Golly, I sure do wish you'd stop surprising us with all these twists and turns. I'm confused enough already!

There is one more twist in Lorna’s jumbled up coconut family tree.

My mom was fluent in French and shyness as a pretty girl from a Parisian Catholic convent entering public high school in America. The boys loved her; the girls didn’t. She was too busy learning English in her spare time to have a social life, plus her mother (being suspicious of all Americans and annoyed, having escaped one disaster only to enter another) kept her daughter close to home. To say Mom was innocent in the ways of love would be as much of an understatement as saying Dolly Parton’s breasts were proportional to her frame.

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Being a wife and mother was all my mom ever wanted so she could create a “normal” family life for her future children–the kind of family life she never had. I’m not sure how she planned on finding a husband, since she never dated in high school. She preferred the shadows to the limelight. A boy named Bobby (my future father) noticed her, though. He quit high school and joined the army. He also quit the army.

When he returned home, dishonorably discharged and ready to work, he found the courage to ask my mom out on a date. She accepted. Bobby was charismatic and had a sad story that her natural maternal instincts found alluring. He asked her to marry him after they dated for a year.

While planning the wedding, my mom’s best friend told her that Bobby asked her marry him. This should have given my mom pause, but she went ahead with her plans. Maybe Mom didn’t believe her. Or maybe she wanted a family that badly. Bobby also had an aptitude for disappearing and reappearing without the need to explain the days or weeks in between. Because my mom was not wise in the ways of men, she had no way of knowing if this was normal or not.

Bobby, I see my fancy hat doesn't please you. I suppose you'll be leaving again. I'll give the hat back to the pheasant if that will make you happy.

In 1955 my parents wed. In 1956, Tina was born and I came along in 1957. Lisa was born in 1960. Bobby shot himself in 1962. My mom recalls a woman draped in black who lurked in the back of the church during the funeral. She didn’t give the woman much thought then. She was, I suppose, distracted.

You have to admit, if she appeared at a funeral, you'd wonder. Right?

This grieving mystery woman’s presence became more significant in the mid-1990s when my mom received a telephone call. She was in her early 60s.

“May I please speak with Robert ___?” a woman tentatively asked.  (Last name withheld until my mother dies and her identity no longer matters.)

“Excuse me?” Mom was stunned.

“Um, does a Robert ____ live there?” the woman rephrased.

My mother is, to a fault, honest and direct. “He died over 30 years ago.” The woman on the other end of the line started to sob. “Who is this?” my mom asked.

“I…I’m his…his daughter, Debbie.” Debbie replied. She, too, was honest and direct. To a fault.

“His daughter?”

“Yes. I never knew who my real father was until recently. My mother never told me. Finally she did. I’ve called every ___ in the phone book hoping I’d find him.” (I’m leaving out Debbie’s sniffles and sobs.)

“Well, I can’t help you. He’s dead.” I think my mom wanted to end the conversation.

“Can you please tell me anything about him? Anything? I need to know about my real father.”

“Maybe one of my daughters will talk to you.”  They hung up after she gave my mom her contact information.

Mom probably talked to Tina first. Tina was livid and swore she would have nothing to do with this “Debbie person.”

When I found out, I had three reactions. In this order:

  1. My God! How selfish is this woman? Did she ever consider how her curiosity might affect my mom?
  2. My God! The poor woman! She finally learns about her real father only to find out he’s long dead.
  3. My God! My dad was unfaithful to mom and I have a half-sister.

I put aside my anger, judgement and curiosity. I didn’t know much about my father since he died when I was four years old, but I wanted to answer as many questions as I could for her. I was curious about him, too, so I could understand her situation. Lisa reached out to her, too; but I became her main lifeline to her genetic past.

I wrote her a letter telling her what I knew of his past and his suicide. I even included one of the precious few pictures I had of my dad (this was before scanners and digital technology was available in every household). I included my phone number if she had any further questions. Unfortunately, she took my kindness as a gesture of welcoming into our family.  It was not. She called me weekly; she wanted to meet me.

Joyous reunion? NOT!

Unlike daytime dramas, I didn’t feel an immediate need to rush into the arms of a long-lost half-sister. I had two real sisters. Our family was tight and there was no room in it for Daddy’s “other” children.

Debbie didn’t take that news well, but respected my position and thanked me for the information I gave her. She’s now ancient history. My dad’s absenteeism made more sense and knowing about Debbie helped me understand that he was more troubled than I knew. Debbie told me was a little older than Tina, so she was conceived during my parents’ engagement. I wonder how many other half-siblings I have?

I’m glad Alex was never assigned a genealogy  report in school. It would have been a mess.

All those tiny bubble on the outside are probably half-siblings I know nothing about. Just as well.

Now we’ll move on to my parent’s marriage and the three daughters they produced. Hang on. 

I'm just warning you. It wasn't easy. But we knew how to smile bravely...