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                                                              Gloria Phifer

My husband recently asked me when I was going to continue writing "Footprints of my life."

I have taken a little sabbatical. It will take courage to share the things to come.

I will share my story because it gives God glory for the way He delivers and saves.

My courage is coming...



Darins funeral. Left to right...Aunt Virginia, Aunt April, Grandma, Aunt Ruby, My Mom, Don's wife.

               “No!” Mom screamed into the phone. 

  “Darin shot himself!”

          Uncle Darin, Mom’s brother was visiting Cy (Aunt Vivian’s X-husband) in Magdalena. He had been drinking. He placed the barrel of his handgun to his head and pulled the trigger.


          The one level, adobe motel on Central Ave in Albuquerque was full of our relatives. Darin’s funeral and burial was the following day.

          Al drove up to our motel room in his white Impala.

          “Mom, Al and I are going to get something to eat”

          She glared at me but allowed me to leave.

          When I returned she was furious.

          “I should take you to that funeral home and lock you up in that room with Darin!” she fumed.

          Once again I made a vow to myself, “as soon as I am able I’m leaving!”

          After the funeral, pictures were taken of Grandma and her daughters and oldest son, Don. Grandma had lost her son, and Mom and her siblings had lost their youngest brother.

          Mom and Aunt Ruby were convinced that someone had murdered Darin. They couldn’t accept “suicide”. They consulted Aunt Ruby’s Ouija board. A board of deception can give you nothing but fear. Mom was beside herself. We returned to Grants in hopelessness and chaos.

          Mom and Deryl were yelling in the kitchen. The drinking had begun again. From the living room I saw Mom flip the light off and hit Deryl with a bottle. They fought on the kitchen floor.

          Mom was nagging me constantly.  Nothing was up to her specifications. Nothing I did pleased her.

          One night she was arguing with me about Al. I sat on my bed in tears. She took my wrist and checked my pulse. She laughed about how fast it was beating.

          Al was my way out. He was my future. The end of the school year was near..*******

          (After writing this I have thought a lot about my mother and Darin. They were both hurting people. I feel sad for Uncle Darin and the pain he must have been trying to cover up with the alcohol.  There are many "if only's" in life. If only we had been a family of prayer. I do trust my Heavenly Father, He is full of mercy. He sees the hurts and pains of all people and He has compassion.)





          A few weeks later Al came to Grants. He told me he had been having a hard time.  Of course I forgave him.  We took up where we left off.  He drove us back to Albuquerque where I picked out an engagement and wedding ring.  Al put them on lay away.

          “We’ll get married next summer as soon as you graduate.” Al said.

          Grants was 70 miles from Albuquerque.
          Route 66 passed through the long main street of Grants.  Uranium mines and mills were the town’s main income.

          A small three-bedroom house was rented and Bronco and I began school. I was the youngest in the 1961 senior class. I made many friends and had opportunities to date, and socialize but I was “engaged.”

          Life was good at first. But as the year continued Mom was moody. Something was bothering her. There were mornings when she fixed breakfast for Bronco and I.  But some days she didn’t want to get out of bed.   She confided to me that she had tried to over doze on pills but it hadn’t worked.

          I didn’t have a car so my friend Louise picked me up for school every morning. Her parents owned the jewelry store in Grants.   
          Later in the year, one of our friends from our class, died in a car wreck.  As I attended the funeral with other classmates I once again was faced with death.

         The age-old question resonated in my mind …why was I here?

          Mom and Al were having a silent war. They couldn’t stand each other.

          “The sooner you get away from your mother the better,” Al said.

          One weekend I was invited to go to Albuquerque with a friend and her mother.  My objective was to see Al.

          “No, you are not going to Albuquerque!” Mom said adamantly.

          I spent my senior year angry and frustrated with my mother. 
          Mom was angry with all of us. There was no way of pleasing her.  Because I was "engaged" I spent most of my time at home, so I was with her a lot. 
          When I folded the towels, she said they should have been folded a different way. No matter how I did them it was never right. 
           The house had wood floors. She went on a rant that they had to be polished with wax. If they weren't just right we were all in trouble.  

It was like walking on a tight rope. 

(As a young adult, I thought it as my fault that I couldn't please her. But, now I know she was desperately unhappy.)



