We moved out of our house and moved into a condominium. My mom was working a lot, or at least was gone, and my younger sister and I got the biggest room. After all the horrible situations that I found myself in, it was refreshing to have a safe space to be kids-and boy did we!
We had the walk-in closet that turned into our gymnasium most of the time; until Halloween time when it was our “haunted house”. We completely dismantled our bunk beds and used the base as our stage where we performed acts from Grease, The Eagles, Disco Duck, The Hustle, The Bus Stop and any other songs I could catch on my Snoopy Transitor Radio. We made Pom pons, strobe lights, and costumes that rivaled the local talent show. We had some cardboard boxes left after we unpacked and we spread them all over the staircase and made a dry sledding track that ended with a “SMACK!” into the wall. I even put my little sister in the foldaway bed just to see if it would be a good hiding place-then sat on it so she couldn’t get out. I honestly don’t know how my sisters put up with me back then. I was in my own world, and my creative mind was trying to block out the horror I lived in for so long.
We had a babysitter over the Easter holidays when my mom went to Colorado to visit our “Uncle Chuck”. We figured out later that it was trip to see if they would make a relationship out of their friendship. The Easter Bunny didn’t find us that year until my mom came home with three big bags of discounted chocolate bunnies. I ate my whole bag in one go and spent the next day sicker than a dog-no control! When my mom said we were moving to Colorado I wondered when I was going to see my dad again. I fought with my mom over that fact, and she threw it back at me by asking “where is your birthday card from your dad?” I didn’t get one. I was really confused and sad at the same time-but Colorado was a hell of a way to stay as far from Mark as I could, so I stopped complaining. We made one last trip to visit the San Diego Zoo and Seaworld, we were treated to a new stuffed animal (otter with a shell on her tummy) to remember California with, and we headed east.
In our red little hatchback that would be repossessed later, we started the eighteen hour drive to “Colorful Colorado”. As you can imagine, I got pretty bored in the car. My older sister got to sit in the front seat because her “legs are too long for the back”, so my younger sister and I started taunting her. I sang my heart out to the radio, blinked my eyes at her when she looked at me, and spoke in my own language to her, which really made her mad. Honestly, I have no idea why my mom didn’t pull over in Utah and leave me with one of the religious families we saw at Denny’s! I am equally unsure of how I managed to have a wonderful relationship with my sisters either; they didn’t deserve the “Tasmanian Devil” that was me.
When we finally got through the Rocky Mountains, we pulled up to our new home, and we were reintroduced to “Uncle Chuck”. As mentioned in a previous blog, Chuck was a friend of my father from his time in the Army, and both of them were present at my birth in Italy. I remember Uncle Chuck giving me $5.00 for not wetting the bed, and I got more for cleaning the dog poo from the backyard.
Now Chuck was a difficult soul. He had been in Vietnam and was some sort of person on a Huey Helicopter with my father. There was an accident in a jeep rollover (some say alcohol was involved) and he was paralyzed from the waist down. He lived in a house that was built for him, with wider doors, shorter countertops, and walk-in showers. He had a bar area that he had turned into a hobby corner where he built a mountain with trains, cars, and people. It was a miniature village that looked like it came straight from Silverthorn, Colorado. We were instructed to NOT touch this corner, and I tried really hard to obey-but those little cows, chickens, and people proved to be too difficult to leave alone. Most of the scene was glued down, but the ones I could get to move I did. I turned the cows on their backs, switched the cars from the road to the railroad tracks, and put the farmers on the tracks like I saw on the “Roadrunner and Wylie E. Coyote” cartoon. I know, I know, I was a mess!! I also would take Chuck’s wheelchair when he was in the BarcaLounger and cruised around the house pretending my legs were broken like his. He didn’t mind me using his chair, until I would leave it where I had “a miracle!” and could walk again. He wasn’t very happy when he was stuck in his lounge chair.
Chuck and my mom got married in the living room, and he became “dad”. To be honest, I completely believe that my mom “loved” him as friends; but she had three small girls to take care of, so she sacrificed her “want” for her “need” to take care of us. Their relationship couldn’t be very physical, it wasn’t possible; my mom took care of him and gave him companionship. It worked for awhile, but Chuck was more damaged from his time in Vietnam than anyone could predict.