By Marjorie Stradinger
Editor’s note: The following is the second in a three-part series. Part one appeared in the Dec. 9-15, 2009, issue.
Tina Hall’s childhood, in a small German town was happy and not especially eventful. At 17, her life took on some drama, challenging her to apply teaching from her parents to rise above her circumstances.
As Tina Hall and I enjoyed lunch at Café Belwah, in Beloit, Wis., she continued her story, starting with her first marriage.
“I met my first husband when I was 17,” Hall said.
“We women don’t always make the best choices at 17,” I said.
“You are so right,” she said. “I had my first child, Thomas, at 19. A year later, my daughter, Sabrina. A year later, I got divorced. He drank a lot. It got worse and worse. The paycheck went straight to the bar. I couldn’t live like this. I knew the bar owner, told him: ‘I have two kids; he (my husband) has to take care of his kids, not your family.’”
“My dad’s Italian…didn’t want me to be a single mom,” she continued. “I thought it wasn’t like the ’50s…but, I got fire from everywhere, my grandmother, the whole family.
“I met a very nice guy, took it slow, but married him in 1986,” she said.
“Your kids?” I asked.
“I was always honest with my kids, had them maintain a good relationship with their father,” she said.
“How did the stepfather treat them?” I asked.
“Very well. That was key for me—until after his son was born; it changed…there were a lot of issues with his family…always something about his family,” she said. “I found out later his father abused his sisters. That very much upset me, because when he picked up the kids, he picked up all of them. I found out (something) he had done with my daughter. I flipped out. Later when this came out, my husband’s sister talked to me. She was always in psychiatric care, finally told me what had happened to her. They kept her away by locking her in a room so he couldn’t get to her. I thought, ‘My God, was anyone thinking of telling me this?’”
“Now, it’s 1989. You’re divorced again, but three kids,” I said.
“When my youngest son was born, I started working as a waitress in a club,” she said. “My best friend moved in with me; she watched my kids when I worked. She worked daytime; I worked nights until 5 a.m.”
“Were you angry?” I asked.
“I went through stages, angry, upset, depressed,” she said. “With my first husband, I was happy with the divorce. With the second, all the stuff I got hit with—when it didn’t work anymore, we were talking about separating, and he beat the crap out of me. He did not want me to leave him. He said, ‘It’s over when I tell you.’ He only hit me once. He never had a second chance. He locked me up for three days. My youngest son, his son, witnessed it, still remembers it. My nose was broken. My face…after three days…I looked like a clown with all the colors on my face, I went to my sister’s and said, ‘You watch the kids.’ I went to the doctor, took pictures, then to the cops, filed a report—a waste of time. Dispute between husband and wife. Really! ‘Do I look like this was a dispute?’ Then, I went to a lawyer and filed for divorce. He came after me; I kept calling the cops. My lawyer got him out of the apartment, said I needed to move back in. After work, there was always a taxi driver…someone would take me home, walk me to my door; he was stalking me. I thought restraining orders were a joke. What do you do when he comes around?”
“How long did that continue?” I asked.
“He actually met someone—sort of let me alone, paid child support, but not out of free will,” she said. “We garnished his wages.”
“You were proactive,” I said.
“Oh, yeah. My mom said I’m like a cat, always fall on my feet,” she said.
“You were afraid, not helpless,” I commented.
“Did your parents help?” I asked.
“They only knew half of it,” she said. “I didn’t want to worry them. I was happy the two years by myself, but the kids wanted a daddy, missed the male role model, and I was working a lot. I did a lot with my kids. Traveled. I was fortunate enough to see a lot of the world. I made my way. Had a beautiful apartment. Beautiful kids.”
By then, home was in Worms, about 10 miles from her parents.
“Were you religious?” I asked.
“When I was little,” she said.
“And, when trouble came?” I asked.
“I prayed day and night, but then, where do I go from here?” she said.
“You had to be self-sufficient; you didn’t want to be dependent, even on God,” I commented.
“You’re exactly right,” she said. “It’s very hard for me. I go my own way.”
Marjorie Stradinger is a free-lance writer residing in Roscoe. She has covered food, drama, entertainment, health, and business for publications in California and Illinois for the past 25 years. She can be reached via e-mail at stradingerm@dishmailnet.
From the Dec. 23-29, 2009 issue