The four children, of whom I am the oldest, grow up fending for themselves or relying on me, their Cinderella without glass slippers. The novel chronicles life and death, passionate love, rape and incest, childbirth and abortion, open heart surgery and more, including some fun and fascinating experiences; as well as our innumerable attempts to bring our family together.
Along with being a novel abounding with emotion and incredulous happenstances, it hopes to disprove a long-standing adage that "people live what they learn"; as the four siblings around whom the novel is built have all risen above The Family That Never Was to being successful, loving and caring individuals with thriving families of their own.
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The Family That Never Was
By Jacque Lynn Singer
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Jacque Lynn Singer
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMY RATIONALE
The year was 1943. World War II was raging across the world. Rationing of leather goods, metals, oil and gasoline, meats, and other food goods was being fully implemented across the United States. Wages, salaries, and prices were all frozen. Thousands of American men were shipped overseas to fight for their country.
My parents were lucky, I guess. My father, who was in the service, remained stateside with my mother. Maybe his health or his size kept him from seeing the battle front. So in 1943, in a hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, a female bundle of joy was born; my name was Jacque Lynn Singer. I was the first of four siblings born to my parents. The question was, did my parents consider me a bundle of joy or simply a burden to keep them from doing that which they chose to do? Was I part of a pre-planned family or conceived because my parents did not realize what having a child meant to their personal freedoms?
The poem that follows, "The Family That Never Was" was written by me over twenty-one years ago. I am a firm believer that by writing about my feelings, especially negative ones, I can clear my mind and seek solutions without burdening others. A variety of viable solutions also become more lucid.
Dreaming of things that could have been.
A household made up of six
But never a family, not then, not now!
Mother and Dad had each other, you see,
With four kids who didn't fit into their plan.
We knew what we needed and hoped it would be,
But Mom had to make sure that she pleased her man.
"Don't tell your father," were words oft heard.
Just why Mom would say this, I've yet to decide.
Did she fear him? Protect him? It all sounds absurd.
But four of us kept quiet or more we were denied.
Love was a "four letter word" in our house
Seldom used and less seldom shown.
Mom and Dad each needed their spouse
While the four of us grew up alone.
As years went past and I grew
Many social mistakes I made.
How does one find love she never knew?
For my parents' mistakes I have paid.
The burden of family lay upon me for years.
You're the oldest one, I would oft say
Forget the bad times and all of the tears
Keep our family together, I'd pray.
My parents were happy when things went their way —
We'd talk, visit, and be friends,
But as soon as something for me went astray
They'd be gone-no reasons, no amends!
Now, my mother is gone, at peace at last
And I'm left with what I NEVER had!
As I sit reflecting upon the past
I'm grateful to see how I've learned from the bad.
A husband, my sons, a successful life —
Loving and doing things a family does.
Sharing and caring between children, husband and wife
Make up for the family that never was!
The youngest sibling in my family, Sandi, who is ten years my junior, and I have determined that we were raised in a "dry alcoholic" atmosphere. I've heard many stories of alcohol use regarding our father when I was very young. I've never seen him inebriated, but it is said that his military cronies would dump him on the doorstep. In my family, my father was definitely dependent upon my mother. My mother, on the other hand, always tried to protect him and cover his ass.
The children in a dysfunctional family also play specific roles. As the oldest child in the family, it was my function to make the family (my parents) feel it was doing well; as my accomplishments gave them a source of pride which they seldom, if ever, acclaimed. I was an over-achiever and able to be overly responsible. If something needed to be accomplished, I was placed first in line for the chore. It was like a Cinderella syndrome without the glass slippers, and it took many trials until I found my Prince Charming.
Inwardly, I suffered from painful feelings of inadequacy and guilt. Nothing I did was good enough to please or heal my family. My compulsive drive to succeed led to stress-related illness and compulsive over-working. My qualities of appeasement, helpfulness and nurturing my siblings caused others outside the family to pay me much positive attention. But inwardly, I felt isolated, unable to express myself or my true feelings. I became the head of the family at a very young age. Weight gain was a product of my instability. Food, especially chocolate, gave me the comfort that no one or nothing else did. I was, and still am, a chocoholic and quite overweight. Or as the doctor would say, "m-o-r-b-i-d-l-y obese"; a wickedly abusive sounding term toward someone trying to maintain positive self esteem; it is attributable to genetics as well as chocolate.
