Category: Family

Closing Time

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 9: Closing Time

After more than three years of living with us and barhopping with my wife, Grandma’s health went downhill again. She reached the point where she couldn’t sit at a barstool anymore, or even handle a beer, so she asked to go to the hospital. My wife drove her to the ER.

But there the doctor scolded her. “You’re old!” he declared. “We can’t help you here, and you’re taking up space we need for those we CAN help.” He gave her a choice between being admitted to a rest home, or receiving hospice care at our home.

My grandma chose hospice. But her hearing had gone so bad from her super-powerful, and super-damaging hearing aids, that we’ve never been sure if she understood the choice she was being asked to make.

Soon hospice took away all of her life-sustaining medication, such as her heart pills, and replaced them with painkillers. And my grandma’s health worsened. She had always been thin, but over the next few months she grew even thinner.

She reached the point where she could no longer walk to the livingroom and watch the Syfy channel. Later, she could no longer make it to the bathroom, and had to resort to a potty chair in the bedroom. Then she grew so tabescent, she could hardly get out of bed.

One evening she fell, and it was a struggle to get her back on her feet and into bed. At this point she became too much for my wife and I to handle, and we had her admitted to a local rest home.

A few days after she was admitted, I finished my mail delivery rounds and drove over to pay her a visit. There she lay, flat on her back, with a cold dinner sitting on a tray in front of her. The staff would not help her eat, and her arms were too weak to lift the silverware.

I tried to speak to her, but she was too weak to answer, and probably couldn’t hear me anyway. I wasn’t even sure if she recognized me. But as I turned to leave, she lightly grabbed my hand. Then she pointed to the food, and then her mouth. It seemed as if she was asking me to feed her.

So I dipped a spoon into the bowl of mush, or whatever it was, and guided it into her mouth. It felt strange feeding someone. It’s the first time I’d ever done such a thing in my life. It kind of grossed me out, but Grandma seemed hungry, so I kept at it.

How roles had changed! She had helped take care of me during my first year of life, and I’m sure she’d put a spoon into my mouth many times. I don’t know if it grossed her out, but she did it. And now here I was, returning the favor.

But after three meager spoonfuls, Grandma waved her hand as if to say, “Enough.” That was all she could handle. So I set the spoon down and said goodbye to her. She feebly managed a slight wave back.

It might have been the last meal she ever ate. A few days later the lights were turned out and the party was over. It was closing time. The Queen of the Silver Dollar abdicated her throne and returned Home, just two months shy of her 97th birthday.

Grandma, the Queen of the Silver Dollar, 1916 – 2012.

This has been the final installation of my nine-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. I hope you enjoyed the read! Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

WHERE’S MY MONEY?!

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 8: WHERE’S MY MONEY?!

My 93-year-old grandmother emerged from her colon cancer surgery almost as good as new, and ready to party once again. My poor wife. She dreaded dragging Grandma around from one bar to another, and now the old barfly was healthy enough to barhop on nearly a daily basis.

She and her two cats had moved in with us, occupying a bedroom in our house. Our dogs kept the felines prisoner in her bedroom, where they stank up a litter box, and scratched the closet doors to ribbons.

When Grandma wasn’t at a bar, she preferred to work crossword puzzles in her bedroom or watch the Syfy channel in the livingroom.

Her hearing aids were wearing out though, so she had to turn the TV volume way up, and this was getting annoying. So my wife took her to the ear doctor for an examination and a fitting for new hearing aids.

About a week later, at the bar, my grandma drunkenly confessed a secret to my wife. During the hearing exam, she was wearing headphones and was told to repeat all the words she heard. But when she heard something like “dog,” she would respond with something like “log,” to make it appear as if her hearing was worse than it really was.

My sly grandmother was trying to fool the examiner into prescribing super-powerful hearing aids. Which is not a good idea, according to audiologists. My worried wife called the ear doctor and ratted on Grandma. The doctor was appalled. “Oh no!” she said, “she could go completely deaf wearing strong hearing aids like that.” But it was too late. The order had already been sent in, and the devices were already being built.

Needless to say, Grandma was never pleased with her new hearing aids, and was always struggling to turn the volume down. And to rub salt in her wounds, she had to pay a pretty penny for them. $3,290. But the clever old miser had a trick up her sleeve. She bought them on credit, with a deal that promised her zero percent interest if she paid off the entire balance in 12 months.

Grandma had no intention of making any payments. She figured her cancer would return, and she’d be dead in 12 months. But she hadn’t counted on the fact that I had taken over her finances, and I wasn’t about to let her renege on this deal. I figured she’d be dead in 12 months also, and I wanted her to have a clean conscience when she entered whatever hereafter lies after here.

So every month when I counted out her allowance from her Social Security check, I deducted $275 for the hearing aid company.

I also deducted money for room and board. Yes, we required Grandma to pay for her keep. It was hard work taking care of this old biddy, and she was sending all of her money, or what was leftover after paying her bar bill, to her alcoholic son in northern California. I’ll just call him Foster Brooks, since the drunken bum might still be alive. Why give Uncle Foster all her money, we reasoned, when we were the ones busting our asses for her?

I’m also proud, and not one ounce ashamed to admit, that I defalcated her entire savings account of $1,545. I closed that damned account down, and set the money aside in my own account to pay for her final arrangements. That is, her upcoming and inevitable cremation.

We’d been nagging after Grandma to make arrangements with the local funeral home, but she kept putting it off. Even in her 90’s, she was scared to death of Death. It gave her the willies to even talk about it. Also, she liked the idea of leaving everyone holding the bag, upon her demise. Except Foster. She’d been carefully building her savings account, and had intended that Foster inherit the $1,545.

Meanwhile, out of the generosity of her heart, she expected us to pay for her cremation. But it was not to be, much to her chagrin.

She didn’t like us taking so much out of her Social Security check, or losing her savings account, but didn’t say so right away. She just did a slow burn. But a few months and a few meager allowances later, the shit hit the fan. I was casually passing through the livingroom while she was watching Star Trek LXXVII, or some damn thing, when she stopped me with a glare and a growl.

