13 October 2012

Gone a-Missin'

I may have mentioned that Mary Belle, my mother, was one of 12 siblings -- 9 girls + 3 boys. Given the age-spread, there wasn't a lot of time they lived together under one roof, but home base for all of them was Lore City, Ohio (pop. 305 in the 2000 census).

What would 12 kids be like? There'd be these 5 here...
and 5 more like them...
and then another 2 like these.  Imagine...

Not my Grandma Littleton, but like her.
Like the place and time, too.
The siblings were all full sisters and brothers. Their mother, whom I like to call Grandma-Littleton-may-god-rest-her-soul-how-in-god's-name-did-she-do-it raised them in a big old falling-down miners' house in Lore City. Sometimes another relative or an older sibling themselves took in one or two of the younger ones for a spell. The father of all these kids, whom I like to call Who's-that-old-man-at-Grandma's-funeral? (since that's the only time I ever saw him), was apparently around mostly for conception intervals. 

My mother stayed admirably close to her siblings through younger adulthood, though they were far-flung and always falling in or out of various states of poverty, illness, domestic crisis, or incarceration. She was particularly caring toward my Uncle Donald, her younger brother. He gave her the nickname "Gunk" when they were little. He could always make her laugh with that.

Uncle Donald was a drifter, I realize now. One time he visited, he was coming off work as a lineman out west. (Hey, maybe Wichita, yuk, yuk. That song was popular right then.) 

They were insulators, off the line.
I remember he brought me two glass "doorstops," one a clear blue, the other milky white. I loved them instantly -- the shapes, the weight -- but I was unsure how to use them. Since I revered Uncle Donald, I probably placed them around my bedroom door even though I didn't need to "stop" it. 

It sunk in what they were a couple of years later; I don't remember being told or anything. I do remember noticing them everywhere after that, being used for all kinds of things and especially for decoration. That's what people lined up on their shelves, to show off something pretty. They still do.

It was during this stay that things started going bad for Uncle Donald. He was staying with Grandma Littleton for a while, but my mom saw a diary where Grandma was writing that she was afraid of him when he come home drunk at night. My mom made everybody agree that Uncle Donald had to leave there. So then there he was at my house for a while. I was scared sometimes too. Just afternoons and in the evening. I was afraid what he was going to yell when I went through the dining room to the back door.

One day my dad showed me something that felt strangely dark and icky. I didn't all the way get it back then but I understand now. Even then it seemed just... icky. There were 5-6 bottles shaped like Elvis and they were all hidden back behind the wood pile.
The Elvises had had whiskey in them before now. I knew where my dad kept them, up in a cupboard over the sink. I don't know why he had them, just to collect them I guess. I didn't know at all what it meant that Uncle Donald had drunk them.

What it seemed to mean in the bigger picture was that Uncle Donald wasn't going to be staying any longer with us either. Mary Belle "had had it." My dad found someone who would give Uncle Donald a garage to live in on the edge of town. I used to go by it and think, "My uncle lives there." Of course, it's not all that bad or unusual a thing back there. 

And now for the final (maybe) chapter in Uncle Donald's saga. When Uncle Donald was in his late 40s, I think, he was back in town living in that same garage again. (Guess that worked out pretty well for everyone.) 

One morning early, the Sheriff came by to see my mom. He said that Donald had been driving drunk as a skunk the night before, caused an accident that hurt the other person pretty bad. A couple deputies chased Don down Wills Creek but they lost him. 

I forget how much time passed with no word or sighting of Uncle Donald, but the deputies felt sure that he had died out on the creek. You see, it was winter and there was a lot of snow and ice and somebody said maybe Don had a heart attack or something. 

We would hear once in a while that Don had been seen by someone, in another town and with a woman, or whatever. One time, about 10-12 years after he went missin', my mom swore that she saw him in the mall in West Virginia and she ran me around there for an hour or more. But no Don. 

Not too long before my mother died, she had her Brother Don declared dead. She had to for several reasons and I know she did believe he was dead. She loved Uncle Donald so much. We all loved him. 


1 comment: