Seemed like most stories my Dad told started out with this drawn out description of his crazy life back in his childhood. I will say, for someone born in the 1920’s, he had quite a story. At a young age, his parents decided that living together was not working for anyone involved, so they bought a home across the street and my grandfather, Charles took up residence “at arm’s length” of the family. Official divorce was not an option for my grandmother, Lydia, because she had been through one before. Once there were her four children involved, this co-parenting, dual housing situation seemed best. Very “modern” for the 1930’s. Of course, my father and his brother Bob took full advantage of the arrangement and worked both sides of the street for Saturday movie money and whatever else they could get. He always told one parent that the other had already said he was allowed to do whatever it was he wanted to.
To say that my grandmother had had a bad experience in her first marriage was a huge understatement. Her first husband had several brushes with the law and was finally sent to prison when my grandmother had just found out she was expecting their first child. The high anxiety of all the events concerning the trial caused her to lose the baby. In her first husbands grief and feelings of responsibility, he screamed that he would find his wife and make her “pay” for losing his child. Lydia took this threat to heart and after divorcing him and later meeting and marrying Charles, she never allowed her photo to be taken again. She always feared that her first husband would track her down through photos and hurt one of her children. I have only one photo of her at my parents wedding, wearing a large brimmed hat as she always did in public, that somewhat caught her in profile. My Dad cherished this after she was gone.
My grandparents died before I was born, which in a twisted way became a blessing in disguise. My mother was a lover of naming her girls in alliteration. My sister was Marijane Michael and under the full hypnosis of pregnancy hormones my mother had decided on the perfect name for her “surprise” baby if it happened to be a girl. I can only imagine that 1959 must have been a kinder, gentler time, because I was to be named Heidi Ho Hartley. I shudder to think of carrying that middle name in these days. So, as sad as I am to say that I never met this woman of mystery, at least her passing meant that my mother had to choose a name to match with Lydia and the rest is history.