You Are Safe Here

If I were allowed to do so, I would offer to share my home with a Syrian family, or whats left of one. I would say to them, here is fresh water, a shower and a toilet, some food, and a bed. Rest for awhile. It’s quiet here and the doors lock. Bombs do not fall here from the sky. It’s not a perfect place but no one bangs on the doors in the middle of the night to haul away the men, never to be seen again. No one rapes the women in front of their children in this house. You are safe here.

We can learn each others language. We can shop for food in a grocery store I’m sure will overwhelm you. Hopefully find the foods that will comfort you. Cooking relaxes me. Maybe it does the same for you. I will be excited to learn new words and try new foods.

When you are ready, we will venture out. I will show you the places that I love like the zoo and the lakes, and some animal life like deer and swans in the Metroparks. When you are ready to go out into the open spaces…

I will hear you cry in the night. Tears will quietly roll down my cheeks. I’m so sorry. You will grieve your losses, your homeland, the people who speak your language, and those that understand your points of reference. You will need to be with others like you. I am sorry I can’t do more, but at least you are safe here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Sad End To A Sad Life

This was originally written by me on Blogger  on Dec. 29, 2008. It was overwhelming for me to write this so I stopped right here. I have been attempting to tell the story lately. It gets somewhat easier as time passes. I hope my writing has improved, really. Other chapters remain to be written. The story won’t end until the last person is standing and there is no one left to be hurt by the truth.
Chapter One
I really don’t know how to start this one but I need to begin to talk about the end. This is about the end of the existence of the most horrible man I ever loved. Life is full of hard facts. This hard fact was my father.

To get up in the morning and look at your aging overtired face in the mirror and see that look. Ah, you know the look. It’s the same face that your father made when he was being pissy. I check myself everyday to be sure that I’m nothing like him. Truth is I’m a lot like him. I hope this means that an evil person can’t really be 100% bad. Can they?

When I read over that last paragraph I think it sounds like he, my father, is still a living person. Dread like he was, can never really die. He hangs over my shoulder sometimes and whispers in my ear, “We are so much the same.” I am reminded every night when I take that sleepy pill that circumstances change but your past does not leave you. If you think being female makes it easier on my self image, then imagine how my 3 brothers feel. Suffice it to say that they have arranged their lives to make them feel as little as possible. Not good.

I am the oldest of 5 children. Two girls and three boys. I am the one with the most memories. I keep them for my siblings. Just in case they decide to do some head work. I am the responsible one. I call it what it is. I am the only one who really admits that the 800 lb gorilla is still in the living room. I am the one who actually got the benefit of my parents youth. I got the best of George Wettig and saw him all the way to his worst. I saw it all.

On November 22, 2005 my brother Danny was dropped off at the Henry Ford Maple Grove treatment center in West Bloomfield Michigan by our mother Joanne. Vicodin was his thing and he had run out of emergency rooms where he could lie to get his hands on another 30 pills. We, my brother Mark, and my mother and I, were delighted that he had finally reached the end of his pills.

This was the first snowy, slippery weather day of the season and as always when the bad weather starts, Michiganders forget the driving lessons of the previous year. We drive like maniacs. My mother left the hospital grounds with my brothers son Tyler, age 12, and promptly totaled her Nisson Sentra. Not her fault. Fortunately neither her nor Tyler were hurt. When she called me on her cell phone still sitting in her car I advised her to go to the ER just to be sure the two of them were alright. She has high blood pressure and Tyler hit the door window with his head. Might as well be sure. Besides, it gave me more time to get from Fenton to West Bloomfield in my Nisson Sentra. Oh great.

So, I made it all the way over ‘there’ and there is no easy route from Fenton. I took the two of them to Leo’s Coney Island down the street. My mom is one of the old Irish who drink coffee before bed. They put it in their baby bottles. I figured some coffee and a bite to eat would calm her down. Besides, I wanted a chance to talk to Tyler. I hoped to help him process the fact he wouldn’t be seeing dad, or Dan, as he called him, for about 21 days but it was a good thing for him and Dan.

