Margaret Ellen Wilson: Walking Away – 52 Ancestors (Ancestor 3)

This is the third installment of a series of posts about my mother. The previous post is here.

Turning your back on nothing and walking away is not disloyal, it’s self respect.
~Justin K. McFarlane Beau

“See that?” She asked me, holding something on her finger that she had picked out of her face. “It’s glass.” The little-girl-me asked, “Why is there glass in your face?” I suppose I already knew the answer. “It’s from that wreck,” she said, perhaps again telling me that she went through the windshield three times. I envisioned her as the pendulum of a metronome, covered in glass and blood and mayhem. It never occurred to me to wonder why she went through three times, not two or four. I have never understood physics, but it sure was against her on March 31, 1964.

Over time, I was told that there were months spent in the hospital. She had multiple surgeries, long rehabilitation, and had to learn how to walk again. They had to remove her broken teeth at the roots. That was all but about five on the bottom.

At some point, I heard about The Lawsuit from That Wreck. I have all of the post-accident photographs now. I do not know where they are, and I would not scan them if I did. They are sickening. I don’t remember how old I was when I first saw these pictures, and I may have only seen them once in my entire life, but the images of her in such a state almost brought bile to my throat, and it still kicks me in the gut.

Having been sheltered by the steering wheel, my dad suffered fewer injuries. I know more about her trauma than his. I do remember that his photos, while clearly bad, were nothing compared to hers.

They temporarily put steel pins in each toe. “What are those scars on your toes?” Little-girl-me asked her once. “Those are from my steel pins.” I have never been quite sure what those steel pins were for, because her toes were never straight. They were always bent, like an aerial view of the pointed roofs of a tiny village of tiny houses in a tiny row.

1964 was a very bad year.

My uncle Roy lived in the same town. “We didn’t think your mother was going to make it,” he once told me. My mother was becoming a walking scar. I have no idea how she made it, either.

Ultimately, she ended up with lifelong chronic pain.

She was no longer able to stand on her feet for long intervals and do a teaching job. She had to quit teaching. My mom and dad each received an early settlement from The Lawsuit from That Wreck, but it took several years for the rest to come in.

But she could still do up the best Thanksgiving dinner of anybody I know.

One of my mom's Thanksgiving dinners.

One of my mom’s Thanksgiving dinners.

A bright spot in her life during those hard years was Dusty. One day, even before Ellen Sue and the wreck, my mom opened the front door and there, in a box with ashes, was a puppy. She named her Dusty (because she was covered in dust), and she became my mother’s heart dog – that perfect companion who comes into your life and whose loyalty never fails. That’s who Dusty was.

Dusty and a beagle, 1960.

Dusty and a beagle, circa 1960-1961.

Mom and Dusty.

Mom and Dusty, circa 1965.

Dusty on New Year's Day, 1966.

Dusty on New Year’s Day, 1966.

In the summer of 1965, my mom was filled with mixed emotions when she found out she was pregnant again. After losing Ellen Sue followed by the devastating car wreck, she had given up hope of having another baby.

Mom with me in her belly.

Mom with me in her belly, 1965.

But it was happening. My due date was February 8, her mother’s birthday. I waited a week and was born “during a snow storm” the day after Valentine’s Day. My mother said she was in labor when she drove herself to the hospital. “Where was Daddy?” I once asked. “Oh, I don’t know,” she said. “He was probably in a bar.”

Her pelvis was all messed up from the wreck, so I probably couldn’t turn. I was feet first and holding out my elbows. They “had to break your left arm to get you out.” Yeah, um, I think Caesarian section would again have been the appropriate action. Or we could break the baby. Which should we choose? In 1966, we break the baby.

But what mattered most was that I was alive! My eyes were open, and I cooed and cried and pooped. I had dark brown eyes and a head of dark hair. Elizabeth Ellen, and she called me her Angel Baby. I meant everything to her. She tried to use me to fill those holes and mend those scars, and it probably appeared to work for a while. Because all she ever wanted was a baby.

Mom and me, when I was a few weeks old. My left arm was still bundled over my chest as it healed.

Mom and me, when I was a few weeks old. I love this picture.

When I was six weeks old (Was it March 31? Oh, I hope not!), she had packed up and was heading east to Connecticut where my dad wanted her. She stopped along the way to see a friend, who also knew my dad. Her husband was a fellow truck driver.

“You know what he’s doing, don’t you Margaret?” Joyce asked the dreaded rhetorical question. “He’s got himself another woman out there and wants you to be out there, too.” She knew Joyce was right. She had enough experiences with him in those six years to know that he was a “cheater” and a “womanizer.” She was long past being swept off her feet.

So my mom turned around and went to her hometown, staying with my uncle Bill for a time until she could figure out what to do next.

When she did not show up in Connecticut, my dad got a hold of her. “Where are you?”
“I’m not coming,” she declared. “I think you have another woman out there and that’s why you set this up. I’m staying here. If you want to be with me, you will come back here, quit driving, get a local job, quit womanizing, and stay home.” Believe it or not, he admitted she was right and actually did just that. Well, he did some of that. His “local job” was bartending. He messed around with the waitresses, and he often came home drunk.

He must have started driving again not too long after that, because I remember her telling me that it was during Christmas of 1966 that he was home and my brother was conceived.

I forgot to mention that in June 1966, the Connecticut woman had his baby. It was a boy. Somewhere in Connecticut, I had another sibling.

It was late May or early June of 1967. I was fifteen months old, and she was five months pregnant for my brother. My dad was working in town as a bartender again, and it was business as usual, with liquor and women, minus the truck driving. She had warned him. “Come home one more time smelling of perfume, and it’s over. I will not raise my kids this way.” And, of course, he did. He was a chronic cheater.

That next morning, she said to him, “Well, do you want to pack your bags or should I?” Like so many other things, this also broke her heart. Because she loved him – with all of his flaws and his lies – she loved my dad.

He told her she could pack his bags. So she did. And he was gone.

She grieved this loss for many years. There was a song she would hum while she was driving. I don’t know what it was, and if I asked and she said, I don’t remember, but I believe it was one that reminded her of Daddy.

When we were growing up, she would say, “Your daddy this” and “Your daddy that.” It took me a couple of decades before it hit me that I didn’t have a daddy.

Is it courageous to walk away from someone who repeatedly hurts you? Ironically, it is. I know this from my own experience. My dad was not a violent person, but he hurt her all the same.

Today, I have no anger toward him, although that freedom took me over 15 years to achieve. I decided it was best for me to believe that there was something in him that kept him from being able to be who my mom wanted him to be – who I wanted him to be. He was very weak when you get right down to it. He probably couldn’t help it.

If everything happens for a reason, then the reason for my daddy being gone was that if he had been with us, it would have been worse.

To be continued…

This entry was posted in 52 Ancestors, Mom's Side and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Margaret Ellen Wilson: Walking Away – 52 Ancestors (Ancestor 3)

  1. Pingback: Margaret Ellen Wilson: Without Her Mother – 52 Ancestors | Diggin' Up Graves

  2. Pingback: Margaret Ellen Wilson: Her Babies – 52 Ancestors | Diggin' Up Graves

  3. Pingback: Ancestors for Week 7 – 52 Ancestors (2015 #7) | Diggin' Up Graves

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