Thursday, February 2, 2006

Finding My Father - Part III - Remembering Mother

Every morning, I get up and I wonder what new tidbit of information is going to show itself. What new person is going to be a part of my life? Are we getting closer to the end?

I feel myself changing. It’s exciting, but I feel like there is this new person coming out of me. It could be just the fact that everything that is going on is new, but it’s a weird feeling.

This daddy thing is something I've never experienced.

I opened up my e-mail this morning and my first cousin, Missy, has sent me pictures. I am putting off looking at them. I don’t know why. I’m shaking. I feel like I don’t want to open the present yet. I want to save it because these kinds of presents don’t come along but once in a lifetime.

I haven’t seen them yet but I know they are of my father.

Perhaps I am putting it off because of the impact. It’s been bad enough around here lately. I know that seeing my father’s picture for the first time is going to immobilize me.

I can’t do it. Not yet.

Eyes are the windows of the soul and once I look into his eyes, I will see things. Memory things. He is not just someone who they tell me is my father; he is my father - in the flesh.

I don’t think I’m prepared.

Last night, a couple by the name of Cloyd and Sue Jester from Sanford, Virginia, came into the restaurant. I told them I had found my father.

They are deeply religious. I’ve attended church with them before. They are praising God all over the place. I knew they’d get a kick out of what I was about to tell them.

I told them, then watched their reaction. Through the smiles, they knew that this was important to me and knew that I needed to know the rest of the story. I needed an ending.

I also told them about my mother. How she died. How I found her in a kneeling position, completely dead, and how I couldn’t figure out how when you die, you don’t fall down. Gravity is gravity whether you’re dead or alive.

It was 1973. My mother and her “supposed” husband (later I found out that they weren’t even married) lived in Exmore, Virginia, and ran a taxi service there. I believe this was the very first and only taxi service they ever had in Exmore.

I was 19, newly married, and when they asked me if I wanted to answer the phone and run the taxi occasionally, I took them up on the offer.

The pay royally sucked, but it was something anyway. My new husband, Rick, worked for his father at Thompson & Savage, a building contractor based in Exmore. His pay royally sucked, too. Funny how family takes advantage of you, but pay is pay and, as newlyweds, we found out that life involved paying for food and shelter - a rude awakening.

On the morning of August 13, 1973, I didn’t feel well so I went to my mother’s house to tell her that I wasn’t coming in that morning. I’m not sure why I didn’t call. Perhaps I did and there was no answer.

I opened the door (it was unlocked) and Peedle (her name was really Pistol but because she delighted in peeing on the carpet all the time, the name stuck) was sitting on the chair in the living room. I thought, this is odd. Peedle is always by my mother’s side 24/7.

Already, something was wrong.

I slowly walked into the hall and at the end of the hall, my mother’s bedroom door was open.

What I was about to see has haunted me for thirty-four years.

(As I write this, I am numb. But, I must go on. I must do this. I must clear up the ghosts of the past. I must heal.)

My mother was fully naked, on her knees, her arms outstretched about six inches from the top of the bed, and she was dead.

I screamed.

I ran next door and banged on my grandmother’s door. “Something’s wrong with Mother!” was all I could say through the hysteria. I was screaming and crying. I knew that it wasn’t just something that was wrong; she was dead.

I knew better than to excite my grandmother like that because she had been through heart surgery but you don’t think of those things when this happens. Especially to your mother.

This is very hard to write. Tears from long ago reappear. This is hard.

My aunt called 911 and through all the hysteria, I glanced in my mother’s front yard and they were taking her away, with a white sheet covering her face.

Telling Cloyd and Sue this story, I remembered that I had screamed, “Whoever did this, I’m going to kill them!”

My immediate thoughts was my supposed step-father.

I screamed and ran in my mother’s back yard. My cousin told me later that she could hear me from all the way over to her house which was at the end of the street.

Someone comforted me. I think it was my cousin. It was blurry after that.

My supposed step-father had been out of town that night, which was unusual because he was most times home. His alibi was that he had closed down the taxi place late and had picked up a hitch-hiker. That was the reason he was not home at the time of her death.

