I’m going to publish my story in segments. I’m cutting it into segments because it’s quite a long story.
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We were born – twins – in New York City on June 23, 1954. The parents moved us to New Jersey right after that. We lived in a pastoral community of 3000 people where the only business in town was Elmer’s General Store and Gas Station. There was also a dairy farm called Meadowee’s where milk and eggs were sold. The man who owned the farm liked children… a lot. He was a strange one and somewhat senile. He was forever trying to feel us up and down if we forgot and got too close to him.
First of all my mother grew up a Puritan Presbyterian. Determined to be a ‘good mother’, she never allowed her babies to be bottle fed. But, with twins, there was not enough milk to go around. From the very start I became acquainted with the realities of hunger and survival. This was the beginning of my struggle. She was going to do what a good mother did but, in reality, had no emotional connection with her babies. The woman was stone cold. I never heard her express even a single feeling. “Buck Up”, “Keep Your Chin Up” and “You Made Your Bed, Now Lie In It” were her motto’s. She sacrificed us to dad’s abuse to save herself from needing to shoulder any responsibility for providing for us. Her sole aim in life was the pursuit of art. She was a flutist… silk screened… carved wood… was a painter in oil, watercolor, pen & ink, and charcoal. She artisted her way through life in any way she could find.
Although we were identical, dad took an instant shine to my sister and an instant dislike of me. Mom told us the first thing dad said when he saw me was; “Good God, it’s Stella Wall !!” I was branded as the hated mother-in-law from the moment I was born. This may sound weird, but my parents were weird people.
My father was insane. I think I inherited schizo-affective disorder from him although he was never diagnosed as I was. From the stories I told a therapist about him, they considered him to be a malignant narcissist as well. He was entirely preoccupied with himself… his fears… his worries… his dreams… and developing his ‘belief system’ (see Part # 5 for more detail about this). He was a highly intelligent, yet completely insane, man.
Dad was a died in the wool bigot. He would use every racist name you can think of. He was 100% Swedish, a true Aryan, which made him one of the elite group of human beings. Fortunately, I never picked up on the bigotry. However, in my walk through life, I’ve discovered I’m like him in many ways but, for some reason to which I am ever grateful, this bigotry never took hold of me.
Dad grew up in the farm life near Erie Pennsylvania on 150 acres of land. He used to say he was ‘hayseeds and cow manure’. I always though it was a metaphor for how he felt about himself but one day I ‘got it’. Dad did not consider himself a human being… he was actually a walking, talking, lump of hayseeds and cow manure. Though he never said how this came to be exactly, he would talk about how his father used to work him like a slave on the farm. I don’t think he was ever treated as human.
The area where he grew up was pretty low brow, as he called it. Their nearest neighbors were the Schleikers; a family rife with incest. Many deformed and mentally-challenged babies came out of that practice. I have to say though, that out of all the mess of his background, dad did get one thing right, he was somewhat able to overcome the farm and learn to live mom’s middle class lifestyle… and that says a lot.
Mom told me that one day dad was planning to hang himself in the barn but on that very fateful day, she called him and asked him; “When are you coming out to see me Frank?” They were married shortly afterwards. We came along ten months later. Although there was no love there (I’ll talk about love in a later segment), the parents stuck it out with each other 49 years; until mother died of cancer at 76.
To call dad passionate is an understatement. He was an aspiring opera singer… a tenor… who never quite made it to the stage. He was what the Swedes called a “Heldenlaben”; the person who stood at the bow of a ship crossing the Atlantic commanding the winds and the seas to obey him. Unfortunately allergies thwarted his efforts to become a singer so he drove a bus for a living. He was one crazy son-of-a-bitch. I don’t know how old I was when the beatings started…. too young to remember. But, like the wind and the seas for a Heldenlaben, if I strayed from his wishes I paid dearly for it… my sister and brother as well. If we thought, felt, said, or did something he did not like, he’d come at us like a jack-hammer.
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