Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

Fairy Tales Shattered (Part 2)

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Ruth’s father, J.L., and Annie had married young themselves.  They were high school sweethearts.  When Annie realized she was….um….with child she and J.L. got married in her mother’s living room. Guess there wasn’t a lot of entertainment in a small southern town. She worshiped the ground J.L. walked on and he loved her more than life. They were very happy to get married,  there was no shotgun wedding here.  Seven months later they were the proud parents to Ruth’s older sister, Karen.  Four years later along came Ruth.

J.L. was a farmer until Ruth was around five or six.  Then he sold out his part of the farm back to his father and bought the family’s country store.  The little family of four lived in the back room of that store for a time, but not long.  There was a large brick house just up the hill within a few hundred yards of the store that he and Annie bought.  That must have been around 1978 or 79.  Only about half of the house had a floor in it and  it had no plumbing.  It was a fixer upper for sure.  They moved in pretty much right away.  They took baths in a wash galvanized wash tub that Annie had to boil water to heat up.  They had to go down to the store to do the rest.  That didn’t last very long though.  J.L. was pretty handy and the plumbing was in working order in no time.  He and Annie slowly installed flooring in the rest of the house over time.

He learned to drive a tractor-trailer and before long was making pretty good money.  He and Annie sold the little country store and Annie took a job in town.  When Ruth was ten her parents had another baby.  Jackson was the boy they didn’t have and he needed a companion sibling so two years later there was MaryBeth.  Each one of them was the apple of their eye.  They never played any favorites but if you asked them everyone of those kids would tell you they were it.  J.L. and Annie had this ability to give each one love and attention so they each thought they were special.

A few years earlier a car that J.L. was working on had fallen on him and his back was broken in a few places.  Because he had a family to feed and a work ethic second to none he didn’t give time for it to heal properly before he was back in that truck making a day’s pay.  He pretty much lived in pain and being a truck driver couldn’t take anything for it that wouldn’t impair his ability to do his job.  Oh but on the weekends he self-medicated.  They’d all get in the car on Friday afternoon when he got home and head for the county line to the liquor store.  Canadian Lord Calvert was his poison of choice and he’d buy a fifth of that and a two liter Coke.  It would be gone by Sunday afternoon.  Usually he had some kind of maintenance or repairs to do on his truck over the weekend so it would be ready for work on Monday.  Karen and Ruth were his little bar tenders.  He kept one of those Hardee’s Moose cups full all weekend long.  Ruth doesn’t drink hard liquor to this day because she still remembers the smell of it.

J.L. and Annie were pretty much two peas in a pod.  They were family folk who enjoyed doing things together when J.L. was home on the weekends.  They didn’t argue much.  In fact Ruth only remembers the one time.  There was only once that she saw them argue about anything at all. Ruth was eleven but she remembers it like it was yesterday.  On a Sunday afternoon in May J.L. and Annie took all of the kids plus his brother’s two boys to the river swimming.  He’d invited his brother to go along, but he said he needed to sleep because he had to work that night so he didn’t go.  When they were all done with their afternoon of fun they dropped the boys back off at his brother’s.  Turns out he wasn’t going to work, he was going out.  J.L. was furious and he railed in the car about how he never spent any time with those boys and he was gonna regret it one day.

He’d been drinking as usual on Sunday and the further he drove the louder he got and when he got to the stop sign he wasn’t paying attention and nearly ran out in front of a semi on the highway. There weren’t many things Annie was passionate about other than J.L., but four of ’em were in that car.  He’d nearly killed her babies and she let him have it.  They argued about him drinking the rest of the way home, which thankfully wasn’t far.  Karen, Ruth and Jackson beat a hasty trail inside as the arguing escalated.  Ruth stood at the screened door and watched as Annie stood there holding six month old MaryBeth and giving J.L. what-for.  She’d never seen that before.  It was kind of like a train wreck, she knew she should look away, but she couldn’t.

J.L. was holding a full cup of medicine in his hand and suddenly he tossed it out right at Annie’s feet then tossed the cup down on top of the mound of ice.  Annie said “you might as well crawl right up there with it”.  He shouted “go to hell” and then turned and walked away.  No shoes on, no shirt on, no wallet.  Just an old pair of cutoff jeans.  Annie watched him walk down the driveway and down the road until she couldn’t see him anymore.  She figured he was just blowing off some steam, but hours went by and he didn’t come home.  She called the sheriff’s department, but they said they couldn’t help until he’d been gone 24 hours.  Family members went out looking.  They looked for three days.  Finally the sheriff himself came for a visit and he had Ruth’s grandad with him.  When J.L. didn’t get out of the car with them Annie knew what that meant.  Ruth won’t ever forget watching Annie collapse to the ground, yelling with great grieving sobs.  The love of her life was gone.  Annie’s fairy tale was shattered that day.

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10 thoughts on “Fairy Tales Shattered (Part 2)

  1. Fiction? Autobiography? A mix of each? Or shall we wait until after the cliffhanger before we know that part of the story?

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  2. The only fiction here are the names. I'd intended not to put anything too deeply personal up here, but am finding it therapeutic to tell my story.

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  3. I understand. I still tell bits and pieces of my story from time to time. Type away – we will read along.

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  4. Looking forward to part 3:)

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  5. Devastating. One big argument, fuelled by alcohol, a life gone and a family with an irreplaceable hole.

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    • Yes, and it’s the only time I recall seeing my parents argue, though looking back on it I’m sure it had been bubbling under the surface for some time.

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  6. Though I am not clear on your father’s method of death — and not that it matters immediately for me — I can somewhat relate. I lost my father to suicide after my mother moved out from our home for a temporary separation…separation from ill-equipped marital problem-solving.

    Ready to continue with Part 3. 🙂

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    • I’m not clear on my father’s method of death, either. He walked down the driveway that day and three days later they said they’d found him in a slew beneath a bridge about 7 miles away. The “official” report said he’d fallen from the bridge. None of us could ever figure out how or why he was even at the bridge. Nor why when we were looking, ourselves, at that very bridge we didn’t find him. It’s remained a mystery and the case was never officially closed.

      I’m so sorry about your father’s suicide. How old were you?

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      • I was 27 years old. Up until that Wednesday my Mom called bawling to tell me she was leaving Dad, then that Friday night I spoke with Dad TRYING to come home to help him around the house — my Mom & sister informed me he wasn’t doing well — but he refused to let me travel 6-hours and miss my work & graduate schooling, then, that that phone call from the following Tuesday from my brother-in-law about finding him in the house… I never had a clue anything was THAT horribly wrong. July 1990 through January 1991 were THE MOST harshest reality checks for me I’d ever experienced. And the ripple-effect was only just beginning in my life.

        But all that is a story for another time.

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