                                Moving to a Grants to graduate...1960


Albuquerque was left below in the valley, as the “57 Chrysler drove west up the nine mile hill.  Red rock formations stood majestically in the desert, as Route 66 wound its way to Grants, New Mexico.

I was on my way to Grants to graduate from high school but I was with Mom, Bronco and Deryl.  When Mom received my letter Deryl quit his job in Dulce and they came for me in Albuquerque.

Dottie had not been happy when I left. Her parting words to Mom were, "Wanda, Gloria will never graduate from High School"

“There’s a sight for sore eyes,” Deryl said as we approached some road construction. The Chrysler parked on the side of the highway, and Deryl walked over to the heavy equipment. He was smiling when he returned to the car.

          “I start work Monday morning.”
          I was touched that Deryl and Mom cared enough about my graduating that they would move to Grants.
             (I knew they loved me in their own ways. And I loved them no matter what happened.) 


          Deryl is coming after us. He’s working on a road job in Dulce, New Mexico," Mom said with a huge smile, as she hung up the phone.
          “Mom, I don’t want to leave Albuquerque. I don’t want to leave Al!”
          She wasn’t listening to me. She was into her own plans.
          We’ll get married!” Al announced 
          Knots and butterflies alternated in my stomach as we sat before Mom in the apartment living room.
          “Wanda, I’m asking permission to marry Gloria. I know she’s only sixteen, but I promise she will finish school and get her high school diploma.”
          Mom’s face was a mask. But I could tell from her eyes, she was not happy with the proposal.
          “I’ll think about it!” she said crisply
          Mom’s answer to me the next day was, “NO!”
          “But Mom,” I negotiated, “don’t you understand how I feel? You will be with Deryl because that is what you want? You always get what you want.  I want to be with Al.”

 (This was the first time I really stood up to my mother.)
          I couldn’t believe my ears…
          “You can get married but you have to finish high school.”
                    “OK!” I was overjoyed. “If I find a place to live can I stay in Albuquerque until the wedding?”
          The answer was “yes!”
          Mom began packing. She was happy. Deryl was coming to her rescue again.
          I phoned Dottie, a former neighbor who lived in Princess Jean Park. I had cleaned her house when we lived in the neighborhood.
          Mom and Bronco left Albuquerque with Deryl. I moved into Dottie and Don’s home. I helped Dottie with her house and four children.

          As the weeks passed I saw less of Al. I wasn’t sure what was going on.  I was beginning to feel uneasy.
One night on the phone he informed me that his father had put him in a bind financially. He never did fully explain everything.

 Al became increasingly distant. After some denial on my part, I realized it was over, we were not getting married.

 My heart was heavy. I couldn’t sleep and I wasn’t interested in eating. Dottie was worried about me.
          “Gloria, you can stay with us. You can attend Sandia High this fall.”
          When I checked on enrollment at Sandia, I was in for a surprise. I was lacking credits because of our many moves.
Dottie’s mother and sister Mary Lou visited that weekend. 

Mary Lou was one year younger then me. We had become good friends.
 When Dottie’s mother saw my predicament she made a wonderful offer:
          “Gloria, come to Grants, you can live with us. You will have enough credits to graduate from Grants High,”
          Dottie was frowning at her mother’s suggestion. She didn't want me to leave.

          “Thank you for inviting me, but I can’t move to Grants with out asking my mother.”

             Mom and Deryl didn't have a phone, so I wrote her a letter and waited.


 “Gloria, we’re moving back to Albuquerque.”

          Mom and Ed had reconciled and we were leaving Farmington.  I had mixed emotions.  I hated having Ed back in our lives but I looked forward to spending more time with Al.

          The 3-bedroom, adobe apartment was located in the SE Heights of Albuquerque.  One of Mom’s friends, from the beauty school in Farmington, moved with us. Marty was in her late twenties, red headed, with large blue eyes She wore the latest craze “blue mascara”. We shared a bedroom. In spite of our age difference we became good friends and I began confiding in Marty.

           It was the summer before my senior year. I was sixteen years old. I thought I would be finishing high school at Sandia High School after all..... Little did I know.

          Al would pick me up at the apartment every evening.  I was becoming more and more dependent on him. 
            Mom was on me constantly. I was very unhappy.

