Thursday, March 15, 2012

Belinda And The Alcoholic Stepfather

So you're thinking, "The new stepfather couldn't be any worse than the birth father, right?"

Think again.
Given how fearful she was of my dad, I can see why my mom was drawn to Walt. He was about five-eleven, well built, very strong, and kind of rugged looking from all the time he spent working outdoors ... I know two versions of Walt. There's the man who got sober after I left home and turned into one of the most remarkable, loving men I have ever met. Then there's the Walt with whom I grew up.

That Walt was impossibly bad when he drank, and he drank a lot. The booze lit up the demons in him, and he turned them against us. He went out drinking most nights after work. As he squandered money on himself that could have helped the entire family, we ate oatmeal and Bac-O-Bit sandwiches for dinner while trying to ignore the empty place my mom had set for him at the table.
But at least there were the camping trips:
We would pile into the camper of my dad's truck, all of us kids crammed together, and we would go on weekend camping trips to Santa Barbara and San Diego. We enjoyed both the beach and the forests.

It was always a relief to be away from home and setting up a tent in the outdoors. My dad was usually sober, and I loved having space of my own, something that was in short supply in our small, crowded home ... It felt good to exhale, and I swear to this day I have tasted few things as delicious as the bologna sandwiches my mom made on Wonder bread smeared with French's mustard.
Ah, gourmet white trash cuisine. Belinda's description of the place that camping trips had in her childhood reminds me of why I liked the Boy Scouts so much: it was a great way to get out of the house.

Because then you would come home to this:
He was of the old-fashioned school that believed in spanking children, and not only that, he seemed to think children should be spanked regularly.

Butch and I made light of the beatings we received by comparing the red marks on our skin or the number of lashes. It was our way of surviving ... Butch came into my room one night with red, puffy eyes and a crooked smile on his face. He sniffled.

"Twenty-seven," he said.

"I don't believe it," I said.

"Yeah. He hit me twenty-seven times - a new record!"
Hmm. No wonder why Belinda never developed any crippling personal problems.

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