I married Hal Hilliard on July 9, 1977 after dating him for only a few months. We met shortly after he had hired in as a long-distance telephone operator at Michigan Bell in February, 1977, where I had been working since June, 1975.
I had not yet met his parents when we became engaged. As Hal quickly got the wedding plans going, his mother decided to pay Hal an unusual visit from their home in Kaleva, MI, which was close to 200 miles away.
Hal chose to rent a small two bedroom trailer at Dort Village Mobile Home Park in Flint for us to live in after we were married.
His mother, Evelyn, got into a tiff with her husband, Art, over something rather trivial and she decided in the middle of the night to hitchhike the whole way from their home to show up on the trailer’s front door step in the morning.
Hal was of course very surprised to see her and he was quite concerned, as well as irritated, with his mother that she had thought it was perfectly okay to hitchhike that long of a way and take rides with truck drivers in the middle of the night.
Evelyn refused to talk with Hal’s dad on the phone, though, but Hal told him that she was more than welcome to stay at the trailer for a week but that it was not a good idea after that because we would be married very soon.
Hal and I were in the process of moving different pieces of my furniture into the trailer at the time so I met his mother the evening after she had arrived.
Hal had not given me all of the details about her sudden visit and how she had traveled down to Flint from Kaleva. So I was just as surprised as Hal had been when she told me what she had done.
And I was just as concerned when she seemed to be quite proud of her actions. I thought the whole thing, her actions and her attitude, were really weird and full of drama but I kept my opinions to myself.
Hal and I were going to be married in less than a month so we were trying to get the trailer fixed up with our combined things before then.
Because I was being transferred to a different Michigan Bell department on the Monday after our wedding, we would have just one day for a honeymoon. We wanted our trailer to be all ready for us when we came back so that I could start my new job with no problems trying to find things.
Unfortunately, Evelyn thought she would “help” us out by constantly rearranging my furniture and organizing my belongings as she thought appropriate.
Every night after work, Hal and I would make another trip with my things from my parents’ house to our trailer, only to walk in and not be able to find anything we had put away the day before.
I kept my mouth shut but Hal knew I was getting more and more irritated with this unwanted “help” and he was as well. After a few more days of this, Hal finally talked to his mother.
He thanked her for wanting to help but he explained that putting our soon-to-be-new home together was something special that Hal and I needed to do just by ourselves.
I was in the bathroom putting away my many towels, sheets, and other things in the linen closet and I heard the entire conversation. Hal was very nice about it and very polite and respectful towards his mother. I truly expected her to respond in a like manner.
I did not expect the inappropriate anger and rudeness that Evelyn gave to Hal in return. She accused him and I of being ungrateful brats, that we should be more appreciative of her “help” since she had been a housewife and a mother for so long, she would know better than us how to organize a home.
Then she accused me of being jealous of her “help” because I thought she was trying to come between me and Hal. I was about ready to march out of there at that point and tell her that I honestly felt that any jealousy was on her part and that she was afraid that I would come between her and her son, but Hal quickly jumped in to defend me.
He told his mother that I was not jealous of her, but I just wanted to fix up my first home with my husband in my own way, just like Evelyn had done when she had first married Art, Hal’s dad.
Hal then told his mother that since she was still fighting with Hal’s dad, then perhaps it would be a good idea for her to visit with her sister, who lived just a few miles away from our trailer, until it was time for our wedding in a couple of weeks.
That way she could have a nice time with her sister while Hal and I finished fixing up our trailer and that his mom could always have some dinners together with us and then spend time getting to know me better.
That sounded like a wonderful compromise and a very sensible solution to me and I was happy and proud that Hal had thought of it.
Hal then called his aunt, who wasn’t even aware that Evelyn had been in town for almost a week, and she enthusiastically told him that she would love to have her sister stay with her until the wedding.
I came out of the bathroom at that point, convinced that Evelyn would be okay with all of this, but she had the most peeved expression on her face. None of this was apparently to her satisfaction but she reluctantly agreed to go stay with her sister.
Hal wasted no time packing up his mom’s few belongings and he drove her over to her sister’s right then and there. He came back and I gave him the biggest hug with kisses as I thanked him for handling this so well.
He tried to get me to believe that his mother was going through a difficult menopause and that since she had never had children of her own (Hal and his older sister, Heidi, had been adopted by the Hilliards), her hormones were then made further out-of-whack because of her childless situation.
I told Hal I would give her the benefit of the doubt but I was secretly developing the firm opinion that his mother was just being a high-maintenance drama queen and I wondered what she would do next.
