My parents gave rise to my sister, me, and my brother during
their respective first marriages. They divorced when I was 11.
Soon afterwards, my father remarried; he and my stepmother had
seven children before their divorce. When I was 18, my mother
married my stepfather (they had been lovers a long time), who
had one child from his first marriage.
My dad's second family was never a large factor in my life,
though on my rare visits to their house in Evanston, my heart
was torn by the obvious fact of the children being starved for
even simple affection.
My stepfather was an important factor, however, especially
during my teens, until his sudden death from a heart attack the
year I was 29. So I include him with my own parents and my
siblings. Both my brother and sister have children and
grandchildren (all very nice), but I have no plan to write
about them at this point.
- My mother was Cleo
Lorraine Ashley, born in Toronto, Ontario on May 12,
1909. She lived to be 83 and was unquestionably the major
shaping force in my life, from my birth to her death in
1992. She quit drinking at 65 (the booze had always been a
barrier to trust for me). During those last years we became
incredibly close, helped possibly by the fact that we were
very much alike. We used to joke that this similarity
scared hell out of both of us! At any rate, she was a most
intriguing person (I still miss her every day, and she
still shows up in my dreams as a person who is both dead
and living at the same time).
- My father was Jess
Anderson, Jr., born April 19, 1907 in Newcastle,
Pennsylvania. His dad was a coal miner and a drunk. His mom
died when he was 7, and he never got along with his
stepmother. He went to work in the mines when he was 16,
left home at 21 and ended up marrying my mother in Yonkers,
New York when he was 24 (1931), in the worst part of the
Great Depression. He died in the Jacksonville (Illinois)
State Hospital in 1963, a couple months shy of 56.
- My stepfather was H.
Benjamin McIver. I believe he was two years younger
than my mom. He was born in a little Illinois town called
Roodhouse. He truly loved my mother, though it took me a
long time to see any virtue in the person. He died suddenly
in 1964, supposedly of a heart attack.
- My sister, Sandra
M. Berthene, was born March 23, 1932 in Chicago, so
she's three years older than I am. Soon after she was born,
my parents moved to Peoria, where all three kids grew up.
She lives in suburban Minneapolis.
- My brother, Stephen
A. Anderson, was born in Peoria on December 8, 1940,
so he was 5-1/2 years younger than I am. Three times
married and divorced, he lived in Sacramento, California
for the greater part of his life. He died at age 61 on May
2, 2002, at a Veterans Administration care facility in
Martinez, California. His final resting place is the
military cemetery at Ft. Snelling, Minnesota, near where
his son (also Stephen A. Anderson) lives.
- Two aunts (my mother's sisters) and one grandparent (my
mother's mother) were very dear me when I was young. The
younger son of one aunt, my cousin Byron Ades, was about my
same age and was destined to play an role in my budding
sexual life. I've included some brief comments about these
I experienced very limited family feelings of the conventional
kind with any of these people when I was young. Perhaps the
closest we ever came to it was at those relatively few evening
meals when calm and order prevailed. Mostly we just dreaded the
seemingly inevitable outbursts of my perpetually drunk old man.
My emotional attachment to my mother did not get underway,
really, until the year I was 40, after which we became more
nearly close friends than an ordinary mother-son pair. Neither
of us was all that conventional as an individual, I suppose.
Well, I should say that I was conventionally dependent as a
small child, but by the time I was 10 or 12, there was great
distance between my mom and me, and it only increased until she
Though my sister and I have become closer in recent years, as
an independent adult my sense of family ties, especially since
my mother's death in 1992, has mostly been bound up in my
relationships in extended families. There is a link about that.