Chapter 8

 Carries life with Joe ~ April 1964 - Nov. 1968


Finally, I feel ready to tell Joe I would like to come back to MA and have a relationship with him. He is noticeably happy and sends me money to help with the cost of the trip back. It was April 1964 and I quit the auto parts store, packed up and began the long drive back to Lynn with my puppy Koko and whatever belongings I can fit into my Renault. I arrived in Lynn ten days later at 2 am at my friend's Aunt Mae's house, where I used to live. I can’t wait ‘till daylight to call Joe, so I pick up the phone and wake him up to tell him, “I’m here!”


I picked Joe up after work at his mother's house where he lived, for our first date. He had his drug paraphernalia with him and asked me to drive him to the river, in back of his mother's house, so he could throw it in. I could tell he was serious about quitting drug use. We continued getting to know each other in person now. What I didn’t know then, was that he felt like he was turning a new page in his life and needed a distraction from his habit, ie. a relationship. I was thrilled to be that distraction, but I failed to realize how significant a role that would be.


After a few days, Aunt Mae agreed that Joe could move in with me to my upstairs bedroom of her new house. We talk more deeply and I explained why I could not get closer to him in my letters and he understood. I explained that I wasn’t really gay, but that my mother had inadvertently taught me to dislike and fear boys by telling me not to let them take me parking, because they only wanted one thing. It all seems to fit and make sense.


Joe wasn’t able to give up drugs right away, as he'd wanted to, but I was firmly convinced he would stop. I loved the deep down Essence of him and felt completely comfortable and at ease with him, so we saw each other daily. But when he asks me if I want to watch him shoot up one day, I decline in a manner that lets him know I strongly disapprove, but I still believe in him, love him.


I admire his intelligence, his kindness and generosity. He has the same qualities, characteristics and traits that I fell in love with in my female “lovers,” Mabel and Ursula. But in this relationship, society approves and because I believe in his desire to stop using, I am soon pregnant. My mother told me the only reason she got married was to have a home and babies. I felt justified marrying to have babies, but I also really loved Joe.


I began working in Boston at a department store, riding the subway back and forth from Lynn. My job was working with figures in a large office space with six or so other workers. I am extremely happy to be pregnant especially after the nauseousness of the first three months left. I had actually committed a sin by getting pregnant before marrying so I was very afraid to let anyone see any happiness I felt. I imagined that if everyone in the office I worked at knew, they would condemn me. It was a horrible feeling. 


One afternoon in mid summer as we were lying quietly together on a blanket on the grass at an amusement park, Joe asked me, 


“Have you thought about us getting married?” 


“I have, I like the idea, when can we?” 


The date is set for August 1. One weekend, we travelled the four hour car trip to Maine so my parents could meet my future husband. As we sit in the kitchen talking, I saw Joe nodding out from drugs and I hope Ma won’t figure out he is drugged. I feel so disappointed, embarrassed and afraid. 


The knowledge of being pregnant, unmarried with a drug addict, brings shame to my very soul. Later on when I go shopping for a suit to get married in, I have to ask the sales clerk to help me because I had no idea how to pick out a suit. I'd never shopped much for clothes before.


My Mother came down on a three hour bus trip from Maine to be at my marriage ceremony which was at a Protestant church I made sure she'd approve of. My future Mother-in-Law was Catholic and kept her disappointment of my not being Catholic, in her heart. My ex-lover, Ursula attended also, but that was all. I spoke my marriage vows in a voice barely above a whisper. I was so self-conscious, embarrassed and scared being up in front of these people focused on me, as I hid my baby under my blue dress suit, feeling guilty and ashamed. So began my married life.


I could hardly believe I was actually married. I consciously soaked in the feeling of “being married” for several days and weeks after the wedding. It seemed like some sort of validation for who I really was. It didn’t matter that he was a recovering drug addict and had just gotten out of prison for breaking and entering to steal drugs. It felt so terrific to be married. It meant that I was truly okay in someone else’s eyes and that felt so good. Ma never approved of me like Joe did.


I was still afraid, but now I felt like “Joe had my back" and being three months pregnant, I was looking forward to a fun life with a child. When the top of my stomach area begins to bulge I felt so happy to be creating a live baby inside. 


At work when I began wearing maternity tops, my coworkers said it was too early to wear them. I was too ashamed to tell them I'd gotten pregnant before getting married. I worked up until three weeks before Sherry was born.


