Friday, February 8, 2019

Families then and now.

Families then and now - another check on our cultural progress it seems - albeit more open ended than a good old days type of post. With the inherent 2-on-1 east west vibe it will be interesting to compare notes when this one is finished.

The old family standard - dad works and makes enough to purchase car and a house is foreign to me. I cannot begin to describe that lifestyle as I never experienced it. My birth father left before I was born. At the age of 61 I saw a picture of him for the very first time. Subsequent contact with that part of my
family was met with stony silence and in fact his brother told me in a tersely worded email basically to pound sand.  Daddy Wes apparently was a loser - a dirty cop who spent his share of time in the state pen in Canyon City. I do know he got married later in life so I may have another half sibling or two out there somewhere.

My mom's parents were closer to a classic family - my grandfather was a self-employed contractor and my grandmother had a seamstress shop. Jump ahead to 1949 when I enter the scene - our family consisted of my mother, me, my Uncle Chuck, grandmother and grandfather. My Uncle Chuck was soon in the Marines. I was known as Charles or  Butch Higgins until my mom married Jack McConvey when I was 8. Unfortunately my grandfather died  in 1953 and everything changed again. Daddy Harry - as I called him  - was an avid hunter and fisherman- both which I would have been exposed to.He was also a Shriner - part of the Masons, Again - something I would have been exposed to and participated in had he lived. I actually remember going fishing with him once and we got skunked, We stopped at a place on the way home that had pools stocked with trout and so we returned home successful providers (for a small fee of course). That was our little secret.

No photo description available.No photo description available.My grandparents were entrepreneurial - both self employed; The house Daddy Harry built had a full basement which was rented out at various times to players on the Pueblo Dodgers, a Brooklyn farm team or football players from the local JC up the street. Jack McConvey was a basement tenant who worked his way up to the main floor by marrying my mom.

All of the neighborhood kids were in the typical family and I had a very pretty single mom but as far as I could tell we were accepted as part of the neighborhood.  My pal Kenny had one sister and one brother, both older than us and my pal Tommy had 4 brothers and 2 sisters. His dad, Sparky, was a railroad engineer and kenny's dad Jim was a businessman - think Ward Cleaver. Main employment centered around the railroad and the Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) steel mill. The population of Pueblo then was 80-81,000. My mom worked at a place called Railway Savings and Loan. I went to YMCA camp the last 2 summers after selling candy door to door to cover the costs. Most of the neighborhood kids went to Camp Crockett. The boys were in scouts, we played Bantam League football and Old Timers baseball. There was no Little League in Pueblo. 

Everything I saw and experienced seemed very typical of the times - very Beaver Cleaverish. The boys slept out in each others back yards (Virgil Barnhart had the best yard) and Tommy's older brother Adrian and his friends would harass us and we'd all sneak off and raid the gardens of the neighbors. I had cousins in town and nearby in Trinidad. It was from what I could tell a very normal childhood centered around families.

My sister was born in Pueblo and a few  months later we moved to California to a town with the a population of 72,000 but it seemed much larger. Pueblo was a city whose nearest neighbor was 20-30 miles away. Hayward - the new place - in the middle of the East Bay - the eastern side of the San Francisco Bay Area.

My dad worked for his dad in the newspaper subscription business at a place called Periodical Publishers. My mom quickly found a job at a local Savings and Loan called Pioneer Savings. I noticed right away that nearly all of my friends' mothers worked. The pace of life in the Bay Area was much quicker than Pueblo. We moved into a new housing tract called Palma Ceia.I remember the first few months groups of neighbors would get together, get acquainted and we started putting fences up in the back yards. When everyone agreed on what to build off we'd go for the weekends supplies and shortly thereafter all the fences were done. Then came the patios. Those got built in 3s and then lawns were planted but oddly enough nary a white picket fence was built anywhere. Dinners were generally marked by family conversation around the dinner table or we ate off of TV trays in the Living room and watched TV while we ate.

In 1972 Lynn and I got married and after a pair of cross-country forays we found ourselves back in the Bay Area. My folks had gotten a divorce and mom was getting remarried so we bought her condo from her. We were both working, had excellent childcare and things were moving along smoothly until we decided to sell the condo and buy a house. Shortly after moving into the house the economy started to slip in the Bay Area and Lynn - unbeknownst to us - was beginning to feel the effects of the as yet undetected Huntington's Disease that would eventually take her life. She began having difficulty at her job as things that once came easy to her were fast becoming a struggle; Long story short, we both lost our jobs and were having difficulty making ends meet. We had always been able to make it but we started hitting a wall and had begun the slide out of that vaunted economic powerhouse known as the American middle class.

