Authors: Debbie White
We packed up all our belongings. I’d done a thorough cleaning of the apartment, making sure that we’d get our deposit back. Charles packed all the suitcases in the carrier attached to the roof of our car. A couple of large plastic containers which held household items filled the back cargo area of our vehicle. I made a nice bed for Spunky so he’d be comfortable as we made the long trek back to California.
“Everything is all packed. Let’s do one last walk-through of the house to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind,” I said, delaying our departure some.
Charles was on to me. He knew me well. I had a hard time with departures.
After I had been convinced the house was clear of all our belongings, we both walked out the door, locking it behind us.
We drove for a few minutes, stopping in front of the real estate office that leased us the house.
“I’ll be right back,” Charles announced.
Spunky and I sat in the car listening to the radio, waiting for Charles. My mind was blank. I was exhausted beyond anything I’d ever felt before. I was ready to go home and see the family and neighbors, but not before some more sightseeing across the country. My bed would have to wait for me a bit longer.
Charles jumped in the front seat, started the car and asked, “Ok, co-pilot?” Charles asked in his best pilot voice.
“I’m ready,” I replied.
We drove for several hours until we made our first stop in Abilene, Kansas. Our tourist stop would be the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. We had to consider Spunky, so we took turns visiting. It wasn’t how we’d have preferred seeing it, but we didn’t want to leave the dog unattended in the car.
After we each had made the rounds, we compared notes. It was interesting to hear what stood out for each of us.
Charles loved all the exhibits regarding World War II. I enjoyed visiting the portions on Mamie Eisenhower and Dwight’s boyhood home.
After we had toured the sites, we found a Dairy Queen for dinner. We’d eat in our room and get ready for our next day of traveling.
Day two led us to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Tourist destination was the St Joseph’s “Old Cathedral”. I was interested in seeing it because it was also involved in adoptions. I would later recall hearing that it had been damaged in the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995. That saddened me. It was a beautiful church.
Day three was going to be an emotional one. We were going to try and locate Teresa’s son. We found out he was living in Corpus Christi, Texas. It was a little out of our way, but at least we’d get to see that part of the coast. Corpus Christi was a vacation destination for many families because of their beaches.
We found a place to stay for the night, and then Charles looked up the address for his law firm. We thought it might be simpler to make an unannounced visit. It always scared me to do these, but Charles always said it was the best way.
The office was a single story wood framed building. The wood was battered, no doubt from the severe weather Corpus Christie endured each year during hurricane season.
We entered the building and saw a small counter with a woman sitting behind it was to our immediate right.
“Can I help you?” The woman politely asked.
“Yes, you can. We’d like to see James Spencer.”
Looking rather surprised by Charles’s stance she replied, “Do you have an appointment?”
Realizing that’s the standard question, Charles was ready. “No, we don’t. However, if you tell him Charles and Pat Phillips are here, he may see us.” Spunky let out a little bark letting the lady know he was there too. She peered over her desk to see him.
“He’s a good dog. He won’t cause any trouble. I didn’t want to leave him in the car,” I said.
The young woman pushed her chair out from behind the desk and walked down a hallway to another room. We could hear low rumblings. Soon we could hear more than one set of shoes clomping down the wood floor hallway.
The woman took her place at her desk, and at the same time, a side door opened. There standing in the door was James.
“Please, follow me,” he said as he gestured for us to come.
I already knew I’d let Charles do most of the talking. We already found out everything about the adoption, and the cover-up. We just wanted to introduce ourselves.
“Thank you for meeting with us without an appointment,” Charles said.
With his hands clasped, he nodded as he sat back in his chair looking at the both of us. “What’s this visit about?” James asked.
“We’ve visited your mother at the convalescent home. She wasn’t very receptive to us at first, but Pat made a second visit. I think she has a better understanding regarding the reason for our visit to Iowa.”
“I see,” James said. “Well, I guess that makes us relatives.”
I nodded. It did, but it didn’t really change anything. “We live in California, have three amazing children, and a wonderful life there,” I told him.
“That’s good, Pat. I’m happy to hear that. I won’t pretend to know how it feels, or be able to offer you any advice. I’m glad you found out the truth, though,” he said.
“Well if you’re ever out to California, please look us up. Just because your mother and I didn’t have the best relationship doesn’t mean we can’t. I promise I will never turn you away from your mom. She loves you, and I’m sure you love her. If you want a relationship with me, then that would be fine too.”
“Thanks for the offer. I’ll definitely consider that.”
He walked out from his desk and extends his hand to Charles. He then came over to me and gave me a gentle hug. He reached down and gave Spunky a pat on the head. We’d said what we came to say. Now we could continue on home.
Charles and I didn’t say too much about our visit with James. We instead went down to the beach and walked barefoot along the sand, and let Spunky enjoy some freedom. He’d been so good about being in the car for hours on end. We ended our visit to the beach with fried clams and fries from a nearby fish shack.
A full stomach, a long warm shower, and we were ready for a rest. Our next stop would be Albuquerque. We were going to visit an Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. I don’t think Charles was as excited about it as I was.
We had a lot of practice with taking turns being with Spunky. The good thing about this stop was the large open spaces surrounding the center. We could walk Spunky and see the area at the same time.
“Take your time and look in the gift store. Spunky and I’ll be out here walking,” he said as he took the leash from me.