We found out in a few days. Evelyn had found some supposedly “humorous” card with gorillas on the front and inside them she mentioned ungrateful children who were acting like apes or something stupid like that. She put both our names on the envelope and then had it mailed to our trailer address.
Okay, so now Hal’s mother was acting passive-aggressive. I was really not looking forward to having this off-kilter woman as my mother-in-law.
We were married on July 9, 1977 and we had a very small wedding in a little church on 12th Street in Flint with a small reception afterwards at the Walli’s Restaurant on Pierson Road.
Evelyn and Art maintained a frosty yet civil manner towards each other and as long as they could continue to do that, Hal and I were happy.
We had a decorated banquet table set up at the reception for the gifts. Hal and I had finished opening up our gifts and we were just starting to cut our wedding cake, when we saw his mother wander over to the gifts table.
We watched her first in concern, then in horror and shame, as she proceeded to unzip the plastic case that held a large fluffy yellow blanket my Aunt Hope and Uncle Arnold had given to us.
Evelyn unfolded the blanket and then she placed it on the floor underneath the gifts table, crawled under it and then curled up on the blanket as if she intended to take a nap there. In front of everybody. As if that were a perfectly normal thing to do at a wedding.
Noreen, my best friend, came up to me and whispered, “What is Hal’s mother doing lying down under the table?” I whispered back, “I have no clue but I’m beginning to think that she is either seriously nuts or the most narcissistic person I have ever known!”
Hal went to the table and crouched down beside her and he frantically tried to get her up, because she was embarrassing him and everybody else but she sulkily told him, “No, I’m tired and I want to sleep right here. Nobody will mind.”
My dad, never one for tact, loudly said, ‘What the fuck is that woman doing under the table? If she’s that tired, she can sleep in the back seat of our car instead of making a spectacle of herself!”
Art, Hal’s dad, who was so red in the face I felt sorry for him, went to the table, crouched down next to Hal, and then him and Evelyn carried on a hushed but heated argument.
She finally crawled out from under the table with a very angry expression on her face, dragged our new blanket out behind her, came over to where I was sitting and just dumped the blanket all over my lap without a word.
Then she stomped out of the reception room, with Art trailing behind her like a scolded child being sent to his room.
The party went quickly downhill from there and I just wanted to leave and get going with Hal to our reserved hotel room up in Traverse City.
We left Traverse City on Sunday evening a lot later than we should have, considering I had to be up very early the next morning to begin my new job. We pulled into the entrance of the mobile home park a few minutes after midnight.
As we were driving towards our trailer, I saw lights on inside. Perplexed, I asked Hal if we had left any lights on before we had left on our honeymoon but he said no, he had made sure they had all been turned off.
So I wasn’t really too surprised to see Evelyn inside our trailer, in her robe and slippers, watching television. She got up with a huge smile as she hugged the both of us but her smile quickly disappeared when Hal immediately began to yell at her.
“How in the hell did you get inside our trailer, Mom, and what the hell are you doing here to begin with? You were supposed to drive back home to Kaleva with Dad after the wedding reception!”
Evelyn hurriedly explained that she just couldn’t go back home and live with that brute of a man so she hitchhiked to our mobile home park and spoke to the park manager. She had told him that she was supposed to watch our trailer while we were on our honeymoon but that we had forgotten to leave her the key.
So the manager had let her into our trailer! But Evelyn looked at the two of us and told us that she knew that we would be understanding children who wouldn’t mind her staying there with us until she could figure out what to do.
Her mouth dropped when Hal yelled at her again that no way in hell was she going to stay here with us right after we had just been married and that if she couldn’t live with her husband then she had to find some place else to live because it wouldn’t be with us!
I had never seen him so mad like this before and I believe his mother felt the same way. Hal grabbed her stuff, threw it into a plastic bag then grabbed her arm and pulled her out of the chair.
He told me he would be right back after he took his mother to her sister’s and he made his mother leave and get into his car.
I was shocked at these repeated episodes of Evelyn’s increasingly bizarre behavior. I had never seen anyone act so selfishly or so strangely before.
Hal quickly came back and he said he had had a private chat with his aunt who was also concerned with her sister’s recent behavior as well. She told Hal that she would make his mom go see a doctor the next day and that made him feel better.
However, after I had come home from the first day at my new job, Hal told me that his mother had run away from his aunt’s house in the middle of the night and nobody knew where she was.
She had not contacted anyone and everyone was worried about what she was doing and where she was because of her recent bizarre choices.
Hal’s dad was now driving down to Flint because of his missing wife but he was going to stay with Hal’s aunt until his mom could be found.