When I began buying baby clothes to take to the hospital, my face turned red when someone in the store asked me it was if it was my first baby. When I said yes, I felt such embarrassment for committing the sin of getting pregnant outside of marriage. I could not bring myself to ask a sales person a question about infant clothes or to help me in any way. I had only Dr. Spock’s baby and child care book for guidance, however I did manage to buy a crib and a dressing table.


I began to have contractions during the early morning hours of Jan. 20th. I waitted until daylight to tell Joe that we have to go to the hospital. It is Presidents Day and Joe dropped me off at the hospital on his way to work. Soon I am on the table pushing and pushing. Just about when it feels like I am having a bowel movement, a mask is put over my face and I am given Ether to breathe in, which puts me to sleep. My first baby is born around four that afternoon with a bald head that sprouts red hair several months later. 


I woke up feeling the pain of stitches and was told they had to cut me a little to let the baby come out. Joe came into the room and sat down on a chair beside me. 


“I’d like to name her Pamela.” I volunteered. We hadn't discussed naming our baby before.


“I really like the name Sherry,” he said. 


I agree it is a nice name, but I am mostly pleased because he actually wants a particular name for his daughter, so I agree with his name. Usually I am the one that says what I want and he agrees. We hold hands and look deeply into each others eyes for about five seconds as a feeling of loving euphoria overtakes my body. It was the one and only truly intimate connection I ever had with my husband. The feeling had just begun to spread throughout my body in an overwhelming feeling of joy at having brought forth such a miracle of life as our baby daughter. 


Suddenly his Mom walked into the room and he pulled his hand away from mine, in acknowledgment of his Mom’s presence, ending the most beautiful and unforgettable moments I ever experienced with my children’s Dad.


I liked doing things the natural way when possible, so I chose to nurse Sherry which was against the norm in 1965. Someone from the La Leche league of nursing mothers, came to see me. They are supportive of breast feeding and they talked briefly and advised me on how to do it leaving me literature. When I began to nurse Sherry, headaches came and I didn’t know why. Eating a balanced diet for me and Sherry was more than I knew how to do. 


After a few weeks of trying to nurse, the headaches continued. I didn’t bother to contact the La Leche league for help, I just stopped nursing. I never knew if Sherry missed the closeness or not. I didn't. I didn't care. I wanted what was easiest; to eat whatever and whenever I wanted and to fill a bottle and feed Sherry instead of nursing. I had no emotional support at home. Being alone without friends or family, plus not eating healthy, my milk soon dried up. 


I have a very sensitive nose and Sherry's head smelled strange, obviously a different human than I and I was acutely aware of this. Later on everything physical about her became very familiar. But how do you get to know your child? I had no idea.


There is just me and baby Sherry every day while Joe goes off to work. Weeks turned into months. Some days I don't even get dressed. When I put Sherry down for naps, or for the night she always cried.  Dr. Spock’s book said to let a baby cry themself to sleep, so that is just what I did, every night and every nap time, not knowing what else to do. At this time in my life, I have no idea there was such a thing as love and bonding between a mother and child. Poor Sherry cried herself to sleep just about every night, but at around two weeks she found her thumb to suck which help to soothe her infant self to sleep. 


One night I deliberately did not put her down when she was crying. Instead I put her on my lap facing me with her feet almost touching my belly. We stayed this way until daylight while she fussed and cried most of the night. I felt stymied, not knowing what to do and with no thoughts even of asking anyone for help. I only had Dr. Spock’s book and trusted he knew best, which I know now he definitely did not. Joe was oblivious to my pain.


In retrospect, I know Sherry wanted and needed nurturing; some stroking, hugging, kissing, soft cooing, cuddling and maybe a song or two. I never sang, I didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to comfort anyone either, let alone a baby. Why, I don’t know. 


I didn't feel loved by my Mother, so maybe that’s why I didn't know how to bond with Sherry. I have no clue about bonding emotionally with my own infant. I had heard women, especially mothers are supposed to naturally bond with their baby, but I’ve never felt like a real woman, even though I have a female body, so maybe that’s why it doesn’t come naturally to me.


In my prior relationships with females and now with Joe we didn’t discuss deep personal feelings or emotions, nor did my family growing up. I was basically terrified of becoming  deeply connected emotionally to someone fearing the painful rejection and abandonment that could happen. All I ever experienced growing up was ongoing fear and anxiety, instead of comfort, love, safety and being hugged. I didn't feel connected or bonded to my mother either.