          The summer afternoon sun shone through the open door.   Marty and I sat at the small kitchen table. 

          “Marty, I just want to get away from home, I can’t take it anymore.”

          “I can see how it is for you, but Gloria don’t do anything foolish.”

           “What would be foolish?”

“I want you to…” Marty’s voice trailed off as she glanced at the door.

          I turned in my seat. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.  Mom was glaring at us through the screen door.

          It was never the same between Mom and Marty. Mom thought she was interfering. It wasn’t long before Marty left. I missed her.

Ed was gone!  I never knew why he left or even when he left. He just wasn’t there anymore! 

My joy soon turned to panic.



          Al’s white impala followed the winding highway across the New Mexico border to Durango, Colorado. We were on our way to a rodeo. 

        Al had asked Mom to join us.  She rode silently in the back seat.  Al and I had a good time but Mom was moody all day. I knew she was fuming. She did not like the back seat and Al was giving me all the attention.

          I had been surprised when Al called and invited me to the Rodeo. It was a long drive from Albuquerque to Farmington and then another drive to Durango. I could tell he wanted to see me. He had invited Mom so she could get to know him.

          We dropped Mom off at home when we got back to Farmington.  Al took me out for supper before he headed back to Albuquerque.  He confided in me about his father and the alcohol.  I understood.  Al and I had a familiarity…we were both children of alcoholics.



       One morning, after missing a day of school, I went to the Assistant Principal to obtain a pass to get back into class.

                “Young Lady, if you miss any more school you are going to be out of here!”

               I remember thinking at the time, if you only knew what I was going through.  No one ever asked me if there was a problem.  I don’t recall a counselor at school.  But, I probably wouldn’t have told anyone.  Mom said anything that happened at home was not to be discussed anywhere else.

(A person is only as sick as their secrets.)

          My self talk was confusing. One minute I was telling myself, "You are so strong, look how you survive." The next thought would be…"you are a born loser. You're stupid. Your grades are terrible. Daddy Slim would be so disappointed in you."  My mother didn't seem to care what my grades were. I remember making a decision that I was going to bring my grades up. I did try…I wanted so much to be a straight A student. But, they only came up one grade point. I became frustrated and discouraged.  (I would never talk to a teacher.)

          (As I have been writing this…I realize I cannot remember my junior year…except for the vice principal and being sad about my grades. I only remember what I was dealing with at home; and the spiritual question that had come when I was walking home FROM SCHOOL.}



        Junior Year 1959-1960

 The April afternoon was warm and sunny: without a breeze.  My feet shuffled toward the street where we were living in Farmington

          “Are you saved?”  The thought came with such force it was almost as if someone had spoken audibly.

          The thought was penetrating. I didn’t even stop to wonder where it had come from. My feet slowed. It was as if nothing else existed except this question and me.

          “Was I saved?” I knew it was a spiritual question. As I walked I reasoned back to the question. “I’m Methodist. I’ve been sprinkled in church. I’m a good kid. I don’t drink or smoke.     I continued to defend myself … You should see my friends! I don’t do the things they do! 

          “You must be born again and it is a straight and narrow way.”

          The thought was penetrating and exact, just as the question had been. 

    I knew I wasn’t born again and I knew I wasn’t on a straight and narrow way. Even though I didn’t know how to be born again and how to get on the straight and narrow way, I instinctively knew it would be a complete change of my life.   I wanted to control my own life. I remember thinking, maybe when I’m older; I’m too young now.

          Years later I would realize that the Lord was speaking to me. He was trying to answer the prayers I had been praying. He was trying to find a way into our chaos.  He was knocking on my hearts door.  Thank God through the years He kept knocking.




I peeked out the window. The yellow Cadillac sat like a preying mantis on the corner.  Ed was watching the house again.

          “I’m going to start picking Bronco up from school. I don’t know what Ed might do,” Mom said

          Mom glared at me, “You’re the one I’m really worried about because he hates you!”

My heart was heavy. When my mother said something to hurt me it always came as a shock to me.  I wanted to believe my mother loved me and would never want to cause me pain, but she was the biggest cause of my pain.

  Who was this woman who was becoming more of a stranger to me every day? I didn't think she cared for my welfare.

