Lamar," Mom said.

Mom's married boyfriend Lamar.

"Mom?  You repeatedly told me I needed to take a full TEN DAYS to make this trip with you, and that would take us to Sunday.  I confirmed this with you several times before I booked this trip."

"Oh, no!"  said Mom.  "You told me you couldn't take that much time off of work."

"Hello?  Again, we had this discussion several times.  You were very clear about the need for ten days.  I was very clear I could make the ten days work."

Oh, I get it I thought.  Typical Mom.  Throw away anything and anybody to be with a man. 

When I finally realized what was going on, that Mom was lying to me and making it look like my fault, which was a common theme in our relationship throughout my life, I turned to her and said, "You know, if you wanted to see Lamar and had limited time with him, you should have been honest with me,  and I would have understood."

Mom looked down in almost shame and said, "Okay."

I looked at her in surprise.  Shame?  No, that's not the mom I know. 

Looking at her I felt an uncomfortable jolt in my memory and a painful ache of intense discomfort in my body, and a little voice in my head that said Remember!   REMEMBER!

Remember what I thought? 

Remember the past! that voice said.

I certainly remembered Mom's physical abuse when I was a little girl, her constantly slapping me in the head when she got angry, which was often.

I certainly remembered her verbal abuse.

You little BASTARD!

I can't wait until you're an adult!

What do you WANT FROM ME??  I owe you NOTHING!

Someday you're going to be fat, and I'm going to be skinny!

You're not as pretty as you think!

Again, that little voice urgently said REMEMBER!  REMEMBER! 

I put it out of my head.  I couldn't make sense of it.

But I felt a sense of unease.

We never made it to Kearny, Nebraska because of bad weather.  Mom had warned me several times that if there was bad weather there that we would not go and take a chance.

I understood that.

Mom seemed relieved to be able to turn around and go back to Phoenix.

En route to Phoenix we stayed at a hotel.  The next morning I went to work out at the hotel gym before we left.

Before working out I went in to the bathroom, washed my face and brushed my teeth.  As I went to brush my teeth, I accidentally squeezed too much toothpaste out of the tube, and it landed in the sink.  I took my wet washcloth, wiped the sink out and threw the soiled cloth under the sink for the maid to wash.

Then I went to work out.

When I arrived back at the room, Mom was sitting on her bed and ready to go.  She  was looking at me with a strange look on her face,  a look that made me vaguely uncomfortable. 

Where have I seen that look on her face before I wondered.

"Morrene, what was in that washcloth you threw under the sink?"

"Toothpaste that I accidentally squirted into the sink."

"Well, I rinsed it out," said Mom.

RememberRememberREMEMBER!!!! that little voice screamed in my head.  

I looked at her with a sick feeling in my stomach.  I always remembered my dirty underwear pressed to her nose in the laundry room at the house in Mukwonago, Wisconsin where we lived for a short time when I was a teenager.  I knew without a doubt that Mom had smelled that washcloth and was imagining what was in it. 

Mom, what did you think was in that washcloth?  And more importantly, WHY would you wash it out?

I never asked her those questions.  I was sickened.  I did not want to hear what she had to say.

REMEMBER!  REMEMBER! REMEMBER! flashed through my head.  YOU MUST REMEMBER!!

We got back in the car and continued on our trek back to Phoenix.

We arrived in Phoenix on Thursday at the hotel I had reserved. 

"Where would you like to go for dinner?" I asked Mom.

"Well, I might as well leave now," she said.

I stared at her in surprise.  "Leave now"?

"What's the point in staying?" said Mom.

Well, to spend a little more time with your daughter I thought but didn't bother to ask.  I already knew she had no interest in staying. 

"I wanted you to meet my friend Dennis, another court reporter, who has been very helpful in finding me work when there was none in Ohio.  I told you he would be here working."

"Well, you don't need me here for that."

Mom had no interest in anyone but going to see her boyfriend.

The lying, selfish, narcissistic Mom I have always known was rearing her ugly head.  Again.

Men were more important to Mom than her kids.