Evelyn called us the next day to tell us that she was staying in the dumpiest, most crime-ridden flophouse in the downtown area of Flint. She said she was mad at all of us for mistreating her and being so disrespectful.
Hal’s dad quickly drove there and I don’t know what he said to her but she reluctantly agreed to go back with him to their home up north.
So everybody sighed with relief that Evelyn was at least back home and that hopefully whatever had caused these incidents, would be quickly resolved.
Hal’s mom then kept calling us each day, leaving phone messages for us to not forget the Hilliard family reunion that would be held in Kaleva in three weeks. We had to make it, no matter what, so that I could be introduced to the rest of their big clan.
Hal and I drove up to Kaleva for the family reunion and we had a nice time the whole day. Hal insisted that we would insult and hurt his parents if we did not stay with them, so after the reunion, with deep misgivings on my part, we followed his parents back to their home.
We were all very tired; it had been a long day. So we all said our goodnights and Hal and I got ready for bed in his old bedroom.
Hal quickly fell asleep but I was too tense and over-tired to be able to fall asleep. The mattress was also very lumpy and I could not find a comfortable position.
After about two hours of frustrated tossing and turning, I got up, put a robe on over my pajamas and went out into the kitchen for a drink of water.
There was already a light on over the kitchen sink, so as quietly as a mouse, I got my water, pulled a chair out from the table, sat down and began to sip my water.
I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard Evelyn behind me say, “Maybe a cup of tea would help you sleep better. Would you like me to fix you one?”
I replied, yes, please and thank you, and then my jaw dropped in shocked amazement as Evelyn entered the kitchen, buck naked, and proceeded to get out the tea bags and the tea pot to begin to make us some tea.
I forced my jaw to close up before she turned around and caught me gaping at her. She kept up a running conversation with me while she puttered at the sink and the stove.
She asked me how did I like the reunion and what did I think of that person or what did I think of this person, as normally as if she always entertained people in her kitchen while she paraded around nude.
Then when she finally had two big mugs of tea made for us, she brought them over to the table and set them down. Then she pulled out a chair for herself and sat down in front of me.
I had to keep from giggling by literally chewing on the inside of my mouth because her sagging nipples kept scraping along the top of the table with every movement she made.
I guess I had never thought before how difficult it could be to look a naked woman in the eyes while she is carrying on a normal conversation with you, but it really is quite hard to constantly keep your eyes up on hers!
I tried to match her nonchalance and equanimity by acting like this was no big deal to me, this happens all of the time, right?
But I was also trying very hard to sip that hot tea as quickly as I could without scalding myself or choking so that I could get the hell out of this yet again bizarre situation Hal’s mother had created.
Just as I was almost done with my tea, Evelyn leaned forward, looked me right in the eyes and bald-faced asked me, “Does my being naked bother you?”
I quickly swallowed the last of my tea, set the mug down, looked Evelyn right back into her eyes and told her, “Evelyn, it’s your house, and if you have no problem wandering around buck-ass naked, then why should I have a problem with it? Thank you for the tea and good night.”
When I reached the safety and security of our bedroom, I shook Hal awake and whispered to him what his mother had now done.
He sat up, shook his head, and asked me to repeat what I had just told him. Then I vehemently told Hal, “Your mother is fuckin’ nuts! As nutty as a fruitcake! This is not menopausal problems, Hal, your mother has got some seriously severe mental problems and I do not want to be in the same house with her! I’m afraid she just might try to recreate that shower scene in the movie, “Psycho” but with me in this bed!”
He scoffed that his mother would not do that but I did get him to at least admit that her parading around buck-ass naked was just a little bit weird. And on my stubborn insistence, he finally also agreed that it was okay for us to leave as soon as we woke up.
I sat up in a chair in the corner of the bedroom facing the door for the rest of the night. I was not going to close one eyelid until the sun came up and we could get the hell out of this loony woman’s house.
Art and Evelyn gave us both big hugs goodbye and thankfully, she was fully dressed this morning.
I never spent the night at his parents’ home again nor did his parents ever stay at our place during our marriage.
Hal and I were eventually divorced in 1982 and I was gratefully relieved that that meant I would never have to be surprised again by his mother’s nakedness or her increasingly weird actions.
I was also not surprised to hear that five years after our divorce, Hal’s mom was committed to the Michigan Hospital For The Mentally Ill in Traverse City.
I silently sent out an “I told you so!” on the breezes to wherever Hal was at when I heard that news. I just hope that she finally did get the help that she so obviously and desperately needed almost ten years earlier.
But of all the strange things that I have learned or discovered in my life is that at least I did find out that it is extremely hard to look a naked woman in the eyes!