Mom never mentioned picking me up from school.

           I was increasingly afraid. 

          Mom said I couldn't lock my bedroom door so I opened the door of the bathroom, turned and locked the door.

          I was desperate. I knelt on the linoleum floor. "God please help us. Please protect us. 

In Jesus Name…Amen."



One night, Pye had a litter of kittens.  When I checked on her before I went to bed she had three kittens.  I was almost asleep when I felt her next to me.  When I turned on the light she had a kitten stuck half way out of her.  She was struggling.  "Mom, Pye is having problems having this kitten", I yelled.  Mom didn't come into my room; she just yelled back, “Don’t pull on the kitten."

  I didn’t know what to do.  I began praying, “Dear God, help Pye!”  I was sitting on the bed. Pye placed her head between my knees and pushed hard.  The kitten was born dead.  I cried as I wrapped up the little kitten. Pye went back to her litter of three.

          Mom broke it off with Ed again, but he wasn’t taking “no” for an answer. A couple of Mom’s friends from Beauty School were at the house when he showed up.  Mom tried to shut the door on him but he pushed his way in.

          “You’re coming with me!” he said as he proceeded to  pick her up bodily.

          One of Mom’s friends ran into the kitchen; came back running at Ed with an iron skillet.  Ed let go of Mom, but he swore he would be back, as he left.





(I hesitated in sharing this bizarre happening. It traumatized me. Thank God He was watching over us...even though we were unaware of His protection.).

          The most bizarre night I had ever experienced happened a few days later, after discovering Mom and Ed at the carnival.

            Mom was sick; they thought she might have pneumonia. She had been staying in bed, taking medicine.

“Gloria, come in here.” Mom yelled,

          I walked into her bedroom.

          “Gloria, I want you to take Bronco somewhere for the night.”

          “What do you mean? “ (I couldn’t understand where she would want us to go. I was 15 yrs old, didn't have a drivers license…knew only one friend in Farmington. Take Bronco somewhere?)

          “I want you to leave for the night.  I am going to kill Deryl.  We are going to go for a walk.  I’m going to take a hammer and kill him.”

          The hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I was in shock.  What was she saying?

          “You don’t care anything about me anyway.    You and Bronco can have the insurance money...”
          She went on crazily.  I couldn’t believe my ears.

          I left the room and found Deryl. 

          “Deryl, please leave the house, I’m afraid she is going to hurt you.”

          “I’m not going anywhere,” Deryl said angrily, with a stone face.

          I was afraid.  My mother had gone crazy.  I called Aunt Ruby’s in Aztec.  I knew Grandma was visiting there.  I told her what Mom had said to me.

          “Call the doctor right away,” Grandma instructed.

          Deryl called the Doctor. The doctor  said he would be right over.

          It was a nightmare.  The doorbell rang.  Deryl answered the door and there was ‘Ed”!  Ed seemed to know something was wrong with Mom.  He and Deryl didn’t argue but they both headed for her bedroom. She wasn’t there.

They searched the house for her but couldn’t find her.  They went outside.

          I was standing in the kitchen.  Through the door, leading to the garage, I could hear strange breathing, like an animal.  I knew it was Mom.

          The doctor arrived, they took Mom into the bedroom and he gave her a shot.

          After the doctor and Ed left, I begged Deryl to leave.  I was afraid she might wake up and do something terrible.  He refused.

          All night I lay awake.  Listening, to make sure Mom didn’t hurt Deryl.

          The next morning I didn’t go to school.  I was relieved to see Deryl had left for work and Mom was still sleeping.

          I realized we didn’t have any milk or bread.  I was debating about walking to the convenience store. I decided it was too far.  The doorbell rang. It was Ed.  He took me to the 7-11 Convenience Store and bought the items we needed.  As we were returning to our house, I saw Deryl’s pickup in the driveway. The front door was open and Mom was chasing him out.  He left as if he was afraid.

          Deryl was gone.  Ed was back in Mom’s life and I was sick about it.

        Mom continued Beauty School.  We moved from the nice brick house into a cheaper adobe one.  No longer did I live close to my one friend. I was so sad and lonely. (I have no memory of the move from the nice brick house…I was traumatized.)