Most people would have completely given up at this point, but I once learned that from every negative, there comes a positive. As difficult as it has been, I have found strength from each unpleasant event. I am far stronger now than I was when I faced the plethora of abuses I dealt with in my birth family. I have, with the help of others, learned love, caring, and respect although, I must say the pathway getting there has not always been the most pleasant.
I am a person who stands up for myself and my beliefs. I stand up for those I love. I speak my own mind and do things my own way. I won't compromise what's in my heart. I live my life my own way and won't allow others to step on me. I refuse to tolerate injustice to me or others and, when necessary, I speak against it. I have the courage and strength to allow myself to be who I truly am and refuse to become anyone else's idea of what they think I should be. I am outspoken, opinionated and determined, although I will never deliberately hurt anyone with my thoughts or words. Just because I know what I want does not take away from my ability to treat others as respectfully as they deserve to be treated.
A quote from Dr. Seuss that seems to fit here is, "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
We learn when we are quite young that certain four-letter words in our language are no-nos. I have learned that other four-letter words that are usually considered acceptable can also have some negative power.
Probably the harshest thing I have learned to deal with in my life is hurt. Hurt is one of those four-letter words. We are all aware of the marks left by physical hurt, but seldom consider the damage done by mental and emotional hurt. The hurt that I have faced throughout all segments of my life has again, I believe, made me a stronger, more determined person ready to face the next obstacle.
My parents had no concept of the hurt that they were imposing on other family members. The dictionary defines hurt as "that which causes pain, has a bad effect, and /or causes harm to." Our minds and bodies interpret hurt as an emotional explosion that permeates every facet of our being. Hurt is inflicted upon us by others; it is imposed upon us by uncaring, insensitive individuals who, in trying to find themselves, care not of the others who become harmed along the way.
Hurt is everlasting, eternal! Its blatancy can be temporarily masked or softened by the words of others; but hurt itself and the scars it leaves remain forever. How can a human being inflict such hurt upon another, especially flesh and blood-parent to child?
To inflict pain and hurt this far?
Forget material wealth, there is no doubt
The hurt that I feel is from being left out!
Love, another four-letter word, carries a variety of connotations. I will define it, at this point, as a feeling of warm personal attachment for a parent or child. It depicts fondness, predilection, devotion and affection. An infant is born with unconditional love for its mother, as this parent usually provides the baby with life's necessities and makes it comfortable in its new surroundings. There is also a special unity because the baby was carried in the mother's womb.
How intense this love is and for how long it remains unconditional is totally dependent upon the family unit into which the child is born. Love is reciprocal; it must be provided by all parties. In my birth family, my mother showed love (through hugs and kisses) or told us she loved us so seldom, it was almost as if it hurt her to do so. She did exhibit such love toward my father. I do believe that my mother loved us, but was afraid to share the love; she was more devoted to my father, or she may have even feared him. My father NEVER showed any type of positive affection, verbal or physical, to anyone other than my mother. I don't think he knew the word love, or what it meant as it related to his children. It hurt!
Love cannot exist without caring. Care is yet another positive four-letter word in our vocabulary. Care denotes concern and attentiveness toward another. It involves taking the mental responsibility and hovering attentiveness for those close to you. In our family unit, care was strictly between mother and father. We were simply added entities who really didn't belong; I believed we were in my parents' way.
As people age, they relive their life events either vicariously through others or mentally, reminiscing all that has evolved. It has been said that people learn what they live. I was brought up with a lack of loving and nurturing. Does that mean I will live my life the same way? Does that mean that I will treat my own children the same way? This all remains to be seen as the story continues.
They say I have reached my Golden Years; however, I have yet to find the gold. I am more apt to refer to these years as "the Rusty Years," because of the ailments, aches and pains, and heartaches.
