Through Any Given Door

1.60 Larry’s Diary, Apr 1950, Don’t Go

1950 • Larry’s diary (age 16)
Apr 9  Easter Sunday, Band (H.S.) marched in uniform for the Masons to the Red Church. Went to 8 o’clock mass. Carleen got sick.
Apr 12  Had lunch at Lions Club meeting of Senior Boy Scouts. Dad got drafted to council in election
Apr 21  Carleen got a new swimsuit, blue, class meeting for Rodeo Queen tickets, big chemistry test. Played canasta all night.
Apr 22  Carleen went babysitting making me miss the teen topper club and the show. Changed and cleaned edging over records.
Apr 23  Carleen and gang went to Melones on picnic
Apr 24  Mom came to my room and told me that she and dad may get a divorce and which one would I stay with. (Dad)
Apr 26  Dad told me about divorce. Student from India spoke.
Apr 27  Freshman cleaned out bleachers. Mom said goodby to me and left. Told me to tell Dad to get car at Parrots Ferry.
Apr 28  Mom in Columbia Way Hospital, everyone seems to know. German Band play for Columbia’s 100th birthday. Went to play house rehearsal. 
Apr 29  Saw mom in hospital. Looks real sick. Went to Hasty Heart rehearsal got out at midnight. Bought two Sonora pennants.
Apr 30  First performance of Hasty Heart in public. Ima came to house and told me about overdose of sleeping pills.

Note: Larry’s daily entries in the months of March and April were typical of those in the past dealing with school, sports, band, and work; I only posted excerpts from mid to the end of April, where they took on a different tone.



The back of our mother’s green wool coat receded down our front path to the street, two brown suitcases gripped at the end of each sleeve. Dad was at work. Larry was behind his closed door. Betty was in her room crying and Carleen was in the kitchen. Claudia was curled on the couch in tears, watching me sob as my baby feet balanced on the bottom rail of the screen door, my hands clinging to the middle crossbar, my body plastered to the door mid-screen, wailing. “Mama, Mama. Nooo, don’ go, Mama. Don’ go. Peas.” I was not yet two.

She went to a hotel. That night, opening a bottle of sleeping pills, she took an overdose. This was not the first time Mom left, nor would it be her last. It was also just one of the many times she would attempt to end her life. However, it was the first talk of divorce between our parents, which was unthinkable considering Dad’s German Catholic beliefs and our mother’s fear of her mother. Suicide was not unthinkable for my mother, mortal sin or not.

Ima Deaton

If Ima Deaton (a young woman Dad would soon hire to help take care of us) hadn’t come to the house and told Larry that Mother had tried to kill herself, and if Larry hadn’t made these entries in his diary, and if I hadn’t poked and prodded my family’s memories, this would have been a forgotten part of our mother’s story.

to be continued…

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Oh my gosh. Too painful and much too sad to even read about. My heart goes out to you. And yet you and Larry were successful in life. Perhaps I am mistaken but sometimes children who suffer grave childhood illnesses or tremendous challenges during childhood thrive and prosper in life more so than those of us who came from an acceptably dysfunctional family.

    Both your readers and you will need to be brave about what comes next in your tale. You are so amazing to share your personal pain and story which is offering some sort of relatedness and redemption to those of us who grew up in a similar if not quite as extremely tragic a situation as yours.

    Thank you so much Catherine for being so brave in sharing your famIly story with us and helping us to accept and heal our own personal emotional childhood wounds. Priceless,

    • Thank you for your sweet note. Fortunately I don’t hold my story as tragic; if I did I wouldn’t have written it. Unfortunate and unhappy yes, more so for the girls, but all of us, except our mother, turned out okay. I’d say we’re all a touch neurotic and a tad obsessive-compulsive, often riddled with anxiety and irritability, and at times have a boatload of resentment. But at least we have interesting stories to tell! Betty carried her resentment to her grave. I’ve shed most of mine, though it bites me on the butt every once in a while. Larry turned out to be the most stable, not that we are unstable, but we have certainly created more chaos!
      Some are taken down by their past, others manage to manage, some manage to thrive. There is a saying: “Where you are the most wounded, you are the most accomplished.” We were all resilient and made it through our childhood. It could have been worse. And you are right, we wouldn’t be who we are today without these experiences.

  2. Donna Byerrum says:

    Painful to read. Hurts my heart. Love you Catherine.

    • Some of this was painful to write, then rewrite, then edit, then edit again. I’ve also had it professionally edited. The first time around my right shoulder froze, a year later, my left. Then the motherboard on my computer froze. I guess it was painful for the computer too. It’s interesting going through this process one last edit before I add pictures and post it here. Each time I get more distance and hold it as a story, but some parts still get to me. We are moving into the next phase which isn’t any easier. Thanks for the love. A lot of it was missing during that time of our lives. My dad was trying to keep his head above water, my mother wanted out, Larry was at the stage of his life where he was busy with school and work though he got caught in the fray also, much of the family and household responsibility fell on Carleen’s shoulders, Betty and Claudia struggled with Mom coming and going, and at this point in the story I was too little to know what was going on.

  3. Barbara Conway says:

    My heart hurts for all of you. What a sad story for your family. Thank you for sharing, and I hope your writing helps with the healing and softens the scars.

    • I wrote this book because I wanted to more abut my mother. All these other stories came out of the woodwork, so to speak. It gets worse, and then it gets better, like many stories do. I think it was a healing for both of us, even though she’d been gone a long time when I wrote it.

  4. Victoria Chatfield says:

    I feel the despair in this episode. I too have such painful memories that they pop up from time to time, 50 years later. Is it so with everyone, I wonder.

  5. I lived next door to Ima’s sister, Peggy, and played with her children. I knew Ima’s children because they would stay a few days at a time at Peggy’s. They were very nice girls. I enjoyed when they came to visit and playing with them. I’m sure Ima gave you as much love as she did her own children.

    • I would have loved to have spoken to Ima for this story. She helped out with the family for a couple of years, appearing in Larry’s diary. I believe she married right about the time our family left Sonora in 1952 or ’53. I found that high school picture of her on-line, would love to have another one from about that time. I have no memories of her, but my siblings do.

  6. Susan Price-Jang says:

    What a painful story. I remember babysitting for the woman up the street from us when I was a teen. She did not go out but stayed in the house while I was there. She told me her husband was divorcing her. She was acting weird and talking funny to me. I did not know what to do, but I kept the kids (about three little ones) busy. Finally she said that I could go home, she did not need me many more that night. I told my mom when I got home so Mom visited her the next morning. My mom told me that she was having a nervous breakdown. About a week later she committed suicide. I had forgotten this event until I read your story…. Too disturbing to remember.

  7. I say the same.

  8. Jim Chatfield says:

    Two years old is the last time my daughter seen her mother, when she came home drunk and said if I didn’t give her the car to go out and party she’d leave. Told her to pack up and get out. That was 58 years ago.

  9. So sad. It hurts.

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