Mom felt well enough to accompany me on a two-week road trip across Nevada to Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon in my first car, a 1954 Ford Victoria. The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Sun Valley, Idaho, exceeded our expectations.
When we arrived home, Daddy told Mom their friend and his coworker Agatha had filed for divorce.
As Mom’s condition gradually worsened, she consented to use a wheelchair.
I married and moved a 30-minute drive away across the bay to Marin County and continued to visit her once a week. By then she was completely bedridden. During one visit, she told me, “You are the apple of your father’s eye. I want you to know some things because I can get back at him only through you. He spends a lot of time at Agatha’s apartment in between chauffeuring her daughter to and from school events. Agatha wants to take my place. Promise me that when I die, you will take my cup and saucer collection. I do not want Agatha to have it.”
I could not believe what I was hearing, but I agreed to her request.
On my next visit, Mom was very upset. “Your father sold my shotgun. He took it and sold it without asking me. My father gave it to me,” she said as tears welled in her eyes. He taught me to shoot it and to hunt with him. Your father had no right to sell my gun.” And she cried.
Note: Years later I learned he gave it to my younger brother Ransom. It would have given Mom peace of mind to know that her favorite child inherited her .410 shotgun. I’ll never know why Daddy lied to Mom.
Mom hanged herself seven months to the day I married. Within hours Daddy showed me her death certificate signed by the family doctor. I scanned down to read the cause of death: strangulation, self-inflicted.
“This could ruin me,” Daddy said. “Promise me you’ll never tell. Ransom must never know this happened.”
Note: After publication of my memoir, a cousin informed me that all the family in Martinez knew immediately after it happened. If I had known, it might have eased my burden of keeping Mom’s suicide secret for 60 years. I’ll never know why the father I adored, admired, and believed could do no wrong, lied to me and later disowned me.
Another note: After Daddy died 40 years to the day he married Mom, I obtained a copy of Mom’s death certificate. It was half the size of the original death certificate Daddy showed me the morning Mom hanged herself. No cause of death appeared; only the date and place. Daddy fixed it so Mom’s suicide would never surface.
A month after Mom died, Daddy asked if I would go with him to attend his father Pa’s funeral in Martinez. Pa had never been a grandfather to me or to Ransom. He disliked Mom because he blamed her for his wife Laura’s death. Laura was dying from a kidney disease with no hope of recovery. Mom offered to help care for Laura during her final days at home in addition to working as a registered nurse at the community hospital. When Daddy’s mother died four days later, Pa blamed Mom because she happened to be with Laura when she died. Pa never acknowledged me as his first granddaughter or Ransom as his second grandson. Every holiday season, an envelope addressed to Manfred Richards arrived by mail to our house saying “Merry Christmas, Son.”
~ Fini ~