Friday, June 7, 2013

The Baby in the Bar Story, Or Why My Cousin Shouldn't Have Married

I used to spend a lot of time with my cousin Dean. My grandmother was her aunt, but they were roughly the same age. Dean used to tell me all kinds of things, grown up things, interesting history, and family secrets. I was 15 the first time I went to stay with her for a long summer weekend, and that whole time she talked to me like I was an adult. Because when Dean was 15, she was grown. Mama Kate married at 15 and had my father at 16. There was no question of maturity, she just talked to me like I was her peer and I loved her for it.

Dean told me about my grandparents' marriage. She told me about her failed marriages, being a single mother, working in the mill, and all the boyfriends she'd had. Even today, even though she died in 1996, the old folks still talk about how beautiful Dean was. She was very savvy. She struggled with the household budget. Rather than worry about how to pay the bills, she handed everything over to her pre-teen son. She said she gave him her pay check and let him figure out what bills to pay. Whatever was left he gave back to her. Sometimes he only gave her two dollars and that was all she had for the week. But the bills got paid and Dale learned to manage money. He has always been very financially secure, even in the worst economies.

When I was 17, I spent a week with Dean. We sat up late every night talking. We talked about everything- food, television, good men, Singer sewing machines, church, schools, stupid men, the 'good ol' days', and somewhere between playing cards and the pain of arthritis, Dean began telling me family secrets. And here is where I come to the difficult part of my story. I may have information that my cousin wants. But, and this terrifies me, I know things I'd rather not repeat. I know how to drive my cousin Kathy into years of therapy. I know how to make my father weep. I know how to make John Allen hot under the collar real quick. Even the gentle and kind Ann may stop speaking to me if she knew what all I'm sitting on. And I am reluctant to reveal my information because I don't want anyone, not nobody, to ask what else Dean told me. And if all that isn't enough, I may be remembering some of it wrong so some things may not be as bad as I think. Or they could be worse.

I'm safe as long as I keep my mouth shut. I've been doing that pretty well. My father started telling me the baby in the bar story and was very surprised when I interrupted him to say I already knew. I'm hoping the shock of me knowing was enough to keep his mind from turning to other dim corners. Here it goes, and I'd like to know what some of you do if you were in my place.

My cousin Eddie married a woman named Barbra. She is adopted. About four years ago, Eddie started going to the library with my father because Dad is a genealogist. Eddie became interested in the family tree. Dad is a very methodical researcher. He finds even the smallest bit of information. As a bonus, because Dad and Eddie are cousins, Dad has lots of stories to tell. He was best friends with Eddie's uncle. Dad's real life colors in what would be just boring dates. It didn't take long for Eddie to find the information he was looking for. Encouraged, he asked Dad if he could find Barbra's birth parents. Well, Dad asked, what do you know?

Barbra's birth parents met the adoptive parents in a bar in Detroit. They gave their baby away. The adoptive parents will not say anything. The end.

Now here is where things get sticky. Dean told me Eddie and Barbra are cousins.

At 17, this was an interesting story, an unbelievable story, a soap opera in real life. From what Dean told me, it wasn't planned. The parties simply bumped into each other near a bar, went in, one couple complained about the difficulty of taking care of a child and the other couple wished they had a child, you go, take her.

Barbra wasn't officially adopted. Her parents just raised her. We don't know if her name actually is Barbra or if that is what they decided to call her. We don't know if she celebrates her birthday or the day she was 'adopted.' We don't know if she was born in Detroit. We don't know how Dean would know this story. She was working in Detroit at the time, but was she in the bar or did she know the parents? Dad mentioned his cousin Doyle went to Detroit and married Patricia. But it didn't last so she moved back to Detroit. And after Dad mentioned Patricia, I remembered Dean mentioned the same name. But was she telling me her low opinion of Doyle's wife or is Patricia the relative of Barbra's birth mother? Are Eddie and Barbra related by marriage or blood?

Dad and I discussed all these questions at length. We did not reach any answers. We got more questions, like if Eddie and Barbra are kin, why didn't her adoptive parents tell her before she married? If Dean knew, how could they not? Is Dean wrong? How did she come upon this information and why didn't Dean speak up while Eddie and Barbra were dating?

I think if Dean told me, then surely she told her son Dale. This made sense to Dad. Why is all this coming up now? Because Barbra is in the hospital. She is in a coma from a brain aneurysm and isn't expected to recover. This raises more questions. If Barbra never gets to know, is it worth it to find out? I have never heard her voice any concerns. Eddie has always done the asking. Maybe he is the only one who wants to know.

I had a simple but brilliant plan. I intended to find both my cousins on Facebook and send messages. Eddie has probably never thought to ask Dale because Dale was born after Dean came back from Detroit. Dale probably thinks Eddie is embarrassed so he never mentioned it. The problem is neither has Facebook. Well, now I'm back to hoping Eddie calls my father, or Dad calls him. I'm feeling awkward about going to the hospital and dropping the bombshell that Dale probably knows the answer to the thing that has worried Eddie for years. Or else Dean didn't know what the fuck she was talking about and that's why no one mentions this ugly rumor. I never realized how being a friend and confidant could put me in such a predicament.

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