I will begin this series with a look into the childhood of my Mama. In fact, let’s go even further back to how her parents met. This look into my mother’s growing up years will give the reader some sense of why she did what she did.
Grandpa fought in the Atlantic Theater in World War II. Grandma was the secretary to the Secretary of State. She had a small side-job for the government – meeting the young men who came back from war, as a dancer. Yes, the government would provide women to dance with the young lads on leave. It was at one of these functions that Grandpa met Grandma and they fell in love. They were married shortly thereafter. Both were devout Catholics, and made that clear, by having a total of nine children. My mother popped out as the second oldest.
Grandpa was many things. He bought the family a horse ranch in Big Lake, Minnesota. That ranch was the source of many, maybe all, of my mother’s fond childhood memories. When the family lost the ranch, my mother was crushed. She loved her horses and the “getting away” that the ranch provided. Grandpa was also a devout Republican and yet, he had many friends in high places in both major political parties. He was good friends with George McGovern, had an excellent friendship with Hubert H. Humphrey, knew Nixon, and loved Ronald Reagan. He was friends with the family of Amy Klobuchar and watched her grow up.
His connections led him to start a newspaper that would rival the other large Minneapolis rags, which, at the time, were both on strike. The paper went well for a while and then the other two papers merged, which caused the strike to end. Grandpa’s partners pulled their money, and he was left broke and weeping. Until his death, Grandpa ran a few daily circulars or weekly newsletters to support the family. When money ran short, he would spin off to Las Vegas to increase his monetary footprint or even send one of his children to “make some money”. Once, he handed my mother $40 and sent her to the City of Sin. She went with no clue how to gamble and ended up winning $400. She did the math and realized that that was a pretty decent haul and went right back home, much to the consternation of Grandpa. He was of the mindset that, if things were going well, they would keep going well. Thus, if you won $400 from $40, you would easily haul away $4000 from $400.
Grandpa also had a dark side. He had numerous extra-marital affairs. It was rumored that he fathered a child by one of his secretaries. Half the family fled to California in disgust and anger. My mother was one of them. His sexual abuse was also both documented and rumored. You will see, later in my story, how this translated to how my mother raised her own children. Through all of this tumultuous life, Grandpa stuck with Grandma and they loved each other very much. He died in her arms.
At 19 years old, my mother was in charge of her father’s newsroom and directed the editing of the paper. She was, and is, very intelligent and knows what she is doing at every juncture in her life. She lived precariously, but never drank an ounce of liquor, did any drugs, nor did she ever smoke. Once she went out with a police officer who took her on a ride-along while sipping from a flask of whiskey on a necklace. He flipped the squad car and Mama broke her neck, collarbone, and arm. She bears the scars of surgery to this day and can predict the weather with the subsequent aches and pains. After she left the paper, she became a cab driver. The cab company went on strike and Mama became a scab. She caught the eye of my dad, the company dispatcher. They were married not long after he proposed to her, over the dispatch radio.
And that was her life before us.