We sold the house at a huge loss and ended up in Texas, essentially starting all over.  Because of my job at RadioShack we were a techie family. If it was new and cool we had one. We were so busy that dinners were rarely around the table - we ate out a lot or ordered takeout. Dinner communication was almost non existant. We did, however, participate in the kids activities. Lynn handled Jamie and dance classes while I coached both kids in soccer and baseball/softball. I was a VP in the local youth soccer league.

Jamie graduated from the same high school as I. She even ran into some of the same teachers I had. Once she came home from school with a puzzled look on her face. She said there had been a substitute bteacher in one of her classes and tha the called roll like a PE coach. When he got to her name he said McConvey - looked up from the page and queried Chuck or Mike? She responded Chuck was her dad, Mike her uncle. He laughed and told her to see him after class. He was my wrestling coach and his son and my brother were best friends. Unfortunately Sean did not complete high school - not uncommon for Texas.
Lynn eventually succumbed to Huntington's disease and Sean and Jamie set out to make lives for themselves. They have kids - Jamie 3 and Sean 2. Sean is with his significant other for the long haul, Jamie is flighty and restless, more so now that she has been confirmed to have Huntingtons Disease. Sean refuses to be tested - he is just working hard to make a good life for his family, jamie is sulking and pouting about her fate. She has strained relationships with her kids, her brother and me. Both of their families are completely hooked on techh and whenever possible are texting merrily away. They both have completely different outlooks on the world than Iand are completely apolitical. I - on the other hand -m am a poitical junkie.

Thjat's a wrap on my take on families then and now. Like I said I have little experience with NORMAL -I have always simply called my family dysfunction junction.

Be sure to check Ramana's Musings to get Ramana's take on the subject.  I'll see ya next weeek, same bat time, same bat channel.


  1. Phew! It reads like a novel Shackman and while I can relate to the dysfunctional part of our fathers for different reasons, the rest of the story is vastly different, perhaps due to what you so endearingly call the East West vibe. Both however seem to have had close relationships with uncles, cousins neighbours etc in the process of growing up.

    Another instance of close connections in my case is that when I learnt that Ranjan was driving up to Mumbai yesterday, I hitched a ride and went visiting my cousin there and had a great meeting. A reason for the delayed response to your post.

    Where we diverge is on the approach itself. I have taken a macro view whereas you have the micro. Nonetheless, yours makes for fascinating reading and I hope that you find mine too.

    1. as I said in my reply to yours, we are more similar then I thought LOL This was a good topic.

  2. I wonder what they call people with minds like mine.
    I totally enjoyed both yours and Rummy's posts. it's like I was living it as I read it! probably why horror or psychological fiction or even otherwise affects me so that I don't ever subject myself to it!
    one thing in telling about our life stories... everyone of us is a walking novel as they say.
    I went through a strange stage not terribly long ago in feeling badly (and guilty about feeling that way) toward my parents. I thought they had a "normal" life with friends and long enough in the same place to feel a part of it! "how sad that they were too selfish to give that to their own children!" the Marine (Michael) and I discussed it at length. I don't blame them anymore. but I do think that children should be considered. it seems that we never were! maybe why I have the feeling that nowadays children are TOO MUCH and TOO OFTEN the main consideration???
    oh who knows? or who cares? LOLOL! if I'm still alive at the end of this year I will have outlived every one of them. with the exception of Grandad in NY. in spite of being gassed in WW I he lived to be 83 I believe. and he had lung problems always.
    so like the marine always says. . . "it is what it is."
    great post guys! I enjoyed both of them immensely!

    1. Some of us are just short stories Tammy LOL andmine actually fits me. And the Marine is correct - it is what it is. That applies to everything.

  3. You have a great novel there Chuck if you ever choose to write it all. I was fascinated with the whole story of your life, your tragedies and your daughter's diagnosis which must be so painful for you.
    Thank you for the honesty.


    1. Sounds boring to me but that I suppose is necause it is my life. My book is a shoot em up mystery if I ever get it finished.