“Tippy!” she barked.

“Yes, grandma?” I meekly turned to her and answered. I remembered that tone of voice from childhood, and an instinctive fear kicked me in the stomach, reverting me to my younger days.

“WHERE’S MY MONEY?!”

It took me a second to regain my composure. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t a kid any longer, and that she posed no threat to me.

I cleared my throat. “Grandma, you have to pay off the hearing aid company within 12 months, or they’re going to charge you 22% interest, backdated to your first payment. So your money is going to the hearing aid company. And the money from your savings account is going to be used for your cremation,” I tried to explain with all the adult maturity and official gravity I could muster.

“I WANT MY MONEYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!” Grandma belligerently hollered.

I was flummoxed. “I-I’m sorry Grandma, but I-I can’t help you,” I stammered while beating a hasty retreat to my bedroom and escaping this monstrous 93-year-old, 99-pound woman.

My wife worked at home. She was a beautician, and we had a beauty shop attached to our house, where my wife gave inexpensive perms to little old ladies. In fact, that’s where my better half was at now, rolling curlers in someone’s hair, or whatever the hell beautician’s do. My grandma suddenly whipped the beauty shop door open and shouted, “WHERE’S MY MONEY?! I WANT MY MONEY!”

My wife tried to soothe her, “We’ll talk about this later, Grandma. I’m with a customer right now.”

To which Grandma retorted, “Fuck your customers! I WANT MY MONEY!”

Then she slammed the door shut and rushed to her bedroom, and slammed that door also.

This could not stand. A business cannot be run successfully with that kind of interruption. We had to take action.

So my wife called both my grandma’s daughter (my mother) and her son (drunk Uncle Foster), and asked if they would take her. But they both came up with all kinds of lame excuses as to why she couldn’t live with them. Truth is, they didn’t want her. They’d known her all their lives, and they remembered just how difficult she was to live with.

One of her sons, my Uncle Mike, was already dead from having drank too much while taking care of her, so he was no help. And another of her sons, my Uncle David, the one who never became an alcoholic, and my favorite uncle, was also long dead. So he was no help.

It was time for Plan B. My wife handed Grandma a phone book. She told her that she was very welcome to continue living with us, but if she did, she had to be pleasant to be around. On the other hand, if she preferred to live in a rest home, she could call around to all the rest homes in town and choose the one she liked best.

Grandma’s telephone investigation led to the discovery that if she lived in any rest home, they’d drain her meager checking account dry, and every month they’d confiscate her entire Social Security check. All she’d receive would be a measly allowance of about $30 a month. Which wouldn’t be much to send to Foster. Hell it would hardly be enough to afford more than a day or two a month of barhopping.

That ended the controversy. Grandma returned to her old, sweet self.

Except with me. She refused to talk to me after that, until her hearing aids were paid off, and I increased her allowance. Which took a year. But after that long era of silence ended, we became like old friends again.

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 final installation, entitled, Chapter 9: Closing Time . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

Blood Transfusion

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 7: Blood Transfusion

When my grandma was 89 years old her son, Michael, lay dying in a rest home. My uncle had partied hard with my grandma for 20 years, while chauffeuring her around to bars. But his constitution wasn’t as stout as hers, and now at age 62, it was all catching up with him.

My wife had taken over the role, as my grandmother’s caretaker and chauffeuse. Every day, she drove Grandma to the rest home. There, they would spread a special blanket that my grandmother had crocheted, over her son’s dying body. Then they would hold his hands.

One day they felt his spirit leave his hands, as Uncle Mike drew his last breath. The ordeal was over, and he moved on to that great Distillery in the Sky. Or to the center of the Earth. It’s not for me to judge which direction he went.

Four years later, and now my grandma had advanced to age 93. Her health was declining fast. No more could she go bar-hopping every day, to booze it up with her friends. About the best she could manage was maybe once a week. So we knew something was seriously wrong.

Her doctor told her she could no longer live on her own, and threatened to notify Adult Protective Services if she continued to do so. But Grandma did not want to waste away in a rest home, like her son, so my wife and I decided to sacrifice our privacy and space. We allowed her to move in with us, to live out her final days.

Her doctor had run a blood test on her that revealed a low red blood cell count. Based upon this, she had diagnosed her with leukemia and given her three months to live. So we didn’t expect Grandma to occupy space in our house for very long.

About a month after moving in with us, her anemia took a turn for the worse. She grew so weak she could barely make it out of bed. She wanted to see her doctor, but my wife had a better idea. She called 9-1-1, and had the EMT’s take her to the hospital. She was betting that the Emergency Department would run a whole battery of tests and figure out whether or not the issue really was leukemia.

And she was right. They poked, probed, and X-rayed, and finally diagnosed her with colon cancer. She had a malignant tumor in her large intestine that had advanced to the point of making her bleed internally. Hence, her low red blood cell count. She didn’t have leukemia.

Surgery was in order, to remove the tumor. But their most immediate concern was that she was bleeding to death in her bowels. She required a blood transfusion, stat.

My grandmother adamantly refused. She claimed she was a Jehovah’s Witness, and didn’t believe in blood transfusions. It was against her religion, she asserted. Now this is somewhat true. Grandma had been in and out of the JW religion many times over the past 60 years. She was what you might call a jack-Jehovah’s Witness.

She was very patriotic, and worshiped flag and country. And she drank like a fish and flitted from bar to bar like an archetypical barfly. And I’d never known her to attend the Kingdom Hall for worship services. This sort of behavior is anathema to her professed religion. But she still maintained that she was a Jehovah’s Witness.

The hospital called my wife and advised her of my grandma’s impending doom. They told her they had to honor her religious convictions and withhold the transfusion, and that meant she probably wouldn’t make it to the next morning.

My wife replied, “Get the blood ready! I’m coming down there. She’ll want the transfusion after I’m finished with her!”

