Sushi.  That’s what we were picking up from my Aunt’s house.  Missy and I were driving over an hour to pick up my aunt’s Japanese Chin dog, Sushi.  Patricia said she didn’t have time for the dog, and it was so cute and good and she hated to neglect such a sweetie.  She told me he was pedigreed with papers and she paid $1200 for him.  I happily agreed to take him.  From the pictures, he was a cute little guy.

Missy only met my aunt one other time, so I was excited for her to get to spend the evening with her.  She was one of my oldest friends, so I was happy that they could really get to know each other.  Patricia was a hoot, and if you couldn’t have a good time with her, something was wrong with you, not her!

Aunt Pat was what I usually called her, and she was my deceased father’s sister.  She was five years older than he was, and was definitely the black sheep of the family.  Despite that, she launched a new company all by herself, and was very successful.  The house we were going to, was her new home out in the country, just outside of Nashville.  It was gorgeous inside and out.  We spent that evening out on her back patio that overlooked a beautiful koi pond. The pond was expertly landscaped with stones and plants, it had a waterfall, and at night, strategically placed lights gave it an intoxicating glow.

We met Sushi, and he was a cutie.  He was black and white, like an Oreo cookie.  He wagged his tail and said hello, then he was off to his little bed in the corner.  It didn’t take us but a few minutes to make it out to the patio.  We all smoked, we all drank, and we all liked to talk.  That’s what we did, for hours!  It was fun and I was tickled that Missy liked Patricia.  I knew she would.

Missy and I had been friends for so long, she knew almost everything about me.  She heard all of my family drama stories over the years, so she knew what the deal was with everyone.  Including Patricia.  But of course, when Aunt Pat talked and told stories, she pretended she had never heard them before.  After a couple of hours had gone by, it was obvious to me that Patricia had crossed over to “officially drunk.”  Besides the tell-tale slurring, she started talking about her father, my grandfather.  He was emotionally and physically abusive to her throughout her whole life.  To that day, he refused to acknowledge any of her accomplishments, he would only point out her shortcomings and bad decisions.  Which, granted, she had made some mistakes.  Boy, he would not let her forget them.  One of the biggest ones was that she had been married nine times in her 65 years.  Left home at 18 to marry the first one.  She was not good with men, obviously.  Each of her three sons had a different father.  She was abused by a couple of them, abandoned by a few, and it just didn’t work out with a few.  By this time, she hadn’t been married for a while, which she had decided was best.  I agreed with her!

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Drinks with the girls

 

Her dad did not agree with most anything she ever did, and he made no secret about it.  He would not tell her that he loved her, even when she would look him right in the face and ask him, “Do you love me?”  He would just look at her stone-faced, and not say a word.  She acted like it didn’t bother her, but as soon as she had a buzz going, that façade quickly melted away.  This 65 year-old woman with three sons, two grandchildren, a beautiful home, and a million dollar company, would start to cry and ask why didn’t her father love her?  It was so sad and it broke my heart.  It wasn’t my first night of drinks with her, so I wasn’t surprised she brought it up.

My dad, on the other hand, could do no wrong.  It was awkward as a young child, because even then I knew that my brother and I were being treated better than Patricia’s boys.  My grandparents always wanted to have separate Christmas’s so they could give us more presents than when we all got together with them.  They were much more involved with my father and his life than Patricia and hers’.  To her credit, I never saw her act out or be ugly to my dad, our mom, or us kids.  Even though she had to have known.  Even I knew when I was five.

****

After we talked about what an asshole my grandfather was for a while, she indicated that she wanted to tell me something.  I was confused by what she was saying, because she would say she wanted to tell me something, and then she would say that she wasn’t going to, and to just forget it.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Missy and I were laughing, Patricia was obviously just about as drunk as Cootie Brown.

Then, “All right, fuck it.  I’m just going to tell ya.  Bill’s been married before.”  Then she sat back in her chair and sighed, like she had been holding that in for decades.  She had been.

I just looked at her.  I was dumbfounded, frozen.  What did she say?  Bill, my father had been married before our mother?  That couldn’t be true!  They got married as soon as my mother graduated college.  He had just graduated from college too.  I never heard about any other marriages!  I wasn’t mad or anything, I was just surprised!

“Tracey, Grandmom and Pop made us swear not to tell you kids.  I’ve wanted to tell you this for over twenty years!  I mean, what’s the big fucking deal?  So, Bill’s been married before?  Who gives a shit?”

“No, I understand!  I’m not mad, I just have to wrap my head around it.  Let it sink in for a minute.  I just never, never expected you to say that!”  I tried to be nonchalant.”  I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back.”

