I’ve been cheated, been mistreated, when will I be loved? Maybe that should be “my song.” It’s how my life has gone.
I was cheated of a childhood by my parents, especially my father. I’m sure he did the best he could as a father but it really sucked. He had problems, lots of problems. I’ll never know the extent of them. My first childhood memory is of him screaming at me. I was less than 5. We were still in the house on Sykes Street. I was throwing up and scared. My mother wasn’t home. My dad yells at me to get it over with. I guess he was annoyed that he was going to be stuck cleaning up the mess. I was a baby. I needed reassurance, some empathy, not anger.
Next I remember crying and he said to stop crying or he’d give me something to cry about. I was still under 5. I invented something I called “fanny burner.” It was just some watered down cologne in a bottle. I’d rub it on where it hurt and my crying would stop. Pretty good invention - I would stop crying and my father would stop threatening me. It was the beginning of my coping mechanisms.
Throughout my preteen years I became more and more isolated. I had a close friend who lived next door. My father hated her parents. Eventually I was not allowed to play with her anymore. I made friends with another neighborhood girl. Her parents told her not to play with me anymore. It was probably because of my father’s notoriety in the neighborhood but I took it personally. There couldn’t be anything wrong with my family, it had to be me. My mother reinforced this feeling. She always thought people didn’t like her. She thought maybe they were jealous of her. Even at 90 years old in the assisted living home she asked me why the other patients didn’t like her. Was it how she looked?
We watched a lot of television in the evenings. My father went out often to make estimates. I do remember one time we were all watching “Father Knows Best” or some other similar program. My father asked me why I couldn’t be more like the little girl in that show. That little girl was so affectionate with her father. I took that personally, too. It never occurred to me to ask him why he didn’t act more like that TV father.
I think I was around 12 or 13 my father shoved me against the refrigerator and tried to force me to kiss him. My mother came in and stopped him. That may be the only reason I remember that incident.
What else happened to me that I don’t remember? There must have been some positive experiences in my childhood somewhere. Plus more bad ones?
Just now I remember being a teenager and my father brought me home a watch. Wearing men’s watches were in style then and I had wanted one. When he tried to give it to me I told him they were no longer in style. I rejected it. But, I think I did so in order not to need to thank him. He would have wanted some show of affection.
My father would reminisce about how I’d sit on his lap as a little girl and wonder why I didn’t do that anymore. All I remember about sitting on his lap was a game he called “boom boom.” He would take my hands, clap them together a few times and then slap my face with them and shout “boom boom.” He tried to do that with my babies and I made him stop. It was a horrible game to play with a child.
In later years I would visit home and bring my sons. One day my dad asked me what was wrong with me when I was a teenager. Being an adult then, I told him that I had been just acting like a kid. He still did not understand.
On my last visit back home with my sons my father began screaming at Andy. Andy was scared of something and my father got livid. Andy started crying. I took him away from my father and went into another room. I left Rochester earlier than I planned. I tolerated my father’s behavior towards me, but not my son. I did not return home for eleven years. I went back by myself for my Aunt Arline’s funeral. I never took my sons back there until after my father died.
My parents came to visit every Christmas. They stayed in an apartment over our garage when I lived in West U. My father told Andy stories about how he was a spy and other goofy crap. Andy told me he always wanted him to sit on his lap. I told him to just visit his grandpa when his grandma was around.
One afternoon I came back home after shopping with my mom. My father was sitting in the living room and Kevin’s backpack was on the floor. I asked “where’s Kevin?” Kevin popped up from a hiding place. He didn’t want to be alone with my father.
My childhood wasn’t all my father’s fault. My mother could and should have intervened. But then she had problems of her own. She became alienated from her family, except for Arline, because of my father. No one wanted to be around him. Arline was tolerant.
She told me that my father asked to have sex with her. That it didn’t work with my mother and maybe she was the problem. I guess men didn’t know about dick malfunctions in old age.