Tyler’s mother Laurie had died of pancreatitis two years earlier due to her drug use and Ty had been one step behind his father ever since. He was so afraid of losing Dan that my brother couldn’t take a shower without Ty trying to get into the bathroom with him. He knew his mother used and she died. He knew his father used so he must be next, right? A logical conclusion for a child with a genius IQ. The hardest part was probably keeping dads secret. It wasn’t any secret to anyone in our family. The problem was that Dan Laurie & Tyler had lived up in the Michigan thumb area and until Laurie died we rarely saw the three of them. Out of sight, out of mind. Sort of.

Laurie was a monster. Funny how my brother managed to find his father in the body of a woman. We, my mother and I, were sure she was possessed like Linda Blair in The Exorcist. My mother occasionally got late night calls from some disembodied voice screaming that she, my mother, was to blame for Dan’s shortcomings. I don’t think Laurie ever met our father. I too had a few of those calls during the 10 years that Dan Laurie and Tyler spent living away from our family. Laurie was one scary bitch. It got to the point where my mom starting screaming back. My mother was the classic victim of spousal abuse and I think these calls from Laurie were almost therapeutic for my mother. She started screaming back. Good. It was disturbing that Laurie was upsetting her and I had considered driving the two hours up to Lake Huron and confronting the monster myself. I decided that my mom was handling it well enough. I was really afraid of what I would find up there. I gave up rescuing drug addicts many years and many therapy sessions ago. I did worry about the child though.

So, with brother Dan tucked away in rehab and Mom and Ty safely back at home, I made the still treacherous drive back home. Relieved on the one hand, bummed out about my moms car on the other, I walked into my house and sat down at my computer. Another boring day of eBay sales ahead of me, and the holiday buying season was off and running. Writing auctions and shipping, shipping, and more shipping were my only plans. The phone rang. It was my mother. I thought she had more to tell me about the car or the accident. She said, “Are you sitting down?” Yes, I was definitely sitting. “Your father died…”

My father died. Whoa…I knew it was coming some day but today? My mind was going to places it had avoided for 18 years. I had not seen him in person since before he was arrested in 1988. I did not want to see him. I had seen his picture on the Michigan Corrections website the year before. That viewing was a very upsetting ordeal. I never should have looked. He was in his early 50’s when he went to the big house and I think people age the most from their fifties into their sixties. In my mind, the child in me still saw the handsome German looking blue eyed blond with an incredible smile. He had always been a tall slim sort of lanky guy at about 165 to 170lbs. I had a very slow dial-up internet connection and the page with his picture started to load very slowly from the top down. I went to the corrections website to see if I could find the dates of his crimes and incarceration. I don’t think I realized that by clicking on his name I would see his face. You would have had to lift my lower jaw back into place. He looked so bad and I was so shocked that all I could do to get rid of his image was to cover the monitor with my hands and scream for my husband to shut it off. By the time I saw him on the corrections website he weighed over 220 lbs making him look oddly distorted, his hair was white, and half of his face sagged especially under one eye. He looked drugged. The kind of drugged that makes you look vacant and unable to lift your feet. Psychotropics. He must have completely lost his mind in there. He had either had a stroke too or had been beat up more than a few times or maybe both.

I called my brother Mark who was probably more like our father than my other two brothers. He has the same blue eyes and mannerisms. He is also tall and slim and can be meaner than a snake but Mark was just a drunk. He isn’t mentally ill. I told him he should probably contact George and make his peace with the monster and that I didn’t think George had much longer to live. I was really only thinking of Mark and admittedly myself. What with all the consoling I would end up doing after he died if Mark didn’t do what he needed to do before hand I thought it would be a good idea. Mark did send him a letter. I don’t know the details of that letter but George did write him back. That was the only contact that I am aware of that any of the 5 of his children had with him the whole time he was incarcerated.

I guess I should take a minute here and explain that a some point, and none of us kids can remember exactly when, we stopped calling him Dad and just referred to him as George. Father sounded to reverent and Dad seemed like something he was not anymore. So he was George and it was always said with an undertone of scorn.

Veterans Day

GEN GEORGE WETTIGThings had not started out to well. Not well at all. My dad had gone into the Army at 17 because otherwise he was surely headed to jail. They lived next door to each other in the city of Detroit in 1957, my mother Joanne, and my father George. They were 18 and 19 respectively.

