On one of the days I was on vacation, we all drove over to meet with my step-siblings. Back when my dad re-married, he "inherited" four children. At the time they were aged 3, 10, 13 and 14 (I think). Later he adopted them and their last names were changed. The oldest and the second youngest informed my aunts/uncles that they wanted contact with Sister and I. So we emailed and then met up with them.
Alex is now almost 30. He is a very handsome, tall young man. He is married and has been for 4 years. Adam is 26. He is also tall and handsome. He is married and has been for about 2 years. He's an angry young man.
I can't say that I've made sense of all I learned. It's still meandering around my brain in random order and mayhem. But maybe if I can get it down here in any format, I can make some sense of things. At the very least, I'll have preserved memories before the escape again. So in a somewhat chronological (by time) order, I learned -
- The three oldest kids have the same father. (contrary to what we'd been told). Rita was married and had 3 kids. Then divorced (he didn't die like we'd been told). Then married again. That guy committed suicide (didn't have cancer like we'd been told). He had huge gambling debts and had bookies after him. The youngest is his child. Two weeks after his death, she met my father. They were engaged very soon thereafter.
- Rita has many siblings, but no contact with any except one. That one is dead now. She did reunite with her mother just before her mother's death.
- Rita is hyper-sexual. She has since had a boob job and is now a size DD. She doesn't eat so she is super skinny. I don't know how her tiny frame holds up her chest. We saw pictures dating back years. She has always maintained the bleach blond hair (usually with bad brown roots) and bright red lipstick.
- Her nickname is shotsie - based on what she does with shot glasses when dancing and/or tending bar. 'Nough said.
- Even throughout the marriage with dad, she would go on "benders" and go back to bartending.
- Dad enjoyed showing her off. He enjoyed the attention her looks attracted. But if anyone made a move, he got mad. Rita liked to reciprocate and flirt back. There were lots of fights over this.
- Rita and Dad thought normal kids' playing was being too rowdy. All the kids were evaluated for ADD/ADHD at some time and medicine was often forced.
- Adam was hospitalized in a mental ward for 1 week as a young teen. There was nothing wrong with him other than being a normal teenager.
- The daughter was likely "pimped out" to her mother's boyfriends. She shows many of the mentally ill signs that her mother displays. I wonder how much is mental illness and how much is abuse-aftermath.
- Rita is definitely bipolar. Likely suffers from multiple personalities/DID. Likes to self-medicate with alcohol, drugs, horse tranquilizers, her kids' ritalin and other medications. Her kids say she displays a different personality every minute. I felt a slight tinge of sympathy for her. But she knows she needs her medication and chooses not to take it.
- Rita does not believe in feeding the kids. The boys talked about not having food. There was a lock on all cabinets and the fridge. Dad and Rita usually ate out. They would often bring leftovers for the daughter but nothing for the boys. Adam eats and eats now. Luckily he has a high metabolism. his wife said their house is like a food warehouse. Adam must have a fully stocked cupboard.
- The kids recall a time when Sister first moved there and had the "nerve" to request seconds of food. Rita was in her "impress the new kids" mode and gave it to her. All the other kids immediately requested seconds too. Another time soon thereafter, Sister did her usual chores and requested her $10 a week allowance from Dad. The other kids held out their hands too. All of them immediately walked to the neighborhood deli store and bought food to hoard in their room.
- The two oldest boys were taught a "work ethic." They worked like slaves on the farm. They topped trees, drove fence posts, etc. There was no time for school work - just slave labor work.
- Dad often "got into fights" with the boys. Alex described it as fist fighting. Adam described it as a beating, which his mother watched and cheered Dad on, saying "go get them."
- The daughter was a spoiled princess - when she wasn't being "pimped out."
- The youngest was spoiled. He was the son Dad never had. He was 3 when Dad and Rita married. He was never taught a work ethic and given everything. He has no marketable skills and is floundering now.
- Alex was kicked out two days after turning 18. When he protested, his mother called the cops and he was taken away in a police car. The cops told Alex there was nothing they could do.