They always had been.

Boyfriend to boyfriend, husband to husband.

Six men in my young life by the time I was nine.

Typical Mom.

"Okay, Mom, be careful on your trip.  And, yes, you can have gas money to fill up your car for the quarter tank of gas that was used."

It took me several months to finally acknowledge the sickening, perverted and horrifying memories that Remember! Remember! was screaming at me.

Mom and her husbands were abusive pedophiles.

I always wanted a mother.  Always.

And for that I forgave, minimized and repressed the horrendous abuse of my childhood.  I just couldn't face it.

At 51 years of age I could no longer look the other way. 

I finally remembered with sickening clarity, shock and grief the abuse I had suffered as a child.

THE TRIP, by Morrene Hauser

Right after school let out for the summer from my ninth grade year, Mom, her fourth husband Emil, and I started packing for our long-awaited two-week horseback riding trip that would take us through the Dakotas and Wyoming. Emil was still off work due to an accident while driving his semi.  Mom took a vacation from her secretarial job.

Mom and Emil's custom-built horse trailer with living quarters was hitched to the matching black and gray pickup truck.  Our horses, Jazon and Quazar, were loaded in to the trailer.  Along with our dogs, Spike and Muffin, off we went to start our trip.  Emil stayed at the truck with the dogs while Mom and I rode.

The steep hills of the trails we rode our horses on in the Dakotas and Wyoming were scary but exciting.  Straight up and straight down at times.  We had to slowly and carefully guide our horses on the dangerous terrain so they would not trip and fall.

As I rode my horse, Jazon, I looked around at the beautiful country and felt the warmth of the hot sun on my back, I felt peace wash over me as I usually did when riding.  I also felt an unusual happiness.  The depression, guilt, shame, sadness, anxiety and loneliness that plagued me on a daily basis were not weighing as heavily on my young shoulders.  The clenched muscles in my body slowly started to relax.

This rare sense of happiness was intoxicating.  I wanted it to last forever.

Mom and I got along well as we usually did when riding.  We exchanged small talk at times but mostly enjoyed the quiet and beauty of our surroundings and riding our horses.  Absent were Mom's usual criticisms and anger about my appearance, my attitude and the way I cleaned the house.

It was a perfect trip.

Mom and Emil must also have felt the same peace and happiness because rarely did they exchange an unkind word with each other or with me.  It was great to hear them laughing and see them smiling.  I basked in the rare kindness and attention Mom and Emil showed me. 

Mom took many pictures of me in my shorts and summer tops when we were not riding.

"Pull your hair all the way back and put your hat on.  That looks really cute!  Let me take a picture."

"Stand next to this tree.   Turn to the side, fold your arms and smile!"

"Here, sit over by this tree with Spike.  Smile!"

Snap, snap, snap went Mom's camera while she smiled encouragingly at me.

I loved the attention that Mom so rarely showed me.

Shortly in to our trip we met a man we called Early.  Unfortunately, time has erased the memory of where and how we met.  He just seemed to materialize out of nowhere.

Mom and Emil took an immediate liking to Early.  In no time at all they were laughing and talking about their shared interests, horses and trail riding.   Early told us about his ranch and the Quarter Horses he owned.

At some point me and Mom went riding with Early.   He immediately took a special interest in me as I rode Jazon, watching and smiling at me and several times complimenting me on my riding ability.  

Although I enjoyed the kindness he showed to me, at the same time I was uncomfortable being the center of attention.  Each time I got a compliment from Early, I would say thank you and shyly look away.  I had no idea how to handle such praise.

Mom proudly told Early that I had been riding all of my life.  She explained to him that I started riding Jazon when I was nine years old, expertly handling my young and spirited Arabian with skill and patience that far exceeded the abilities of such a young rider.

After our ride Early invited us to his ranch.  We toured the barns and admired his beautiful horses.  I was very impressed with all of his animals and his property.

After touring the ranch, we went in to Early's house and met his wife.  She seemed nice but was also very quiet.  I caught her watching me at different times. Each time our eyes met, I would shyly look away.  We did not see her again after our initial meeting. 

