The Queen of the Silver Dollar
Chapter 2: My Barhopping Grandparents
On the day my mother tried to place my sister and me into Juvenile Hall, then had to settle for taking us to my grandparents, she’d already found homes for my other three siblings.
My oldest sister, Marina Slip Gnu, was 17 at the time. She was sent to a friend’s house. I suspect that after she got out of jail, my mother worked as a prostitute for awhile. And I think she moved Marina back in with her, and pimped her out.
A few years ago, Marina tearfully told me about this. I thought she was crazy at the time, as Marina has had a history of serious mental illness, all her adult life. But after much reflection, I’ve put two-and-two together. It now makes sense.
It became too much for Marina, and she ran away from home and disappeared. For months, nobody knew if she was dead or alive. Then my father hired a private detective, who tracked her down in Texas.
There, she’d met an Army sergeant, and they’d married. They would stay married for more than 20 years, have four children, and become very wealthy. But not happy. Mental illness and spousal abuse led to a divorce. Money doesn’t buy happiness, and my oldest sister is proof of this.
My 12-year-old brother, and 14-year-old sister, were shipped off to an uncle’s house. He was my favorite uncle and kind of wealthy. Well, he had a swimming pool, so he seemed wealthy. I felt envious of my brother and sister’s good fortune. My uncle’s wife couldn’t have children, so he felt thrilled to take in my brother and sister. And my mother would have a hard time getting them back from him.
My 15-year-old sister, River, and 9-year-old me, were driven by my mom to Los Angeles the morning after our family’s big split. There we stayed for the next four months, living with my grandparents, before my mother could afford to take us back.
My grandfather was a hell of a nice guy, but also an alcoholic. He was a functioning alcoholic, though. He made good money as a machinist, then would blow it all at the bar, partying and whooping it up.
My grandmother was also an alcoholic. And she was a party animal, having been introduced to the bar scene during the Great Depression, by my grandpa. She could be harsh, but overall was very kind to my sister and me. She loved us but didn’t have much time for us, what with all the partying she wanted to do with her husband, down at the bar.
So my sister and I were usually left alone to raise ourselves. But we were accustomed to this. All of my siblings and I had learned to take care of ourselves from a young age. We became very independent, as children, and have remained so as adults.
Although I was usually neglected, my grandmother did hold a very nice birthday party for me, when I turned 10-years-old. Well, she was a party animal, so she was an expert at throwing a good party. It’s the only time in my life I’ve ever had a birthday party, so this is one of my favorite childhood memories of her.
If my grandparents had not taken us in, I’m sure my sister and I would have been left to the mercy of the foster care system, and its unpredictable lottery of caring and abusive foster parents. So I feel grateful they opened up their home to us.
And it wouldn’t be the first time. My grandfather died at age 68, from too many years of hard partying. I was 21, and soon after his death I found myself unemployed and needing a place to stay. My widowed Grandma allowed me to move in with her for six months, until I got back on my feet. And thus, she saved me from homelessness.
Later, I was able to return the favor. My wife eventually became her caretaker. And when she became too old to live alone, we invited her into our house. She lived with us for more than three years, and during that time she took us on a wild ride. I did mention that she liked to party, didn’t I?
Fasten your seat belt, we’re in for a bumpy journey. The remaining posts in this series are about our adventures with my wild, eccentric, barhopping Grandma, during the final years of her life.
This is the latest installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 3: The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Click here to read Chapter 1.