It seemed like everyone in my family knew but me
At one time I had two sets of grandparents, 6 aunts and 6 cousins. I am now down to one aunt and 5 cousins. I’ve been curious about who knew what and when. Needless to say, my grandparents knew everything. My mother’s parents lived in Miami, but also, according to the letters, my dad’s father came down from Richmond twice to visit my dad while he was in jail.
My dad’s mother died when he was young and his father remarried. They had two daughters. My dad’s youngest half-sister is my remaining aunt. She was surprised when I called to tell her what I had found thinking I had always known. She was a child living in Richmond when these events took place. Her mother, my dad’s stepmother, had shared with her some of the facts of the case, as she knew them. She was told it was all a misunderstanding and that at least one witness kept changing their story as to what took place. My aunt told me what little she remembered which gave me a couple of leads to pursue.
Last month I flew to Florida to visit her taking one of the advanced reading copies that had been printed for reviewers. We had an all too brief visit. I left her my book to read and gave her time to process all that I had learned about my dad, her older brother. We talked once she had finished reading and she paid me the highest compliment. She said my book was written with love – that I did not try to put blame on anyone or anything but simply presented the facts leaving the reader to make their own judgments. This past weekend, her two sons, my cousins, came home for Christmas and she planned to share my book with them. I have yet to hear their responses but look forward to answering any questions they may have about their aunt and uncle.
On my mother’s side, all of her sisters, my aunts, are gone. My uncle, husband of her youngest sister, told me he was aware of everything and the fact that my dad pleaded guilty. He and my aunt were not living in Miami at the time so they were not in the thick of everything. He also reminded me of the man my father became, the man I knew. He told me that is all that should matter.
I asked if his children, my cousins, knew the story and he said no. He felt it was my story to tell when the time was right. I did share an early draft of the book with his daughter and she has been incredibly supportive through all of this. Again, this is her family too. Her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents that were brought together, according to these letters, as they dealt with a horrific event that took place several years before she was born.
I do have one other cousin. He is the youngest son of my mother’s oldest sister. I have never had contact with him or his family which I now know is a result of my father’s crime. I located an address and wrote to him explaining what I had found and asked if we could talk. My letter went unanswered. Later, someone that knew the situation told me that he was already aware of everything. They said he preferred not to have contact with me or anyone else in our family. I have no choice but to honor his decision.
J. Ronald M. York, author of Kept in the Dark, is also an accomplished musician and founder of York & Friends Fine Art Gallery.
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