My father complained about my mom holding him back. I was always on her side. After she came to live with me I became aware of more of her personality. She was very passive aggressive. I would take her shopping. She’d be in a wheelchair. I’d tell her to say something to people who were in the way. She refused. I had to say “excuse me” or “beep beep.” She wanted to be the sweet one. I was very protective of her but I hated how it made me feel to have to stand up for her. I had to be the bad guy.
Mom took to rearranging my kitchen. She said that I must not have any friends because the phone never rang. I told her I communicated online with my friends. My feelings were hurt.
Mom would not stop feeding my dog. One time she was cutting up a piece of pie to give the dog. I yelled at her. Andy was there and got mad at me. Again I was the bad guy. She continued feeding the dog until he was almost too big to move. He’d pee and poop in the house. By that time I had a quadriplegic husband. I couldn’t take it anymore. I asked Lupita to take the dog to be put to sleep. Bad guy again.
I took good care of my mom. But, I got angry at times and would say something to her. Jim said I was treating her badly. He even brought that up at our last marriage counseling session. Sure I could have been a better daughter. But, I did my best.
My grades in school were always A’s. I enjoyed learning. But, I think I really enjoyed the positive recognition that I would get from good grades. I was too shy to talk to my teachers. My parents would act pleased. But those A’s on that report card made me proud.
By the time I got to my junior year in high school, my parents said they didn’t know what to do with me. Education was of no particular importance to my father or mother. My father quit school at young age, probably around 12 or 13, to help support the family. My mother quit when she turned 16. Then there I was - wanting to go to college. Luckily I won a state scholarship and a disabled veterans’ scholarship so I was able to go.
My high school gave me no direction. It was a Catholic high school and the counselor only suggested Catholic colleges. I wanted something else. Looking back I probably could have gotten a scholarship to Cornell, my dream college, but I had no idea of how to apply. Cornell had a big veterinary school that interested me. But, instead, I attended Brockport State University where I majored in Biology and minored in German.
The first year I lived on campus. I had a very difficult time trying to comprehend the social life. I had never dated and boys scared me. (My brother had told me that guys were horrible. He wouldn’t fix me up with any of his friends - even for prom.) I lived in a dorm suite with 8 other girls. They were so much different than me. I didn’t know how to make friends with them. I had met a friend of a friend before I went to Brockport. She had also gone through all Catholic schooling. She ended up being in the same dorm building so we became friends. Her name was Chris.
I was pretty bored in the classes. It seemed like I had already learned what they were teaching back in high school. Again I got straight A’s. I loved Biology class and would spend hours in the lab looking through the microscope. I especially loved genetics.
In my sophomore year I lived at home and commuted to school. Brockport was only 30 minutes from Rochester. My father bought me a used Rambler American. It was an ugly brown - I called it the color of diarrhea. To perk it up I bought some striping tape. My father insisted on doing it for me.
I drove to class every day up until October 16, 1969. My friend Chris had come home with me that day and we were going to Bertoldt Brecht’s “Mutter Courage” at a theater. I was backing out of the driveway and my mother came running out to remind me to turn on my headlights.
Occasionally I would wear the new invention- lap belts- but not that night.
I was about a mile from home when a car rammed the back of another car slowing for a stop light. The driver of the second car was busy lighting a cigarette. This collision caused the first car to careen across the lanes and crash into mine. I lost control of the car and came to a stop by hitting a big tree. All 3 of the cars were going slow because of the stop light. I suffered the only severe injury.
The first hit knocked me down lower in the seat. The second brought my left knee up into the steering column and/or dashboard. I remember it seemed like my life was flashing through my mind. I made a conscious decision to stay aware and not pass out. My friend Chris flew into the dashboard and broke her nose. We taken by ambulance to St Mary’s Hospital.
In the emergency room I was told that my kneecap was shattered and would have to be removed. The doctor said that I didn’t need it. He wiggled my right kneecap to show me how it wasn’t even attached to the leg bone. That made me nauseous.
My mother got to the hospital before I did. My dad came later. He started crying and hanging over me. I struggled to get him off me. He said that with his driving experience he could have avoided the collision. That, of course, hurt my feelings.
