Sunday, April 3, 2011
MY MEMOIR AND THE STORY BEHIND IT
This past Thursday I drove up to my mother’s house in South Bend to confront her with the truth about my father. My wife Mary came with me.
All the way up, I kept trying to keep my blood pressure down, hold my anger in check. I wanted to keep myself under control and I knew it would be difficult.
We knocked on her door and she came to it, surprise on her face. Mary didn’t want to be in the room with us as she felt my mother would feel “ganged up on.” Mary is the fairest, most even-minded person in the world. She’s my rock.
Mary went into the living room where she couldn’t hear us on the pretext that she was going to use the bathroom.
I sat down across from my mother (it rankles me to call her that), and began. “Mom,” I said. “I have something for you.” I handed her a copy of the DNA report. She wanted to know what DNA was. If you think that’s odd, don’t. She really didn’t know. She’s never had a TV or a radio and only occasionally reads a newspaper. Those represent elements of the “sinful world” that she’s spent a lifetime avoiding as well as keeping them from her children as well. Think Amish expoentialed. I know that’s not a word, but you know what I mean.
“The important part is here.” I pointed to the statement in the middle. It read: Statement of Results: Based on the statistical analysis of the above data, it is 13.54 times more likely (or a 93.12349890769% chance) that Tested Sibling 1 (Les) and Tested Sibling 2 (Ann) are half biological siblings versus being full biological siblings. These results do not supersede testing involving additional participants related to Tested Sibling 1 (Les) and/or Tested Sibling 2 (Ann). Client has indicated that a common biological mother is shared between the participants listed as siblings on this report. Results are implicitly based upon this assumption. If the assumption of a common biological parent is incorrect, it is possible the reported results are inaccurate.
It was written in small print and she said she couldn’t read it. I started to grab it to read it to her and instead I did what I didn’t want to do. I lost it. “It says Edgy (what she always called him) wasn’t my father.” I stood up and I was beyond angry. I was in a murderous mood. “I want to know who my real father is.” Her eyes widened and she looked like a trapped animal. “He was your real—“ I could literally see her mind working frantically to come up with a good story. “Stop it!” I said. “The DNA report says he wasn’t. DNA doesn’t lie. He wasn’t my father. All I want from you is the name of my real father.”
Her response was, “I’ve been forgiven for that.”
“Forgiven?” I said. “By whom?”
“By God,” she said. “He forgave me a long time ago. I’m absolved of that sin. Yes, it was someone else, but I confessed to God and He forgave me.”
“I want to know how that works,” I said. “Up until this minute, you were still lying to me about who my father was.”
Indeed, two days earlier, she had phoned me and asked if I’d seen the news about the child who fell down a well in Midland, Texas. I hadn’t, and she told me why she was asking. She said Midland was where I was born and where my “dad” and her were married, and it had brought up memories and she just wanted me to know she was thinking about me being born.
Two days before! Still embellishing the lie she had promulgated all of my life.
I went on. “So, how does that work, that forgiveness thing? Since you’ve maintained that lie to me all of my life up to this moment, does that mean that every single night you bring this sin to God and he forgives you each day? Is your idea of God and forgiveness that there’s no atonement involved? That He gave you a blanket pardon that allows you to go on lying to me the rest of my life? That’s how that works?”
She struggled to talk but just had no answer for that.
I won’t give you a play-by-play of our entire conversation. I kept demanding to know the name of my real father and all she could come up with was that she’d tried to forget his name ever since then and all she could remember was his first name—Gail. Or, Gayle or Gale—I don’t know. She didn’t spell it.
I told her she was a liar. Nobody forgets something like that. She just didn’t want me to try to find him if he was still alive or any surviving relatives of his because then the truth would come out. I was screaming at her at this point—I completely lost it. I told her she was dead to me, that she was only a mother because of the accident of birth and that she was never to come to our house or call me or be in my life in any way from then on. That all I wanted from her was the name of my father. She kept saying she didn’t know and everyone was dead now and she had no way of finding out. I wouldn’t buy it. I don’t care how you find out, I said; just do it. When you do, write me and tell me who he was. Don’t call. I never want to hear your voice again. You’re dead to me.
At this point, I was screaming and Mary came in and told me to calm down. By now, my mother had gained enough time to begin fabricating a story, which she proceeded to lay on me. She said my real father had “forced himself on her.” Not raped, but forced himself on her. Later, Mary said she noted the odd way she’d phrased it. She then went on to say something equally odd. That she didn’t want to marry “a guy like that” when she found out she was pregnant (implying she’d had a choice—that he’d asked her or indicated he would). That she met Edgy and he was “everything she’d ever wanted in a man” and she decided she wanted to marry him.
