Authors: Debbie White
Feeling somewhat sad that she’d always felt this way, I softly said, “He did not love me more. I was little. You were a pain in the butt teenager. He just wanted me to have every opportunity for love and acceptance, which I’m sure you had too.”
“My mother was not that kind; especially after Lyle…Daddy and she divorced. I went to live with Irma and Daddy, and that really got under Mother’s collar.”
I nodded. I knew how that felt. “I don’t want to rehash old stuff. I just had a couple of questions. You insist that Lyle and Irma were my biological parents. Ok, I can’t prove that otherwise, but what about Thomas? Why did you disown him too?”
“I was hurt. I wanted Daddy all to myself. It just propelled into hate and soon I didn’t like anyone or anything. Heck, I didn’t even really like Irma,” she confided.
“She was a hard one to like,” I agreed.
“Anyway, Thomas is dead, Daddy is gone and so is Irma.”
“What about Priscila? Did you know about her?
“Priscila? I don’t know anyone by that name.”
“She was known around here as Inez.”
“How’d it go?” Charles asked as he started up the car.
“Just as I expected. At least she didn’t throw anything at me,” I laughed.
“Did you find out anything?”
“Yes. She said she knew Inez.”
Jolting his head toward me, he said, “Oh, do tell me more.”
“She confirmed that she is still alive. She said for me to ask Francis the details. She didn’t want to get involved anymore. She said too many years had passed and that I should just go about my business.”
“We mustn’t give up. We’re close. I can feel it.” Charles repeated for the hundredth time.
“What’s on the agenda next?” I asked slightly disgusted.
“Well, I think we should meet with Louise again. After all, it was she who introduced Mary to your daddy. And now we have confirmation of Mary Inez from both Mary and Teresa. Besides, I’m curious what other curveballs she’ll throw at us.” He said amused.
We didn’t bother to call her, just showed up on the stoop. After all, we were family. Louise opened the door and invited us in.
“Mary called. I’m glad you went and talked to her. She’s a great lady. I know your daddy loved her to pieces, Pat. I’ve been told they were the cutest couple together despite the age difference. And, Thomas, well, he was the most adorable little guy. He turned all the girls’ heads here in town. He ended up marrying Elaine.”
“Elaine Panelli. A local girl. Her parents owned the meat market in town.”
“The meat market,” I echoed. “The one around the corner from the pool hall and apartment we lived in?”
“Yes, that one.”
“I just had a flashback memory of Daddy giving me a quarter and telling me to walk to the meat market and get three pork chops. The butcher would select three meaty ones, wrap it in paper and tie it with string.”
“They had the freshest meat,” Louise said. “Anyway, your daddy loved Mary with all his heart. What that bitch Irma did to him was evil. Plain evil.”
“Well, maybe so, but he did cheat on Mary,” I said. “You reap what you sow,” I added.
“Cheat on Mary? Did Mary tell you that?”
Looking puzzled, I nodded my head slowly. My brain quickly calculating if maybe I heard Mary wrong. But wait, I couldn’t have. Charles was with me. He heard the same thing.
“Yes. Mary told us that Daddy messed around with Irma and she held it over his head. He divorced Mary so that they could live in peace.”
“After all this time I thought Mary knew the truth. We never speak of it. In fact, you coming here to Iowa is making all this stuff resurface. Stuff we’d just as soon forget about. Lyle didn’t cheat on Mary. Lyle got drunk and Irma made him think something happened between them. That’s the only way she could ever get a man. She was mean, not the most attractive woman, so she stooped to a new low to get a man.”
“What? He didn’t cheat on Mary. Irma tricked him? That makes total sense to me. I knew he couldn’t have done that to Mary! Louise, you need to contact Mary and tell her the truth. You’ve not been a good friend letting her think the worst about Lyle all these years. Why are you so hell-bent on keeping these dirty little secrets alive, especially ones that aren’t even true?” I said in a snippy tone.
She didn’t have an answer for us about her inappropriate behavior. She was dirty herself, and she knew it. It would be up to her to mend the fences with Mary. I hoped she’d do it sooner rather than later, or I’d have to do it for her.
“I’ll give you by the end of the week to tell Mary the truth. I’ll be checking in on her before we leave,” I vowed. “Is Mary my mother?” I asked pointedly.
“No, dear. She’s not. We really don’t know who your mother was. Lyle always said you were discovered inside their house after returning from church.”
I wasn’t sure if I could believe anything Louise said anymore. She’d not been forthright on many things lately.
I hung my head. I was right back where I started. No more answers than I had a week ago, or a month ago.
“I can’t believe there isn’t one living person in this damn town who doesn’t know something about me. I didn’t just drop from the sky. I was someone’s child. I had a biological mother and father, and it doesn’t make sense after all these years to still keep it a secret.”
Charles could tell I was disgusted. He didn’t want me to take it out on Louise, even though he probably didn’t care that much if I did since she had been kind of sneaky. I knew he wanted to keep the communication open with her, though.
