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I Can't See The Family Tree For The Forrest

I don't know where to start with this page. It is just as hard as any other page from the onion, I suppose. Due to all of the divorces and remarriages, my family turned out to be quite large. My mom was married four times and my dad was married four times too. Now I have (between one real brother, half brothers, step brothers, half sisters, and step sister) fifteen brothers and sisters. There are only two couples in the family on my moms' side of the family that have not been divorced, and almost an equal ratio of divorce on my dads' side. That includes great-grandparents, grandparents, uncle, aunts, cousins, nephews, brothers, & sisters. I'm starting to believe that divorce is a family trait.

I am not going to spend too much time on the "family tree" at this time. You can find that information on some following pages (when I get them started). I am going to talk some about the things and events that had the greatest impact on the family as I see it. If you would like more on family history, there have been two books that cover that better than I could here. One of the books was written by my great grandmother, Effie DeForest Boyer Knowlton in the earlier part of the last century and published in 1992. The book is called "Tales from a Tahuya Log". The next book "Second Growth," was written and published by my mom, Helen Olsen in 2000. These books mainly cover the life and times on the Hood Canal in Washington State. I found them quite interesting with their reflection of growth from days where the only transportation was either by boat or hiking to the mid-century era.

The biggest influence on my most immediate family has been my first step dad. So I will start there. Many years back, he and his family were in a car wreck involving an oncoming drunk driver that crossed the lane causing a head on collision. His wife was killed. He, his oldest son and daughter were injured pretty badly. His youngest son was not expected to live due to his skull that was broken and the halves overlapping from the impact amongst other damage. He regained his health the best that nerve damage would allow...partial paralysis, and retardation. They all regained their health as best they physically could. Their emotional health is still an obstacle and an influence.

About a year or two years later he married my mom. At this time, my mom had already been married twice, so I had one half-brother older than me and my only full brother is eleven months younger than me. I was going on five years old when they were married. Even at that early age, I remember allot of what went on in the family. It would be best not to reflect much of the details, but just to say that my step dad turned out to be very abusive. At times, he took great pride in being that way too. It was not until, much later on in life that I realize his attitude was just an expression of grief and animosity resulting from that car wreck. I want you to know that my attitude toward him now is one of empathy. I took allot of effort, soul searching, and self-sacrifice on my part to be able to accomplish that perspective. Now I tell you some of the reasons why.

Within the first year of the marriage, I recall my mom being involved with fistfights with him and his oldest son. Also in that same year, for entertainment purposes I suppose, nightly after work he would force my brother and I to box/fight. He would invite his brother over to watch too. As you may have guessed, my brother and I do not get along very well at times as a result of this. But the physical actions did not have nearly the effect as the mental abuse encountered from him. Within his ability (influence by underlying grief), he favored his own children & nurtured them to some degree. His attitude toward my moms' kids was, however quite different. I am not going to say that "it seemed", it is a fact that when he noticed that we (my brothers and I) were developing some sort of self-esteem, he would do his best to undermine it. I don't know how many times he attempted to break our spirits, and succeeded at times.

One more thing that my real dads side of the family does not know is that I was called is "Joe Smith". My step-dad gave me that name for easier identification within the family. His oldest son is named John. My name is John too. My real last name is not Smith, by the way. There was a time when I was interested in science allot, and I made a scrapbook of science related notes and pictures. When he saw that I put my real name on the book, he punched me in the stomach. He was six feet tall and weight approximately 250 pounds with hardly an ounce of fat. Needless to say he make quite an impact on me. That was the last straw. I lost any respect for him and what was his that I had.

I stayed in the family until I was in the ninth grade in school. I figured it was time to leave it all behind and move out, when he started a fight with my mom. She would confront him occasionally when he was continually jumping on my case. It was my daily task/"chore" to provide dry, seasoned wood for the furnace. After using all of the dry wood, all that was left was "green" wood. I tried to get it across to him that there was no dry wood left in storage. He figured that I was lying or something. Anyway, he became very threatening over time. That is when mom got involved. When she tried to reason with him, it turned into another fistfight. After that, I made arrangements to leave home, go live with my grandparents, finish high school, and start to using my real name.

If you are curious about how the kids turned out from that environment, I am the only male in the family that has not been a drug addict (other than cigarettes). Over the years, most of my brothers have been in & out of jail, rehab, and the like. The sister is the only other one in the family that has earned much respect. She finished college & works in health care and education of the mentally retarded.

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