by Elaine Miller
I really didnít like teenagers too well. I had a hard time dealing with them. I do know why God made teenagers, however. He made them nasty so that their parents would be glad when they moved out and only came home for visits. Marie told me daily if not oftener, that she could not wait to get out of here. Then when she was eighteen and could, she settled down, stayed on and went to the junior college for two years. I was able to like her again. Sheíd grown up some.
It came time for Mary to graduate. My son had already graduated two years before. He graduated early in the middle of the year and refused to go to graduation later. We went to graduation with Mary. I was so proud that she had made it. She had worked on the school newspaper while in high school.
I had talked to her counselor. He suggested we send her to a small college. He recommended McMurray in Jacksonville. She was accepted and off she went. We took her down there and settled her in. She called me every day, sometimes several times a day. I forbid her to call but once or twice a week. It didnít work. She called anyway. She called with health concernsÖ..her stomach aching, she had a headache, etc.
She was clumsy. Once she fell and sprained her knee and it was black and blue clear down to her ankle. She found excuses to go to the emergency room very frequently. Some were legitimate complaints and some were anxiety. She was so dependent on me. I hated myself for babying her and making her that way. I tried my best to try to correct the situation, but I couldnít.
The whole time that Mary was in college, she could not keep a roommate. She was too compulsive and repetitive. She drove everyone nuts. The last year they finally let her stay in a double room by herself. They were tired of the complaints. She made a friend there that she does correspond with at Christmas time. The girl is married and has children.
At the very end of her school career, she moved into a tiny off campus furnished apartment. Marie had gone down there to move her. She had gotten into drinking. Mary was dating now. She became promiscuous. I could hardly stand it. The men didnít care about her. They just used her and went on. They only saw her for sex. There was nothing I could do. She was twenty-one years old.
Mary got two foreign language awards while she was in college. She really had a knack for learning foreign languages. She took French and German. Her grades were good while she was in college. She ended up with bachelor degrees in French, English and journalism. I was really proud of her.
When she graduated from college we all went down to see her. It was a happy time, but in my mind I wondered if she could get a job and be able to work. I was really apprehensive. She moved back home. When we went to bring her home, she hadnít done a thing about packing. Marie and I had it all to do. We had brought boxes and sacks. It took us several hours. She just stood and watched us. She would not even help. I was really frustrated and disgusted.
The summer before she had gone to college, she was all over town messing around with men. I railed and screamed at her about being promiscuous. She would just look at me, promise me she would quit and then go out and do as she pleased. She took up with an older man and he bilked her of $1200 to pay his utility bill. I was stunned. That had been some of the child support I had been hoarding for her tuition. I had to borrow money to send her that first semester.
I had had to take her father back to court to get him to pay more because of tuition rates at McMurray as opposed to the junior college. He was opposed to her going away to school. We wanted her to try to find a little independence in a rather controlled setting. Every time I tried to reason with him, it was an argument. He always opposed everything I wanted. There was still animosity between us.
By that time the country was in a depression. Don had been laid off work, but we had been talking and he had always dreamed of his own business. I had a head for business. I had observed my Dad run his own business for years. I had found out after the divorce that I could manage money much better than my ex could. He made good money at The Smith Company, but he always kept tight rein on the checkbook and would not let me know how much we had in the bank and he paid the bills. He was always spending money, denying me, screaming about the grocery bills, but at the same time spending for whatever he wanted for himself. I would steal ten or twenty dollars a week from the grocery money and hide it above his head in the family pictures hanging above our bed.
After the divorce I hoarded the child support and my paychecks. I was scared to death I couldnít make it. I paid all the bills for the first time and spent the money I needed for groceries and the kids. One day I was looking at the checkbook and I had over three thousand dollars in the checking account. Thatís when I started a savings account.
We had been seeing the layoff coming. For several months before we had combed the papers for automotive equipment and auctions related to that. I told Don to take sick days and go get stuff he needed. We had accumulated machines and equipment to start our own garage. I sent him down to the garage at night with a tape recorder and he weeded through the files for names and addresses of customers. His boss and he had not been getting along since his boss was trying to get him to quit. He didnít want to pay unemployment, which Don had earned. He had worked there for a number of years. I was a survivor and I did what I needed to survive. If I had to acquire names that way, then I would. I was working at a nursing home by that time, and we werenít going to starve. We could still pay our bills.