I have this vision of my mother sitting on the front porch watching the younger of her sisters while he was home on leave in his driveway next door washing his car. He squirts her with the garden hose. She gets off the porch to give him a piece of her mind, because she really could, and he, blue eyed and blond, flashes that million dollar smile. She melts, and the rest is history, sort of.

My mother is number 5 of  9 children, and number 4 of 7 sisters, so anyway she took it, she was the middle child. George was obsessive and Joanne was lost in the middle and needy. What a pair!

My mothers mother Sarah was a good descent human being. When she met her mistake, Joe, she was considering becoming a nun, and then she became pregnant. So in her Catholic world of good and evil, an alcoholic husband, sinners and saints, and seven daughters, she had a tendency to push them out the door to be wed before the bread in the oven began to rise. Truth was, I think they were all virgins on their wedding nights. Her fears were unfounded and those fears created something worse than a baby. Two of those marriages made it to ‘until death do us part’ and one more waits for that. The rest were dreadful and sad and ended in divorces.

So when they walked down the isle they took a right turn to the side alter because my father was not Catholic. While on the same day her older sister and her divorced groom went to the front of the church. Some double wedding eh? What a way to start a marriage. It turns out that my fathers father was Catholic by a Catholics definition and someone from his side of the family could have spoken up and saved them this humiliation.

George was stationed at Fort Riley Kansas. This Army base is in the geographical center of the USA. It is the place they believe the severe flu strains that killed so many soldiers in 1916 through 1918 started and spread all over Europe killing a few million people. Oh joy!

Right after the wedding George whisked Joanne off to Kansas to live on the base in the middle of cornfields as far as the eye could see. That young girl was born and raised in a city of 2 million people and rarely left it. I believe one of the older sisters husbands had a place on Houghton Lake. They occasionally went there but I don’t recall if my mother ever left the state before she went to Kansas.

She hated Kansas. She became pregnant on her wedding night. Home sick, and  morning sickness! She was miserable. Then at her 6th week of marriage and pregnancy she had a miscarriage. She called her mother who called her oldest sister and her even older husband and they went to Kansas and took her back home to Detroit.

I believe my father was devastated. He had spent his childhood feeling abandoned by his father and now his wife left him. He already had an alcohol problem by this time for sure. He wanted to be with his wife and he could not follow anyone’s rules. The Army shrinks diagnosed him as a pathological lair. I’m not sure if he really did the following, or if it was done before or after his diagnosis, but he made sure he was discharged and he didn’t care how.

You know the story about how to clean the latrine really well, put a Baby Ruth bar in the toilet bowl and when the Sargent comes in to inspect, reach into the toilet bowl, grab the candy bar, and take a huge bite of it. That will get you thrown out of the military.

So the story is sketchy after this point until about 2 years into the marriage when I was born. While she was pregnant with me he was climbing up the back stairs in the middle of the night, stupid drunk hours after the bars closed. Hotel-motel time. I believe my mother knew for sure at that point that she had made a terrible mistake. I was probably listening to them scream at each other in utero. Thirteen months later another baby for a total of four children in 4-1/2 years. She had sealed her fate. She had a 5th child when I was 13.

So things became louder and crazier as time passed but on Veterans Day I always remember this event; One evening when I was about 7,  George who was working at a gas station at the time, had run into 3 of his old Army buddies. He came home from work so excited. He took a shower and cleaned up because the three said they would stop by the house to visit. I remember him telling us kids and my mother about how great these guys were that he had been at Fort Riley with. I also remember feeling how sad and disappointed he was when they never showed up. He drank all of his beers by himself and went to bed.

People blamed George Wettig for many many things, most of which he did, but the Army had given him a chance to save face and because my mother had some serious issues of her own, he gave that up for her, to be with her, and to have the family he always wanted and needed. He was let down on many accounts.

He could have had job training, the GI Bill for education and housing, and something to be proud of. So this is what I think of every Veterans Day. I think of how miserably wrong a persons life can go. I think of the only soldier I really knew then or even now, and how tragic things can get. I don’t excuse him for everything, or anything really, except this.

Happy Veterans Day George Wettig….

(My mother said George was only 17 in the photo)