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Good times, Bad times

I recently came across some photos of me when I was first born and others from when I was about 3 or 4 years old.  One of them was of my mom holding me, another of my father holding me.  There was a photo of me between my two big brothers and one of my two brothers with their arms around each other in their little sailor suits.  As I looked at the photos I thought of what a happy time that must have been.  We lived in International Falls, MN when I was born.  When my mom went into labor, my dad opened the front door to go out and warm up the car.  Snow was piled up higher than the door so he had to deliver me himself.  It was his favorite topic of conversation.  You'd have thought he won World War II single handed.  It created such a strong bond between my dad and I that people used to comment, "There's Bernie Leick with his daughter.  He has three other kids that live with him too."

 As I grew older my Daddy was my whole world.  When he came home from work he'd grab me and put me on his shoulders and parade around the house singing.  Then he'd put me down and everyone got special kisses.  There was the Eskimo kiss, the Finnish kiss, the American kiss and probably more than I remember. It was a happy time.  World War II had started after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  One day my dad came home and said he'd joined the Marines.  My maternal grandparents were appalled.  He had four children and a wife at home. What was to become of them?  My Dad wasn't too concened.  He had some Japs to kill.  My grandparents who lived in a small town called Bovey a couple hours south bought a small home for us and took care of us until my dad returned.  The day he left I was hysterical.  Where was my daddy going?  My mom, devastated, adored my father and was having a tough time herself.  I recently found letters they had exchanged while he was in the Marines.  Her letters to him were full of, "To my darling, most beloved, most adored husband" and other such gushy wordings.  She spoke of how she was doing everything he wanted, was making sure that the only opinions she had were the ones he told her to have.  She wrote of how smart he was, how strong he was, how proud she was of him and how lucky she was to be his wife.   It was like reading about a subject of a king back in the middle ages.  I found a letter my dad wrote to President Roosevelt telling him why it was so wrong to allow women in the workplace.  They belonged at home where they could take care of their children.  The letter went on and on with the same sentiments. I doubt if Roosevelt ever saw it.  Even if he did he had a wife himself that was never home taking care of the children. My father hated Eleanor Roosevelt which must have been what set off his tirade about women.   He was stationed in Hawaii and his duty was to be the pianist in Bob Crosby's Marine Orchestra.  Tough Duty!  He had had 12 years of lessons so was the ideal candidate. 

Finally he came home.  I remember the day so clearly even though I was only two and a half years old.  The joy in our family was something to see.  And it was even better something to feel.  I had missed him so much and now didn't have to worry about him ever going away again.  We settled in a small town in North Dakota and my dad went to work as the Superintendent of the Occident Lumber yard.  Life was good.  My mom and dad joined the VFW and dad was elected president.  They had a lot of friends and there was always something exciting going on.  I remember the rodeo that came once a year, wandering by the stock yards, watching the wranglers as they roped a calf, the cowboys as they road their horses doing fancy tricks.  There was the County Fair, the circus that came to town once a year and the annual carnival where we rode the ferris wheel and other exciting rides.  Even the annual flood from a nearby river seemed more an adventure than a hardship as we moved into Graystone hotel till the waters receded. 

My folks became good friends with Jess Thompson and his wife who owned the local airport.  When I was eight years old my birthday gift was a plane ride in a piper cub.  It was just me and my mom.  But my dad drove the road below the plane with my siblings in the car. I don't think my mom's eyes left the car.

The next few years had happy times, sad times.  Always the joy, the fun, the friends, the warmth and nurturing of the Catholic Church, prayers said every evening in a semi-circle around my mom, the changing of the seasons, small town life where you could walk barefooted from one end of town to the other.  My dad joined a construction gang when they came to town and we left Beulah for a gypsy lifestyle.  We lived in Nebraska City, NE, in Petersburg NE, in Marshfield, MO, in Tucson, AZ then back to Nebraska where we lived in several different small towns as my father followed the work.  Finally we settled down in Petersburg, NE for the second time.  This time Dad promised there would be no more gypsy life.  It was hard on mom and confusing to us kids.  When we followed the work we'd make friends and get adjusted to life in a certain town, had a favorite teacher and started new routines.  Then dad would come home one day and say it was time to leave again.  Now with our new found stability Dad found a job at Nebraska Public Power and Light.  I was happy that we were staying in one place and learned to love Petersburg with a passion that sustained me for many brutal years to come. 

For the joy in our family died.  It died when I was thirteen and my father entered my bedroom in the middle of the night where I slept on the bottom bunk with a rosary under my pillow and raped me.

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A vivid story--Thanks

I just read this as I was perusing through blogs today. Very vivid--I can see you as a child and feel the grief at the end of the piece. Thanks for writing this.

Louise Nayer
author of Burned:A Memoir(coming April 2010)

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Blog

Louise,  Thank you for your kind words.  What is your book, Burned: A Memoir about? Obviously about your life but am curious what you went through. Take care of yourself, Margie

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Blog--my book Burned

Hi Margie,

My book is about a family tragedy--my parents were burned in a gas explosion when I was four in the basement of a rental in Cape Cod. My sister and I were separated from our parents for nine months--When we reunited, my mother was completely disfigured and my father depressed. However, with lots of help and support we all went on to lead full lives though there were residual scars as you can imagine. I began to have panic attacks at 42(the age at which my mother was burned) which led to writing the book. Thanks for asking and the best of luck in your own important work. 

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Hi Margie

I hope all is well with you. :)

Thank you for posting this. What happened to you is obviously unforgivable, you may remember me posting to one of your blogs about this in the past, but reading about your childhood and your love for your father just takes the thought of the abuse beyond emotions that I can even describe. I ope that the Lamplighters is going strong. You are an inspiration and I wish you and your organisation the very best in your continuing endeavours.

All the best as always.

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My Blog

Hi Ryoma.  And I certainly do remember you posting before.  I appreciate your kind words.  The Lamplighters has 40 chapters in six countries. In fact the website just had a new face put on.  Take a look at www.thelamplighters.org.  I just sold my 3rd and4th book, REPAIR For Toddlers and It's Your Choice! Decisions that Will Change Your Life.  I hope all is going well in your life.  Stay in touch.  Margie

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LampLighters: Adored

Dear Margie,

The whole time I read your story; besides my heartfelt compassion for YOU : I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility put on your mother for having to raise children ( those missing years) alone.

I have always wondered to the "mystery" of responsibility and duty with government politics and the responsibility and duty with our family?!

(Just my thoughts here)- Perhaps, if there's more bells and whistles, awards, and shout outs from our government and society of our parental heroes; you would've be saved from all those brutal years that you have suffered?

As much as we need to keep our focus forward, your story here is ONE that unveils some of the mystery ( to me).

God Bless all your work for continued success in saving our children! And you are truly ADORED to this day!

Truly,

Catherine Nagle

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We meet again. Thank you

We meet again. Thank you Catherine for your insight. It is a difficult subject to broach. As time went on my mother discovered my father's nightime raids and confronted him. They had me come out of bed and interrogated me. I was so terrified. I didn't really know what was happening (I thought you bought babies at a hospital)I had no words to define the terror and pain. My mom, whose motto about my dad was, "even when he's wrong, he's right". (she lived and died by those words)had my father beat me with a belt until I confessed. I was in so much fear that if I made my father the culprit that our "happy Catholic family" would break up so I screamed that it was "my fault, not daddy's. Please don't blame Daddy." My fate was sealed. After five years of sexual and physical violence I ran away from home. I feel as if I never really had a mother. But you're right. This subject needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the light. It's the silence and the shame that keeps so many silent.

Take care, Margie