We rented space in a garage from a car dealer who had sold his dealership and now fixed up used cars and sold them. He was delighted to have a mechanic in the building again. He had lifts already there. I compiled my list and we had post cards printed announcing our business as Miller Automotive. We sent out our cards and within six weeks we had to hire another mechanic. The car dealer, Mr. Lamont, suggested one of his old mechanics that was really quick and good. Vern went to work for us. We were successful. We put a small ad in the paper with a picture of Don in the Sunday paper and acquired new business along with the old. We featured Vern the same way to let his old customers know where he now worked.
Meanwhile, I was fed up with nursing and I went down to work at the shop as a secretary. We had an accountant who showed me how to set up the books. I did not like math at school, but I kept the books and managed the money. I had been managing our money since we had gotten married. Don didnít like that kind of busy work and wanted me to do it. I was good at it.
After Mary returned home, she tried to get a job. She really wanted to work at a newspaper, but they didnít hire her. She had majors in journalism, French and English. She had the education, but she had a hard time getting along with people. She was drinking and carousing around. She would go out and not come home at night, returning the next day casually ambling in and sipping a Pepsi. My life was in turmoil with her.
I would cry when I was alone and scream at God. Why in the hell did you save her? Iím sick and tired of this. Havenít I had enough? How is it going to end? What is to become of her? I canít stand much more! Why couldnít you have let her die? Instead sheís like this!
Mary took up with a biker. His name was Brute. He wanted her to move in with him. She lived with him about four or five months. She told him that she had money in the bank. We found out later that he had another girlfriend on the side and they had an agreement for him to live with Mary so that she would pay for his bike repairs and buy him other things. She would call crying towards the end of the relationship as she found out about the girl. Brute had called me a few times and said he could hardly stand her outbursts. She moved back home.
Mary received some money as a result of the accident. She did get a settlement. It was not before I had to actually sue the attorney we had hired, to protect Maryís interests. He had let the statutes run out, and had not filed a proper claim with the insurance company. I had to go to Bloomington, Ill. to hire an attorney to sue the one here. Beforehand, I had consulted with an attorney in Iowa at the recommendation of friends to check into that case. He found that all the claims had been settled without us. Mary would have gotten $l00,000. I had planned to pay for her college with that money. Instead, the most she could collect was $66,000, but by the time the law fees were paid, only about $28,000 remained and this was after college.
We let her pay back the money that she had given to the older man and some for her college when we finally got the money. I took her to an investment broker and they put some of her money in investments. She refused to leave the money alone and went right through it. Mary took driving lessons and we fixed up an older car for her to drive. She paid for it with some of the money and she paid for the insurance.
Mary would meet guys and tell them she had "all this money". Dollar signs would shine in their eyes and they would take advantage of her.
She kept trying to get a job, but no one hired her. I know that she was unable to make a good showing of herself. I tried to tell her how to act in an interview, but she just couldnít pull it off.
While Mary had been in college Marie hated to write papers, so when she had papers due, she would drive down there and spend the weekend with Mary. She would get Mary to write and type out her papers. Mary was good at it. She did fairly well in college. She even worked a little part time in the school library. Her memory had improved a lot. She still had problems with short-term memory. She would for the rest of her life. That was the norm for life after head injury.
From then on, whenever Mary got mad at Marie, she would tell everyone that she did most of her homework and Marie got the grades. She said that she did other peoplesí homework in school and then they abused her. They also got all the credit. Marie graduated from the junior college with an accounting and business major. She had gone to school on her own and graduated on her own, (with some typing help from Mary).
I had to go into the hospital for a hysterectomy. I found out at that time that I didnít need to sit down at the shop all the time. Most of the people wanted to talk to Don anyway. By that time we had a couple more mechanics working for us. I decided I was going to lose my mind so to speak, if I didnít go back to work.
Marie had already moved out into an apartment with some girlfriends and she was making good money as a waitress. She never really went out and got a job in her major. She worked at a steak house where she made really good money. She didnít want to quit there.
When we had moved into the house after we were married, Seth and his father were not getting along. This went on for almost a year. Seth was seventeen. They were living with Brettís second wife and her three teenage kids. My ex didnít want to be bothered with him most of the time. He would hand him the gas credit card and the car keys and Seth was out running wild. They would then get into it when he returned. My ex used to beat on Seth. He thought if you spared the rod you would spoil the child.
