Saturday, June 26, 2010


After Bill was born, she now had three children to take care of: ages five, one and a newborn. She stayed home to be a mother and a wife. It kept her very busy all of the time. Remember, this was before any of the modern conveniences mothers have today. There were no disposable diapers or disposable bottles. She mixed her own formula for the baby bottles and mashed up food for them to eat. Frankie never learned to drive a car. (As a matter of fact, her sister, Kay never learned to drive a car either and she lived to be 80). Whenever my mother needed to go shopping or to appointments, she had to load up the three children and take busses wherever she went.

For his entire working life, my father, Ralph, was always a traveling salesman. He worked for many different companies over the years, but was constantly on the road and rarely ever came home. Frankie found her life very stifling. She was in a loveless, lonely marriage with little companionship other than her children. She was a heavy smoker for all of her adult life and then she started drinking heavily too.

When her husband did come home, he saw the state she was in and began being very abusive to her both verbally and physically. She felt trapped. With very little education and no skills to go to work, she accepted her fate and stayed in her nightmare of a marriage and her miserable existence.

The children were growing and when Jim was ten, Beverly five, and Bill four years old, she discovered she was pregnant again. Now Frankie felt completely lost and hopeless. She couldn’t bear to stay married to Ralph and start raising yet another child. She began going out by herself and leaving the children at home alone, sometimes even overnight. The abuse from her husband had escalated over the years and now she was not only abused but had become an alcoholic. Next, she started having her doctor prescribe sleeping pills.

Ralph informed her that as soon as she had the baby, he was going to take the four children from her and get a divorce. She was relieved knowing she would get away from him but devastated by the thought of losing her children. From what I was told, she had become very close to her physician, Doctor Shay. He told her he would help her with the divorce and help her retain custody of the children.

On November 19, 1942, Frankie’s fourth child was delivered by Doctor Shay. It was a girl she named Sharon. The baby girl was me. Dr. Shay found my mother a place to stay hoping she and her children would be safe and Ralph would not know where she was. He also hired an attorney to represent her in the divorce.

Unfortunately, Ralph did find her. One day (or perhaps night) he kidnapped the four of us. I was seven months old. His plan was to take us to New Jersey and try to talk his mother or his sister or one of his brothers to take care of us until he figured out what to do with us. We rode a train all the way across the country from Seattle to New York. I guess it was a harrowing trip, especially with me in diapers and drinking a bottle.

The reception he got from his family was not what he had hoped it would be. They still had not forgiven him for his betrayal of their Aunt Leah and the resulting disinheritance. They refused to help him in any way. He moved the five of us into a hotel in New York City. He just couldn’t figure out what to do with us, so he resorted to contacting Frankie and having her come to New York to retrieve us. The only photograph I have with my entire family when I was a baby was taken of us sitting at a table in a restaurant there. We look like the picture of a happy family. Pictures can be deceiving…

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