I stayed in the hospital for 2 weeks. I was on the old people floor. They slept all day and yelled all night so the nurse would give me sleeping pills every night.
My cast went from the top of my thigh to my foot so I couldn’t bend my leg. An ambulance had to bring me home. The young attendant in the back of the ambulance flirted with me. Somehow just that small attention made me aware that I wasn’t so bad looking.
After the cast was off and I had had some rehab I went to stay with my brother. He was on a golf scholarship at Florida State University. My parents sent me so I could get some exercise. I got to know some of my brother’s friends. I became less shy. He even fixed me up and we went on a double date.
When I returned home I looked for a job. I went to Sibley’s department store first because my mother worked there. That store did not have a position for me. I went across Main Street and was hired at McCurdy’s department store. I worked in the sportswear department. My bosses really liked me. They said if I went back to school and got a degree that I could get hired in their buyer training program. I worked there until the next semester started. The car accident sent me down a totally different path in life.
I went to dance club with a couple friends and met a guy. He was 24 and I was 19. He was the first guy I ever kissed. He started pushing for more. When I didn’t give in, he broke it off with me. I met another guy, Allen and we started dating regularly. He went to a college in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
When I went back to college I went to Albany State University because they offered a major in German. German was very easy for me and I just needed a BA, any BA. I stayed in a dorm suite with 5 other girls. It was a coed dorm. Some guys lived just across the hall.
I missed my boyfriend, Allen. He agreed to come visit me. I knew that this meant sex. I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. It didn’t hurt but it didn’t feel particularly good that first time. I went to visit him in Kalamazoo one time also. The sex started feeling a lot better. I felt bad when he decided to go on a ski trip during the holidays. I told him it was a good time to spend together.
I got along fairly well with my roommates but still not friends with them. So, the next year I opted for new roommates. Finally, I made friends with all of them. I still am in contact with my roommate, Karen.
We would all eat in the cafeteria together. One girl taught me how to knit. My roommates all went to the library to study. I didn’t need to study and I didn’t want to go out in the cold to the library. I stayed in, knitted and watched a small portable TV. I also answered the phone for all the boys that called them.
We all went to a dance at a neighboring college in Troy, Ny - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. I did dance a few times. One of my roommates met a guy and spent the night with him. He came to the dorm to visit her and invited us all to a party at his frat house. This is where I met my first husband, Ken, on October 1, 1971.
Ken was a few months younger than me. He took me to his room and we kissed. After that we started dating every weekend. On 10/30/71 we had sex. It was his first time. He was worried but I was already on birth control.
He seemed pleasant enough. A couple months later I went back home for a visit. When I returned he told me that he had dated another girl. He said it was weird - that she was handicapped, too. He said that he must attract them. I told him to leave and not call me anymore.
I must have let him come back over to talk. We were in the parking lot and he got on his knees and begged my forgiveness. I took him back.
At some point during this year I went to court with my parents to sue the driver that hit me. My father told me to limp. I had worked so hard to walk correctly but he just didn’t understand. I sat through jury selection. My lawyer suggested that we settle out of court. The settlement was for $20,000. The lawyer got 30% off the top. The remainder was in a check written to me. I was over 21 by this time. My father had a huge fit that the check was not in his name. He wanted me to give him the check. He screamed and screamed at me. He said that his insurance had paid for my medical care and so he was supposed to get the money. I offered to repay him for the premiums but that did not satisfy him. His behavior still haunts me. I was the one injured. I just couldn’t understand why he acted that way.
I decided that I wanted to spend a semester abroad. I used my settlement money to send myself to Austria for the second semester. As I was getting on the plane in NYC, Ken told me that he loved me. He wrote me heated letters while I was away. The passion in them made me laugh. I just didn’t understand guys at all.
My experiences in Austria sealed my fate with Ken. The very first weekend that I was in Graz, Austria, my roommate and I met a couple guys in the college cafeteria. We went out with them that night. We had dinner and some wine. Then they wanted to take us to listen to some Austrian music. We ended up at a cottage in the outskirts of town. We had pleasant conversation. Then the guy with my roommate took her into the other room. She started screaming. I ran in to help. He was naked and raping her. I started hitting him but he only laughed. The guy I was with took me back to the other room. He didn’t touch me.