Mark Twain relates some ideas regarding age that appeal to me. "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter." Another quote from Twain that provides more food for thought is, "The first half of life consists of the capacity to enjoy without the chance; the last half consists of the chance without the capacity."
I believe the most lucid view of the Golden Years was written by Theodore Geisel in his book, Dr. Seuss on Old Age. In his inimitable way, he pays homage to the Golden Years: "My memory shrinks, my hearing stinks, No sense of smell; I look like hell! My mood is bad — can you tell? My body's drooping, have trouble pooping. The Golden Years have come at last. The Golden Years can kiss my ass."
Families come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. The family unit has formed the immediate basis of inter-dependence amongst human beings since the beginning of time. Since my story revolves around a variety of different families (my birth family, my immediate family, and the families of our three children) and their similarities and differences, it needs to be understood that none of the families discussed in this book fit stereotypical families. I recall my first grade reading book with Dick and Jane, the children, Mom in her apron, Dad in his suit with a briefcase, Fluffy the cat and Spot the dog. Although back then that represented a typical functional family, many children today would be hard-pressed to relate to such a familial structure. It certainly did not represent a typical family as I saw it.
My conception of a family is that of a teaching unit. Children need to be taught right from wrong, the proper ways to care for themselves and to help others. They need to be taught how to love, care, and respect. These things just do not happen without proper instruction from adult figures in the family. In families such as my birth family, some of these things are never learned or they are learned by watching others. It is reprehensible, in my opinion, that parents are not taught to be parents as they are to do so many other things as a part of their schooling. Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world, yet there is no preparation. Just consider the difference that preparation for parenthood might make in our society!
Chapter TwoMY LIFE AS A CHILD (THE EARLY YEARS)
It was springtime, specifically April 1943. The flowers were starting to bloom and the birds were singing. The chill in the air had diminished, except at night, and the sun provided warmth not felt during the colder months. As the story begins, the family welcomed "a bundle of joy." I guess I am allowed to take the writer's prerogative to speak of myself that way.
My mother was a petite young woman in her early twenties, a pretty woman. My father was a husky, quite robust man. He was in the U.S. military. He was not home much, but I attributed it to his military duties and commitments. I don't believe that my parents had much money or much in the way of worldly goods, so we were living with my paternal grandparents in an upstairs apartment in one of the nicer suburban areas of Hartford, Connecticut.
Sociologists and psychologists say that we don't have long-term memory of happenings or surroundings from when we were very young, so I will attribute these and other memories to pictures I've seen or conversations I've heard from others as I've grown older.
My grandparents came from the "Old Country," Russia, I believe. No one knew exactly how old they were, as birth records were not kept at that time. They were Jewish and continued with their Jewish faith in the United States. I can't remember my parents attending synagogue, but I could be wrong. I do know Mother, Father, myself and my siblings, Allen, Alex, and Sandi, were raised without any religious training.
Pictures I've seen show my grandmother holding me, hugging me, and playing with me. Had I continued living with these grandparents for a more prolonged period, I believe I would have a totally different feeling of family life and what it was supposed to be because of my grandmother's loving ways. I also have pictures of being pushed in a baby carriage down the street in front of the apartment building where we lived, at times by my grandmother and other times by my mother.
My grandmother would sit for hours, rock me in her arms and sing to me. She had a beautiful voice and I loved to hear her sing. I always knew, even as an infant that she would be there to love, nurture, and when I got a little older play with me. That's what it's all about, isn't it?
My grandfather, as I remember him, was of normal build and weight. He worked in movie theaters. When not in the service, my father did the same thing. In those days, a movie house had only one theater and usually two protectors, so that if the film had two reels, the movie could be continued without taking time to change the reels on the projector. I don't remember him as being the easiest person to get along with. He was gone much of the time that I was awake due to the nature of his job.