She said she lied to Edgy that it was his child so that he would marry her, and that years later, she confessed to him and he forgave her also. Which I knew was an outright lie from what my Aunt Lila had told me just the night before. Ann had told me Aunt Lila might know something as she was a teenager when Edgy married my mother. Lila did indeed know something. She said she remembered it as clear as yesterday. It seems Edgy had broken his leg and the Army Air Corps had sent him home (to South Bend) to recuperate. He’d been home several months when my mother contacted him and told him she was pregnant and that she wanted to get married. Aunt Lila said she was standing in the kitchen when he got the news and his dad was there and Edgy said to him that it wasn’t possible that he was the father—the time frame didn’t work at all. A month or so later, he went back down to his post in Texas, they got married, and he got shipped off to England with the 8th Air Force and then I was born a few months later.
Also, when she had me, Edgy had wanted to name me “George” (yuch!) if I was a boy, but instead, she named me after him. Leslie Harold Edgerton, Jr. He was in England and didn’t know what she’d done until after he was notified by the War Department. Over the years, I heard snippets of stories about how mad it made him, but the story was that it was because he wasn’t crazy about his name either and didn’t want to wish it on someone else. I had no idea that it was really because he knew full well that I wasn’t his child. That galls me as much as anything about this whole deal does. I never liked my name before this week, and now I loathe it. I want so much to change it but that’s almost impossible for all the complexities that would entail. Also, I’d named my youngest daughter after him with her middle name (Sienna Leslie) and my son’s middle name (Michael Bud). Edgy was always known as Bud by everyone (except my mother who called him Edgy), and I was always Butch to family. Right from the first she was building her house of cards about my parentage. She also kept alive the story that I was born “premature” and that I was born without fingernails and toenails because I was a preemie. I imagine to fit the date on my birth certificate and their marriage date. I simply bought into all this and never questioned it until one day in our salon a nurse client was talking about premature babies and I spoke up about my toenail story and she laughed and said that wouldn’t have anything to do with being premature and I got an inkling that was a lie. It was just her adding another card to her house of cards.
I told her I was telling everyone in our family what she had done, and that was the only time she showed any emotion. (She never cried or even came close to crying the entire time. It was clear that she was occupied solely with trying to fabricate a story that would absolve her.) She got a look of shock at this and asked if I’d told my sister Kathy. Kathy was the one sibling who had bought into her version of God and married a guy like Mom and raised all of her kids the way Mom had raised us. They never went to public school, dressed like the Amish, and I think I described them perfectly when I told Mom Kathy had created another “freak show” with her family just like Mom had with us. I told her I was sending Kathy an email as soon as I got home. That was the only time she got even a little emotional.
On the way home, I got a call from her and didn’t answer it and she left a message. I wouldn’t listen to it, but Mary did and said she’d said she was sorry. That she’d meant to tell me but just didn’t. Now, she’d embellished her story to that she was “she was powerless and was forced to have sex” with this guy. And, in the next breath, reiterated that she decided she didn’t want to marry this guy (again, indicating she had the option, which doesn’t sound like rape or forced sex to me), and said again, that Edgy was “the perfect man in her eyes.” Mary observed that she really didn’t care about my feelings at all. She said what I was feeling—that this was my real father she was making these claims about and that she didn’t care at all how that might make me feel. She also said that she “thought we’d been getting along great lately” and didn’t understand why I’d blown up.
The next day, she phoned again and again I wouldn’t answer and she left another message. This time, she upgraded her story and now she’d been “raped.” Again, what a mother!
And, Mary revealed to me that she’d called her and talked to her the day before. Mary said that during that conversation it suddenly became clear to her that she was a cold, calculating person and she suddenly realized she was lying. It was how she was talking and what she was saying. Mary had called her from work and she just said she told her she had to go back to work and that she had to hang up.
Later that night, Mom called again and left a message that “(my brother) John had come up to her house and took her out to get a new battery” for her car and that she loved me. This is what she has always done—made sure everyone knew she was in control and that she’d managed to get to John and he was on her side and buying her story.
And then, my sister Ann emailed me and said that Kathy and John were giving her grief over participating in the DNA test with me! I haven’t heard from Ann since then. I emailed Ann a long message, telling her how much I appreciated her courage in helping me find out if Edgy was my real dad or not, and that I knew Kathy and John were giving her all kinds of hell, and that I was so sorry… and haven’t heard back from her yet. I will never blame Ann if she’s given in to them—she was the only one who stood beside me and I know how they can be. It looks as though not only do I not have the dad I thought I did, my mother is evil and has thrown me completely under the bus to save face with the rest of my siblings and it looks fairly clear that they have bought into whatever she laid on them. It appears as though the fact that she’s lied to me all her life and is still lying doesn’t matter. After all, I’m just a half-brother…
But, what kind of mother does this to her child? I just can’t seem to get my brain or my feelings around this.