Holy shit, our dad was married before and everyone’s been keeping it a secret from us!  Why would they do that?  I don’t give a damn if he was married before!  Hell, I’ve been divorced!  Their son, my brother has been divorced!  Half the people I know have been!  I remember grabbing each side of the sink, and looking at myself in the mirror.  I felt like I was in a dream.  Secrets?  Why the secrets?  That’s what I don’t get!

While I’m in the bathroom, Missy has been out on the patio with Patricia the whole time.  She told me later that Patricia was torn all to pieces.  She’d go back and forth from “I shouldn’t have ever told her.  Oh my God.  I messed up so bad!” to “Well, hell!  It’s her right to know!  They’re not little kids anymore!  My God!”  then back to “Lord, they’re never going to speak to me again.  Daddy made me swear I wouldn’t tell those kids about their dad.”

I’m back on the deck, having fully refreshed my beverage, and Patricia filled me in.  She said that right out of high school, he married some girl from his school named Linda.  It was no big deal, they were only married a couple of months.  But, at mom and dad’s funeral, Linda showed up to pay her respects.  Grandmom and Pop threw a fit and made her leave!  They wouldn’t let her sign the register, and they wouldn’t let her come anywhere near my brother and I.  They also tore up any pictures of Linda or of the two of them together, so we would never find them.

“What’s the big deal?” I asked.  “What do we care if he was divorced before he married mom?  We don’t care!  The only thing that bothers me is the great lengths everyone went to keep it a secret!  Good Lord!”

“I don’t know, Tracey.  I’m telling you, they are crazy.  I mean, I’ve been married several times, and they don’t mind telling everyone in middle Tennessee about that!  But I reckon, cause it’s Bill, they didn’t want to risk putting a blemish on his reputation.  Honey, I’m sure that your mom and dad were planning on telling you, they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet.  If they had known that they were going to be gone…”

I stopped her there, and got up and gave her a hug.  She had black mascara running all down her face from crying.  It was obvious this was a huge burden for her.  She told me then to tell Grandmom and Pop that I knew and that she was the one who told me.  She said, “I don’t give a shit anymore.  They don’t love me no matter what I do, so what the hell?” then she chuckled.

On the way home Missy and I could hardly take a breath, we were talking so fast about what Patricia told us.  Sushi the dog was wandering around the back seat of my car, then he’d hop up on the console, then down to the floorboard where Missy’s feet were.  We were coming up with different scenarios that would explain why my grandparents did what they did.  We knew they were from a different generation, but to go to such lengths to cover up a three-month marriage didn’t make any sense!

We finally pulled into Missy’s driveway so I could drop her off.  We were both exhausted!  As Missy is reaching around to grab her purse, her cigarettes, and stuff, she noticed there were M&M’s in the floor.  I had one of those big bags of regular M&M’s that we snacked on during the trip to Patricia’s.  I turned the interior light on, and to our horror, we discovered that Sushi had eaten all of the M&M’s!  That was a lot of chocolate!  We both thought the same thing, “Won’t chocolate kill dogs?”  Oh Lord, I’ve killed Patricia’s $1200 dog.  She’ll be devastated!   Turns out, chocolate was no match for Sushi.  She was just fine!  Patricia lied about Sushi, though.  He wasn’t housebroken, good, or sweet.  She just didn’t want him anymore!  Dammit!  I really shouldn’t have been too surprised…I loved her, but I knew my aunt could be a real heifer when she wanted to!

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I Just Wanted a Dog

My brother called me one afternoon and said, “You aren’t going to believe this.” I felt a heaviness in my chest, a feeling of dread filled me. “Oh my God, what.” It had to be something bad.

Well, it wasn’t bad at all! Turns out, the state of Ohio had opened its’ sealed adoption files. They’d been sealed forever, keeping my brother and I from finding out who our deceased mother’s biological mom was. Until now! OMG!

The records office in Ohio told him over the phone that we would have to be there in person to receive the documents. Maybe it’s because the adopted person was deceased. I don’t know. But it didn’t take us long to make the decision to hop on the next flight from Nashville to Columbus. My brother’s wife decided to stay behind, which made me secretly and selfishly happy. I felt like this was our journey alone, just like it had been since 1988.

On the plane ride over, we could not stop talking about all of the possibilities that may or may not lay ahead. Our mother had no knowledge whatsoever about her biological family. She told me once that when she would ask questions about it, her adopted mother, Helen, as well as her two aunts, would shame her and harshly discourage her from bringing up the subject. They all died a long time ago. Before Mom died she confided with a little smile that she was thinking about looking for her birth mother. That’s why we had to find her.