Finally they said they would bring us back. My roommate and I sat in the back together but they made us move. I sat in the front with my date. On the ride back my roommate continued to scream while he fondled her. Then he leaned over to get me. I rolled down the window and started screaming for help. He hit me hard on the head so I would stop.
They took us to our place and drove away. Then I started screaming and crying. This woke up our other roommates up. We all walked to the police station that night. The police took us to a hospital. My head was x-rayed. I was okay- I guess since that’s all they did. We had an instructor who was responsible for us and the other US students. In the beginning he helped a little with translating.
The next week this instructor was in a skiing accident and we didn’t see him anymore. The police picked up the 2 men the next day when we pointed them out in the cafeteria. They stayed in jail for a while, I think. After this, I became even more wary of men.
My roommate and I had to testify against them in court. We were even made to shake their hands after the trial. I don’t know what really happened but after this they were back at the university and would taunt us.
I could have returned home. But, I didn’t want to be near my father so I stayed for the entire term. When I got back I clung to Ken. I knew he was safe. I didn’t want to try and meet any other guys.
My roommates would receive care packages from home. My mom would write me letters. They called a couple of times. I told them that I wanted to spend time in NYC with Ken. They insisted on coming to NYC, too. It was weird. I stayed at Ken’s family house and they stayed in an hotel. We went to dinner one night. It was the first time that Ken had ever been to a restaurant in Manhattan.
We dated throughout our senior year. There was even a pinning ceremony for us at the fraternity house.
Towards the end of the semester I tried to get Ken to talk about the future. He avoided it. Then he was hired by Gulf Oil and would be moving to Houston after graduation. He decided that we would get married. We shopped for the engagement ring together. I got it a couple of weeks before graduation.
Ken’s graduation was first and I attended with his parents. His mother acted angry that he didn’t graduate with honors. She asked me. I told her I was graduating magna com laude. I remember she said “why not summa com laude?” She proved to be very difficult woman to please.
Our parents got together with us in Albany and we went to dinner. It was pleasant enough. Then Ken told me that his parents were angry that they didn’t get a chance to talk to my parents. They were very upset about our engagement. We were going to get married around July but delayed it until October in an attempt to mollify his parents.
I went to NYC to visit Ken before he left. His mother screamed at us and said we shouldn’t get married. That we were too young. She started talking loudly to Alex, Ken’s father in Polish. I thought I was used to screamers because of my father but she was in a whole different category.
The next day I had to bring up the wedding arrangements while I was there. I asked about the number that they would invite, if they wanted their names on the invitations. That started the screaming all over again.
Florence never would give me count for her invitations. I had to use Ken’s estimate of 20 people. I found a hall that would hold about 100 people. When I told Florence she was very angry that she was allotted only 20 spaces. She also wouldn’t tell me what color dress she would wear so my Mom could coordinate with her on the wedding day.
She ended wearing a dark brown dress - better than a black mourning dress anyway. Ken’s aunts, uncles, cousins, one grandmother came to the wedding. I sat them towards the front. Unfortunately that made it so I could hear some of their negative comments.
Rochester weddings were different than those in NYC. But, since there was so little communication, who knew? Ken and I left after the cake was served. That was normal to me. But then the Nadolny’s all got up and left also. My mother that ended the party early. Everybody left.
That night Ken told me that his father said he would reimburse my parents for all the expenses if he wanted to back out of the wedding.
I moved to Houston the following day. I had previously been to Houston with Ken and helped choose our apartment on Bellaire Avenue, near Sharpstown. The complex was called the Dominique Apartments and was on Bellerive. The apartments are still there today (2015) but with a different name.
We arrived in Houston and went home. I went into the bedroom. The bed was unmade and covered with opened magazines with photos of naked women. I had poor body image. I thought that Ken was disappointed with me so he had to look at those photos. I picked up the magazines and threw them behind the bed. Ken looked for them and never found them.
