Poor Marie

That’s what they would say behind her back, “Poor Marie.” I thought I was the reason she was poor. That much was true.

But the truth was worse. My father died when I was 15 days old, after a long illness, large bowel cancer. It was particularly awful I guess; I overheard them saying he had his Hell on earth. My mother was left with a baby, she had to move back in with her family, he didn’t leave enough to bury him, and she had no income. So “Poor Marie.” It happened in the middle of World War Two, so there were rationing and food shortages, I guess. Oh and I was born Caesarian, to add injury to insult.

Luckily there was some relative or other connected to Pet Milk, so she had the means to feed me. Just as luckily , a job was found for her doing war factory work and after the end an office job as a file clerk. She never learned to type. She had dropped out of school at age sixteen to go to work to help support her family. It was 1929. She collected Social Security as a widow. She refused to apply for welfare. She wouldn’t take charity. So all my childhood years we lived with her family. There were her parents, a brother, his wife and their child.

And I was not the most ‘normal’ kid, I wasn’t who was expected, I wasn’t who was wanted. For one thing I was a boy, She wanted a girl. She told me once she wanted to name me Judy.

She also had as little contact with my father’s family. In later years, when she was angry with me, she would tell me I was like my father. She told me he punched her in the stomach when she was pregnant with me. And she avoided his family. I was taken a few time to see my grandparents but very seldom. I last saw them when I was twelve, just before we moved a thousand miles away.

Much later she got in touch with his sister Pauline and her husband Bill and put me in touch with them. I visited and Aunt Pauline had pictures of me when she was keeping me. That was news to me. She also called a neighbor lady who knew me when I was a baby to come see me all grown up.

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