I wrote this for an older blog but thought I would share it.
Ted was born on a naval base in Bremerton, WA., in 1933. His father died in the South Pacific during World War II, in 1943. After Ted’s father’s death, his mother moved, with her children, to San Diego, CA. Resentful after the death of her husband, she began to drink. She became angry and beat Ted and his younger sister. At the age of sixteen Ted dropped out of high school, lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S Navy. He was eager to escape his troubled home life. He was soon assigned to an aircraft carrier and deployed to Korea. He would continue to have nightmares about his time abroad for the rest of his life.
He returned home to San Diego, briefly, after leaving the service, before settling in Barstow, CA. He met his soon-to-be wife, Joyce while attending GED prep courses at the local community college. They were married in 1964. They both took civil service jobs at the Marine Corps base at edge of town. Ted was thirty-one and Joyce was thirty-two. After six years of trying to conceive Joyce became pregnant for the first time. She delivered twin boys three months before her scheduled due date. Neither child survived the first twenty-four hours.
Ted became depressed. The couple blamed one another for their inability to successfully conceive. Ted began having affairs and drinking heavily. In 1972, Joyce became pregnant again. She had a baby girl in the spring of 1973, at the age of forty-one. The baby seemed healthy but would occasionally stop breathing while asleep. Joyce and sometimes Ted, who had to work to support his wife and new child, would sit with the little baby girl to ensure she did not stop breathing during the night and would rouse her if she did. The new parents were exhausted and concerned about the health of their daughter. In December of 1974, Joyce became pregnant again at the age of 42. After a very troubled pregnancy, they became parents for the second time, the following July.
Their son was perfectly healthy while their daughter had begun to have seizures, which would continue until she was six. Although doctors treated the girl for the seizures with medication she was never diagnosed with anything conclusive. The only indication of her prior condition is a slight tremor that she still has till this day. The tension between husband and wife subsided for some time after the birth of their son. Ted was still unhappy, though. His drinking became more and more frequent and as it did he became more and more violent especially toward his children. He began beating them before they had even started preschool. A gifted artist, Ted’s life was not at all that he had planned. The pressure and stress of his domestic life reminded him of his own troubled childhood.
In the early 1980’s, Ted befriended a man how commissioned him to illustrate a series of books and also offered him space to display his work. He was excited about the opportunity and began to imagine his life without the trappings of the domesticated one he had settled for. Ted began having a string of affairs and became much more openly violent toward his two small children. In 1985, fed up and very unhappy, Joyce filed for a divorce.
Ted moved into a small trailer park across town. Finally he would have time to focus on his artwork. Ted’s work became fairly popular and he was able to make a nice financial cushion for himself. He quit his job at the Marine Corps base, two years shy of his pension, to focus on his artwork full time. After the divorce was final, Ted requested to see his children. After much conversation Joyce brought the kids to Ted’s little trailer. He was nervous and drank heavily in anticipation of their arrival. When Joyce arrived with his children, much to his dismay, the children refused to get out of the car. Ted became upset and attempted to physically extract the children from the vehicle. He began hitting the windows and as he reached for the handle on the car’s door, Joyce started the car and sped off leaving Ted sobbing in the street. He was humiliated. Later that evening he called and demanded that he be allowed to see his children. His son agreed to see his father and returned the following weekend for a day visit. His daughter remained estranged from her father for another year.
He continued to draw and picked up a steady stream on commissioned while he continued to illustrate books. In the few years following Ted had obtained some recognition as an artist. But many years of heavy drinking started becoming more apparent as he aged and his work suffered as his problems with alcohol became more apparent. He lost many of his clients and became depressed. He started to blame everyone around him for his misfortune. Ted began beating his children again. His daughter and son, who were both teenagers at the time, did not regard their father with the same terror they did as small defenseless children. His daughter, in particular, had become defiant and he felt she intentionally provoked him on numerous occasions. Ted told her that she seemed as though she wanted him to hit her. And when he could no longer restrain himself she did not react to a strike.
Late one night, Ted called Joyce and told her that something was not right with their daughter and that he was uncertain he was able to love her and questioned Joyce’s affection for the child. He said she did not respond to verbal or physical reprimand and that he felt she was mentally ill. Joyce, infuriated, came to pick up her daughter. When she arrived on the scene she found her daughter standing with a police officer in front of Ted’s trailer. She had been beaten severely. Joyce ran toward the trailer, where another officer was questioning Ted. The officer standing with her daughter stopped Joyce and requested that she wait in her car. After a few moments longer, the girl came to sit in the car. Joyce asked what had happened but her oldest child simply requested to go home. Ted would later speak to Joyce and tell her that the girl had intentionally provoked him with the sole intention of seeing him arrested. He told Joyce that his poor sick daughter’s plan had not worked because the police understood the situation once he explained it to them.
The truth, of course, was that Ted was not arrested because his daughter had suffered a significant amount of head trauma, after being punched repeatedly in the face and head. She was in pain and refused to show any indication of it in front of her assailant. Her only desire was to go home and take some aspirin. Ted had fractured the girl’s head in two places, one dangerously close to her eye. Although his son was still permitted to see his father, he stopped visiting too.
Ted opened the paper one morning to discover that his daughter had had a son. He wanted to send her flowers but his ex-wife told him the gesture was unwanted. In the next few years Ted lost touch with his family and moved to central California. He continued to drink until, in 2004, he was hospitalized due to cirrhosis. Ted was told he would be unable to go home unless someone from his family came to get him. A friend of Ted’s was able to contact his daughter who now lived in Oregon with her son. Ted’s daughter agreed to come.
When she arrived, Ted assumed that he would be going to live with her and her son. It upset him to find out that that was not the case. His daughter assumed power of attorney over her father and informed him that if he had any desire to see her again he would do as she asked. He conceded and she made arrangements for him to go to an adult rehabilitation center and later to a nursing home. After two years of successful sobriety, Ted moved into a small studio apartment in, Modesto, CA. He was very lonely but glad to have his freedom back.
After a year of unsuccessful attempts to persuade his daughter to visit he began to drink again. A year later he did see his daughter again. She sat at his bedside and held his hand as he died. His daughter often wondered if Ted knew she really did intend on coming to visit him but she had been working and for a brief moment had even enjoyed the success he had as an artist, in her own chosen profession. She planned on coming to visit and maybe asking him to come and live in Oregon near his son and daughter. She wished she could have known him as a sober, stable man but that was just a fleeting moment in his life, and she had missed it.
She wondered if he even knew that she sat with him as he died. Did her father know that she had rushed to his side even though he had never apologized for the years of terror and abuse he had subjected his children to? Did he know she wept when she heard he was dying? Did he know that she wasn’t angry with him anymore? She was trying to find some peace and she was happy that now he could too.