“Listen, Louise, Pat doesn’t mean any harm. She’s feeling a bit frustrated with the turn of events. She finds out that Lyle has been married more than twice, and she finds out she has not only a half-sister but a half-brother. You can imagine her disappointment in not finding out the main reason for our visit here in Iowa, the name of her biological mother or father.”
“I understand completely. I really do. All I can tell you is that Lyle announced to us that they found you in their home. I will say that the stories that have been handed down always cast suspicion on the story of you, but no one could ever prove it. Family stories that have been passed down always painted you as a lovable child.”
I pulled back my chair and stood up; giving a clue to Charles our visit with Louise was over. I wanted to get back to our house, and to Spunky.
“Thanks, Louise. I’m exhausted by today’s events. Heck, I’m exhausted period. We’ll talk again before we leave town.”
“Leave town? Are you…” She stammered.
“Yes, we came to get answers. We didn’t get what we came for. It’s time for us to head home,” I said pushing my chair back from the table.
In a last ditch effort to pull any more information from Louise, I blurted out, “Did you know Irma’s sister?”
Louise frowned. “Yes, Inez. Irma raised her. She went off to Texas to be with the Brown family. She came to visit once in a while. I don’t think they had the best relationship. They were several years apart. I think Irma saw her as more of a burden.”
“That’s ironic. She thought of me as a burden too,” I added.
“So not only did you know the Bowman’s, you knew the Brown’s as well,” I said giving her the look of disapproval.
“Guilty as charged,” she said slightly embarrassed she’d been caught in a lie once again.
“Remember what I told you. You make it right with Mary, or else.”
Louise walked us to the door. It was a quiet walk. No one had anything else to say. As we drove away, I saw her looking out the battered screen door. She looked as if her best friend was leaving, never to return.
I walked straight into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of wine. I didn’t usually drink before eating, but it was one of those days.
I opened up cabinets to find something to prepare for dinner. I really wasn’t in the mood. I decided on tuna. I gathered all the stuff needed to make a casserole. I guess I made a bit too much noise as Charles came into the kitchen and asked me if everything was ok.
“I heard cabinet doors slamming and pots clanging. Can I help?”
I broke down. Right there in the kitchen as I tried to make tuna casserole. It was so unfair.
“Listen, Pat, I told you this wouldn’t be easy. If you’re ready to go back home, let’s do it, no harm done. You found out a few interesting facts. I was hoping for more. What do you say, head home?” He said hugging me and wiping the tears away with his hand.
In between sobs, I managed to let him know I’d hang on for a little longer. We’d come so far. He was surprised, but being the loyal husband and my sidekick he wasn’t that surprised.
Daddy hadn’t cheated on Mary. All this time she thought he had. Why in the world did she think he had, and moreover, how were they able to convince her he had? More importantly, how in the heck did Irma convince Lyle that he had. That was the new puzzle for me to put together. I didn’t really care now about finding out the truth surrounding my birth, or who my mother was as much as I was about clearing my daddy’s name!
The following day, Charles and I met with Francis. We were convinced he’d give us the final information we needed to conclude our visit. He knew so much about my family and little oddities that only family or close friends would know. Charles arranged for the meeting. I was on pins and needles waiting for the time we’d meet. I had a bunch of questions for him.
“Thanks for meeting us today, Francis,” I said as I considered how I was going to approach the subject with him.
I witnessed him squirm a bit in his seat, and a bead of sweat appeared on his brow. He started rapping his fingers on the table. I was convinced he was nervous about something.
“Is everything alright?” I asked him, staring him down, hoping I would break him down as well.
He nodded. “I’m good,” he said.
Charles started the conversation. “There has been a chain of events since we last spoke. We met with Mary. She was very nice.”
“Yeah, she’s a sweetheart,” Francis agreed.
Charles told Francis that Mary thought Lyle cheated on her with Irma and then Irma pressured Lyle to ask Mary for a divorce. He did it to protect little Thomas, and of course, Mary too. Charles then told Francis that we met with Louise again, and she spilled the beans that Lyle hadn’t cheated on Mary, but that Irma had convinced him that he had been unfaithful.
“I don’t understand how Lyle could have been so naïve to think he’d been unfaithful to Mary with Irma,” Charles said.
“Well, you didn’t know Irma,” Francis replied. “She was something else. Her family was part of a gypsy clan that settled in the area. They came from Texas. She had all kinds of tricks up her sleeves. That’s how she survived on the streets.”
“Gypsy Clan!” I shouted.
“Yep, she found her way here as a teenager and brought her little sister with her. They ended up in the convent.”
“Are you confirming that Irma and Inez both were at the convent as youngsters?” I blurted out.
“Irma and Inez also known as Mary and Priscilla left Texas and came to Iowa because they had family here. Once they arrived here in Iowa, that family didn’t really want to help them, so Irma did what she could, and sought the help from the convent.”
