Gavin Family

What happened surrounding Michael’s wedding was the beginning of the end of my relationship with my mother. I realized then how much she manipulated my father and drove him absolutely batty in exactly the same way. He would beg her to tell him what was wrong just like I had and she would just be bitchy and negative.

To this day I don’t know if I had done something to offend her or what the hell was wrong. She wouldn’t talk about it. That was over and done. The past. We didn’t need to dwell on it. For fuck’s sake, Mother, you damn near ruined you son’s wedding. You certainly put me in a precarious position having to explain it all. Aren’t I entitled to know what the hell was going on? Apparently not.

I never trusted her after that. And I didn’t get over being angry. That incident was such a revelation. All sorts of shitty memories started flooding back into my concious memory of the abuse my brothers and I suffered at her hands.

How she had stuck my finger under the sewing machine needle and deliberately rammed the needle into it for a few seconds as she held my hand there because she caught me playing with her machine. I was maybe three when that happened. Maybe younger. My god in heaven that ain’t that woman was cruel.

It had always bothered me that I could not remember large parts of my childhood but now I think I don’t want to remember. No, I’m almost certain I don’t.



That family genealogist found these blogs and contacted me. He told me he’d be happy to update our family information if I cared to give it. I told him to contact my mother and tell her how he found out there was an error. There have been a few hits on the site–two yesterday specifically for Phyllis Ann Fate Gavin.

What can I say? Welcome to my world, Mom if you are the reader. If it’s my brothers well hey there bro. Welcome to your world as well. It wasn’t always happy was it. Thanks to the sheer neglect that went on we managed to make it happy though. You three banded together and did all those crazy things that might have gotten you killed. I was so lonely watching the three of you sometimes. I felt shut out.

Well, that’s the way things were, It’s today that we should be living in. We’re all estranged and everything. I wonder what you think about that. I wonder if you give a rat’s ass. I wonder if you even know the reason why or care to know.

It might be other family members. If so, welcome to the Incestuous abusive story of one of your family members. Actually it involves a number of us. Right off hand I can’t say how many since I’d have to count all the ex-wives, girlfriends and husbands and children and their significant others. You get my drift right?

I’m tired. This shit makes me even more tired.


Eyes seeking the response of eyes
Bring out the stars, bring out the flowers,
Thus concentrating earth and skies
So none need be afraid of size.
All revelation has been ours.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), U.S. poet. “All Revelation.”

My little brother was nine years old when he lost his eye. He lost it because of sheer neglect and the outright refusal of my parents to follow medical advice. He lost it because my father was in a paranoid deluded state of mind, quite likely manic as hell and my mother refused to stand up to him and put her children’s welfare first come hell or high water.

It began when my brothers were repairing boxcar pallets for my father at the Verona Grain Elevator. A nail-head Chuck was pounding on (or maybe trying to pull the nail out of the wood, I don’t remember) sheared off and struck Jimmy Dale in the eye. A simple accident that was no-body’s fault. It could have happened to anyone.

I don’t even have a recollection of hearing about him getting hurt. Did he run to Mother crying? I don’t know. Was he bleeding? I have no idea. But I can guess what might have happened if he did.

My parents did not take their children to doctors. I broke my arm near the elbow when I was roller skating once and my mother bound it up in a dishtowel until it healed. How do I know it was broken? A Doctor mentioned it when I had Xrays as an adult.

I walked to the Doctor on a broken leg without permission from my parents because it hurt so bad I knew something was seriously wrong. My Grandfather loaned me a cane. My mother was furious.

But this story is about Jimmy Dale and how he lost his eye. They didn’t take him to a Doctor right away. Grain Elevators are dirty environments. There is dust and chaff from the grain everywhere no matter how hard you try to keep it clean. The farmers bring it in with them on their clothes along with manure from the barn and animal hair from the cows they’ve been tending.

Jimmy got an infection in his injured eye. Still they didn’t take him to the doctor right away. Not until he could barely close his eye because it was so swollen and he was in so much pain. Then it was nearly too late.

They had to rush Jimmy to Hastings for emergency surgery on his eye and the prognosis was about 50/50 that he’d be able to see again. I remember waiting for him to come out of the operating room outside on the hospital lawn, sitting with my other brothers, trying to read a book and not being able to concentrate. I remember the three of us crying because we all tried to protect Jimmy Dale from everything and this time we failed. I remember Chuck cried hardest of all.

Then there were the long days of waiting until the bandages came off. Every day we would make the drive to see him. We kids couldn’t go up to see Jimmy Dale but we could stand on the lawn and yell hello up at his second story window. A few times they let him come down to the lobby to see us from a safe sterile distance.

We missed him very much. According to him, he liked being in the hospital and getting all that good attention. It was safe. I bet it was. The food was better. It probably was; my mother was a lousy cook and besides they gave him all the ice cream he wanted. He didn’t want to go home. I understand why.

But time marched on and eventually they declared him well enough to go home with instructions to change his dressings several times a day and keep the wound clean. He had some vision back and it was improving daily. Within less than a week my father wanted all of us out at the Grain Elevator, including Jimmy and Mother.