We were both too inexperienced. He had no idea that that would hurt me. I had no idea that I had a great body.
The first weekend that I was in Houston I had to get a pet. We bought a blue parakeet and named her Trixie. Trixie would say “Trixie, stop it” in Ken’s voice. He would yell at her when she misbehaved. Oh boy, I married a screamer. I had had no idea.
The second week that I was there Ken badgered me about finding a job. I didn’t know the city at all. I took a job as a medical insurance adjuster downtown. I took the bus every day. Ken had the only car.
I liked the job well enough. I never liked having to be in by 8 AM and I still don’t. Why 8 AM, why not 9 or 10?
Ken was in a training program with Gulf Oil. He had already been to a training in Wyoming for a few weeks. We were in Houston for about 6 months when he had to go to Pittsburg. So, I quit my job, packed up Trixie and we moved to the apartment that the company provided for us.
At least he didn’t force to work in Pittsburgh. The apartment was not in a good neighborhood so I did not leave the apartment very often. Another wife of a guy in the program and I would go to the laundrymat and grocery store together. I spent the days learning how to cook. The very last weekend that we there Ken finally took me around the city. It actually had lots of nice places.
After 3 months in Pittsburgh, Ken was assigned to the Houston office. We got into another apartment complex on Bellaire Blvd near Sharpstown. Then we began to look at houses. Ken wanted to live near his office which was out in Stafford. We bought a house in Missouri City. I paid the $5000 down payment with my settlement money.
Ken always got upset when I wasn’t employed. My next job was as a life insurance salesman. I can’t remember the name of the company. The first few weeks were training. I had to pass some state exam. I was told that everyone failed the first couple of times. I passed it on the first try. It was one of those tests with the little tricky questions. I helped the other people in my company by writing down some of the questions that I remembered.
I went to the employment agencies that I had used and tried selling policies to them. I ended up selling one policy. Then I wanted to quit. I only had to show up at the office once a week and got paid whether I sold anything or not. I hated cold calling and I wanted to quit. I felt bad taking unearned salary. Of course, Ken wanted me to keep taking the money. After a month or so I finally did quit.
I wanted to return to retailing. I got a job at Foley’s in Northwest Mall as a selling supervisor. It was a step in the right direction and I was so happy. It was really hard work but I loved it. I think I started in August or September. My brother announced that he was getting married in December. I had to take a few days off. My supervisor was very unhappy. When I returned from the trip home, I was blamed for some items that were not priced correctly. I hadn’t been there when the shipment arrived. My boss said that didn’t matter and I was still responsible. I was a hard worker but I couldn’t please the boss. After the holiday big shopping season was over I was let go. I guess I was actually fired. But, there was a downturn in the economy at that time plus the holidays were over. It was more like I was laid off. While I was at Foley’s I became good friends with another employee, Charlene. We met during training. She was a regular salesclerk and I was a big shot selling supervisor. I visited her at her home a couple of times. We even went out as couples once. She was very unhappy in her marriage. After I left Foley’s we kept in touch. Once she said she felt suicidal. I got scared and stopped seeing her. I wish I had kept up the friendship. We felt so close when we were together. Since then I have learned to treasure friendships and I try hard to nurture my friends.
I went on a trip to Florida with my parents in between jobs. We just drove and drove all the way down to Miami. I remember we stopped at some town and checked into a motel. Then we went out to dinner. There was a movie theater nearby. I suggested that we go see “Young Frankenstein.” It had just come out and I heard good things about it. My parents weren’t too enthusiastic about seeing it but they went because I wanted to. They ended up really enjoying it. The movie has since become a classic.
I started working near Sharpstown at Blackmon-Mooring Steamatic. I became their bookkeeper soon after starting. I was good at the numbers. It made sense and I enjoyed it. So, I took a couple of night classes in accounting..
I was there for 3 years. Most of the time I was pretty happy working there. Then I began to have personality conflicts with some of the other women. I didn’t know what to do about it. Eventually I quit. My boss took me to lunch to try and change my mind. But, it was too late.