This is a story about events which made drastic impacts during my early years. The shock waves can still be felt today. Yes I know you're thinking: Oh no, not another life story. My life has been somewhat unusual, not so very dramatic, but enough to wish I had a different childhood. During elementary school, so many kids had normal parents and normal lives. Not a day goes by that I do not notice how so many people around me have no idea what they should be grateful for. My name is Jennifer and I was born in 1979 to Linda and Dallas Lowe in Houston, Texas. My parents married in 1978 and a year later I came along. My brother was born almost 2 years later. By summer of 1983 my parents were dead.
From even childhood my father was a weak person. His father, Grandpa Lowe, was a hard and strict man with his own childhood horrors. My father had one brother and three sisters. Most of whom were beaten by my grandfather. Dallas was protected by my grandmother. He was her favorite. Whenever life called for hard times, emotional or physical, my father would claim 'sick'. Weak heart. There was no doubt he had a moody personality and was prone to depression. In spite of that, he was not a bad guy. And from what I am told, apparently a romantic person.
My mother was a twin. She and her sister Mary have an older brother named Terry. They were born to parents who in most aspects lived the American Dream. My grandfather is a extremely hard working man, now 87 years old, and is just now starting to slow down in life. He came from a formally wealthy family. The 1910 Galveston hurricane took the family fortune, but they stayed steady during the depression. It was that experience that drove Grandpa Armstrong to be a hard worker. My grandma comes from good stock and was a good mother. However perfect they seem to be on the outside, they are very old fashioned. No, that's not always a good thing, but when a child is repressed too much, you risk rebellion. One must change with the times and not cling to old ways best forgotten.
My mother wanted out of the house desperately when she was 17. She lived with friends, got a job and lived the single care-free life until she married my father when she was 19. They grew up in the same neighborhood and went to the same school together. Dallas and Linda's brother Terry were best friends. My mother's parents were against it from day one. They didn't approve, but my mother didn't care. Linda's parents still gave her the huge church wedding with the white dress and everything. Both families were in attendance and it was a happy gathering.
So here I come along a year later. During the time after my birth and before my brother's, I am not sure if my mother worked or not. No one really talks about it, and if they do, I don't know whether to believe what they say. Depending on what side of the family I ask will depend on the answer. So I figure my guess is as good as what any of them will tell me. My father worked off and on. In the beginning, they lived with their parents for a time before setting out on their own. I think they got an apartment around the time of Dallas Jr's birth. But things had not been good for a while. My father was a lazy person. He only worked now and again. People would get him a job, and then he just wouldn't go. My mother went to work. I don't know how many jobs she worked before she found one that worked well for her. It was in an office making $8 an hour. Now that was damn good money for a 22 year old woman in 1982 with no high school diploma or experience. Her bosses loved her and she was promoted quickly. The pay was good enough to support her family of four.
Now my most of my family will not freely talk about my parents, but everyone who has ever met my mother, teachers, distant cousins, everyone said she was the most sweetest person they had ever known. She was pretty, but not extraordinarily so. She was never seen angry or depressed, but seemed to not let anything bother her and was seen as a free soul. My parents were in love with each other, but my father was not a strong person, and had grown up needing a crutch. He depended on my mother to keep their family going. She worked, kept the house and raised her children. My dad didn't do much of anything. My mom grew tired of it and demanded he get a job and take care of his responsibilities. Instead of looking for an honest job, he was always trying 'get rich quick' schemes. Eventually my mother had enough and left him. My father was a mess. He was depressed and would follow her around pleading, crying and making a scene. She wanted him to get himself together and show her he could support his family. Twice he borrowed money to go to Las Vegas to gamble, hoping to come home rich and win back his wife. Needless to say it didn't work out that way. Once my father picked me up for a visit. I was 3 1/2 years old and I have a vague memory of that day. We went to a church and sat on the back pew. It was empty except for the priest who noticed us and walked over to talk. He knew my father and told the police later that he was sitting crying with a gun in his lap while I sat next to him. The priest talked to my father, Dallas for a while tried to console him. He was helpless and hysterical. The SWAT team was eventually called. My father was not cooperative with the police, and he wouldn't relinquish his weapon and surrender. I had been led away by the priest and remember none of this, save what I read in the newspapers. The stand-off lasted 3 hours and Dallas finally weak and tired, gave himself up.
Dallas Lowe was taken to Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, Texas. The police dropped him off in the emergency room. I was told two different versions of what happened at the hospital. Apparently, the hospital failed to restrain my father upon arrival. His family was with him and they waited for a doctor for 12 hours. Since his life wasn't in danger, he was not seen as an emergency even though he had recently threatened his own life and mine. He was pleading to go home, and my dad's family, the Lowe's, were ready to go home too. They figured they would take him home and seek professional help the next day.
Once home Dallas made many promises to straighten up and get his life together. The plan to see a doctor about his suicidal tendencies was put on hold and forgotten about. My dad tried to get a job without success. It was obvious to many that he was unstable. He quickly degenerated and was depressed more than ever. He went to his father and asked to borrow money. His excuse was that he needed money to buy a car and clothes for a job. He bought another gun instead.
