Book Description: This is a book about survival in many ways. Barbara became the primary caregiver of her younger brothers at an early age. There was a revolving door of men in her mother’s life. Some were good; some were not. Her favorite stepfather introduced her to the man she’s been married to for more than 50 years which proves how living in chaos can sometimes lead you to the other side. That’s a happy ending.
I don’t remember much about the second husband, Ross. I was three years old when they married.
He was mom’s boss at the Jeep plant in Toledo. He knew my grandfather and used that relationship to come and hang out at their house while mom and I were living with them.
She wasn’t the least bit interested in him, but he was very interested in her. Granddaddy thought he was a great guy and urged her to go out with him. He believed she needed a husband. It was the ‘50’s after all.
Ross owned apartment buildings in addition to his supervisory position at the plant. All of that looked very upstanding to Granddaddy, but the more he pushed it on mom, the more she resisted.
Mom took a vacation week to go down to Georgia and visit family. We took a bus, I remember, and it was fun for me. There were a couple of soldiers on the bus, and whenever we stopped, they would get candy or soda for me.
Mom’s sister, Ruby, picked us up at the bus station and drove us to her house, outside of Rome, GA. Ruby had a son, Benny, who was a year older than me. He had suffered from eye problems since the day he was born and had at least two surgeries by the time he was three.
Ruby and her husband, Benton, lived behind his gas station/ convenience store. He was quite a bit older than she and not a very nice man. Fortunately, he spent most of his time in the store.
A few days after we arrived Mamaw and Granddaddy showed up.
The next day Ross showed up. Mom was not happy. She knew it was Granddaddy’s plan that brought Ross to Georgia. Her life was not her own.
I remember little about Ross and none of it good. He had blonde curly hair and a pale broad face with ice blue eyes. He never smiled, and always seemed uptight. He was of German and Polish descent and had a very cold nature.
I’m not sure if mom resisted because Granddaddy wanted her to like Ross or if she had some internal instinct about why she shouldn’t.
After a week of family pow-wows, crying, yelling, and carrying on, Ross asked her to marry him. I can only imagine how overwhelming it must have been for mom. She was nineteen years old with a three-year-old child and had never been able to win an argument with her father no matter how hard she tried.
She finally gave in. They had a brief ceremony at my aunt’s house with a justice of the peace. Shortly after he packed up the car, he was surprised to find out I was going with them. I think he assumed I would go back with my grandparents, which would have been fine with me, but mom wanted me with her. I think she knew it would be a wedge between them.
We stopped at a motel somewhere in Kentucky, and they brought in a cot for me to sleep on. I had been used to sleeping with mom for a long time and didn’t want to sleep alone.
She would tuck me in, and I would go get in bed next to her. She would put me back and…this went on a few times before Ross said, “I’ll take care of her.”
He proceeded to grab me by one arm and beat me as I dangled in the air in front of him.
Mom was screaming for him to stop and tried to pull me away. He shoved her down on the bed and continued until the noise brought a knock at the door.
The motel manager was there with the police. When all was said and done, Ross slept in the car.
I can only imagine what was going on in mom’s mind, knowing how far we were from home and wondering what the hell Granddaddy had wrought. I’m sure he would never have expected this outcome but, here we were on her wedding night huddled together and scared to death.
We snuggled tight in the big bed but, I don’t think we slept very much. I’m sure mom was trying to figure a way to quickly end this relationship after she saw how it was starting.
The next morning there was a knock at the door, and she looked outside. Ross was standing there with donuts and coffee and very politely asked her to let him in. She did.
He tried to apologize, even tried to hug me, but she stepped between. They talked for a while, and she agreed to drive back to Toledo with him. I doubt she had enough money with her to take the bus. The silence in the car was deafening.
By the time we arrived, he had told her they would be living in an apartment in one of his buildings and I would be living with my grandparents in a large apartment he’d arranged for them upstairs.
The building was in a decent part of town with old mansions that had been converted to apartment buildings. This was how Ross made his money. Most were three or four stories with at least two apartments per floor.
I have no idea what my grandfather thought of him after all of this, but they did agree to live there with me. Mom was able to quit her job, and we spent time together when Ross wasn’t home.
One night, after I’d gone to bed, I heard them fighting. You couldn’t miss it with all the yelling echoing in the hallway. I heard the front door slam and looked out the window. She was trying to run away but, he caught her and dragged her down the walk by her hair and beat her up against a telephone pole.
When granddaddy went outside to stop it, the cops showed up, and things settled down. I was only three but will never forget the scene. I can’t recall if I screamed or stood silent. I only knew I didn’t want to be anywhere near him.
Their marriage didn’t last much more than a year, and I never lived with them. Whenever he would come to my grandparent’s apartment, I would run to Granddaddy. I know Ross was abusive to her but, she seemed unable to leave. Perhaps my grandparents turned a blind eye to the continuing abuse or simply felt helpless to do anything about it.
It might have had something to do with the living arrangements. As I recall from conversations over the years, she left Ross shortly after my grandparents moved out of Ross’ apartment building and into a new place. We stayed with them until she found her third husband, Al.