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Bastard Child Un-witnessed (PART II)

1974

“DON’T EVER CALL me again!” my grandmother warned harshly, as she hung up the phone. This abrupt rebuff, actually just an answer to my greeting of ‘hello’, left me bewildered. She and I had been having long distant phone conversations for at least fifteen years. Sure, the conversations were brief, stiff and unwelcomed on her part, but we had a bargain. Many years ago, we made a deal; if she would talk with me occasionally by phone, then I would not pursue the search for my father. I had kept my end of the bargain so what in the world was the matter with her? I immediately called her back.

“Althea, what do you mean, what happened?” This time she was angrier, “For God sakes, use your head!” She slammed down the phone again.

Recently divorced, living alone with three small children, no family near to help, little money, a minimum wage job, ulcers and way too much booze made her rejection come at the worst possible time. Panic set in. I made myself another  stiff drink, took a few sips of the liquid courage, and called her back for a third time. Pleading, I said, “Althea, you need to tell me what you’re talking about.”

Her reply this time was, “After all of these years wasting my time talking to you, I’ve spoken to my son. He assured me that you’re positively not his child. Now leave me alone and don’t ever call this number again!”

The silence on the phone line was deafening—a different kind of silence than just a broken phone connection. This kind of silence was intended to eradicate all of the connecting bits and pieces that held people tenuously together. Her intention was to erase our pasts and any thoughts that I may be entertaining about meeting my father, her son. This sudden realization was overwhelming. I could hardly breathe. Oh God, I thought, not another loss!

I said defiantly, “Ok then, but I will move forward with meeting my father.”

She said, “You gave your word that you’d never contact him.”

“That was before you negated our contract!” Angry and heartbroken I slammed down the phone and made another drink.

Even though her voice was cold and robotic all these years during our phone calls, she had been a connection to something positive about my beginnings. Sometimes I felt like a wild bird that migrates to some unfamiliar place, but a force within them tells them it’s the right thing to do—a needed thing to do for survival.

These prevailing responses from family members, harboring shameful secrets about illegitimacy, are well known to the children who bare the shame and name of the bastard child. During an interview by journalist George Barris, one of Marilyn’s Monroe’s first statements to him was, “Yes, it’s true I was born an illegitimate child.” That may seem like an odd way for Marilyn to have begun an interview, but in those days this was a grave label for any child to have carried throughout their life. I would have handled the hard questions just the way she did, get them out of the way immediately. After all, didn’t the bible say, “… even to the tenth generation…? So far, this story, my story, has passed these shame filled secrets onto the fourth generation. To be continued



 

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Comments

  1. Such a profound post but so very sad for that “girl” so many years ago. I have told you before how in awe I am with your tenacity, courage and strength to have come out of that situation and become the strong, caring, forgiving woman you are today!!

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Bastard Child Un-witnessed
Bastard Child Un-witnessed (part III)