I had grown up away from my mother's family, but before I left home, we moved to Oklahoma, where both of my parents were originally from. I really didn't know my extended family. However, I was slowly getting to know them. We didn't drink at our house except my dad having an occasional beer. We didn't smoke either except for my dad's pipe. We all went to church every Sunday except my dad. However, it was my mother's family I was getting to know. My mother was very strict. We were in her little car every time the church doors were open headed for the church building.
I had graduated from high school, and my parents moved out to the middle of the woods on a red dirt road to a trailer. It wasn't the kind of place I was used to at all. My dad's job had taken us around the world, and we had lived in a villa with a maid and a gardener in Morocco, and I attended an embassy school. In England, we lived in one of those big beautiful country houses with lots of green rolling hills around it. Moving to Oklahoma was a big cultural adjustment for me. I was even speaking with a British accent in the middle of cowboy accents. I was a fish out of water.
My dad and my uncle had made an agreement to go into business together. They were both electricians. Our family bought a trailer and pulled it to the middle of the woods, and my uncle and his family did the same. My mother felt the need of my help. She made an agreement with me that if I stayed at home in the summer and helped her clean house, cook, and work in the yard, my parents would pay for my college. I wanted to go to Oklahoma City to a Christian college there. My uncle and aunt had three kids, a daughter and two sons. The daughter was just a few years younger than I was, and we were making friends. My mother had always made all our food from scratch, and we drank a lot of water. She was an extremely good cook! However, my aunt was introducing me to a new way. Her kids drank a lot of soda pop and ate frozen pizzas from the store. My aunt didn't approve of my mother always insisting that I help her work. She felt like I was being abused, but I had always helped my mother, and I made an agreement because I wanted to go to college. I enjoyed being my mother's right hand man. I spent a lot of time with my cousin that summer, and we became good friends giggling, poking through shops, and drinking Coca Cola. .
Fall came, and I went away to college. I loved the Christian college so much I felt like I had died and gone to Heaven! Everyone was trying to be who they should be. I liked studying, but I really appreciated the Christian aspect. My cousin was a cheerleader at the local high school close to my parent's house, and I had also become friends with the preacher's daughter who was also a cheerleader on the same squad. My brother two years younger than I was went to the same high school.
I came home at Thanksgiving vacation. My brother had been spending a lot of time with my uncle playing cards. My uncle had taught him to drink. It was out of character for my brother, but there wasn't much to do out in the middle of the woods. One evening, my brother stayed out late with my uncle playing cards. The rest of us were in bed. We heard my brother come home, and as he opened the front door he was yelling, "I'm going to kill him!" He was drunk and angry! I had never even seen him drink! He was rifling around in the living room looking for something to kill my uncle. I don't know what my uncle did, but he had my brother really mad! It was so out of character for my brother who was usually calm and sweet! We all jumped out of bed and headed for the living room. My mother stood in front of the door adamantly telling my brother he couldn't leave. My little sister came in. She was only five years old. I didn't want her there. It wasn't the right environment for a little girl. My mother and brother just kept going round after round, "Move! I'm going to kill him!" my brother gruffly yelled. "No!" my mother stood her ground. She stayed in front of that door. "Move! He is so bad! I have to kill him!" He yelled again. "Wait until you've sobered up. Go to bed, and then we'll talk about it in the morning" replied my mother. "No! Get out of my way! I have to kill him!" yelled my brother. It didn't seem it was going to stop. I was holding my little sister in my arms.
I didn't want my sister there, so I took her to the bedroom and put her back to bed. She was as shocked by my brother's behavior as the rest of us, "What is wrong with him?" She asked. "It isn't our brother" I said softly, "It is liquor speaking." "Don't let it worry you. Just go back to sleep, and everything will be better in the morning" I told her. I softly talked with her until she dozed off, and I crawled back in bed. Some time during the night, my brother had given up and gone to sleep on the couch, so everyone else went back to bed too.
That was just the beginning of troubles with D. T., my uncle. Next, at the end of my first semester of school, I was told I couldn't go back to school after I came home. My dad and uncle were working together as usual. They were putting the wiring in a new house. My dad was sitting on a low bench taking care of the electricity there. My dad had been an electrician for twenty years and had even taught classes about electricity. My Uncle D. T. was looking at what he was doing, "Boy! You are stupid!" He said. "You don't know anything about electricity! I am a much better electrician than you are!" D. T. said. D. T. just kept bragging on his work and putting my dad down. D. T. forgot that he was a small wiry man and my dad was tall, broad, and muscular, built like Hercules. D. T. just kept goading my dad with a haughty attitude that didn't quit telling my dad what a bad electrician he was, but that he himself, D. T., was a better electrician than anyone around. My dad couldn't take it! My dad decked him! My dad had held the boxing championship for S. California for three years. D. T. went down. He was sprawled on the concrete floor of the house not moving. My dad had accidently knocked him out. My dad didn't know what to do. He gathered his tools and left D. T. there passed out.