My grandmother, on the other hand, was extremely kind and loving. She was a businesswoman and owned a series of dress shops. She always looked immaculate and treated people accordingly. I've been told that she was a gambler and, although there was no gambling available in the suburb where she lived, she would take the bus to the dog races and other gambling venues. She was also a smoker, which in those days denoted women who were well off. My grandmother passed away at an early age from a heart attack when I was eight or nine years old. I felt cheated that I did not get to know her better. I feel she was a very special woman and would have made a big difference in my life.
I guess while I'm talking about grandparents, I should discuss my maternal grandparents. They were Russian Jews. They also lived in an apartment, although I don't remember much about it. My grandfather was a tailor, and a good one at that. Many times, because he worked in pawnshops, his life was endangered by thieves and robbers. He was one of the most peaceful, caring, and loving gentleman that you could ever hope to meet. He was one of those individuals who would give whatever money or items of value he had if someone needed them, whether he knew them or not. I know my grandfather continued to follow the Jewish faith. We watched him go through the stages of dementia similar to Alzheimer's before he passed. I don't know if the term Alzheimer's was even used at the time of his death, but it was horrible to watch as he returned to childhood with all systems failing. I reached a point when I stopped visiting him (he didn't know who I was anyway). It hurt me too much to see him the way he was. I wanted something positive to remember.
Excerpted from The Family That Never Was by Jacque Lynn Singer Copyright © 2011 by Jacque Lynn Singer. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
MY LIFE AS A CHILD (THE EARLY YEARS)....................7
OUR FIRST NEW START....................17
CALIFORNIA, HERE WE COME....................21
MY COLLEGE YEARS....................27
IT'S NOW OR NEVER (SANDI'S REBIRTH)....................35
THE LATER YEARS....................39
I'M A TEACHER NOW....................45
PREGNANT AND NOWHERE TO TURN (OR MY MOTHER LOSES MY JOB)....................57
ANOTHER SCHOOL DISTRICT — ANOTHER NEW BEGINNING....................81
STARTING AGAIN — I BUY MY FIRST HOME....................85
TWO CHRISTMAS DILEMMAS (AN UNWANTED GIFT)....................99
COULD I POSSIBLY BE PREGNANT AGAIN? (OR THE WORST DECISION I'VE HAD TO MAKE)....................107
TIME MARCHES ON (OR WHAT ELSE CAN GO AMISS?)....................115
MY FAMILY GROWS — NOW THERE ARE TWO....................121
INSURANCE SAYS YES — NO MORE HUGE BREASTS....................139
BACK TO THE DATING GAME — I FIND THE REAL MR. RIGHT....................147
A MUTUAL PROPOSAL, A MARRIAGE, AND A LONG TRIP....................155
A FINAL ATTEMPT TO MAKE THE FAMILY THAT NEVER WAS THE FAMILY THAT IS....................159
CHARLIE UNRAVELS AND MY BODY FALLS APART....................167
CHARLIE GETS NEW GUARDIANS AND TONY SUCCUMBS TO CANCER....................175
STRANGE DEATHS TAKE MY MOTHER AND JAMES' DAD....................181
CHARLIE GROWS UP (OR RETIREMENT CAN'T COME FAST ENOUGH)....................195
OUR THREE SONS....................199
JACQUE FALLS AND CAN'T GET UP — JAMES TO THE RESCUE....................213
FINAL REVELATIONS (OR IS IT A NEW BEGINNING?)....................219
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Dysfunctional Family Saga At It's Best, Or WorstThe Family That Never Was is a look inside generations of a dysfunctional family. Emotionally charged at times and hysterical in others, this story will keep you guessing and keep you wanting more. You sympathize with the family and you feel as though you become part of the family because of the author's inviting writing style. Great read, highly recommended.
The Family That Never Was is a look inside the thought process of a dysfunctional person. After reading this book several times, I can feel sympathy for the author at her sexual abuse as a child. I personally feel that any rapist or child molester should having been found guilty, be executed. But the continued misfortune of the adult can only be labeled as her own fault. There comes a time when you must be responsible for your own actions, and quite blaming others, for your own bad judgement. If I could give this book less than one star in my rating I would do so. Son, this ain't my first rodeo. If I could ride a 2000# bull, why do you think that I can't ride a 200# heifer.