My wife had been caretaking for my grandmother for more than ten years, and she knew her very well. Within the hour she was marching down the hospital corridors, heading for Grandma’s death bed, with a blanket under her arm. She stopped at the nurse’s station. “Have you started warming up the blood for her?” she inquired.

“No, ma’am, she’s absolutely refusing a blood transfusion. We can’t give her blood. We have to honor her religious wishes.”

“Start warming it now! I guarantee she’ll be wanting a blood transfusion in just a few minutes.”

Into Grandma’s room, she marched on her mission. The first thing she did with Grandma was put her hearing aids on. Then she covered her with the blanket she’d brought with her. This was the same crocheted blanket that they’d spread over her dying son, four years earlier. Then she sat down next to her, held her hand, and reassured her.

“Don’t worry, Grandma” she spoke with tender solicitude, “I understand that your religion forbids you from taking a blood transfusion. It’s okay. I’m going to stay by your side, just like we did with Michael. They told me you won’t make it to morning, but I’ll be right here the whole time, to help you through this.”

“What do you mean, I won’t make it until morning?” my grandmother appeared startled. Apparently, when the doctor advised her of her need for a blood transfusion, she hadn’t been wearing her hearing aids.

My grandmother was practically deaf without her hearing aids. She’d fake it and pretend to hear, while trying to read lips. So when the doctor warned her she was going to die without a blood transfusion, she simply answered him the same way she answered everyone else when she couldn’t hear them. She smiled and nodded, and said, “Okay, honey!”

Grandma began protesting. “But-but I’ve been praying to God, and God told me that He wants me to make more hats!” My grandmother had been crocheting caps for the Marines at the nearby military base. Marines used these caps to line their combat helmets, for cushioning their heads. This was my grandmother’s way of helping with the Iraq War effort.

Grandma with a pile of helmet liners she crocheted for the Marines. The proudest day of her life was when the Marine Corps awarded her for her efforts, with a flag that had once flown over Al Anbar province, in Iraq.

“Well,” my wife repeated the warning, “according to your doctor, you won’t make it to next morning without a blood transfusion. But since you’ve declined that transfusion, I’m here to support you.”

Grandma went into panic mode. “I’m not THAT damned religious!” she sputtered. She frantically pressed the nurse’s call button, over and over. “Nurse! Nurse!” she shouted. “I want blood! I’m not that religious!”

The nurse rushed into the room, and was confronted by my grandma, begging for blood. This was the same nurse whom my wife had advised to warm up the blood, just a few minutes earlier. She cast an accusatory scowl at my wife. “What did you do?! Did you threaten her?!”

“No,” my wife explained, “I put her hearing aids on.”

Grandma got the transfusion, and then the surgery. And after that she managed to squeeze out another three years of life, and partying, and maintaining her reign on the barstool as the Queen of the Silver Dollar.

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 8: Where’s My Money! Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

A Vacation With Emma

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 6: A Vacation With Emma

Caring for my grandma, and taking her barhopping, was hard work for my wife. And she did this while operating a beauty shop at the same time. My job as a mailman was no picnic either, especially with all the overtime I worked. So once in awhile we got away from it all, and went on vacation.

We were never gone much longer than a week, but during those periods someone had to take over the job of checking up on my grandma, and assisting her with housework and other things she had difficulty handling. So my wife would hire somebody, usually a relative, to fill in for her.

But Grandma hated these absences from my wife. She’d grown very attached to her granddaughter-in-law, and didn’t want anyone else taking care of her. So when the hired help showed up at her door, she’d usually tell them she was alright and didn’t need any help, and send them away.

Thus, dishes would pile up in the sink, and other housework would go neglected, leaving a mess for my wife to clean up after returning from vacation.

One day my grandmother announced that since my wife and I had been going on all these vacations, she figured she was entitled to one, also. So she arranged to spend a week with her friend, Emma, starting on New Year’s Eve.

She was 88 years old at this time, and had recently recovered from a broken hip. In fact she was still hobbling around a bit, limping with one leg. Nonetheless, she claimed to feel footloose and frisky enough for this peradventure, about 20 miles away.

Emma was her son’s girlfriend. But her son, my Uncle Mike, was laid-up in a rest home now, having worn his body out partying a little too much with his mother and girlfriend.

It’s admirable that even though he couldn’t party with Emma anymore, Emma remained loyal to my uncle. She kept the relationship with him going, by always maintaining that he was still her boyfriend. And for this, my grandma would reward her with beer and cigarette money, whenever she saw her.

So naturally my grandmother was quite welcome to spend a week with Emma.

Grandma on the left, and Emma on the right, during one of their benders.

Emma had once been very attractive. In her youth she’d worked in Hawaii as a stripper, and more specifically, had been a bubble dance stripper. This form of burlesque involved holding a large, semi-transparent bubble in front of her naked body, while moving it around strategically, in order to tease the men in the audience.

Emma was very proud of her stripper past, and was quick to whip out a photo of herself that she carried around in her wallet, from her young, sexy years. I saw that photo once, and felt shocked at the contrast between then and now.

It seemed to me that over the years, the ravages of booze and hard living had taken a toll on her alluring, stripper looks. Now Emma was middle-aged, with a dumpy figure. I surmised that years of alcohol consumption had contributed to her red and dry complexion. I thought her long, squarish face, which once came across as unconventionally cute, in a jolie laide sort of way, now resembled an oblong box. And her neck and part of her face had unfortunately been scarred by fire in an accident.

Most people expect such changes to their appearance as they grow older. Even if they once were strippers. But apparently not Emma. Although time and flames had caught up with her body, they apparently had not caught up with her perception. It seemed she still saw herself as sexy. And she liked men in uniform, having performed for quite a few of them during her Hawaiian stripper years. So whenever she saw a good-looking male security guard, she followed a routine to try to gain his interest.

She’d walk near him and then suddenly act distressed. “Help me! Please, please, I need your help!” she’d plead. The guard would rush to her side and frantically ask what the problem was. That was her cue to deliver the line, “I’ve lost my phone number! Can I have yours?”