“What about Irma’s sister? Do you have any information about her?” Charles asked.
“I know that she lived most of the time in Texas after she turned eighteen. She occasionally came here to visit. Their relationship was volatile, so she didn’t stay long. Irma always thought she was after Lyle.”
Charles and I looked at each other. “Do you think that Inez could be my mother?”
“Rumor had it she was in town for a few days prior to them disclosing to the police and press you were discovered in their house,” Francis revealed.
Charles and I exchanged looks of surprise, but also of relief. We may have hit on something, finally.
“Do you have the last known address for Inez in Texas?” I asked.
“She doesn’t live in Texas anymore. She moved back here not long ago,” Francis added.
With a surprised look on my face, I searched his face for more clues. “Do you have her address here,” I asked.
We drove in silence to the address that Francis gave us. It was only a few blocks away from Mary’s home. We walked up to the door and knocked a few times. A woman, dressed in casual clothes answered.
“How can I help you?
“My name is Patricia Bowman-Phillips. Does an Inez Brown live here?
“Inez does live here, but her last name is Ramos. Her maiden name is Brown, however,” she added.
The woman invited us in. “Please, sit down,” she said gesturing to the couch. “How do you know Inez?
“Well. That’s the million-dollar question. I could be her daughter,” I blurted out.
“Patsy?” She asked smiling
“Yes. How’d you know that?”
“I know all about you. Inez has dementia and will not remember you at all. But up until about three or four years ago, she told me the story of her and Lyle…and you, all the time. She loved you a lot, but she was young, and, unfortunately, didn’t make the right decisions regarding you.”
“What else do you know?” I asked.
“I know that Inez and Irma were sisters and that Irma and Lyle raised you. It was too hard on Inez to see you all the time so she moved back to Texas. She got married but never had any other children.”
“I see,” I whispered.
“Her husband was a wealthy oilman, and she has been set up for life in this charming home,” she said taking in the room’s grandeur.
Not knowing how to respond, I just answered, “That’s great for her.”
“Would you like to see her?”
I looked at Charles. He nodded for me to go.
“Charles, come with me,” I pleaded.
The woman led us to a room down a hallway. As we approached the room, I saw a frail, gray-haired woman sitting in a wheelchair gazing out a huge picture window.
“You have visitors, Inez,” the lady said.
She didn’t respond. I didn’t expect her to, and honestly, the caregiver didn’t either. It was just about pleasantries and respect.
The caregiver moved the wheelchair around so we could see her face. This was my mother. The mother I never knew. I choked back the tears. It was so surreal. After all these years, after all the questions, the memories, I had now come face to face with the woman I’d been searching my whole life for.
I stood frozen for a few seconds. What would I say to this woman I didn’t know. What was I expecting? She had a major illness that wouldn’t allow her to recall anything. What did I really think I was going to get from her? After a few more seconds, I began to speak.
“Inez, it’s me, Patsy. Patsy, your daughter.”
Nothing. No facial expression, no tears forming in her eyes, no twitching, nothing.
I tried one more time. I reached out and gently caressed her hand. Her hands were cool to the touch.
“Inez, my name is Patsy Bowman. Lyle was my father. I came to say hello. We finally meet,” I added, desperate for some sign of recognition.
A mumble came out of her mouth. No one could make out what she said, but definitely she was trying to say something.
“I think she understands you,” the caregiver said.
I tried one last time. I’d come all this way. I just had to know if she knew it was me, Patsy, her long last daughter standing before her. This was judgment day.
Pulling up a chair, I sat right in front of her. I took both her hands and gently massaged them.
“Inez, this is my husband, Charles. He’s the love of my life. We have three children. They’re your grandchildren. Charles Jr., Carole, and Peter.”
I paused for a moment before I tried communicating with her again.
“We live in California. We have a small business there, and we really like it,” I said looking up at the two people in the room with me for guidance.
“Well, I can see you are well taken care of. I don’t harbor any bad feelings toward you. You were young, and you did what you did. Daddy played as much of a part in it as you did. Irma was in the middle. She had to live with the fact that Daddy betrayed her, and I was a constant reminder that he hadn’t been faithful. I wish you well, Inez.”
I got up and gently touched her shoulder. “God Bless you, Inez,” I said.
I turned around to face Inez. She’d said my name. “Yes, it’s me. Patsy,” I said with such force and desperation.
Not another word came out of her mouth. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
“She nods off a lot during the day,” the caregiver said.
Feeling disappointed, but realizing there was nothing more to gain from our visit, I said, “Well, we should be going. Thanks so much for letting us see her.”
“It was my pleasure. I’m so glad you got to see her at least. I know she didn’t make all the right decisions as a young woman, but she tried to make up for it. She was very active in donating to the orphanages, and she sponsored a few foster children as well. She always thought of you, but she also thought it best not to interfere with your life. It may not have been the right decision, but it was hers nevertheless.”