Say "cheese!" My parents on their wedding day.

Lorna’s parent’s marriage endured a little over six years; they produced exactly three daughters.

In June, 1955, they were married. Bobby got a blue-collar job in New Jersey, so he took his bride away from the only family she had ever known. They lived in a two-room apartment. He was gone more than he was home, but he was home long enough to produce Daughter #1, who was born in March, 1956. Mom was lonely and the apartment was cramped, so they moved back “home” to upstate NY (the part of NY state close to the Canadian border, not just the swath of land slightly north of NYC).

They bought a mobile home and parked it next to Carl and Maija’s home, which was out in farm country. Bobby’s parents wouldn’t have tolerated a metal monstrosity, no matter how small, next to their home; they were a proper family in a proper neighborhood. My dad got a job as a truck driver, which took him all over the region. Mom was without her husband for long periods of time, but at least she had her mother and step-father to keep her company.

Slick digs, huh?

My mom got a little dog to keep her company too. She also got a little pregnant again. With me. Maybe it was the responsibility of a blossoming family and the financial burdens he faced or maybe it was in his nature to go wack-a-doodles and A.W.O.L., but he began to drink more, have fits of rage, and disappear without warning shortly after I was born. I’d like to think it wasn’t me. I was such an adorable baby and Tina was a simply beautiful child. He had every reason to be proud of his family, but he didn’t act that way. He returned home one day and got angry at “Bubby” (the little dog) for some minor infraction, barking too much or peeing inside, and took the dog out back at shot it. Dead. He was drunk and armed.

Tina is on the right. She should have been a ballerina. I'm the happy cute pudgy kid stuck to her arm. I should have been a comedienne or poster-girl for Pillsbury.

Mémé loved dogs and I think this upset her. It wasn’t long until our home became mobile and we moved about an hour away, on our own piece of property in the woods. Without the watchful eye of his in-laws, Bobby’s behavior deteriorated. He drank more but also stayed away more and for longer periods of time. He changed jobs a lot, too. My mom called him “a jack of all trades and master of none.” His last job was a stab at his own heating and plumbing business. I know because he had pads of receipts made up–the same receipts he wrote his “Last Will and Testament” and suicide note out on. I suppose the pads were in his truck’s glove compartment and handy when he made his final decision.

When he was “up,” my dad was the most generous, friendly man around. My mom also said of him, “He would give the shirt off his back to a stranger if the guy needed it. He would also spend his paycheck buying everyone drinks and forget I needed money to buy food for the family.” When he was “down,” he was dangerous. I already wrote of my memories of him: a few good memories and one really bad one.

On a cold late February night in 1960, my mom went into labor for her third, and last child. He was there to take her to the hospital, but insisted on driving around until after midnight so he wouldn’t have to pay for an extra day of hospitalization. He dropped her off in heavy labor and left town. Mémé and Pépé were there to tend to Tina and me, visit her in the hospital, and take all of us back to our trailer. There had been a significant snowstorm during her stay. Proof of Daddy absence greeted us when we arrived home: a driveway full of snow.  No one had been there to plow or shovel. Pépé did what he could to make a path to the trailer while all the women and children stayed in the car. The driveway was long and hilly.

Okay, but how about the path up to the trailer? Keep shoveling. There's got to be a trailer up there somewhere.

I don’t remember this because I was only a little over two-years old, but we all trudged up the snowy hill to our cold home. Probably my grandparents went shopping for some fresh food and then left us to go back to their home, exhausted themselves. My mom told me, “This was supposed to be a happy day. I was bringing home my new baby girl. But I sat holding Lisa, with you girls around me and couldn’t stop crying. Where was my husband? Where had he been all this time? What was I going to do with three girls and no money?” She felt more alone than she ever had in her life with her three children clinging to her.

My mom really wanted a son. She never got one. Two years and one month later, Bobby–my Daddy–killed himself. Or rather, he saved us from himself. When talking with my mom about her memories of this time, she told me something that, at first, shocked me. Upon reflection, I understand it completely.

“How did you feel when the State Troopers came to your door and told you that Daddy was dead,” I asked her.

“Of course I was shocked at first. But, mostly, I was relieved. At least I knew where he was. Being married to him was stressful.”

I'd say that's a good representation of the kind of stress she was under.

I was too young to understand his death, or so my mom decided. The whole thing, funeral included, was kept from us. Daddy and Husband faded from the notion of “family” until “family” became defined as Mother, Sisters, and a Mémé and Pépé. And a Me.

My dad's parents, siblings and their spouses after the funeral, minus my mom. They're smiling. Did the photographer ask them to "say cheese!"?

And what about Lorna’s little “family?” What happened to them?