Background – Parental History

This should be a good (and long) one.  My father met my mother when he was in college at Florida Christian. My mother and father got married when she was 19 and he was 23.  They were married at a small ceremony at my mother’s parent’s house in Baker, FL. Neither went back to finish college. My father took my mother back to North Carolina (his home state) where he would take a job selling insurance for his brother Jack. He hated that job. His brother basically used him and gave him all the scraps. He couldn’t wait to get out of that job. During his time in NC with my mother, my sisters were born. Kelly was born when my mother was 23 and Tracy at age 25. While in NC, my mother had no car and took care of my sisters at home and would have to walk to the store as needed for essentials. Several years later, my father took a job with Hanes which transferred them to Montgomery.

Once in Montgomery, my father did quite well with Hanes. It was during this time, my mother found out she was pregnant with me. It was an unplanned pregnancy and not happily accepted. My mother cried for months. After getting that all out of her system, life moved on and soon my parents were able to build their first house. It was my mother’s dream home. She picked out every detail and was so happy with the wallpaper, carpet, and all the fancy things she had done without for so many years.

They were only in the dream house for a few years when my father got notice from Hanes that he would be transferred to Dallas. He immediately put the dream house on the market and took a plane out to Dallas to look for a house. Upon his return, the dream house had already sold but he had decided there was no way in HELL he would move his family to Dallas! He quit his job and had to move his family to a temporary home…much smaller and more crowded that the dream home.  And the job search began.

My dad finally landed a job with Maverick jeans, a division of Wrangler. Picture the Wrangler jeans with the W turned upside down…those were the Maverick jeans…the cheaper version of Wrangler, if there is such a thing. Once again, he did quite well with that job and was able to build yet another dream home in a new subdivision in Montgomery. We moved in that home when I was in 2nd grade.  Our home was a comfortable place where loads of friends and family came and went on a regular basis.  I can remember some great Christmases in that house where we had so many family members, we had to rent a camper to put in the yard to sleep everyone.

It was during those years though that I can remember my dad drinking heavily. I know it started before this time, but this is when I really remember it. I can remember times when my mother would ask me to go to a friend’s house and not come home until she called me. I can remember times when he got so drunk and enraged that he punched things…like our refrigerator. That refrigerator stayed in our house for years after with a big dent in it that reminded us all of that night….when he punched toward my mother, nearly missing and striking the refrigerator instead. And I can remember my mother coming down for breakfast with a black eye one morning and telling us a story of how my father punched her  “accidentally in his sleep”.  And times when my father would call me into his bedroom to “talk” to me…telling me the same things over and over…that I was a good kid and that I was smart and had so much potential. And I just wanted to find a way OUT of that room but I was stuck. And he would continue to tell me those things over and over until I cried.

Many of those years were “lean” years. We didn’t have much money coming in and my parents weren’t quite sure how they would make ends meet. During that time Tracy started college and from what I have been told several quarters, she didn’t know if they would have the money for tuition the next quarter. But as is true for my dad, he always managed to find a way to cover the expenses.

In the early 80’s, my father took a job with a small company in Tennessee who sold painters pants and coveralls.  The company was named Duck Head. Soon after he started, they decided to branch out into a line of chinos that as I’m sure you know, took off like wild fire.  It wasn’t long before his three state territory was more than he could possibly cover alone. He hired someone to cover Georgia and Florida for him and paid them out of his own pocket. Soon, the money started rolling in.  His favorite thing was trading cars about every six months.

My dad’s job always had him on the road. He was a traveling salesman. In the earlier days, he would be gone Monday through Friday and home on a weekend then gone again and sometimes gone for two or more weeks then home for a weekend. I didn’t really think much of it growing up because it was just how it was. I can recall my mother saying she couldn’t wait for him to go out of town again when he was really driving her nuts or home for too long. When he was away, my mother loved to spend her time sewing or quilting or reading books but just before he’d get home, she would do a quick clean of the whole house. And while he was home, she was doing his laundry and shirts to get him ready for the next trip.

As the money began to roll in, my father decided it was time to build yet another new house. He chose a new neighborhood on the east side of Montgomery and a lot and started a new house. My mother helped once again in picking out all the things she wanted. The house would be ready within 12 months.

I was a sophomore in college when the new house started.  I remember getting a call one night in my dorm while getting ready for exams. My father, who never places the calls, told me my mother had breast cancer. She had a biopsy and it was positive for cancer and she would be having a mastectomy in the next couple of days. I was devastated and in shock. How could I do without a mother? I was only 20 and had so many more things I needed my mother for. She would have surgery and then chemo for three months.