I did have loving, feelings for my sweet baby, but I lacked emotions that matched the feelings, I couldn’t show it. I did everything possible for little Sherry physically, but it was not enough for her brain to develop naturally and fully. In retrospect she needed love and bonding, which unfortunately, I knew nothing about, .


One day when Joe sent me to the drugstore for some toothache medicine, I sensed that he was going to boil Paregoric down and shoot it up. This was his drug of choice then. I packed Sherry up and hurried to the store and sure enough when I return and enter the back door I smelled that sickening smell. My heart sinks. I wanted to believe he had stopped using, but this time he tricked me into leaving the house so he could shoot up. I say to him very angrily and emphatically, 


“Okay, that's it, I am going to tell your parole officer on his next visit that you are still using.” 


He knew I meant it. He was still on probation and his parole officer came to the house to visit him every month. Tonight Sherry won't stop crying, but Joe never woke up all night. Why won't she stop? I shook her. Tried nervously to cuddle her. I cried. I was patient and the sun came up before I could go to bed. 


For some reason Joe’s parole officer did not show up this month, which was quite unusual. In the meantime and shortly after my ultimatum, Joe asked me if I’d, call his pharmacist friend, who was his drug connection and tell him not to give him any more drugs under any circumstances. He gave me his name and phone number and I did call. I stated in no uncertain terms; practically ordering him to stop selling Joe drugs. I'll never forget that day when Joe came home from work, he was smiling from ear to ear so happy and excited.


“It worked,” he shouted, “Len wouldn't give me any drugs. Thanks.” 


He was as happy as a child who was just given his favorite candy. In effect his drug connection was cut off and he cannot get drugs anywhere else because he had previously disconnected from all his drug buddies. He wasn’t motivated to search for anyone to buy drugs from either, because he was still very serious about quitting, ever since I came back from California a year ago. I had a lot of faith in him that he would quit and needless to say I am elated. 


After he stopped taking drugs he became very interested in photography and then miniature trains. He enjoyed taking photos of Sherry and playing with his miniature trains running on tracks.


When Joe’s work buddy Manny, wanted to sell us his three family house in Lynn, with a vacant second floor for us to live on, while allowing his family to continue living on the first floor, he'd asked Joe if he wanted to buy it. I was happy. We ended up moving in by Sherry’s first birthday. After we were all moved and settled, I told Joe I’d like to conceive another baby and he agreed. I'm elated because even though it is quite stressful, I love making babies. But then I discovered I was already pregnant.


My contractions for Pamela began during the night and again, I waited until morning to tell Joe. He dropped me off at Union hospital again on his way to work, but there is a problem, I was bleeding on the table. Joe was called at work and told he needed to give permission for me to have a C-section which is major surgery. The placenta was in front of the baby and the contractions were pushing the baby’s head against the soft placenta causing it to break and bleed. 


I was rolled into surgery, cut vertically about eight inches from my navel down and my second baby is lifted out of me. I had hoped for a son, but I am happy to see her. I stayed in the hospital for ten days and nursed Pamie, but I get a headache each time I nursed. After I got home I stopped nursing. Now I have two babies and double the diapers and no dryer. They hung on a clothes line off of my back porch for all to see. I am somewhat embarrassed by that, but only Linda next door noticed.


One day Manny told me that Joe said I am not a good cook and I don't  keep the house clean. He wants to know why, but I don't know why. I take the babies out in the stroller to visit friends and neighbors or to the park. At home I'm usually cleaning and cooking, but mostly playing with the babies. I have a very large den with a bunch of toys to play with, so rarely use the playpen. I cannot ever go to the bathroom alone though, when they are awake. Toys and babies must always accompany me to the bathroom, lest one gets hurt somehow.


On Joe’s vacation during the summer when Sherry was two and Pam was one we took a trip in our new Vista Cruiser station wagon, to Nova Scotia, Canada to visit my Aunt Frieda and Uncle Eldie on their farm. It is a happy fun event except for the hard job of entertaining two babies on such a long trip. Sherry enjoys the cows a lot and watches my cousin, Lloyd milk them. I love the farm atmosphere too and Joe sort of goes along with whatever. I discovered he wasn’t really interested in interacting with babies. He believed it was a mothers job. He seemed upset and disturbed by their fussing and crying. It was fun overall for me though, to show my family off to my aunt and uncle.