This got some laughs and broke the ice. But if the guard refused to share his number, she’d pull out her 40-year-old stripper photo and taunt, “See? Look what you passed up!”

Emma claimed to be the niece of Oscar-winning actress Joanne Woodward. According to her, she was the illegitimate daughter of the actress’ brother. She never met her father, and her mother didn’t want her, so she ended up being raised in a state-run group home, where she was frequently abused. I guess that helps explain a lot about poor Emma.

On New Year’s Eve, my wife drove my grandma to Emma’s house to begin her week-long vacation. Emma lived near a bowling alley that had a bar, so she and my elderly, hip-sore Grandma walked and limped over to it, to ring in the New Year.

My grandma was all dressed up for the festivities. Her hair had been done up real pretty by my wife. She’d found a gaudy Christmas tree skirt (the kind that wraps around the base of Christmas trees) at a thrift store, and wore this arboreal accoutrement around her neck, as a cape. She modeled a fancy, glittery thrift store dress, and had bedizened herself with fake diamonds and other coruscating costume jewelry. And on her feet she sported sparkling, golden tennis shoes.

They drank and wassailed at the bowling alley until midnight. After the Auld Lang Synes faded away, they decided to hop to a different bar. They called for a cab. But taxicabs are very busy on New Year’s, and none were available. So these two, old drunken ladies hitchhiked.

They soon got a lift, and found themselves whooping it up at the next bar. But after about an hour, they got a hankering to visit their other barroom buddies at another bar. So they hitchhiked on over.

Closing time finally arrived at 2:00 am, and they called for a cab again. But again, no cab was available on this very busy night. That left them standing by the side of the highway, sticking their thumbs out. After a bit, some old drunk from a bar recognized them and stopped and picked them up, and brought them back to Emma’s apartment.

They were hungry, so they munched on some old pizza, from Emma’s fridge. Finally at about 4:00 am, they decided it was bedtime. Emma retired to her bed, leaving Grandma to sleep on Emma’s love seat couch. But Grandma couldn’t straighten one of her legs, due to having recently broken her hip on that side. So she had to hook it over the back of the love seat, and try to sleep that way.

Sometime around noon on January 1st, my wife received a phone call from Emma. It was bad news. She informed her that Grandma couldn’t talk, due to singing all night, she had a terrible hangover, and she was sitting by the front door with her suitcase. She said Grandma was too exhausted to party any longer, and wanted to cut her vacation short and come home.

My wife felt disappointed. She’d been hoping to have a whole week off from caretaking, but instead her vacation had barely lasted 24 hours. She drove straight to Emma’s to pick her up, but experience told her to bring along a small wastebasket.

My hungover grandmother would need that, just in case she had to throw up in the car.

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 7: Blood Transfusion . Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

Fingerhut and High Finance

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 5: Fingerhut and High Finance

My grandma was 88 years old and living alone when she did what so many other old people do. She fell and broke her hip. Or maybe her hip broke, and then she fell. The order never seems clear.

Regardless, she was laid up in the hospital for weeks after, and I had to take over paying her bills. She’d had the foresight to put my name on her checking account, as Power of Attorney, so all I had to do was sign my name on her checks, and append the signature with “POA.”

So every day, I drove to her house and picked up her mail, and opened up all the bills and paid them. I was pleasantly surprised. The old lady had been doing a pretty good job of keeping up with her utility bills, as there were no late charges. But then I opened an invoice from Fingerhut.

Fingerhut is a company that sells all kinds of odds and ends, by catalog. They allow customers to buy on credit, at “low” monthly payments, and they tout these payments as a way to build one’s credit history.

My grandma bought little gimcracks and whatnots from Fingerhut, from time to time, so I expected her bill to be about $50 to $100. But when I opened the statement I nearly fell out of my shoes. Her current charges exceeded $800.

This seemed nuts. I figured there must be some mistake. So I studied the bill carefully. Apparently she’d been carrying a large balance, from month-to-month, with interest accruing at about 29%, and with additional penalties for always making late payments. And all this for about $200 worth of merchandise she’d originally purchased, months before.

Grandma didn’t have enough in her checking to cover the charges, and I assumed that this must be why the balance owed had grown so large. Somehow things must have gotten out of hand, and she’d been trapped in the predicament of having an out-of-control, runaway credit balance.

The charges exceeded what remained in her checking account. But I remembered that Grandma had about a thousand dollars in her savings account. She’d been slowly accumulating that nest egg to give to her drunken bum son, who lived in northern California. Well I was in charge now, and that drunken bum would just have to sober up and smoke a few less cigarettes.

My Power of Attorney extended to her savings account, so I transferred most of the savings into her checking, and then wrote a big check to Fingerhut, to pay their bill off. Now Grandma was freed from usurious interest rates, and there would be no more late-payment fees.

A few days later I visited her in the hospital, and proudly explained what I had done. I figured she’d feel relieved and thank me for freeing her from all that debt. But boy, had I miscalculated. Granny hit the roof!

“What?!” her eyes bulged as her head came off the hospital bed. “I didn’t want that paid off! I’m trying to build my credit rating, and the way to do that is to carry a balance and never pay off the account! Now you’ve ruined everything!”

Damn, was she fuming!

“I never told you to pay off my Fingerhut bill!” she ranted on. “Now how am I going to get a good credit score?”

“Grandma,” I protested, “that is not how to build your credit rating. You were being charged late-payment penalties, and that lowers your rating. You build your credit by always paying off your bill, not by carrying a balance or being late. Besides Grandma, why do you need a high credit rating? You don’t drive, so you won’t be buying a car. You rent, and you’re not planning to buy a house. So why do you want a high credit score?”

“You don’t understand,” my grandma pouted. “You don’t know anything about credit, and I never told you to pay off the bill!” She turned her face away from me and glared at the wall. This meant the conversation was over. Whenever Grandma got mad at someone, she would refuse to speak to them. And she’d do her best to pretend they didn’t exist.