After we landed, we got in the rental car at the airport in Columbus and headed straight to the adoption records office. We rushed as if someone were chasing us, we had to hurry. Hurry! We had gone so long without knowing, but all of the sudden it felt urgent. We pulled into the parking lot and the sign said to go to the second floor. There it is! First door on the right! We walked up to the little woman sitting behind the long, tall, desk. All the ladies back there looked like bank tellers, each at their assigned spot, with their little name plate neatly displayed on top of the worn wood. My brother went to the first lady and told her we were there to pick up our mother’s adoption papers.

We had to hold the form at the same time, him on one side, me on the other. We had to read it together. Walking down the hall we read, “Mary Ann Dean. Birth mother.” “Faith Mary” was the name filled in where it said “Baby Name.” Faith Mary! Her birth name was Faith Mary! She would’ve loved that.

We sat in the little rental car in the parking lot going over every square inch of that piece of paper. Where it asked for the name of the father, it was blank. We weren’t really surprised at that. It did give Mary Ann’s date of birth, address, and place of employment along with our mom’s birth weight and date of birth. We could see that her mother was 21 years old when she had her, she was a secretary, and she had given birth at St. Mary’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Wait a minute! It said Mary Ann’s address was in Warren, Ohio! Her biological mother lived in Warren? But that’s where mom grew up with her adopted family!

Okay, that’s so weird. We were to stay in Ohio two nights before we would catch our flight back to Nashville, so we decided we’d have to spend the first night in Warren!

The trip took almost three hours. We’d had a long day, so we pulled of the interstate in the middle of nowhere to find a motel. We hadn’t passed an exit in miles, so we crossed our fingers that this exit would have a place to sleep. It did. A Waffle House and a motel. Like peanut butter and jelly. The motel was one of those two story jobs, with the walkway and handrail on the outside of the building, overlooking the parking lot. It looked kind of iffy, but we were tired. We were told our room was on the second floor, so we hauled our bags up the dirty cement stairs and rounded the corner. There was a door with the yellow hazard tape stretched across the doorway in a big X. There was a piece of paper attached to it from the county health department, warning the public not to enter due to contamination. Our room was right next door. Yay!

Needless to say, we didn’t get a lot of sleep. We got back on the road pretty early the next morning. When our stomachs started grumbling around noon, we pulled off and stopped at a little diner to eat breakfast. I was well aware that we were in Ohio, which is a northern, or “yankee” state, to us southerners. My dad used to joke with our mom about her being a yankee, marrying an old southern boy. She easily earned country girl status, though, when she learned how to make fried chicken from our grandmother. I swear, I’d never tell my granny, but that yankee student surpassed the teacher!

We’re looking over the menu when our waitress came over to get our order. I thought it would be a funny private joke between my brother and I if I thickened up my southern accent for the waitress. For reasons I can’t explain, instead, I turned my country accent all the way up to a full-blown Hee-Haw Variety Show. “How much for them flap-jacks ya got thur? They shore do look deelicious!” I thought I was being so funny and that my bro would think it was hilarious, us being country folks up here in yankee territory.

“Are you making fun of my accent?”, the waitress asked me point blank. I looked up at her confused stare. I glanced nervously over at my brother, and I could tell immediately that he wasn’t going to be any help. His amused eyes and smirk said, “You’re on your own, sister.” I looked back up at the waitress and blurted out as fast as I could, “No! No! Actually, I was making fun of our accents! We’re from Tennessee, and people comment on our southern accents all the time, and I was just being stupid! I’m so sorry! I don’t even know what your accent sounds like! No! Not making fun of you!!!”

“Oh ok, well, I’m from Alabama, so people make fun of my accent all the time,” the young waitress said. Oh my god, I could have crawled under that formica table and died. After she walked away, Billy looked at me and was grinning from ear to ear. He chuckled as he said, “You just made the biggest ass out of yourself!” Yes. Yes, I did.

I was looking forward to seeing the town mom grew up in. The adoption papers had her parents’ address on it, so we knew where to look for her old house. Warren was a town that once was. Huge factories lay empty and dark. Old businesses had long since closed, and it just looked hollow and sad. It didn’t take us too long to find mom’s childhood home. We had brought some pictures from home of mom, and luckily there was a couple of her old house. It was neat to compare the two, and not a whole lot had changed in the modest little red brick house. It was in a typical cookie cutter neighborhood, where the streets looked like a dozen tic-tac-toe games, dotted in the corners with red stop signs, in almost perfect symmetry.

