I thought about calling this blog….The Ghost of Texas Past (partly because it’s getting close to Christmas and the phrase popped into my head)…but decided that sounded much too dark for how I was feeling. Dallas and I have had a torrid past; I’ve made lots of wonderful memories here, and the worst memories of my life were made here too. Talk about yin and yang. Dallas is that for me.
Note: The story gets really personal here, and may not be for everyone, so feel free to skip this one. It’s not about travel or adventure motorcycling. I’m letting you off the hook right here and now. But if you stay, the rough stuff is up front and then I promise, it gets better from there. I’m a believer that all stories should end on a happy note.
Quoting Rose Kennedy, “It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
I’m with her on this for the most part. But I feel a bit different about it too. Though I recognize we cannot change the past, I believe we can learn something from it, and if we are very lucky we can grow into people who have something to share with others.
My mother moved to Dallas, Texas in the mid 70s to start a new life as a single mother with a little blonde girl in tow (aka me). She eventually remarried and we lived a pretty happy life until one horrible morning in March more 30 years ago. She and my step-father were having problems and she asked him for a divorce. And in response, he killed her.
My mom, so very wise for her 32 years, and such a good mother, had made arrangements for me to stay at my friend’s house for the weekend while she planned to break the news to my step-father. She made sure I was safe, and far away from our house in case anything bad happened. I had packed a weekend bag for what I thought was a night or two of slumber party…and I never went home again.
My father came from South Dakota to take me back to live with him. I was 12 years old. After that I never saw my friends in Texas again (other than one friend who came to visit me when I had to come to Dallas to testify at my stepfathers murder trial). I wrote to a couple of my girlfriends for a few years. This was back in the days before the internet, and I wasn’t good about writing letters. Eventually I lost touch with the friends of my youth and with the dear friend and her mother who cared for me the couple of days we waited for my father to get to Texas. It’s all so surreal, even now, to think of it.
Facebook has been many things to many people, and to me personally. There have been plenty of times I’ve cursed it’s time-wasting black-hole-ness….but I owe a debt of gratitude to Facebook and to LinkedIn. A few times I had used Facebook to search for those friends from Texas in hopes I could reconnect with some of them, but no luck. Girls grow into women who take their husbands last name when they marry, and I wasn’t able to track any of them down. One night about a year ago, out of the clear blue night sky, came a message on Facebook from my childhood friend, Paulette (the friend who came to see me during the trial). I couldn’t believe my eyes. Happy, happy me.
While travelling this year, I had been hoping to spend some time with my mother’s best friend, Billie, in a small town near Dallas. She means the world to me. We have loved each other for 35 years or more and have kept the ties that my mother made for us all those years ago. I thought if I was going to be visiting this dear friend so close to Dallas that perhaps Paulette and I could meet too. And on a Wednesday afternoon in downtown Dallas we did. She is as beautiful as ever, and we laughed, and I cried, and we spent a couple of hours enjoying each others company. It was wonderful.
Paulette was able to connect me with other friends from my youth and it motivated me to spend a few hours searching again through dozens and dozens of people to find the friend who I was staying with the weekend my mother died. I eventually found Toni on LinkedIn and now we have connected too. Thirty years of distance, and time and missing these people has evaporated in less than a week. I don’t know if it’s closure, or a new beginning, or what…but it gives me peace and makes me incredibly grateful.
The night before I left for this trip, I had a wonderful dinner with very dear friends in Rapid City and they presented me with a surprise present in celebration of my big trip. As I peeled back the tissue paper I found a picture frame. In it was a photo of my mother, from nearly 40 years ago, with her long straight hair and a relaxed smile on her face. Perched on her lap is the me of a lifetime ago and I am smiling too. I felt it was a good sign for the trip. I’m a believer in signs, and this beautiful gift told me that she would be with me and watch over me…and no doubt she has been. She was there keeping me safe during my accident, and she was here guiding me back to Dallas to find the peace and healing that was here waiting for me.
The strange part is that my dear friends never knew my mother and how this picture came to them was a great story of its own. While I’ve known these friends for years, and have been lucky enough to meet some of their wonderful friends, none of us had any idea the connection I shared with one of their friends in particular. Michelle and my mother had been friends nearly 40 years ago. Michelle had never known that the little blonde girl (me) in a photograph from decades ago was now all grown up and connected to her through this current circle of friends. Somehow in the weeks before my leaving, that wonderful, thoughtful group of people figured it all out. Michelle went back to a photo album and found this picture she had taken of me with my mom and passed it on to my friends. And that’s how this photo came home to me. It reminds me that she is always with me. Thank you Michelle, and Marlon and Jim and Kate. Six months later that photo is still generating happy tears. My love to you all for the best gift a girl could ever receive.