Life is a Roller Coaster By Misty Dispenza
As far back as I can remember life has been a roller coaster ride for me. The ups and downs; it goes straight then it curves, bumps and dips. Sometimes it feels as If it is going to crash or derail, sending riders flying into the air. Some people say, “life dealt you a bad hand” and now you must play the cards as they lay. But that is not true whatever cards you were dealt, you can always fold and play another hand, maybe the next one will be better.
I was born in Hawthorne, California. In 1959, we lived in Redondo Beach, California with my parents, sister and brother who came along twenty-two months after me, he was a premature baby his lungs were not fully developed, and he stayed longer in the hospital. He was a clumsy kid, when he was six months old, he fell out of the highchair and broke his collar bone . When he learned to walk, he would fall he could not get his hands out in front of him to break his fall. He would fall flat on his face.
In 1963 there was a lot going on in the world. One day the President of the United States was in Dallas, Texas. He was riding in his motorcade in a convertible car, when shots rang out the President John F. Kennedy was hit twice in the head, there was brain matter flying all over his wife and out the
Change to: derail, sending back of his head. The motor cade took him directly to the hospital, after a while they came out and said that John F. Kennedy was dead. People were crying, they could not believe what they just witness . But I feel he was dead before he even reached the hospital.
There was a draft lottery that started in 1969. All young men received a random number corresponding to their birthdays. Although most 18-year-old men had to register for the draft. That meant filling out papers if you were physically fit you went to boot camp, then off to the Vietnam War. If you were in College and maintained a “Full Load” 12 units, you were 1-S or student deferred exempt from the draft. If at any time you fell below the 12-unit requirement the college notified the draft board immediately. Within a two-week period, you received a letter in the mail, “Greetings from Uncle Sam”. You had a date to report for a physical exam, if you had a physical problem you got a deferment from the draft, that's how the draft program worked. We were in the Vietnam War from 1961 to 1975 the US began pulling out of Vietnam for good.
In 1965 in California, we had the Watts riots, where the blacks were burning houses, stores, and looting. It was caused by a LA Police Officer try to make a drunk driving arrest in Watts. There was a lot of political reasons for the riot. Now why would you burn up your own city? It was so bad that they called in the National Guards. In 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis Tennessee. He was a minister, an activist for black rights. At the same time an activists group called “The Black Panthers” developed.
My real father was a carpenter, he built homes in Beverly Hills, California. He would take my sister and I to the job site. He would sit us on a roof and tell us “now don’t move from this spot” we would not move; I am surprised that I listen to him. He would come check on us every hour or so, we just liked being around him. My father was a womanizer, he loved the attention he got from women and women loved him. He would take us to the lumber yard, which I loved. I can still smell the fresh lumber to this day.
My father was conditioning for the Long Beach to Catalina water skiing race. He worked out at a small gym in town. He would take us to the beach, where we would have fun bury Dad in the sand up to his neck. He would jump out at us and scare the hell out of us. He also showed us how to catch sand crabs when waves came in, we would start digging and pull up crabs in our hands. My father, sister and brotherwould make sandcastles in the sand. We would try to make a moat around the castle, but the water always drained out. We could not figure out why the water would disappear. My father would get a big kick out watching us run down to the water scoop a bucket of sea water run back to the moat dump the water and kept doing this to keep the moat full, but by the time we would get back to the moat it would be empty. At dusk, my father would light a bonfire. He would cook us hot dogs, if we ate them, we could roast marshmallows. That was the fun times with my father, I was about four years old then.
One day all three of us kids were riding in his white truck, I always sat next to the door. There were no seat belts or car seats in the early 60’s if there was no one used them. One day my father went around a corner suddenly the door flew open. I did not fall out of the truck because I hung on to the door windowsill for dear life. My father pulled over as soon as possible. This would not be the last time of almost falling out of a vehicle. That was the last time I saw my real father, until I was much older.
My mother was a housewife back then, because my brother was only two years old. I went to Kindergarten in Redondo Beach. It was just down the hill from where we lived and next door to my second cousins house. My mother’s aunt lived there on my mother’s side of the family. My father only had a sister. Her name was Gale. She was married and had three kids; I only remember seeing her one time. My father’s dad died way before we were born, but I saw a picture of him in a military uniform, he had a wife we were to call her grandma “Ruth”. I know he never called her “mom” I did not know why; I did not know if dad’s real mother had died. Or if his father had just divorced his mother, or just remarried, it was never discussed, and we never asked. She lived in Minnesota in her own little house, she would write us every month, to tell us what she was doing and what she would plant in her garden. She did this for years even when we were grown up.