When D. T. woke up, he had access to all my parent's money because of the business. My dad had saved a lot of money from his other job, enough that would have bought two nice houses. D. T. emptied my dad's bank account. I got a phone call telling me that when the semester was finished, my school was finished because my parents could no longer send me to school. I was told to come home, to the middle of the woods, and that made me extremely unhappy. I really didn't want to live there. I went home like I was told, but I spent a lot of time crying. I cried so much my mother threatened to take me to see a psychiatrist. My mother had not let me get a driver's license. I had no car, no job, and no way to get out of there. I ended up taking the school bus into town and getting a job at a drug store down the street from the high school. I had no idea how I could get back to college, and my mother didn't want to take me anywhere, especially not to get a driver's license. She wanted me home, and I was trapped.
I was still friends with the preacher's daughter who was a cheerleader at the high school. I was forbidden to talk to my cousin who was a cheerleader. Her parents forbade her, as mine had forbidden me. Neither of us liked it. I went to a basketball game with my friend who was the preacher's daughter, and my cousin and I got together in the locker room and talked. We both agreed. We should not stop our friendship because our parents were fighting. It was their problem, not ours.
I went through a lot trying to get back into college. I went to Holdenville, to my grandmother's house and stayed with her working at a dress factory for a while, but I had another uncle even rowdier than D. T. who came to stay when he got out of prison, and he made life unbearable, and I really didn't like the women at the dress factory because they were immoral. The only thing those women ever wanted to discuss was sex. My uncle at my grandmother's house played a guitar at the local honky tonk and was often at a hotel with a woman. He was always in trouble with the police because he was on probation, but they caught him with a gun in his car. He came home once bragging like my Uncle D. T. had done. This uncle bragged about beating a black man up because he had come into his honky tonk, and I had to stand up to him and tell him it was wrong. I didn't open my mouth much, but I did this time. We were sitting at the dinner table as he was bragging about putting the black man out. He had punched him, and then pinned him to a wall telling him to get out and never come back. I said, "No! That is wrong! You never treat someone bad just because of the color of their skin!" He looked at me with a haughty grin and said, "Are you a woman's libber?" He actually had me scared, but I just said, "No," and I went about my eating. I was always going to church, and this uncle tried to get me to stop and wanted to take me to the honky tonk with him, but I refused. After that, I came in one day with him screaming at Grandma, and her sitting in the rocking chair rocking nervously back and forth with tears running down her cheeks and ringing her hands. He screamed, "You are old! You aren't going to live much longer! You have to go to church or you won't go to Heaven!" I asked him why he didn't go, and he said, "I'm young. I have time," and handed me a commentary he wanted me to read. My grandmother began walking to church with me. I walked because I didn't have a driver's licence. I couldn't take the atmosphere in Holdenville at my Grandmother's house, at home or work, so I went home again, back to the middle of the woods where I didn't want to be.
My grandmother called up and talked my mother into letting me go to California with her to my aunt's house on the bus. My mother said it was a birthday present, but there was no birthday present. I had to pay for the ticket myself, but it got me out of the woods. Staying in California was just as bad. My aunt had recently gotten a divorce, and she was going to bars and bringing men home to sleep with them. She had a friend from the Hell's Angels who thought he liked me, and all I wanted to do was run. He was always dropping over wanting to visit with me, but I wanted to hide. I went to church, but someone from church had to come and get me every time because I had no driver's license. My aunt took me to work and picked me up. I worked at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz. There were five stabbings around our store one night and blood was all over the sidewalk. The women in the store locked themselves in and went to the back and stayed locked in they were so scared. There were guys trying to pick me up and take me home, but I didn't go with any of them. I just wanted to go back to that Christian college in Oklahoma City. Finally, a letter arrived! I had been filling out forms for government financial aid, and I had the money to go back to school. I got on the next bus for Oklahoma headed for the Christian college, my piece of Heaven where no one slept around, no one got drunk, no one cussed, no one stole cash just because they could, no carried a gun, there was never blood on the sidewalk, and I never felt trapped. They were singing and praying to God and smiling, my piece of Heaven,
As for Uncle D. T., he continued causing trouble. A few years later, his wife kicked him out because he had been drinking so much. He showed up at his sister's house, my mother's younger sister. He was on the porch, and she wouldn't let him in because she thought he was drunk. He had a heart attack on her door step and died. His drinking hadn't helped anyone. My brother left the woods and went on to become a Deacon in the church and an engineer. My dad left the woods to work somewhere else. The Christian college was my salvation. I clung closely to God and my education. I eventually got a driver's license, and I married a preacher and became an English professor. I made my way out of the woods and away from wild people, my family.