At my Aunt and Uncle's one morning while we were still In bed, I said to Joe, 


“I want to have another baby. I really do, maybe it will be a boy. What do you think?”


Joe was silent for a bit and let me know he isn’t readily in agreement.


“Aren’t two enough? Why have another one?” He asks.


“Mostly I’d really like a son and I do most of the work taking care of them.”


I seem to have won and he agreed we can make another baby. We don’t talk about our feelings or emotions at all. I'm too afraid to mention them, believing he wouldn't be interested anyway.


It took two or three months before I got pregnant, which for me is a long time. I find out my third baby is scheduled to arrive by Cesarean section on Joe’s next birthday, June 16th. The surgery is mandatory because I already had a C-Section for Pam. Because the 16th is on a Sunday, she will be surgically removed on Monday the 17th. We had no discussions about what to name her. 




Was Joe, nodding out on drugs? A month before our third baby's birth? Over the next several days, my suspicions were slowly becoming confirmed and his behavior seemed to match. He stayed out until one or two in the morning, explaining that he's fishing, then comes home and crashes on the daybed in the den. I become convinced he's returned to using again, after being clean for three years. The bottom began falling out of my life.


During my last month of pregnancy, I sank steadily into despair and hopelessness. I know I can’t survive very well alone after having the needed Cesarean Section, plus caring for two year old Pam and three year old Sherry alone. 


It was impossible for me to discuss feelings and emotions with Joe. I was hardly aware of my emotions and always so afraid to even to mention feelings, let alone orally express them. Joe didn’t seem to be able to either. We never discussed his return to drug taking. 


Joe had been staying out until one and two in the morning, explaining that he was fishing, then came home and slept on the day bed in the den. I knew I couldn't survive very well alone after having a major Cesarean Section, plus taking care of an infant, a two year old and a three year old, so I decided to let him to stay around until after the baby was born.


In retrospect, I wasn’t a good enough distraction for Joe to remain off drugs. He needed close, honest interactions emotionally, including love and bonding, which at the time, I had no idea about.


Speaking about my ongoing concerns to him or any emotions and feelings was completely absent. The only time Joe ever spoke of his feelings was in telling me how his Dad bought a toy for a neighbor boy, but nothing for him and he felt so hurt and rejected. In addition his Dad left him and his family when he was only six and he never visited him growing up. He saw his Dad once as adults when they both worked at the same factory in Lynn. As he walked by, Joe said that he noticed how much he looked like his Dad.


After Katie was born and Joe came to the hospital I said to him, "I'd like to name her Katie" and he passively agreed. I stayed in the hospital for ten additional days. I'm so thankful his Mom was able to care for three year old Sherry and two year old Pam while I was having surgery. At home again and still recovering instead of resting, I dove right in with housework, meals, and laundry.


One afternoon, on the second or third day home, as I was putting wet clothes into the dryer, I can't seem to stop crying, but I continued working. A large clot of blood had passed out of me earlier, but Joe is nodding out from drugs and wasn’t helping me. I felt like a total victim as he came out to the kitchen to ask, 


"Why are you crying?" 


"I'm exhausted and a clot of blood just came out of me," I explained and kept on crying as he returned to the couch.


I slowly became convinced Joe can't handle the responsibility of a family, especially with a wife like me who doesn’t know much about real love or nurturance and is stressed out and angry most of the time. I know he believed it was a mother’s job to care for the children, because one day last summer out in the yard, I made a comment about the difficulty of caring for kids and he said to me, “Mothers are supposed to like taking care of kids,” so I never asked him to help me and he never volunteers.


When Katie was five months old and with Joe still using, I came to the very sad conclusion that it would not be prudent to raise my daughters in an environment where their Dad is nodding out on drugs every day. I convinced myself I could find another Daddy for them. I prepared to tell him to leave the next time he came home after midnight.


On November 11th 1968, at one o’clock in the morning he came home and crashed on the couch. It took me a few minutes to gather every ounce of courage I had in my body to get out of bed and walk into the den. In great pain, agony and desperation I picked up a glass planter from the mantle and said to him,


“I’d love to throw this at you, but I’d get in trouble.” 


In a violent angry rage I smashed the planter on the floor in front of me, breaking down and screaming at my drugged up husband to leave, which he promptly did; right out the back door. As he was leaving I asked, “What about your clothes?”


“I’ll come back for them later.”


He drove back out into the night in our Vista Cruiser wagon. I was alone and scared, but momentarily somewhat relieved.