This was not a sign of dementia. No, she’d handled conflict this way all her life. Her poor husband, my grandfather, sometimes endured her silent treatment for months on end. No wonder the poor bastard died at age 68.

This left my wife as the only line of communication between grandmother and grandson. So my grandmother explained to my wife something that her idiot grandson apparently was unfamiliar with. And that was, the art of high finance.

She pointed out that she was old. So obviously, she was likely going to die soon. But if she had a good credit rating, she could qualify for all kinds of credit cards and charge them to the max, while living high off the hog. And then after she died, the credit card companies would be left holding the bag.

Grandma had always loved to party, and she intended to spend her last days partying hardy while living like a queen. Debt be damned.

After the hospital discharged her, she moved in with us for about a month, until her hip convalesced enough for her to return home and resume living on her own. I was trying to make amends, so I promised my grandmother that I’d pay for all her groceries while she stayed with us, at no charge to her.

“Harrumph,” she replied.

Then she began going through a gallon of milk and 6-pack of beer, every three days. And she ordered up all kinds of expensive food from my wife, who did all the grocery shopping. She went on a big eating binge. And she explained to my wife that this was her way of recovering all that money her idiot grandson had wasted, paying off her Fingerhut bill.

This is the latest installation of my eight-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 6: A Vacation With Emma. Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

The Saint Paddy’s Day Fire

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 4: The Saint Paddy’s Day Fire

My wife hated being around drinkers, so when she took my grandmother barhopping she’d often leave her with her barstool friends, and go to the library and read for a few hours. One day, after returning from the library, my grandmother spotted her entering through the front door of the bar. “Oh, you’re home!” she exclaimed. Yep, that about summed up my grandmother’s attitude toward bars.

My wife had lost a lot of weight, after once being very heavy. She knew firsthand how hard it is to struggle with obesity, and had a lot of empathy for the overweight. But now and then the barroom banter would turn to fat people, and everyone would make judgmental remarks and wise cracks, including my grandma. So my wife would pipe up and observe, “Eating is an addiction. Just like drinking.” That would usually shut the crowd up.

Grandma was gregarious and loved being in the middle of barroom banter. But she especially loved talking with men. That’s because she loved men. Her favorite gender was male, and she was a natural flirt with this usually horny species. And she treated every bar as if it was a singles bar.

Although she’d flirt with the guys, the funny thing was, she never dated any of them. She was a widow, and apparently no man could ever match up to what she had with my grandpa. But she did seem to enjoy trying to get men excited over her.

When she was about 90, she bought a water bra to perk her tits up. Then she’d hug her male drinking buddies and announce, “I’m wearing a water bra!” Somehow she thought that made her more attractive.

One day she entered a drinking establishment that was mostly empty. Nobody occupied any tables, but two men were draped over at the bar, spaced apart by a vacant stool. Grandma could have planted her ass anywhere. But she loved men, so the elderly coquette ambled up to these two macho elbow-benders and claimed the vacant stool between them. This was my grandma’s version of a threesome.

My wife dreaded Saint Paddy’s Day. Or Saint Patrick’s Day, for the sober minded. But Grandma’s mind was always sharp enough to remember when March 17th had arrived, and my wife would end up spending the day, barhopping her all over town. Grandma’s favorite watering hole for slurping green beer was at a joint called Murphy’s Bar. But of course, with that name!

Murphy’s Bar was located in a strip mall, directly below a floor of apartments. Behind it was a donut shop, and next to the donut shop was a laundromat. One March 17th, my wife sat Grandma down at a table next to the front door at Murphy’s, then headed over to the donut shop where she could be away from the drinkers.

She was just lifting a cup of coffee to her lips when a lady ran into the donut shop and frantically announced that there was a big fire in the laundromat next door. The donut shop owner immediately dialed 9-1-1. The dispatcher ordered her to evacuate the donut shop, and go around to all the other businesses in the strip mall and warn them to evacuate also. So my wife piped up and deputized herself to perform this civic duty at Murphy’s Bar.

“Fire! Fire!” my wife bellowed, as she hustled through the front door of Murphy’s. Nothing. The bar was packed, but nobody so much as lifted a head or an eyebrow, to pay her any attention. “Hey, did you hear me!” my wife yelled again. “There’s a fire at the laundromat next door, and the fire department wants everyone to get out!”

An annoyed patron looked at her asquint and slurred, “Siddown an’ shuddup!”

“But you don’t understand!” my wife persisted. “The laundromat’s on fire! Everyone has to evacuate!” Now she had everyone’s attention. They all glared at her, including the bartender, and hollered back, “Lady, sit down and shut up! We’re not going anywhere! We don’t smell any smoke!”

They looked like they were ready to kill her. Suddenly my wife realized that all these drunks with their precious green beer were more dangerous than any fire. She feared one of them might get violent with her if she continued on, playing fire marshal.

Grandma joined the mob, and gestured at a chair by the table. “Yes, sit down and shut up!”

“But Grandma, aren’t you afraid of burning up?”

“No, we’re right by the door. So just sit down. If things start getting smoky, we can leave,” she nonchalantly remarked, while sipping her green beer.

The fire department rolled in with sirens blaring, and within minutes was able to suppress the conflagration. They had saved Saint Paddy’s Day for all the revelers at Murphy’s Bar, who really didn’t give a shit. They were much more concerned with their green beer than any fire at some laundromat somewhere.

And that’s how my wife survived the infamous and quickly forgotten, Saint Paddy’s Day Fire. And yet another day of barhopping with my grandma.

This is the latest installation of my eight-part series, The Queen of the Silver Dollar. Come on back in a few days for the next installation, entitled, Chapter 5: Fingerhut and High Finance. Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 3: The Queen of the Silver Dollar

She’s the queen of the Silver Dollar, and she rules this smoky kingdom,
And her scepter is a wine glass, and a barstool is her throne.
And the jesters, they flock around her, and they fight to win her favors,
And see which one will take the queen of the Silver Dollar home.