The coroner said that she died of heart complications. I was going through a tremendous amount of grief and didn’t have the strength to challenge it.

The funeral came and went and my mother’s sister, my aunt, had questions. I had questions. It just didn’t seem normal to die in an upright position.

My aunt went to the funeral parlor and talked to the mortician. She had more strength than I had. I could barely exist at that time.

What the mortician told her was like the worse thing anyone could have said at this point.

She had carbon monoxide in her body.

Still under a tremendous amount of grief, nor the financial means to pursue this further, I let it go.

But, the ghosts still haunt.

Someone told me that the local radio station had reported a woman in the Exmore area, Jeri Jarman Gustafson (wasn't her real last name as they were not married) had been shot. I'm hoping that one of the members of the family set them straight. I was in too much pain to do a thing.

My supposed step-father disappeared. He was not well-liked in the area because he was a come-here anyway. He originally was from Oklahoma. I don’t know whether he went back there and went into hiding.

That’s just my speculation.

My mother-in-law was having Thanksgiving dinner at her house and invited him, being as he didn’t have anyone now – not that I cared, but at this point, I still wasn’t sure if he had anything to do with it.

He was fidgety, but he never turned down a free meal.

I remember sitting in my trailer with my new husband with a shotgun on my lap whenever he left me alone.

I was going through a neurosis which took years before I released it.

Cloyd and Sue sat there in shock. Sue, being a religious woman, said that she was going to ask God for the answers. I thanked her. I have a funny feeling she will find the answers I am looking for. Whether it’s something I want to hear, I don’t know, but at least I have God pulling for me on this one.

Now, it's time to look at the pictures of my Dad. My Dad. I am still not prepared, but I must do this. I must stay strong.


  1. Your emotions are normal - they mirror my own. Once I met my father I saw an inner glow when I looked at myself in the mirror. It changes you forever.

    And, Dorothy, you've got a great book in the making here. :)

  2. It's been interesting following this. My hunt for my father ended with finding him a year too late. BUT -- then one of my siblings found me and she looks just like me :)

  3. Ghosts from our past are very hard to deal with. One thing is certain, after writing and sharing this, you'll realize that you feel better.

    Sending you friendship!

  4. Oops! I'm sorry! I forgot to say thank you for placing my blog on your link list! THANKS!

  5. When my husband was twelve, his father and stepfather were both killed within seven days. When he was eighteen (four years after we started dating and two years before we married), his mom shared with us that the man he had thought to be his dad wasn't really after all. After we married, we began an extensive search looking for his father. We had twins, not quite two, and another on the way. Imagine my surprise when, five days after our third baby was born, the phone rang and it was his biological dad. I had never in my life been so shaken. His niece had read a post we placed on a website, printed it and stuck in a drawer, and then forgot about it until a year later when she was cleaning. She mailed it to her uncle, my husband's father, and he called as soon as he got it in the mail. Such mixed emotions. I don't think anyone can understand the feeling of not completely knowing yourself when you've never seen a birth parent. Just knowing that half of your composition literally comes from someone you've never even seen. So many questions. When we met him a year later, the similarities between my husband and his father were strikingly eerie. Both were in construction (my husband is an electrician). My husband had just finished making a dining room table from the beautiful tongue-in-groove wood left over from the newly built school gmnasium. When we travelled to his father's house, he took us through the dining room and said, "What do you think of my new dining room table? I just made it out of old solid oak doors from the hospital- they remodeled and were going to throw them out." I was speechless, and that was only the beginning of the similarities...

  6. That's such an emotional story, I don't even know what to say. Good luck with the rest of your journey...

  7. Girl Grown Up, that was such an incredible story. Simply incredible. I have pictures of my dad I'll put up tomorrow. Maybe I'll post a picture of me up there too so you can decide for yourself if there are similarities. So far, I've seen quite a few things...he does look like incredible. We haven't met yet and I'm dying to.

  8. Wow Dorothy. Bless your heart, you've been through a lot in your life. I'm praying for peace for you.


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