I enjoyed looking at all the jewelry, pottery and other art forms the Pueblos were famous for. Charles seemed to do his round quickly. Of all the stops we’d made, he seemed least interested in this one.
We picked up our dinner, a pepperoni pizza from a local restaurant and headed to our hotel.
Red Rock State Park was one of the most beautiful places we’d visited. It was right up there with the Grand Canyon. Located in Sedona, Arizona, Red Rock included a quarter mile stretch of the Oak Creek, which runs upstream through the famous Oak Creek Canyon. This creek supports a lot of rare fish and several species of frogs. We also learned that it was a very popular place for weddings.
It would take all day to see all of the interpretive exhibits, but I did get a peek in the gift store. The pictures we took would serve as our memory of this fascinating wonder for years to come.
After about five long days on the road, we pulled up to our driveway. It was so good to be home. I rushed through the front door where Peter and Charlie were waiting for us.
After hugging and kissing them both a multitude of times, I asked them where the rest of the crowd was.
“They’ll be calling you over the next few days. They wanted to give you time to settle back into your routine,” Charlie said smiling.
Charles brought in all the suitcases and greeted the kids as he struggled with the luggage.
“A little help here, please,” he said irritated.
“I’m sorry, dear. I was so happy to see the kids,” I said taking one of the bags from him.
“Well, Mom and Dad, you must be tired. We can catch up tomorrow. We just wanted to be here to say welcome back!”
“We love you guys,” I yelled as they walked out the door.
“We have the best kids,” I said to Charles.
He nodded. “When are you going to tell them?” He asked.
“I’m going to invite them all over for dinner. We’ll tell them together,” I said in between yawns.
We both slept like babies, and even Spunky was sawing logs in his cushy bed. It was great to be home.
Over the course of the next few days, Charles and I got back into our routine. We ate a light breakfast, went for a long walk – taking Spunky with us. We’d come back to the house and do a few chores, and then have lunch. Charles still did some investigating part time. But he even had to admit, he needed some time off after our trip to Iowa.
I called each of the kids and invited them and their families to dinner. We made the date for a week from Sunday. The only one that would be missing from the group was Carole and her family.
Charles and I planned the menu. We both enjoyed cooking as much as we liked to eat. We decided on grilled steaks, baked potatoes, corn on the cob, and for dessert, strawberry shortcake. It was near the end of summer, and we wanted to get in one last barbecue before summer was over – although summer was almost year round in California.
The kids arrived on time and we sat outside talking, and sipping wine. It was so good to see Charles and his sons laughing and talking sports. I missed my family so much while we were away.
Peter tossed a Frisbee out for Spunky to fetch. Charles grilled the steaks to perfection. We sat around the patio table eating and enjoying one another’s company.
“Mom, are you going to tell us what you found out in Iowa?” Peter asked.
I could see all the kids looking at me. Waiting for me to come clean.
“Yes, I was just waiting for the right time.”
I told them everything. I told them how we met Francis, and Louise, and Mary. I told the kids how Francis had so much information and Louise was a distant relative and Mary… I told the kids poor Mary’s story too.
Each member gave me their take on the situation. They used words like hateful, manipulative, along with some not so nice adjectives to describe Irma. I waited for them to get it out of their system before I continued. I couldn’t delay any longer. The time for the truth was now.
I cleared my throat and I looked to Charles. He nodded at me assuring me he had my back.
I pulled out the picture I had of a teenager with a young child. It was the one from the convent. I told the children that the teen was Irma and the little girl was her sister, Inez. I could see the shocked look on their faces. A new name added to the mix.
“Inez?” Peter answered.
“Yes, Inez. You see, Inez is my mother.”
All at once you could hear the surprised sounds coming from each of their mouths.
“Not only did I find out who my biological mother was, but I also found out who my real dad was too. Lyle was married to his first wife and they had Teresa. The marriage ended in divorce and that’s when he fell in love with Mary and had my half-brother, Thomas. During a visit to a bar one night, Lyle ran into both Irma and her sister Inez. Inez apparently had been eyeing Daddy, and the two of them came up with getting him drunk. Dad did love his whiskey. Anyway, he got drunk and passed out. Irma came up with the story that he had messed around with her and that is what caused the breakup of Mary’s and Lyle’s marriage. ”I took a drink of my wine. My throat was getting dry, and I could see all eyes on me, wanting me to finish the story.
“So Irma goes in for the kill and one thing led to another and Irma and Lyle are married. Daddy is never happy with her, and soon he starts to do what he’d been accused of all along. He cheats on his wife. He ends up getting Inez pregnant. Irma is angry, and so they come up with the harebrained idea of someone leaving me on the bed in their house.”
“Oh, Mom, that’s crazy! I mean what the heck were those people drinking?” Charles Jr. asked.
“It was the Depression. People did all kinds of crazy things. I’m just glad to find out that Lyle was, in fact, my real dad. That was so important to me. I loved him, and I could feel his love to the very end.”
“What about Inez? Is she still alive?” Charles Jr asked.
I gathered my strength for the last part of the story.
“Yes. She’s seventy- five years old and has dementia. She didn’t know who I was, but a nurse who had worked there for several years knew about me and filled Dad and me in on all the details. You see, my dad really cared about Inez. The problem was she was young and didn’t really want to settle down. She lived in Texas but would come to Iowa every now and then, and basically stir up trouble. She and Irma did not have the best of relationships. Irma saw her as a burden.”