- The daughter was kicked out at 18 too. She's married but getting a divorce.
- Rita's sister and husband died in a murder/suicide. Their three kids moved in with Dad/Rita. The one son disappeared. The kids' think he went into a psych ward or juvenile detention. The daughter was placed in charge of feeding the horses on the back acreage. She didn't feed them and many starved to death. My dad was supposedly kicked out in 2002 (during their split) for hitting the girl in response to discovering the malnourished horses. When Dad came back, the two kids were placed into foster care.
- Dad and Rita took a "break" in 2002. This is when Dad briefly reconciled with Sister and I. Seven days later, Rita started dating her divorce attorney. She announced he was moving in. Adam put his foot down and said "no" to his mother. He was kicked out of the house at age 14. He lived with friends for a few years.
- Dad kept in touch with the boys after they were kicked out. But he always maintained loyalty to Rita.
- We saw pictures. Pictures of Dad at the daughter's wedding. Pictures of Dad with the youngest. We brought pictures with us, of Dad growing up and with us as kids. Both boys remarked, "wow he was happy then. Look how happy he looks."
We learned the true story of Dad's death. He was at the house preparing for the upcoming funeral of Rita's mother. They would have to drive a few hours for the service which was set the next week. (what is it with my family and waiting awhile before burials?). He took the car in to have new tires put on. He started weaving and hit a tree. The crash is not what killed him. He apparently had a stroke while driving. Alex got a call from a state trooper saying there was an accident but it wasn't bad. Alex called his mother and she said it wasn't bad and to just stay at work. After work, Alex called and his mom said, "don't go to the hospital." Alex went anyway. Then went to his mother's house. He said Dad was on tubes and they learned that the brain stem had severed - so he was brain dead. Alex wanted his mom to turn off the machines. They argued but set a date to turn off everything the next day or two. Dad died before then on his own. I find it interesting that Rita wasn't there in the hospital with Dad.
Rita is somewhat disabled - suffering the injury of the month. She gets these parasites, injuries, whatever, very frequently. She has many explanations, none of which match up or make sense. The kids think she is living off the insurance proceeds. They are not sure about a will or any other information. She is being helped by a friend of my dad. Husband #5 maybe? Or is it 6?
None of the kids knew what happened to Sister and I. Just that we left. They were not allowed to ask about us.
Alex was the oldest of his "crew." He is most like me - the pacifier. Make peace with everyone. Give everyone the benefit of the doubt. He sees his mom when necessary and thinks he can "handle her." He does all this to keep the peace with the family. He has some of the same denial tendencies I do. He finds security in his "stuff" and his house. He has a ton of "toys" but doesn't use them often.
Adam is the angry one. Most like my sister. Very direct and says it like it is. Sees the ugly and isn't afraid to talk about it. Doesn't gloss over things. He takes security in order and control. He does not want children at all - afraid to be a parent.
Both are married to extremely nice women. Alex's wife comes from normal family. Adam's wife comes from a dysfunctional family.
We met Alex and his wife at the graveyard. Then drove back to his house. It is impressive. Huge and very nice. He lives at the end of the dead end street where Rita still lives. That was a bit nerve-wracking, being that close.
One interesting fact I learned is that I may have yet another sibling. My dad was married before my mom. I knew that. They divorced. What I didn't know is that the wife was pregnant at the time of divorce. Dad wanted to stay together for the child. The Wife said she had an abortion but it is widely believed that she did not. So I may have an older sibling out there somewhere.
It was old talking with the boys. I remember Dad as this controlling tyrant. They remember him as the meek one, overruled by their mother. They enjoyed the one-on-one time with Dad. Like Sister and I, they found him very different when alone, than when he was with others.
I don't know what to do with all this info. My sister is jumping head on into a relationship with the boys. I'm more hesitant. The boys want to go to the lake with us and want to go this year. Well, Alex does. He craves that family bond. Adam is more hesitant. They loved the aunts and uncles. I delayed the trip till next summer. I want to see how this plays out for awhile. But we did invite them to my sister's for thanksgiving. I think a family meal and holiday might be something we all need.