I wasn’t the best daughter during this time because I was so lost, confused, scared, upset, etc. I wasn’t sure what to do. My cousin was also in college with me at Auburn and since I did not have a car, he drove me to see my mother after surgery. I can remember being at the hospital for a few hours and having to go back to finish exams. After her surgery,  I went home a few times on weekends and I remember being with my mom as she was sick in the bathroom and helping her back to the couch.  That was about all I knew to do.

Shortly after her chemo ended, I was home several times and remember my mother checking the *69 on the phone and looking at my dad’s cell phone. Cell phones were pretty new at the time but she knew how to check his bill and check the phone to see who he had called. He had apparently been slipping out of the house to “buy milk” and other grocery items that he never seemed to care about before. She discovered he was making calls on a regular basis to one lady in particular. He had been cheating on my mother during her illness. I don’t doubt that he did it many times over the years. My mother opted to leave the home and go to their condo in Orange Beach.

So for the next 4 years, my dad toyed with my mom that he was interested in working things out when he never had any intention of calling it off with his affair. But every single time, my mother believed he would come back for good. But the real kicker was that he also quit his job. His company had come to the realization that the sales people were racking in the m0ney while the management and corporate people were not. Their answer to this problem was to put all the sales people on salary and drastically cut their commissions. In my dad’s job, he often had contracts written for future shipments to stores to keep their inventory stocked. So when the company instituted this policy, all the future contract would fall under the new commission bracket. Many of the sales people were angry and had quit as well. One of my dad’s friends in Texas had brought suit against the company and so my dad decided to do the same. At the time my parents’ marriage became compromised, the law suit was still pending.

During this time, I finished with college and had moved to Pensacola and spent my weekends picking up the pieces. I spent many a weekend in Orange Beach with my mother listening to her cry and tell me how much she wanted to die.

My sisters relied on me to see to it that my mother was taken care of. At the age of 23, it was rough. I couldn’t handle hearing my mother tell me she wanted to die. I called our aunt my mother would refer to as her sister, her brother’s wife. I explained I couldn’t handle hearing my mother say such things.  But I did what I could to be there every weekend and make sure she was safe and well.

My father continued to see the woman he had an affair with for several years. He never introduced her to us or brought her around us (his children). My mother filed for divorce. Her first mistake was choosing an attorney my father recommended. My father continued to promise her he would always take care of her regardless of the situation. She believed him. The divorce became final before his lawsuit ever finalized.

In the end, my dad won the initial suit. He won millions. It was the largest settlement in Alabama and was in all the papers. His company filed an appeal. The case ended up going to the Alabama Supreme court before his company finally settled. None of us know what the final amount was; what we do  know is that my mother did not get one dime of it. Their divorce was final and nothing was put in the decree about the suit. The final divorce decree stated my father would pay my mother alimony in the amount of $3000 per month until she turned 65. My mother never consulted any of us about the settlement or whether she should sign off on it. We had no idea her alimony would stop at age 65.

One weekend, Memorial Day 1996, I believe, one of my cousins from North Carolina (who magically appeared on a regular basis after my dad won his court settlement) decided to come down and visit my dad with a friend. She had every intention of fixing my dad up with her friend. Her plan worked perfectly. My dad met Jean that May and was married to her by September of the same year.

The news of my dad’s marriage was quite shocking to my mother, no doubt. But she took it in stride. As time went on, my mother was able to work through many of her issues and develop her own person. It was a transformation unlike any other I’ve seen before. My mother went from the most naive woman to a worldly woman in a matter of three years.  Suddenly a whole new world opened up to her.  She saw things and understood things that before seemed so foreign to her.

My sister Tracy had the first born…a son.  This was devastating to me at the time because my husband and I had been trying for over a year to have children but had no luck. My mother was so excited. My father seemed his usual unexcited self.  I just remember having to attend her baby showers and being so depressed because I couldn’t get pregnant. It wasn’t until my husband and I took a trip to Mexico and decided to try NOT to get pregnant for the trip that it really happened. I had the second born seven months later.  Because I lived in Pensacola, I had the advantage of both parents living in close proximity…within a 20 minute drive. I often had my mother there eager to help. My father’s new wife also had a great love for children and wanted to be with them quite often.

Over the years, my father’s wife proved to be very much interested and in love with my children. If it weren’t for her, I am not sure my father would have had much of a relationship with my kids. She loves them. And they too love her. My mother realized that and was quite happy to have her in the picture. My father’s wife was always there to pick up the kids from my mom and would call and talk with my mom often about them. My mother developed a fondness for my father’s wife just because of her love for our kids.



  1. Susan said,

    March 10, 2012 at 5:44 am

    Sweet girl, this piece endeared you to me forever. I am so incredibly amazed by the woman your mother raised. Be assured, your Mama walks the gardens of Heavens, proudly stating that you are her baby.

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