Shel Silverstein

My grandmother never in her life had a driver’s license. She had a phobia about driving, so others had to help her enjoy her favorite pastime. Which was barhopping.

Her designated driver was my alcoholic grandfather up until the day he croaked, when he was 68 and she was 64. After that she had to rely on friends and family to motor her around from bar to bar. Then about five months after my grandpa died, I hit hard times, and my grandma allowed me to move in with her. And boy was she thrilled. Now she had a new, live-in chauffeur.

But I hated barhopping. What really cured me was the time she flirted with a young, squirrelly drunk, named Leonard, who kept putting his hands all over her. She complained to me about him, but then continued to flirt with him. It seemed she was setting me up to defend her honor.

“L-leonard, take your han-hands off her!” my voice trembled as beer sloshed out of my shaking mug, soaking my convulsive hand.

Leonard observed the amber liquid dripping from my fingers and smiled wryly. “Why? She’s a beautiful, sexy lady,” he daringly gazed at me as he ran his fingers down Grandma’s back. I grabbed his hand and pulled it off, and he staggered away, mumbling defensively. There. Honor defended.

But about a minute later, the drunken creep wandered back and resumed groping Grandma. In a bar, the code of honor dictates that my next move was to punch that miserable, fucking pervert square in the face. But I chickened out.

“C’mon Grandma, let’s go home,” I snarled, as I dismounted my barstool.

Grandma was clearly disappointed with my cowardice, but she complied, proud that at least some of her honor had been defended that day.

I wouldn’t take her to bars after that. But then Saint Paddy’s Day rolled around. For everyone else, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, but drunken barhoppers call it Saint Paddy’s Day. It’s practically a national holiday for them. It’s the day of green beer, green guts, and green vomit.

We’d just finished grocery shopping when Grandma smiled sweetly at me and said, “It’s Saint Paddy’s Day. Let’s go get some green beer. But only if you want to. No pressure.”

I pondered for a few moments. And then, “No, I think I’ll pass on that, Grandma.” Grandma’s no-pressure smile instantly transformed into a pout. I drove her home in silence, and she hardly spoke to me for a week after.

Not long after this I found a job and moved out. Which is a good thing, because I think Grandma was about to give me the boot over the Saint Paddy’s Day debacle. Within weeks I was replaced by my drunken Uncle Mike (Grandma’s son), who worked as her live-in chauffer for about the next 20 years. And he made sure they never missed the green beer on Saint Paddy’s Day.

But then my uncle up and had a stroke, from years of hard partying. That’s when my wife took on the job of caretaking for my grandmother, who was now in her mid-80’s. In other words, she became her new chauffeur. My wife didn’t drink, and she hated bars, but she knew how much Grandma loved to party it up at all the local saloons. And so she became a reluctant barfly, escorting her about, from one drinking establishment to another.

She often tried to distract my grandma from barhopping, by taking her thrift store shopping. Grandma loved this, and would buy gaudy outfits that looked expensive, and perhaps once were, but were now priced at only a few dollars. And she loved to buy sparkly tennis shoes, for about a buck a pair.

My wife would take her home with all these new, old clothes she’d purchased, and my grandma would put on a fashion show for her, modeling all her thrift store threads. And then she’d spiff herself up in one of her second-hand outfits, bedizen her fingers, wrists, neck, and ears with cheap, sparkling costume jewelry, and suggest, “Let’s go to the bar!”

Dressed to the nines at the bar, Grandma would brag that she was wearing a $200 outfit, while flashing her costume jewelry under the noses of fellow patrons. And she always sported a nice, “expensive” hairdo, which my wife, who was a licensed beautician, had provided for free.

Her royal gown is a satin dress, that’s stained and slightly torn,
And her sparkling jewels are rhinestones, and her shoes are scuffed and worn . . .

Shel Silverstein

I think Grandma was a wannabe aristocrat. My mother once traced our family tree way back to a somewhat famous family of aristocrats, whose last name was the same as my grandparents. She also traced it to some horse thieves who were hanged in Texas, but never mind them. My grandmother focused on the aristocrats, and would brag to everyone that she was related to them.

My grandmother, the Queen of the Silver Dollar.

Back before my wife became her chauffeur, and her drunken son, Michael, was tooting her around to all the bars, she’d brag to her bar friends that Mike received a monthly trust fund check from this wealthy family. But of course it wasn’t true. Uncle Mike was just a bum, who was living with and leaching off of his mother.

I don’t know if anyone believed she was rich, but everyone at the bars loved her and called her “Mom.” And Grandma ate that up. But my wife and I had a different name. We figured she really was an aristocrat of sorts, in that she was a barstool queen. So we called her the Queen of the Silver Dollar, after the popular tune penned by Shel Silverstein.

When she was a child, during the 1920’s, she immigrated to California from the Ozark mountains. Her dirt poor family gradually made their way West in an old jalopy. It took them several years, because they had to stop from time to time to pick cotton and work other odd jobs. But eventually they raised enough road money to straggle into the Golden State.

At age 17, she was on a ladder picking oranges in a Southern California orchard, when she met my fun-loving grandfather. He was showing off to her by trying to stand on his head, while perched on top of his ladder. But suddenly he lost his balance and tumbled to the ground. My grandmother laughed her ass off, and a spark between them was struck. A few months later they eloped and were wed by a Justice of the Peace.

My grandfather introduced her to the bar scene shortly after they married in 1933. He’d punch off work, and instead of going home he’d spend his evenings in a bar. Grandma soon figured out that if she wanted to keep the marriage alive, she’d have to join him.

And so just like Queen Elizabeth, my grandmother received her coronation at a young age. She became a barstool queen, and she kept that throne all the way into her 90’s.

I found her and I won her, and I brought her to this world.
Yes I’m the man who made a queen of a simple country girl.

Shel Silverstein

Yes, Silverstein’s song fits her well, so I’ll end this post with Dr. Hook’s live version. But stick around for more tales about my partying grandmother, in the days to come.