One night my father did not come home, nor did he come home the next day, or the next night. My mother was so angry that she had a loaded gun as soon as he would walk into the door, she was going to shoot him. She sat in that rocking chair for two days with that gun pointed at the door. He finally called my mother she told him to come get all his crap it was all sitting on the front lawn; we never saw our father again until we were in are teens. My mother and father got a divorce, in that divorce, he was to pay child support for three kids of 125 dollars a month. He was a dead-beat father and supposedly he took off to Bermuda. He never paid child support, even when he came back to the states. I think when we were teenagers, he paid it through the child support system a few times, but that was such a joke.
My mother had to get a job, she went to work as a secretary, we were watched by my grandpa because grandma worked as a waitress, grandpa was too old to work. I think when grandma and grandpa were married there was a 35-year age difference, before grandma even had kids. My grandma had my mom first in 1940, she had uncle Freddy, aunt Patty, uncle Billy and finally aunt Kathy, we called her “Aunt Ta”. We lived with grandma and grandpa for a short while, my mother got an apartment around the corner of my grandparent’s house.
I was always in trouble I was the black sheep of the family. One day grandpa was watching us, he told me to do something I told him “no” he grabbed a hold of me, sat me down; he said to me “Red Robin you will remember this the rest of your life”. He grabbed a little branch off the tree, he got out his pocketknife, where he proceeded to whittle it down and then he grabbed me, he pulled my panties down, bent me over his knees, he whipped my ass so hard I screamed and cried on every strike it left marks on my butt. Was this child abuse, probably not back then, that is what you got when you disrespected your elders if that took place now, he would have been in jail. I still loved my grandpa. I do not know why I acted out all the time, I think it was for attention or maybe it was because of my father leaving, I do not know why even today.
Another time my grandpa said to do something, I was right by him, I spit at him, he grabbed an extension cord; he started to whip me with it, again I had striped marks wherever it landed on my body. Grandpa was in WWI he was wounded while in Germany and was sent home. I think he got a pension from the government. Grandpa always made potato soup, or oyster soup he was old school and liked what he made. He was not only taking care of us three kids he had my two cousins from my aunt Ta, and my cousin from my aunt Patty.
One day I got into the medicine cabinet at my grandpa’s house, I got into the baby aspirin, I passed them out to my sister, my brother, my cousin Tina, I took some myself. We all went to the hospital and got are stomach pumped, we were all fine. One day my cousin Tina got into the ant poison in a bait station along the wall. They rushed her to the hospital, they tried to pump out the ant poison, she had already digested it. She ended up in the hospital for a while she ended up with some minor brain damage.
Another time I got into trouble at grandpa’s house, we were all going somewhere, they told all the kids to go get into the car. I grabbed a hold of the steering wheel, I asked kids in the car where do you want to go? I pulled the lever down and the car rolled down the driveway into a car parked across the street, it smashed the door in, I ran like hell and hid, I knew I was going to get a whipping. The only one in the car was my cousin Tina. At first, they thought it was her my sister said no it was Misty, we were playing let us go for a ride.
My grandma was a waitress, she loved to work at Pam’s restaurant she loved the men’s attention. I think this is a family trait because my mother and sister loved men’s attention just like grandma. I am not like that I do not care if men look at me or not, maybe I should have been gay, but I cannot see myself being with a woman. I think I was meant to be an independent self. We were living in the apartment; it was a two-bedroom apartment. My mother had one room, my sister, brother, and I had the other bedroom. My brother had a trundle bed in which he slept on the top and my sister and I slept on the bottom. My sister and I shared a bed all our young life.
I had a problem falling out of cars; one day aunt Patty made a left turn onto a two-way street, suddenly the door opened, I went flying out. I hit the curb with my face, it was on the curb near a storm drain. The impact scraped away my gum line and broke my jaw. I went to the hospital I remember them putting my butt up in a sling, so my mouth was downward, I remember being home and drinking a lot of shakes. It is probably the only time that I was silent in my whole life. My mother probably loved it because I was always talking. Another time when I was with my aunt Patty, we were in her Volkswagen she was turning left out of the shopping center. Suddenly the door opened, I went out. This time I only fell on my knees and scraped them up. We went back to grandpa’s house where they cleaned and bandaged my knees.
Down the street from grandpa’s house was a little fair that had kiddy rides. Often wego to the fair we would ride the rides. It wasn't very expensive.