Friday, December 27, 2013

The Father Of My Children

I just realized that you have not met my husband. I suppose the correct title is ex-husband but I not only find the term a little "tacky" but it is too long to say all the time. But now you know the status.

I am going to call him John here. That is not his real name but husband is just too long and impersonal to write every time.

John came from a family of nine children. He had three older sisters, three older brothers, and two younger brothers. His family was like mine in the fact that we had very little in the way of material things. But also like my family the love was there and what more do we really need?

John was born in the house he grew up in. Literally. His oldest sister was the midwife. She told me that helping her mother deliver a child was the hardest thing she had ever done.

My mother-in-law often told me what a pretty baby he was. I believe her because he was father to four beautiful babies. She once told me, "Well now you know Emma, Johnny always was my prettiest baby." My daughter has a photograph that her aunt gave her. Johnny was about 2 years old along with his older brother who was about 5. He was a pretty little guy.

Johnny was several "hands full" of a child. I have a hard time believing some of the things that happened.

He followed his older brother and his friends around. Most of the time they did not mind. If nothing else they could get him to do the dirty work parts of the things they were up to. They lived in the country but were not technically farmers so the boys were free to wander the countryside much of the day.

They could climb the hills and climb the trees. They would go fishing. The older boys went swimming but John did not know how to swim. So the bigger boys decided it was time for him to learn. They paddled their raft out to the middle of the river and told him they were going to teach him to swim. He was excited. That is until they picked him up and threw hem as far as they could into the water.

When he violently hit the water it was cold. When he went under the water he panicked. Then he almost drowned. His brother finally gave in and pulled him out. John never did learn to swim. He would go wading in shallow water if we took the kids swimming but after only a few minutes in the water he would turn blue and start to shake. He would get out and sit on the beach with a towel wrapped around him until it was time to leave.

There were times that the boys were downright cruel. I heard many tales of blowing up the chickens with firecrackers. Ick.

My mother-in-law was almost as round as she was tall. But she managed to keep up pretty well with those unruly boys. Her word was the law. Unfortunately they did not always keep to the law. Mom was a busy woman.

One day the boys rigged John with a noose around his neck so it would look like he was hanging from a tree halfway up the hill. The also has a rope around his waist so there was no danger of him really hanging himself.

Then the older brother and friend went running to the house screaming, "Johnny hung himself. Johnny hung himself."

Mom came running out of the house at top speed. She ran up the hill, hurdling a fence just like a track star. John's head sort of fell to one side and his tongue was hanging out.

When Mom jumped the fence John had to laugh and he could not stop. He tried to stop and it only got worse. Of course his mother noticed. By the time she reached the tree and John she also had a switch in her hand. After she got him out of the noose she got her revenge.

Speaking of switches, Mom usually had the boys go out and cut the switch that she would use to try to keep them in line. John learned a good trick. He would break the switch in half then stick it back together. Those green switches had enough moisture in them to hide the break if you were careful.

Then when Mom would begin the whipping, the switch would immediately break. She would think she was hitting them so hard that she was the one who felt bad.

When he was about 14 John got a scooter. It was not a motorcycle but to him it was the next best thing. I have an old picture of him straddling over it like he was ready to ride. His sister is standing next to him. It was one of the high points of his life.

John was not a good student. He was not interested in school. So he dropped out. He could not read or write but he was very intelligent. An education was not a necessary thing for boys in those days so he got a job.

He eventually had enough money to buy a car. He and his friends had a new freedom. Free to drive over those country roads at night, who knew what kinds of mischief they got into. That was the car he owned when I met him.

That summer he decided to get a different car. It was, I believe, a 1953 Ford. It had a spotlight like the ones found on police cars.

There was a large state park on the edge of town. Hills and trees and the little viewing areas to the side of the road made it a favorite place for lovers to spend time alone. A group of us were driving slowly through the park bedeviling those parked cars with the spotlight.

We came upon one car that looked like no one was in it. John shined the spotlight over it. Nothing. He kept shining the light that way and suddenly two heads popped up. We all started to laugh. The male began to shout obscenities (I wonder why?) as he started the car. We followed that car down the hill all the way out of the park. The whole way the guy was waving his fist at us and screaming while trying to get dressed using the other hand.

John discovered another unusual feature on this car. On Saturday nights all the kids would drive what we called the loop in town. Up one street, over a block, and down the next street. Over and over all night. We were cruising.

One night simply by accident John discovered that if he popped his foot off the clutch just as he gave a hard hit on the gas, the front end of the car would pop up into the air. It was a great adventure until we popped into the air and the drive shaft fell out.

There will be more about John in the future. I just wanted to introduce you.

John died a couple of years ago. He had cancer. We were no longer married but we respected each other. I will not say that we were friends but we were certainly not enemies. We were connected by virtue of the fact that we have four wonderful children.


  1. Thanks Emma for another colorful and vivid portrait of your ex-husband, John. Coincidentally, that was the actual name of my "ex" who was the oldest in a large family of 7 children. We divorced after his cheating and we did not remain friendly and never saw one another afterwards. I did not wish him any malice and had instead just over on with my life as cheating was the one thing I would not stand for which is why he did it behind my back, guess I was slow to pick-up. Anyway, he later married the girlfriend and I moved on and met and married Pat. Quite a few years ago, John and another man died as the result of an industrial accident. Sadly, the accident was caused by an error in judgement on his part.

    1. A woman I worked with once commented that she had never heard a person who was divorced who had nothing bad to say about her former spouse. I told her that I would have been pretty stupid to have been married so long to a person with no redeeming qualities. Of course we had our share of problems but we did care for each other. We tried to make our marriage work but in the end it just died. I admired him greatly and no one could make me angrier than he could but in the end it was for my children. I am sorry your experience was a bad one. Thankfully you were able to move on to a happier life.