Meanwhile my mother was still working at her good job and she, my brother and I were living with her parents. My aunt Mary, mom's twin, was in college, and their older brother Terry was fresh home from the Navy. Mom and Mary were very close, as twins usually are. During Linda's marriage problems with my dad, Mary supported her in the decision to leave him. Dallas constantly had accused and complained that Mary was interfering with their lives. He believed that Mary was the one who had pressured my mom to leave him and he blamed her for many things. And then on the flip side, my dad's sister Martha was also a constant figure in their lives during this time. Martha pitied my father and believed him when he would say that he's going to get a job and his life together, and thought Linda should be just a little more understanding of his weak heart. It has also been said that Martha was a voice in my father's ear urging him to notice how Mary has interfered with his marriage. Never mind that she was also interfering.
When my mother refused to come home when Dallas pleaded again, he went home furious believing that Mary was getting too involved and was influencing Linda. He threatened Mary on the phone, telling her to mind her business. The next day when my mother went to work, Dallas showed up at her office and asked to speak to her. The receptionist and coworkers were aware of their problems and asked Linda is she wanted security called. She didn't want her husband to make a scene as he had done in the past. She consented to speak to him outside. What happened outside and what was said will never be known. The office staff heard 2 gunshots a few minutes later.
During this time my brother and I were with my mother's parents, the Armstrong's. Now everyone has a different story about how they found out what happened. Some heard it on the radio, some saw it on TV, some like my both sets of grandparents, had a policeman come to the front door. But the ones who found out in the worst way was Mary and Terry. My mother didn't have a car at the time and my aunt and uncle had been picking Linda up after work everyday. So about the time my dad was asking my mom to come outside and talk to him, Mary and Terry were leaving the house to come and get her.
My aunt says that when they were nearing her place of work, they saw police, flashing lights and commotion, she swears that she felt this irresistible urge to keep driving. They turned into the parking lot. The police had the place blocked off and was about to stop them from entering the area. The officer got a good look at who was in the car and stepped back. The shock of seeing Linda's identical twin must have rattled a few of the police and bystanders.
Mary, getting out of the car was compelled to walk towards the area where the most people were concentrated. As she rounded the corner, a bright red splash of blood on a white brick wall caught her attention. She has never forgotten that scene. She told me later that she started feeling something real bad in her stomach. It wasn't like a 'twin' feeling she said, but knowing my father and considering recent events she started to panic. Linda's co-workers saw her and came over and steered her away from the horrific sight.
At the hospital later, both families converged and scrambled to find out what happened. The verdict was obvious, but hard to face. Grief and misery washed over everyone. My father shot my mother and killed himself. They both died instantly. Linda was 23 and Dallas was 28.
Everyone is in shock. And coming face to face with Dallas Jr. and I, must have made it even harder. A custody battle ensued. Everyone wanted to take care of little Jenny and Dallas since their parents were dead and it was so very sad. I could go on about the court details, but in the end my mother's parents got primary custody of us and my dad's family got us every other weekend.
After the hardest grieving period was behind everyone, both families became more or less friends and all knew that the one to blame was my emotionally unstable father. They put behind the anger for me and my brother. However, Martha and Mary, two aunts on different families still seethed with anger. Both blamed the other for interfering. Mary says Martha set Dallas on the path of revenge. Martha says Mary spent too much time telling Linda that Dallas is no good. They have never spoken again to this day. As I grew up and had questions, no one would really want to talk about it. Except for these two aunts. Of course each gave a different version of events and I never knew who to believe. My dad's family didn't want to hide the truth from me, but again didn't want me to grow up and hate my dad. They blamed his mental illness on a weak heart and said his heart just couldn't take it when my mother left. My mom's family said the weak heart was just an excuse for a weak unstable person. Well, whatever the reasons were, I am 3 years old, Dallas is 1 and we have no parents.
We grew up having everything we needed and never did without something. During school we always had more than the kid next to us. But everyone, students, teachers, all knew who we were. Every Mother's day when kids make cards, we were reminded how different we are. Some would say, "You had your grandparents! That's just like having parents, and you never did without anything." Unless you have experienced it, there is no way to know what it feels like. To not have a mom to run to when you hurt your knee, or need advice, or just want a hug a feeling like a whole in my heart that can never be filled.
My grandparents are the last of a dying breed. They are honest. I have never known either one to lie and I don't think they would lie to save their own life. When someone would call on the phone that I didn't want to talk to, I would say, "Grandma! Tell them I am not here!" She would reply, "I can't do that, that would be a lie!" They are responsible, honorable, and hardworking people. They love us very much and sacrificed a lot to raise us. But they are not affectionate people. There was very little hugging or kissing or anything of that nature. And yes, old fashioned. Very old fashioned.
I could go on about the twists and turns of my own life, but that is a whole other story unto itself. I'll have to write about that one day-what my family tried to hide from me, more disturbing things I heard about my dad, the ones who tried to profit from this tragedy, rebelling from my grandparents and becoming a mother at 16 and so on. Despite all that has happened, I haven't had a bad life, just a different one. God has made a big impact on my life and I am not sure how I would be today without his guidence. I think that my experiences have made me a stronger person.
My grandparents and their sense of honor have lead me through life and taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you just have to keep on truckin'. I lost my parents early, but I have LOTS of family. We lean on each other when times are hard. And we are a close family, both sides, and that is what makes the difference.
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