They fought about it. I remember the fight. The gist of Dad’s arguemnt was that Mother did the books and she was very far behind. She had to come back and get caught up and stay current or there would be hell to pay and they would lose the Elevator Gig–the family livelihood.

I remember getting involved in the fight and offering to stay home with Jimmy and tend to him. I could change his dressings and put the salve in his eye. I was, after all, almost 14 and had been minding the boys while my parents worked since I was 9.

No effing way that was going to happen my father roared. The only reason I wanted to stay in town was so I could run all over the place chasing boys. That was part of his paranoia. Part of the reason we all had to go to work with him everyday. So I wouldn’t be left to my own devices to chase boys.

Mother caved in! She took that child back into that ungodly filth place and the inevitable happened, he got another infection. Once again those monsters did not rush him to the doctors right away. They kept treating him with the salve that they were given when he left the hospital thinking that would cure it if they doubled up on it.

By the time they decided that they had to take him in the prognosis was so dismal that my parents were flat out told before he went into the operating room that he would not see out of the eye again and it was doubtful they could save it. But they tried.

Within two weeks the eye was essentially dying and had to be removed. All told, my Jimmy spent more than 6 weeks in the hospital that summer.  He got very attached to one of the nurses there.

My little brother was going to be blind in one eye for the rest of his life. All because my pathethetic excuse for a father was too paranoid to let his family be out of his sight and a big enough of a bully to get his way. All because my crazy Mother could not or would not stand up to my selfish father and tell him her children came first no matter what the consequences might have been.

But you know what, I don’t think the children ever came first with her. SHE came first. She would do whatever was expedient to avoid any serious conflict with my father that would cause HER problems and we children were always sacrificed for the cause. Over and over and over again.

Jimmy Dale may have paid the highest price of all of us.


When my children were small they would ask me to tell them stories about what it was like when I was a little girl. I told them funny stories about my brothers. They called them the Uncle stories. I don’t think they even noticed that I told them hardly anything about myself.

I wish I could remember good times. I’m sure there must have been good times. It couldn’t have all been bad times could it? No. It’s just that the bad times over shadow all the good times, drawing a dark curtain over what was good. I remember times that started off good but turned out bad.

Mostly I remember being afraid to be happy because if I was happy something bad would happen. I remember laying awake in my bed at night and praying that nothing bad would happen. I remember making deals with god about what I would give up if only he would stop the bad stuff from happening. It never worked. I gave up being happy but the bad stuff kept happening. I could never be good enough.

Why do bad things happen to good little girls? Because shit happens and there is no one there to care. Especially not an all-seeing, all-powerful god.


After my father died in 1979 my mother began playing a game with me I eventually named “Blame Bill and Iola.” It actually began before that but it began in earnest in 1979 when she filed for divorce and my Father had the audacity to up and die on her six weeks later before she could get him into court and air all the dirty linen.

This may or may not have been linked to the fact that I had ended up on the psych ward and was being treated for depression in 1978 and had partially confessed the family dirty linen to “The Pink Shrink” (everyone who is anyone will remember HER. She always wore pink and she was our circuit rider counselor affectionately referred to as the pink shrink. I wonder if she knew that?) I think it was.

She really upped the ante after I had moved to Wisconsin and been living there for a couple of years and started digging around in my psyche with a little more enthusiasm and with more experienced therapists in the early 80s. Plus I had written a term paper about incest that I had given her to read that talked about the complicity of the mothers. Every time I went to Nebraska to visit we spent most of our alone time talking about how miserably my father had treated her and abused me and how Iola was to blame for the fact that my Mother did not respond appropriately when I disclosed the incest.

All the misery in the world was Bill and Iola’s fault. oh sigh… what can we do? woe and sorrow…

I finally told her I did not want to play that game anymore. She said it wasn’t a game. I said whatever, I didn’t want to do it anymore, that I had worked through my shit with my father and that if she was still needing to work through stuff she needed to go back to therapy. She was miffed and she did try to play the game but I was firm.

So what has that got to do with sparing the rod? Well, in the course of blaming my father for everything my mother told me this anecdote:

I got my first spanking when I was six weeks old. The reason? I would not quit crying in church so my father took me out and bared my little bottom and spanked me.

SIX WEEKS OLD. I weighed 8lbs and 2oz when I was born so probably weighed right around 9 pounds. My father was a big man. 6’2″ probably over 200lbs even then and certainly strong because he lifted weights when he was in the service.

If this wasn’t a testimony to his insanity and the fact that he should have never been left alone with a child again, I do NOT know what was. But did my mother take me and leave? Did she even consider it? No she did not.

She was upset but it never occurred to her that she should protect her child and get the hell out of dodge. In fact, she went on to have three more children with this maniac.

She married a man, a boy really, that her mother disapproved of who came from a family she herself disapproved of who had recently been discharged from the military because of mental health problems. By this time she had no doubt been the victim of his temper herself on more than one occasion. In fact, I’m sure of it. She told me so. And he beat her only child in public when that child was six weeks old.

What kept her from running home to Mama who would have been more than happy to help her and had the means? Want my opinion? Of course you do. PRIDE. Insufferable pride.