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 4: The Saint Paddy’s Day Fire. Click here to read the last installation. Click here to start at the beginning.

My Barhopping Grandparents

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 grandparents began barhopping during the Great Depression, at taverns that probably looked similar to this.

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.

Day of Diaspora

The Queen of the Silver Dollar

Chapter 1: Day of Diaspora

One day when I was in the fourth grade, I was pulled out of my classroom and hauled off to Juvenile Hall. But initially I was summoned to the principal’s office. There I found my mother and my sister, River, waiting for me.

I wasn’t in any trouble. My mother had just taken River out of high school, and had now arrived to pluck me away from my grade school. In the car, Mom put on the kind of sales pitch one would need to put on, to convince a child not to be frightened.

“Guess, what son?! Today you and your sister get to go to Juvenile Hall! That’s a real fun place, where you get to play all kinds of fun games. They’ll treat you real nice there, and you’ll get to make a lot of new friends.”

“Yeah, Tippy, you’re gonna love Juvenile Hall,” my sister chimed in. She didn’t want me worrying, either. River always looked after me, and was trying to lure me into a positive mood. But I’d heard of Juvenile Hall before, and had always thought it was a place where bad children were sent. I said as much.

“No, good kids can go to Juvenile Hall, too,” my mother corrected. And you’re a good boy. They have a special place there for good boys and girls, where you’ll be treated very nicely.”

Juvie

By the time we arrived at Juvenile Hall, my mother and sister had me convinced that this place was better than Disneyland. Why, I couldn’t wait to get inside and enjoy all the wonders of Juvenile Hall.

My sister and I sat on a bench, at Juvie, and watched my mother speak with an official-looking person. He was frowning and shaking his head. I overheard him saying something about how these kids didn’t belong here. And then my mother came back and led us away.

I felt disappointed. They’d done such a good job at selling me on Juvenile Hall, that I started complaining after my mother broke the “bad” news to me.

She took us home to a darkened house. My stepfather was no longer there. I was told that he and my mom were getting divorced. That was the best news I’d heard in a long time, as my stepfather was a very abusive man. My heart sang. But my other sisters and my brother weren’t at home, either.

This was the day of diaspora, for my family. My mother had five children, and this was the last day all five of us would live together under the same roof.

Over all the decades that have ensued, I’ve been able to piece together snippets of information that have slipped out, here and there, to decoct a basic idea of what was going on at that time, and unravel this family secret.

It seemed my mother had come up with an “ingenious” idea for making money.

She had opened up a bank account in two different banks, with very small deposits. I’ll call them Bank A and Bank B. Then she wrote a large, rubber check from Bank A, depositing it in Bank B. Before the check could bounce, she wrote another large, rubber check from Bank B, back to Bank A, to cover the first rubber check. In this way, she quickly built up large phantom balances in both banks.

Then she went on a spending spree, and paid for it by writing large, rubber checks. When businesses contacted her banks, they received confirmation that the checks were covered, due to the large rubber checks she’d previously deposited. And so they accepted these bad checks.

This is a crime known as check kiting and paper hanging.

Of course, my mom’s house of cards eventually caved in, and she had to face the music. I know she was required to pay back the money she stole. But I also suspect she had to do a small amount of jail time, though she’s never admitted to this. That’s why she tried to place my sister and me into Juvenile Hall. She needed someone to take care of us during her incarceration.

But Juvenile Hall wouldn’t have us. My sister and I were not criminals, so they could not legally take us in. Why my mother ever got the idea that they would house us, I don’t know. Maybe she wasn’t thinking very clearly during those trying times.

Mom ended up calling her parents and confessing her crime. And my grandparents agreed to take care of River and me, until she got out of jail and had enough money to take us back.

The god of irony and goddess of karma were playing cruel tricks on my mother and grandparents, on this day of diaspora. Family history was repeating itself. That’s because shortly after my mother was born, her parents had also left her with her grandparents.

It seems my mom’s parents didn’t want a child. They were party animals and alcoholics. And children got in the way of all the partying they wanted to do. They had no time for raising children, what with all the booze that waited for them, at the bars.

But then, due to the unavailability of birth control in those days, they had more children, and my mom’s mother needed a babysitter if she was going to keep up with her husband’s barhopping. So at age 10, my mother was retrieved from her grandparents’ care and forced to become a nanny to her younger brothers.

This was a bitter experience for my mother, which she never forgot or forgave. She’d bonded with her grandparents, and now she’d been ripped away from them. She blamed her mother for this, and her relationship with my grandmother would be rocky for the remainder of my grandmother’s life.

Yet now my mother had to eat crow and place my sister and me under the care of my grandmother. The same grandmother who’d placed her under the care of her grandparents. Fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, as they say, and now my mother was doing exactly what had been done to her, when she was a child. This fallen fruit was bitter and rotten to the taste, when she picked it up off the ground.

It was bitter and rotten for me also. My heart felt lonely and empty, like a vacuum had sucked away everything that made life worth living. I was only nine, going on ten, and I missed my mother terribly while under my grandparents’ care. They were actually good people, in their own way, but they weren’t my mother, and every child needs their mother, no matter what sort of crime she may have committed.

But life is change, and everyone must reckon with the forces of great change at some point in their lives. I now had somebody new looking after me, whom I’d only known casually up until this point. My grandmother.

The months that followed began an on-again, off-again relationship with this grandmother that would last for many years. It was a relationship of crossing paths and give and take. Of mutual rescue through the storms of life, and mutual friendship and animosity. Over the years, we would care for each other, and we would battle each other.

And I must admit, she was a tough old bird to care for and battle against. I couldn’t have done it without my wife. In fact, she took on the greater portion of this challenge, by far. This is a series of posts about some of those cares and battles, with a lady whom my wife and I came to refer to, as the Queen of the Silver Dollar.

This is the first 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 2: My Barhopping Grandparents.

Swimming Pool

There are some places we may assume are safe, but no place is absolutely safe. I learned this lesson when I was 16.

