My biggest lesson in life is that child abuse interferes with the development of patriotism in the victim. That’s the glaring social message in the Menendez Brothers murder case, that no one would help them as abused children. Doris may have become a legal parent, but she was not a mother to me. My father was gone much of the time because he worked 40 to 60 hours a week. To my ancestors, I became a POW when I was adopted. Doris was like a prison camp guard. Jane would have to invade the enemy camp to get to me, and she was never afraid. Doris had her (own?) methods of terror to instill fear of men and especially fear of her cousin the Army Major. I always had to live with the fear that I wasn’t safe, and she would make the most of corrupt methods to secure her supreme legal authority over my welfare and my father’s equity. I developed blocked and frozen emotions from my childhood which I worked out later in psychotherapy when I became an adult. As an adolescent though, I was not introspective at all, because I couldn’t cope with my emotional illness or my life.
My dad loved my mother and his kids. He didn’t know he would love us though when he was a young man, when he was drafted into military service in 1943. He elected to serve in the U.S. Navy, but he was a conscientious objector when It came to fighting the Germans. He wouldn’t fight the Germans because he shared an ethnic history or heritage with them. His mother hadn’t seen that coming. His dad, my grandfather, was a World War I veteran I remember him in a wheelchair late in life. He had a bean bag ashtray and would pound the table with his fist. He died when I was 5 or 6 from a heart attack. The first time I saw my dad cry was at his father’s funeral. Anyway, my grandmother apologized to all her descendants for the German authoritarian family structure and for German masculinity in particular. My dad never thought he would damage the relationship he would have with his future son. His family felt helpless as they watched this story unfold.
The fact that my father became involved in a U.S. loyalty program while he was in the Navy was thrown in my grandmother’s face by Doris. It was a program with authorization in the Office of Strategic Servicess and became the National Security Act. My father had met Doris while he was stationed in San Diego, CA. Doris was a teenager then living in Riverside, CA. She and my father danced the jitterbug in the historical documentary called Rosie the Riveter. Doris Harny was underage so her mother signed permission for her to dance with my dad in his naval uniform on a wharf next to a ship in the film. Then, after she and her first husband divorced, Doris was worked at the Kansas City Traffic Bureau when she and George reconnected. He worked at Seitz then, in freight and the Midwest truck industry
My paternal grandmother and maternal grandfather were both born into Oklahoma territory at the turn of the century and were there as Oklahoma became a state. My grandmother married and moved to Kansas where she raised her sons in Emporia. My father, George, was her firstborn son and she knew little about raising a child. George received very little touch and affection as a baby, and Grandma Sadie thinks that because she listened to her husband, this must have been the German way with boys. She was trying to explain George’s psychological and emotional detachment from the family and social relationships. Then, George grew up in the Depression, and they never had much money for anything other than necessities. He was influenced by Germany. My German ancestors were Junkers who came to America before the Industrial Revolution in 1848. My father idealized the Teutonic knights and Hitler. He was influenced by the Nazi Youth Movement in Germany. In 1943, he had just turned eighteen when he was drafted. His beliefs about sex roles were influenced by Nietzsche’s philosophy, which wasn’t a healthy perspective for George or for Ken, because they both needed to be emotionally in the family not outside of it, but their masculine detachment didn’t work with being in relation to others very well.
After my mother Shirley grew up, she was living in Emporia, KS. Shirley and George didn’t marry until after World War II had concluded and my father finished his post-secondary education. Grandma Sadie was puzzled about why George would marry a woman with health issues. Racial purity had been an influencing factor in their family’s choices about mating. Prior to my father, they had only married into other German-American families. Logically, George wouldn’t have chosen Shirley at random. My grandmother and Shirley didn’t agree about femininity. My grandmother would not argue against masculine dominance. Shirley and George fought until she died. Ken and his wife fought until they divorced.
My father’s relatives thought that I should stay with George and Doris because my father loved me and treated me as his own child. The foundation for the psychological and emotional damage that Doris did to me happened when I was 3 or 4 years old, and the State of Missouri didn’t protect me from adoption by this toxic adult. The state approved the adoption. Removing me from my parents’ home which was now in Kansas would subject me to physical risk in the foster care system so my father’s relatives thought I should remain there. The Army would threaten anyone who would attempt to help me in a civil way with the loss of their property through eminent domain seizure. Grandma Sadie had lived on Social Security fixed income since her husband died and had only a small house. My grandfather, Pop, had raised four daughters and had only his house. Their kids wanted them to do nothing about my situation. My grandmother objected to the loyalty program because it was immoral and wasn’t democratic because no one except the President is accountable. George’s family thought that the Holocaust was immoral, and didn’t share my father’s strong-man view of world history. As a World War Ii veteran, my father could not talk about the loyalty program though Doris could. Doris thought that only her kids and herself were Americans in this story.
