Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday, according to her.
She claimed she was born in 1931.
She was born in 1935.
But I didn’t find out about that until May 11, 2019.
I have copies of my dad’s high school yearbooks. His picture is in them. My mom’s is not. Now I know why.
However, at classmates.com, one can find yearbooks for just about any school in the United States for any year. Presuming that my mom was born in 1935, I went searching for yearbooks for Kingsville, Texas, for 1950-1953, and found one with Dawna’s picture in it (right).
My mom—I’m going to call her Dawna from here on out that since that is her name, and mom just doesn’t sound right since I never had any mom relationship with her—died in 2012. It was all those death notices, burial notices, and memorial notices that I found online while doing genealogical research that got me to digging deeper. I wasn’t necessarily interested in the genealogy per sé; I was more interested in any medical information I could find concerning both sides of the family.
I have been estranged from both sides of my family since 1993-1994 so I could not answer the doctors’ questions about family medical history.
Dawna’s side of the family are Mormons ,and dad’s side are Catholics, so when I came out as gay to everyone during those two years, well, they came down on me hard, sending me some of the most despicable stuff I ever had read.
Finally, after reading Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life, I quietly said goodbye to everyone and simply ceased communications with them. It was this sentence that convinced me of the way to move forward in my life:
You did not have a choice into which family you were born,
but you have a choice now as to who is in your family.
When I was in Ogden, Utah on May 11, I looked up my maternal grandfather since I knew he lived in the area. My favorite aunt & uncle (dad’s side, but Southern Baptists in 1993) came down on me the hardest.
My maternal grandfather—we’ll call him Dr. Brinley since that’s his name—was number two. Dr. Brinley is retired from Brigham Young University where he taught marriage courses, conducted marriage seminars, was a marriage counselor, and authored many books on marriage. Do a Google Images search on Dr. Douglas E. Brinley…. Yep, that’s my maternal grandfather and all his books on heterosexual marriage and families. Many of his books still are for sale at amazon.com.
While I was visiting with Dr. Brinley, he told me that Dawna was pregnant with my oldest brother when she & dad got married on January 27, 1951. (Interestingly, my wise old grandmother, dad’s mom, was born on January 26.) When they found out that Dawna was pregnant, they ran off to Mexico to get married. Back in the 1950s, though, Mexican marriage certificates were not recognized in Texas. With that discovery, they ran off to Comanche, Oklahoma, just across the Texas/Oklahoma border, and got married again. I’m thinking, if you’re going to get married, just get married already. Sheesh. Of course, times were a wee bit different then.
I had noticed in all the genealogy records that Dawna’s birth date was always shown as “about 1935.” Well, in my mind, “about 1935” for online records could, of course, be 1931. In several instances, I attempted to add the correct information for Dawna being born on September 30, 1931. That specific edit never stuck, although other edits I made did. In some instances, people unknown to me changed my edit back to “about 1935.” I found that interesting but not worth exploring further.
With my visit to Dr. Brinley, though, suddenly it made perfect sense why Dawna would lie (for 61 years) about her birth date and why it was always shown in the records as “about 1935.” Everyone knew exactly when she was born, but if we do the math, we find that my dad, born on January 15, 1930, was 21 years old. Dawna, born on September 30, 1935, was 15¼ years old. In other words, dad was a statutory rapist.
When I came home from Utah, my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to do the ancestry.com DNA test. The results showed that I definitely was Dawna’s child, but who my dad was is not quite definitive. I’m definitely related to my living brother, but excepting him, it seems that I’m more closely related to my oldest uncle—I’ll call him Charles; you know why—on my dad’s side. Ancestry hints that one of his children likely is my sister. His other children are hinted at first cousins or siblings.
I know that DNA inheritance is only partially inherited and can even skip complete generations, but still….
If we do the mathematics for human pregnancies, I was born on March 11, 1955. Nine months previous to that would seem to indicate that I probably was a June 14 Flag Day conception. That would be super since my dad was in the Air Force! Patriotism! Gotta love it! However, dad was stationed in Korea at the time, as well as six months previous to my conception and six months after. Maybe patriotism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be….
If we take this a little further, we find that Dawna was living with my dad’s parents at the time. Guess who else was living with my dad’s parents? Yep. My dad’s three younger brothers, all still in K-12 school. I’m thinking that Dawna got lonely and Charles comforted her, so to speak.
My (supposed) dad (right) committed suicide on January 15, 1961. He was working for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Palestine, Texas. They found his body in a box car on January 18. Interestingly, January 15, is my second oldest brother’s birthday. So here’s how I am picturing this going down:
We’re having a birthday party for my brother. Dawna and dad get into a fight (Dawna already was a great drinker at that time, according to hearsay), and Dawna blurts out:
Ha! Russel’s not even your son! He is Charles’s.
I think hearing from your wife that she and your younger brother were sexually intimate, that said sexual intimacy resulted in a child, and then doing the math to confirm that Russel could not possibly be your child, could be quite disturbing. How would one live with that? Obviously, my dad decided that he couldn’t.
DNA evidence, as well as a lot of circumstantial evidence, seems to indicate that Charles is my dad. The picture at right is of my supposed dad’s three brothers; Charles is at the left.
Charles is the only uncle on my dad’s side who still is alive.
I’m thinking about sending him a Father’s Day card in 2020.
If I do, should I sign it?
“Love, Your Son, Russel.”
Maybe I’ll leave out “Love,”….
Meanwhile, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!