Under My Roof -- A Mother's Story of the Heinous Crime of Incest--Second Edition
on Aug. 06, 2011
In 1964, a young Midwestern senior nursing student fell in love with a good-looking young man. Never mind that her strict Catholic parents didn’t like him, he made Emalou feel that she was a special person. Despite Emalou’s parents misgivings, she and Ray continued to date during her final school year, and he asked her to marry him. Despite some minor incidents that gave her pause and the knowledge that he’d gotten another girl pregnant, she accepted and he went off for basic training in Biloxi, Mississippi. A series of mishaps prevented her from completing her tests to get her RN, but she was determined that Ray was the one. They married in August 1965 and relocated to Utah, setting up housekeeping near the air base to which Ray was assigned. A daughter, Tori was born. Eventually, they were stationed near Frankfurt, Germany, and they remained here until Ray left the service.
This is not a story of young love, a happy marriage or life in the sixties and seventies. Rather it is one of a young woman’s devotion to family and her vows, and to keeping the family together even in the face of problems that would have made many women run as far away as they could. Not Emalou. Her faith and her vows instilled a determination within her to make things right, despite the signs that the carefree man she married was not the man she now shared a home with. Ray was manipulative and, at times, overbearing, and drink became his nightly companion. Despite the increasing signs, Emalou chose not to see or believe them. Whenever Ray turned on the charm, it was yesterday all over again, and Emalou lived for her yesterdays instead of her tomorrows.
They returned to the States and set up a household close to her parents. Ray opened an antiques store and Emalou was goaded by a kindly doctor into finishing her exams so she could become a registered nurse. She did so, and her salary made it possible to buy a home. But working nights created an environment fraught with problems that led to dire consequences.
Under My Roof was a difficult read, not because it isn’t competently written. It is, but the subject is distasteful and difficult for me. Additionally, I failed to see Ray’s attraction for Emalou or anyone. While this may stem from the fact that the scenes have been recreated by a woman who lived through the shame and horror, and is now looking back, it certainly colored her vision of her then husband and life. I found Ray so unappealing that I could not fathom how anyone could be interested in him. I looked for a shred of human kindness and found very little. That made me wonder why Emalou stayed with him, even before the major problem of incest. What I learned from this compelling story, however, is that the crime of incest can happen anywhere, even in small-town flyover country. And in Ms. King’s words: "When a mother knows something is amiss. . .there is something amiss; and, when a mother thinks something is wrong. . .something is wrong." It’s a difficult read but the author’s courage in telling her story just may save others from this tragic abuse.