By Tyrone A. Moore
My mother and her siblings grew up without their mother. And grandpa never remarried, because of his very; profound, love for grandma. Now at only eight years old, my mother was the “woman of the house.” She cooked, and cleaned, in that house everyday. She even had to help dress her younger siblings for school. My mother’s job at home began as soon as she got up, and continued well into the evening, after she got home from school. I don’t know when she had time for herself, and when she had time for her homework.
Shortly after arriving in Alaska, my grandmother gave birth to her fourth child, my mother’s younger sister Dorfina. Sadly for all of them, my grandmother loss her life while carrying her fifth child. The story was, that my grandmother died of blood poisoning, due to her baby dying inside her, without her knowing it. My mother was eight years old when the tragic day occurred!
The only break, my mother had from slaving at home, was when she went to school. No need to say, mom loved school, and she learned to read, and write, English very well. Her favorite thing to do was to write poetry. Mom was very smart! She could even speak Castilian style Spanish, a primary language spoken in Northern and Central Spain. The Mexican people today, speak in slang dialect, mixed with Indian language.
When my grandmother passed away, grandpa was overwhelmed with so many kids and no mother to help take care of them and himself. His grief from losing the love of his life took it’s toll on him. So my mother and her siblings had to live with their foster parents for a while. During that time, my mother was molested, and raped, by her foster dad, at the age of eight! In those days, not much was done to child molesters. No one took the accusations of a child very seriously.
Grandpa later got all the kids back, and they all lived in a shack with a dirt floor. The cold could be felt from the wind blowing though the cracks in the shack house. The only way we could keep warm, was from the fire from the coal stove, my grandfather built.
With grandma passing, long hours, hard work, four other mouths to feed, and the depression of losing grandma, grandpa, would not come home for days at a time. When he did come home, he would hit my mother all the time. He would also call her names and pull her hair. Grandpa battered her youngest brother my uncle, repeatedly as well. But for some strange; reason, he favored his oldest son my uncle Eddie, and my aunt, the youngest of all the siblings. Grandpa made my mother quit school in the 9th grade, the only solitude she ever had. Through the years, mom gotten tired of the beatings from my grandpa, and verbal abuse, that she started rebelling. In 1936, at the age of 17, she met and began seeing a young man named Jose Ramirez, who was 27 years old at the time. This was the introduction of my father, but to my dismay, to later find out later in life, that he was my step-father. We will later get more into that story…
A year later, at the age of 18 years old, my mother got pregnant. In 1937, she gave birth to her very first child. His name was Samuel. When my father found out that my mother was pregnant, he was trying to make an exit stage left on her. But grandpa wasn’t having it! He was old school. He hunted my father (my step-father) down toting a shotgun, and said with fire in his eyes, “you slept with my daughter, and dam you, you are going to marry her right now, or I will kill you!” Needless to say, they got married immediately! On June 21st 1939, my second brother Jesus was born. My father and mother got along long enough to have children. But in between pregnancies, mom and dad fought like cats and dogs! If you ask me, I would say that they should have never birth any children. Just like, in the family my mother grew up in, her family life with my dad, was a mirror image of her childhood. Now my dad was her dad. And now she was her mother. Dad would be out til the wee hours of the day, then come home and beat my mom just like her father beat her mother. And ironically, my dad would jump on my oldest brother their first born all the time. In fact, dad had brutally abuse my mother during both of her pregnancies. Thank God, for the next ten years, they did not have any more children. I can not imagine how many miss-carriages my mother had up til that point!
Outside of coming home, and beating up my mother, or one of my brothers, especially Samuel, my dad was a very hard working man. He took care of his family, and they never went without food, or a roof, over their heads. Why did my dad take his frustrations out on his first born as though he hated him? Psychologically, perhaps that faithful, almost fatal marriage proposal that my grandfather offered him, he now was taking his anger out on my brother. Hear we go, as I was eluding to at the beginning of my story, that most of us come from dysfunctional homes, usually passed down from generation to generation. Again, the tragic victims here are the children, who get the blame, for the dysfunction in the home. In our family, my mother and my brothers, bared the blunt end of my father’s rage, and hatred, for my mother being forced upon him, by some stalk raving, shotgun toting, lunatic. It is very sad!
On September 11th, 1949 my mother gave birth to my older sister Rosita. At that time, all five of them lived in a very small shack that was rented. Probably, some of the family abuse, came from living in such tight quarters, and living in such long harsh Alaskan winters!
My sister was born just right before the winter began, which was at the end of September. Once winter begins, it usually last for eight to nine months out of the year, days and weeks of -40 degrees are a regular occurrence, and wind chill can cause temperatures to feel like -55 or -65 degrees. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks holds true to the annual tradition of bikini and board shorts jumping in the freezing lakes! The barren landscape looked like a snowy wasteland, foliage from trees and plants were bare, and of course many species of wildlife were somewhere tucked away hibernating or something.
On the shortest day of the year Alaska receive just under four hours of sunlight. The rest of the year, sunlight is at half mast due to the angle of the sun that doesn’t reach over the mountain tops, causing valleys and other places at low elevation to be largely in shadows.