Shortly after meeting Early, Mom, Emil and I were standing in Early's barn alone.  Mom turned to Emil and said, "Oh, Early really likes Morrene.  He would definitely try something with her."

Emil agreed.

I looked at Mom silently.  I had no idea why she would say something like that, but I knew better than to question her.  I did not want her to get angry at me.  As with a lot odd things that happened while living with Mom and Emil, I had to put this out of my head.  Again, I knew better than to ask questions.

Mom and Emil told me Early wanted me to come live with him and his wife on their ranch.  He wanted to get me professionally trained to show his horses.

I was very excited!   I absolutely loved horses, and this would be a dream come true!

Mom and Emil were very encouraging. 

Morrene!  What an opportunity for you!  You need to stay and do this! 

We are very lucky to have met Early!

Think of how exciting your life will be!  said Mom.

Emil agreed with her.

Mom took me shopping and bought me a beautiful and expensive pair of brown boots with high heels.  I had never owned such a nice pair of boots.   I was very happy that Mom would buy me something so special for no reason.

Mom repeatedly told me that Early's wife would love to have me there and would buy me many things, clothes, shoes.  Anything I wanted.  That excited me since I rarely got new clothes.

As the time drew closer for Mom and Emil to leave, I could feel my resolve weakening.  I did not want to be away from home, away from Jazon and my friend Lisa.  The thought made me very sad.  I made the tough decision to turn down Early's offer to live with him and his wife.

Mom and Emil's relaxed and happy moods slowly disappeared the closer we got to home.   Soon their impatience and anger with each other and their combined criticism over my appearance and my attitude returned in full force, and the yelling started again.

It also didn't take long before Mom was looking at me with jealousy and hate in her eyes as she usually did.   I looked at Mom in sadness and confusion when I saw her angrily looking at me.  I had no idea what I had done this time to make her mad.

Once again, my constant friends, depression, guilt, shame, sadness, anxiety and loneliness descended heavily on my shoulders.

 

MY JOURNEY WITH SUBSTANCE ABUSE, by Morrene Hauser

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The first time I got drunk I was 14 years old.  I was at my friend's house, and her brother had bought us a bottle of Tickle Pink.  Her parents were gone, and we had the house to ourselves for the evening.

My friend and I did not have to drink very much of the syrupy sweet wine for the alcohol to work its magic.

First the giggles started.  Then the uncontrollable laughter.

I fell to the floor, laughing so hard with my friend that my stomach hurt.  My tight muscles unclenched.  I was able to forget, for a short time, the ongoing sexual abuse, verbal abuse and physical abuse I endured at my house.

Laughter, which was so rare at that point in my life, came easily when I was drunk.

I felt truly happy!  Carefree.  My anxiety, depression and loneliness were temporarily gone.

I wanted this feeling to last forever.

Many, many times throughout my teenage years, my friends and I would seek out liquor.  Too many drunken parties and fierce hangovers to count.

Fast forward through the years, college, career, marriage, children, drinking was always my go-to drug of choice to relax at the end of a long day. 

As the years flew by with the increasing stress from my career, major financial concerns in my personal life and the ending of my marriage, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, I was suffering severe PTSD from my childhood, I always had my friend, a bottle of wine, patiently waiting for me at the end of the day to offer comfort and solace.

After the repressed memories came out and my acknowledgment of the abuse, and a lot of counseling, I have learned more about myself and substance abuse.  Some days are good days, and those are the days that I do not feel like drinking.  Some days are not so good, and I feel the painful depression and anxiety trying to rear their ugly heads. 

I recognize the feelings and try to deal with them in a productive way, meditation, riding my horse, playing with my dog or working out.  Sometimes I am successful; sometimes I am not and have a glass or two of wine in the evenings.  Recovery is definitely a work in progress.

I have an amazing counselor who is helping me deal with my past.  More good days than bad days now, thank God.  I have no idea what life will throw my way as life progresses; but for now, I am looking forward to the future with anticipation and eagerness.