I lived with my mother and stepfather in a very large apartment complex. The layout of this complex included about a half dozen, two-story apartment buildings, all surrounding a swimming pool. One might think a swimming pool encircled by all those eyes, ears, and windows, would be a safe place for a dip in the chlorinated water.

Not so.

My mother and stepfather decided to have a pool party. My stepbrother and his wife, and a couple of my stepfather’s friends and their wives, attended this soiree. The festivities began with beer and snacks, inside our tiny apartment’s living room. After the mind-debilitating effects of the poisonous alcohol began working its magic, the revelers debouched from our small habitat and headed for the pool.

It was a cool, overcast day in San Diego, that November afternoon. All the other tenants were snuggled indoors near their wall furnaces. So we had the lukewarm pool to ourselves.

A volleyball net bisected this outdoor natatorium, and one of the tipplers grabbed a volleyball and called for a game. Sure, what the hell, they all shrugged. I joined half of them on the shallow end, while the other half squared off against us on the deep end. I didn’t swim well, so I was glad to be on the side where my feet could touch the concrete.

After a few sets of knocking the ball around, things began to drag. No drunk at a party can stand for that, so somebody livened up the action, and I got one of the shocks of my life. My stepbrother sneaked up behind his dad, grabbed his swimming trunks and yanked them down.

I gasped. My stepfather was a prideful, crosspatch of a man, whose sense of humor did not abide this sort of affront. Especially when he’d been drinking. I expected a harsh backlash that would spell a sudden end to the party. So I got my next shock when he responded with laughter and just pulled his trunks back up, with a grin.

Next thing I knew, everyone was getting pantsed in the water. Except me. I was 16, and very shy about my body. I felt mortified about the prospect of my bare ass being exposed, even if underwater. So I held on tight to my trunks whenever anyone approached, especially from behind. There were a few abortive attempts, but the pranksters soon realized that I meant business, and gave up.

After about a half-hour of this frivolity, the drunks were ready to get out of the pool and go back inside where the beer was. But I opted to remain in the water. I’d been learning to swim, and wanted to practice a few laps.

One of my stepfather’s friends also decided to stay behind.

He was a big, husky man in his early-40s. He trained greyhounds to race at the nearby Agua Caliente racetrack, in Tijuana. And he had lived for awhile in the motel near the border, that my family had managed, until we moved to this apartment complex a few months before. That’s how he had become friends with my stepfather.

He was always friendly to me, but I tried to avoid him. He was a little too friendly, and I’m wary of people like that. And he talked about sex a lot, whenever he was visiting my stepfather. I thought he was a little weird.

But he kept to himself, in the pool, and I was able to swim my laps without much interaction with him. I felt safe there. After all, this was a public place, surrounded by many homes.

I was improving at swimming, and enjoyed getting in a little practice. But finally I tired of this exercise, and headed for the ladder at the deep end. I didn’t notice him swimming up from behind.

Halfway up the ladder, he yanked my swimming trunks down, then threw his arms around my waist. He pulled hard on me, trying to get me off the ladder. I shouted a protest, something like, “Hey, I don’t want to play that game! Let me go!” But this was no game. There was no laughter. He just kept pulling on me.

I felt terrified. I instinctively realized that if I reached down for my swimming trunks, he’d be able to drag me off the ladder and into the deep water. There, I would be helpless for whatever he was planning, which I could only imagine with dread. So instead of reaching for the trunks, I wrapped my arms around the bars of the ladder and held on tight while shouting, “Help!!!”

I cast my gaze desperately about, at all the windows of all those apartment buildings. Surely someone would hear me, peer through their window, and see what was going on. There was no way this creep could get away with this in broad daylight, in such a public place.

But to my dismay, nobody responded to my cries for help. No alarmed faces appeared in windows. It was as if the apartment complex was abandoned. Nobody came to my rescue. I was alone in my struggle against this assailant.

He angrily commanded me to let go, but I held on tight to my one and only savior. The ladder. He was much stronger than me, but when you wrap your arms around the bars of a swimming pool ladder, it probably requires a team of mules and a crowbar to pry you off.

Finally he must have realized I wasn’t going to budge. And that the longer I kept yelling for help, the greater the chance somebody would hear me and catch him in this criminal act. So he released me and swam away.

I instantly pulled my trunks up and scrambled up the ladder. Then I fled, running for the safety of my apartment. Once inside and safe, I headed for my bedroom without saying a word to any of the drunken partiers.

I figured nobody would believe me anyway. Hell, they’d take his side. And I realized he could pass this off as a misunderstanding, arising from an innocent continuation of the pantsing game. I felt no confidence that my mother or stepfather would take me seriously.

I heard him enter the apartment a few minutes later and tell his wife that it was time to go home. I stayed in my bedroom until I was sure they were gone.

He was a smart one. He’d been around my stepfather long enough to realize what an abusive asshole he was. So he must have calculated that I was an easy target. When kids have a bad relationship with their parents, they rarely share their vulnerabilities. An embarrassing thing like an attempted rape is nothing one would want to divulge to a person who has belittled and demeaned them most of their life.

So my stepfather’s friend was safe. I never told on him. This left him free to find new targets and new victims. I regret that, but at the time I felt too afraid to talk about it to anyone. I trusted nobody.

I finally told my sisters about it when I was 53. And they understood, because they had been molested as children also. I was just another member of the club. Though not a full member, like them. Their predators had succeeded, so I was pretty fortunate. They shared some of their experiences, and their stories were much more horrifying than mine. I felt aghast at what some men do to children. And these men were trusted family members.

I doubt our society will ever be rid of the crime of child molesting. I think it’s been going on for thousands of years, and will likely continue for thousands more. But I believe there are things parents can do to reduce the likelihood of it happening to their little loved ones.

I think one of the best ways is to always maintain a strong level of mutual trust. When it’s clear to family members, friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances that the children of a household feel safe to tell their parents anything, I think those children are far less likely to become targets.

And of course another way, is to never assume that a public place is a safe place.

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