Finally my son had had enough. My ex wrote a note and gave it to him and told him that he was on his own. He wrote a note of emancipation. I received a frantic call from his wife. She told me that my son, who by that time was as big as his father, had backed my ex up against the wall and told him if he ever laid a hand on him again he was going to beat him to death. She said I needed to come and get him right away. Don and I got into the van and drove up there. Seth was standing there out of breath and very agitated. He stood with a big bed sheet clutched in his hand that contained all the belongings he had in the world. I hopped out of the van and just looked at him. He was just pitiful!
My ex and his wife had had a fire. A plastic lamp that belonged to my son had caught the house on fire and had destroyed most of his things. No one was hurt, but there was a big loss involved. The beautiful cherry bedroom set my mother had given him was also gone.
I had known that my son living with his father would not last. My son told me he chose to go with his father at the time of the divorce because he felt sorry for him. He felt that there was nobody for his father when we separated and he had to move out. His father had carried on to everyone in our family trying to get them to persuade me to take him back, but I had made up my mind. It would never work. I knew that if I bided my time, my son would be living with me again.
Things were not easy. My son Seth had a lot of suppressed rage. He decided he was in competition with Don as head of the house. He considered Don an outsider. He was around Mary and saw her behavior patterns and felt that all his dreams were shattered. He said he had prayed and prayed to God to save her and make her whole. He felt like God had betrayed him. He felt guilty because he had gotten out of the car and the other child had been killed instead of him. He said the devastation and the horror at the scene if the accident was always with him. He had had to go into the woods and throw up as waves and waves of nausea overtook him at the scene. He had tried to give mouth to mouth resuscitation to the man who died. He thought he should have been able to save the man who died. He had had dreams of himself and his sisters having a successful life. Now he felt agonizing pain all the time and knew he was a dismal failure. He told me that even now he has never resolved his feelings from the accident scene and what happened to Mary and all the rest of us due to the accident. He thinks that he destined himself to fail from then on. Here were shattered lives and broken dreams.
Everyone but Don and Jamie had memories of the "old" Mary. Seth just could not accept the "new" Mary. He watched her manipulative behavior with me and thought she was spoiled. There was resentment there too. He could not stand her bizarre behavior. He started calling her "Baffles". I didnít like it. I told him it was cruel to do it. He criticized her and how I handled her. He resented Don more and more. Marie and I were at odds all the time with her wild ways. Marie resented Don telling her what to do. Jamie was sullen towards me and didnít think I should tell him what to do. Several times Don and I got into it over Jamieís behavior. Don hated confrontations. My life was hell with kids all the time.
One day Seth and Don got into it. Seth lost it and threw a hammer through two panes of one of the living room windows. I had to get into the middle of that one. Seth ran away. Don quietly got in the van alone and went after him. He caught up with him and took him to a quiet place and had a talk with him. They were gone for a couple hours. I was frantic. Finally when they returned Seth was settled down and things went a lot smoother between Don and him. Don told me that he had quietly talked to him about his feelings and let Seth talk about his and they finally understood each other a little better.
Things were still not good with the kidsí feelings toward Don and I. One day I was really mad. I called all four of them into the living room and lined them up. I told them that some day they would grow up and leave home. I asked them where that left me? I told them that Don and I were together to stay. I told them if anyone goes it would be them before it would be Don. I told them we were going to have each other in our old age and that was final. I got incredible, disbelieving, I donít believe she said that looks. Marie brings that up every now and then about how I chose Don above my own kids. She said I hurt her terribly when I said that. I didnít mean to hurt, but my life was daily in chaos.
Once Don and Marie were into it and she shoved him into the built in corner hutch in the kitchen and he broke a pane of glass with his elbow, cutting himself badly. He had to go get stitches. They gave him a tetanus shot and his arm swelled up and hurt terrible. He started running a fever and red streaks were running down his arm. We had to go back and he had to be slammed with antibiotics. We had to keep hot soaks on it for twenty-four hours. Marie cried and cried and said she was so sorry. They got along better after that. She still feels badly about it to this day.
My little edict left an impression on them and we got along better. It was still stormy around here, however. I had to take Seth up to Sunnyland each morning and pick him up after school at Karenís. He wanted to finish the last couple months of his junior year of high school in Washington where he had been going. For his senior year, he went to the E. Peoria high school. He graduated at Christmas time, as he had more than enough credits.
That summer Jamie had had enough of my kids and me. None of us got along. He went to Indianapolis to stay with the grandparents. Donís parents idolized him and he was crazy about them too. At the end of that summer he went to California to live with his mother. We did not see him again for five years. After school he joined the army for two years, then back to California where he lived for several more years. He then went back to Indianapolis with his grandparents and lived there watching over them and working for a number of years.