Because my father did love my mother, he tried to be responsible about my mother’s obligations for religious instruction to me. He continued to socialize with my mother’s sisters and their families. He and Doris joined the United Methodist Church in St. Joe as a family. Mary Ann was baptized Methodist. I wasn’t baptized then, but Doris said I was dedicated to the Methodist church. My dad continued to know when the local Methodists would join together and offer an outside worship service at the drive-in which is the only time I wanted to go to church. I preferred wearing my pajamas to church. The saddle shoes and patent leather shoes hurt my feet, and lacy socks were sometimes scratchy. I always seemed to be in trouble with Doris. The formal dress made me wish I was a boy.
When I was eight and ten, my family traveled to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park where we met Teresa and her sons for horseback riding lessons. Jane gave me traditional religious instruction about Black Elk and the sacred hoop of life that included the earth and animals and my ancestors. These were sacred relations. Aunt Jane said that I was dedicated to the Sioux. I had a dream one night in that cabin that was a dream-catcher experience where I flew with Black Elk into my future to the University of Colorado. I tried to tell my family the next day that I had flown through the night air with Black Elk, but they laughed. Teresa said, “Really?
In my mind, I was dedicated to business and markets not to any religious body or community. As a toddler, I always wanted a way to get away from Doris. My dad used to take me to the office at Crouch Brothers on Saturday mornings. This office was located across the Missouri River in Elwood, Kansas. I met everyone that worked there on Saturdays like the truck dispatcher and clerical workers. There was a general area of desks outside my father’s office with adding machines and calculators where I played and imagined my future career.
The ethnic history of Doris was English, Welsh, and Scottish. Her political orientation was that of the Virginia plantation owners and Lewis & Clark expeditions. Even though she had common sense and a mind of her own, she would defer to my father’s authoritarian decision-making in the family. She also had some kind of colonizing mission. She had taught her son Richard to cook. Mary Ann and I would also learn to cook. We had to clean the house on Saturdays and yard work too as we aged. Doris saw her own power as that of beauty. She had beautiful blue eyes. Mary Ann had blond hair. She was nicknamed Twiggy (a model) by our neighbor in St. Joe. She took ballet lessons to learn poise because Doris said she was duck-footed. Mary Ann designed the wallpaper and paint in her bedroom. She learned to make and paint ceramics like Doris. Doris also liked toll painting. My father would criticize Mary Ann’s academic performance though and encourage me. Mary Ann did go to a state college for one year after high school in Maryville, MO where she majored in Interior Design, but did not graduate. She dropped out and moved in with her high school boyfriend who had moved to Minneapolis, MN. Mary Ann had always worked part-time and seasonal in farm fields and as a waitress. Doris didn’t have any postsecondary education at all. My intellectual development and academic performance were important to my father. Later. he wanted to move to Leawood, KS because the property values in Johnson County would mean a better-funded school district, and I wasn’t allowed to work as an adolescent. He wanted me to develop quantitative skills. Doris didn’t work while married to George, not until after he died did she return to work.
Nature didn’t help my appearance any. When I was six and seven, I developed an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosis although at the time the pediatrician didn’t know what it was. When I sneezed and coughed or jarred my eyes in any way, they would hemorrhage and the outside of my eyes would swell. As a result of multiple hemorrhaging and swelling episodes, I had permanent bags under my eyes and one lazy eyelid that wouldn’t open as far as the other eyelid. I met social challenges as a child by trying to overcome the defects in my appearance with personality and humor. Boys ridiculed the imperfection, and I thought I had a facial deformity. Once my baby teeth had fallen out and my adult teeth grew in, I began orthodontic work that was physically painful. The ridicule by boys was socially painful and the braces on my teeth were agonizing sometimes. When I was thirteen, I stayed for a week in Edgerton, KS where I began distance cycling on Kansas country roads. Physical fitness and beauty were going to be painful goals for me to strive towards in my adolescence. Cycling would pull on my thighs and hips in a conditioning way that may not agree with femininity and beauty standards, but it would strengthen my legs and stamina for walking golf courses in Kansas as a junior golfer and a varsity team player in high school.