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.