Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Falling Down The Rabbit Hole

My father never learned to write a check. He was an intelligent, creative man but lacked the money for a better education. Mom worked as a secretary on and off - when she needed to (or wanted to escape the house) to bolster Dad's income. We got by. When I was growing up in Edmonds we were not the only family to drive "beater" cars but that was when Edmonds was a small town and you could still walk on a real beach and collect driftwood. I barely graduated from high school - I was more interested in getting married (the other options were few and far between - in the late 1950s and 60s). Not only was marrying young an option, I'd fallen in love and that marriage was an honest mistake. This isn't where I wanted to start this blog - where I would like to start is where I am now at the ripe age of 68. My head is so full of clutter it is difficult to start writing but I will try.

I could start with my Norwegian grandmother on my mother's side. She was a tough, thrifty, sensible woman, the kind of grandmother that would buy you an umbrella for Christmas rather than a game or a toy. She had guts. Her family was close to starving in Norway - she and her sister were sent abroad in hopes of a better life. She couldn't even speak English, neither could her sister. I have her handwritten diary from that time and hope to find time to type it up for others to read. Her story is fascinating even if you are not a part of the family.

My other grandmother married young - like me, too young. She had aspired to be an opera star (and came close)but having four children tied her down. She also was Poet Laureate of Washington and was also an artist (water colors). There's much more to say about my Dad's side of the family, too much to cram into a paragraph or two.

Let me get back to the present day ... as for "now" I'd like to be honest about how near poverty has affected my life and how it has affected the life of my guy, Bob. As I write he is out on an inventory job (a very part-time job) and is on the verge of coming down with pneumonia. He is about to turn 61 and has no health insurance. The hours he works are sporadic - sometimes two weeks without any income, then a bunch of days all crammed together with crazy hours. One example: getting up at 2:30 in the morning for an inventory "gig" in Goldendale and not getting home until after midnight the next day. Then getting up (after very little rest) for another "gig" in another town far from home. In two years of job hunting this is the only work he has been able to find.

Like me Bob doesn't have a degree in anything but when he was younger did fairly well financially despite lack of a degree. He managed furniture stores among other long-term jobs and while I've never seen him in a work setting, I believe he is good at everything he does. For one thing, he shows up. He's dependable. On these inventory "gigs" there are usually at least one or two no-shows.

My first grade teacher told my mother that I would be a writer when I grew up. How did she know? I had no clue. I was just a little kid that liked to play outside and pet our kitty (who gave me ring worm!). I almost flunked out of high school - I never got good grades except in English, Spelling and Creative Writing. I was so poor at math (like my Dad!) that they wouldn't even allow me to take algebra; they passed me anyway just to get rid of me!

I wrote my first published poem on a bus en route to Seattle. It appeared in The Tacoma Tribune (I don't even remember the year it came out). That was the beginning of my "poet" chapter but more on that later.

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