In a way, I hope there is a God and that Judgment Day is exactly how she portrayed it to us. At this point, I want her to experience those flames. Just not in a forgiving mood, I guess.
I only want to know who my real father is. I want to know who I look like. Whose genes I inherited. It’s funny. My I.Q. (153) is noticeably higher than anyone else in my “family.” And, my son and daughters also have extremely high I.Q.’s (all over 140). The highest anyone else in the Edgerton family has is 115. That should have told me something, I guess… Maybe what hurts the most is that I’ve been duped by someone dumber than a bag of hammers…
Sorry for the soap opera, folks. I’m trying to view all of this as I have most things in my life. As material. We writers are always looking for material. I probably shouldn’t have posted all this stuff, and in the past, whenever I’ve had bad things happen, I’ve just played it close to the vest. This time I just felt different. I just want to expose in public the evil I see as my mother.
If she had been a “normal” person and the reason she’d lied to me was to save my feelings, I would have forgiven her in a heartbeat. But, she was never that person. She made our childhood a living hell with her “God.” A God who wouldn’t tolerate falsehoods or any other sins.
We weren’t allowed to celebrate Christmas or Halloween or Easter. Christmas was a “pagan holiday” created by the evil Catholics. Halloween was decidedly a holiday for Satan. Each year after Christmas, I’d have to invent stories about the gifts I never got when I went back to school, so I wouldn’t be seen as odd. Ann told me the other day about a similar experience she’d had. One Christmas, her elementary class had planned to have everyone bring their favorite Christmas present in for show-and-tell, and she took a doll our grandmother had sent her a year before. The hair was all matted and it was missing an arm, and when she presented it to her class, they all hooted at the “gift” and she fled the room in tears. Normal stuff at our house…
We had to read the Bible every single day of our lives, and each night listen to taped broadcasts of her cult leader, Pastor Leroy Shelton, of Algiers, Louisiana who preached the depravity of man and hellfire for everyone save the very few “chosen.” The girls had to wear “modest clothing.” No card playing, TV, popular music (only hymns and only approved hymns), no makeup, no radio, no gambling, no alcoholic beverages, no cursing (and “darn” was a curse as it was obviously a substitute for “damn” which was considered a horrible word), no dancing, no dating until 18 and no car dates, no reading of anything but the Bible and a few approved religious texts by Spurgeon and Milton and the like. I had to sneak everything I read. I can’t begin to list the complete list of things that weren’t allowed, but basically anything that was fun was verboten.
I was not only never given an allowance or even a single dollar in my entire life by my parents, but when I worked, I had to tithe 10% of my check each week and it was 10% of the gross, not the net. I also had to pay room and board. When I was a junior in high school, I worked five weeknights and all day on Saturday at a Kroger’s and made $40.00 a week. I had to give Edgy $20.00 of that for room and board. Along with the tithe which went to Mom and her church in Algiers. When I protested, he said to go out and price what an apartment and food would cost me and I’d see this was a pretty good deal. Besides, that I had to buy all of my clothes… and they picked them out. I had to pay for my own haircuts and they not only told me how they wanted it cut, my mother would drive me to the barbershop, sit there and tell the barber how to cut it. When I was 18. The first time I got a haircut that I actually wanted in my life was when I got out of the Navy when I was 22. When I wanted a car, I had to pay for the car, the insurance, the gas and everything… and Edgy wouldn’t let me pick out the car I wanted as I wouldn’t buy a “safe” car, so he picked it out. A gray, 4-door Plymouth sedan. At that time, no kid had a four-door car—it was the uncoolest thing a teenager could have. Gray wasn’t the color I would have chosen either… Until I graduated from high school and joined the Navy, my curfew time at night was 11:00 pm. I could go on and on, but just wanted to give a brief snapshot of the “God-culture” that I was raised with. That’s why my mother wasn’t a “normal” mom just sparing her child the knowledge that his father was someone else, and why I’ll never forgive her. To lie was the biggest sin of all. Somehow, she’s justified what she’s done as being “forgiven her” by that God.
And, as it appears, convinced my siblings that she’s been unjustly accused. She grew up in my grandmother’s restaurant in Freeport and did all the jobs there, which explains a lot, I think. They say the proper training to become an actress is to learn to be a waitress… Looks like that may be accurate… She’s Oscar-worthy…
Thanks everyone for your wonderful suggestions on how to rewrite my memoir. I can’t tell you how much your views have helped.
P.S. I promise not to post any more of these kinds of posts! It's been cathartic to make this public, and for that I appreciate your forbearance. Back to writing stuff!