Mom rarely talked about her mother, Helen. But I do remember her telling me how strict she was, and that she grew up very lonely. She never did have any brothers and sisters. She recalled that as a child, her mom would let her go down the street to play, only as far as the closest stop sign, no further. I could see now that the closest stop sign was only four houses away. The other children would zig and zag across backyards, over driveways, and fly circles around telephone poles. “Just be home by dinnertime”, their moms would say. I can’t imagine being as confined as Mom was. She must’ve felt like a bird in a cage.

Now that we’d seen mom’s old house, it was time to find this Mary Ann person’s house. We pulled out the ole folded map to help us find our way. We found the street name at the bottom of the map, it told us what letter and what number to look for. We’d find it in the middle of where they crossed. Our index fingers made a line up the page to her street.

We just sat there in silence and disbelief as we stared at the paper map. I looked over at my brother, my face mirroring his expression of, “What the hell”? Mary Ann’s house was only three blocks over from our mother’s. They literally lived in the same neighborhood! We were in shock. No way.

Sure enough, Mary Ann’s house was just a few minutes away. A right turn, a left turn, and we’re there. We sat there and stared at the house, trying to drink it all in. I think we said “Oh my God”, and “I just can’t believe”, and “Do you think that…” a hundred times. How could Mary Ann live so close to her daughter and not know it? Did the adopted parents know that the birth mother was so close and that’s why they wouldn’t let mom go further than the street sign? Did the adopted parents and the birth mother know each other? Surely not! That’s crazy! Right?

Mentally drained, we decided we’d find a place to stay the night. We just needed to regroup. We found a nice hotel that was free from contamination. As soon as we got in the room, we threw our bags down and flopped down on our beds. We went over the whole day, the adoption papers, the two houses, and of course had a good laugh about the diner. It occurred to us that it was possible, not likely, but possible, that this Mary Ann still lived in Warren. What if we got the phone book, and looked up and called anyone that had that last name? Worth a shot, right?

I sat on the bed in the hotel room and found the phone book in the bedside table where it always is. That and the Bible. Billy sat in the chair right next to me and anxiously watched me flip through the thin pages. The small phone book had four people listed with that last name. I picked up the receiver and began dialing. The first person with the last name Dean picked up and said hello. “I’m calling for a Mary Ann Dean,” I said. Wrong number. Second listing was also a wrong number. Third listing was a Bart Deneen. “I’m calling for a Mary Ann Dean,” I said for the third time. A shaky male voice said, “My sister was Mary Ann Dean.”
TO BE CONTINUED…

Birth Mother

Have you ever had a person FIGHT for you? 

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Someone that said, finger pointed right in their face,

“HEY!!!! WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

No?  Me neither.

However, some way, and some how I cannot begin to wrap my head around….EMDR showed me that I could I could kinda sorta make it where that’s how it all went down.

So here’s what really happened…

Dad busts in through the window like The Incredible Hulk. He sees my grandparents killing me with their verbal fuckary, and he stops in his tracks.

“What in the HELL do you think you are doing? “he asks incredulously.

“Uh, um, um, duh…..” they say with slacked jaws and saucer-shaped eyes.

“Don’t you EVER, Do you hear me? EVER talk to my daughter that way again! How DARE YOU speak to MY CHILD that way! Who in the HELL do you think you are?????” His voice booms across the house.

“No…no, Bill….Bill! It’s not what you think, SHE – …..” They stutter in their haste to throw me under the bus. “SHE didn’t this, she did that, she’s going to this, we have to this, because of her, she this she that because of her she is killing us we are going to die because of HER”

“ARE YOU KIDDING ME?SHE IS A CHILD! SHE IS MY CHILD! SHE ISNT DOING ANYTHING TO YOU,YOU CRAZY MOTHER FUCKERS! If there was any way I could have known that my children were in your fucked up hands, I would have done anything in my power to keep that from happening. I wouldn’t let you keep my cat, much less my kids!  Don’t you ever speak one word to these children ever again.” My dad says with such ferocity, his face was beet red, and spit sputtered from his shaking lips as he bellowed, barely able to keep his composure.

And then he reaches out to me and l put my arms around his neck, like I’m a small child instead of a tall sixteen year old young woman. He picks me up and kisses the top of my head and holds me in his big, strong hairy daddy arms. His long legs take big strides as the six foot three man with tears in his eyes heads to the door.

He takes one final look at his parents before we leave. His face devastated and in shock at the events that have taken place at the hands of his own parents. The people who were supposed to love his children. Protect them. Support them. Be kind to them.

Bill opened the door, took his little girl, his teenager, his 20 yr old, 30, now 43 year old daughter.  They walked out and never looked back again.