in the early nineteen forties the moral values of our society were quite different than they are today. particularly so in rural america. and furthermore, rural america was quite different than rural america is today.
back then the rural america as my family knew it centered around a small general store with one gas pump, suitably named "joe-bob's" (largely because that was the name of the fella that owned it, and wouldn't you know it? a cousin of ours, once or twice removed.), a one roomed school, all nicely surround by family farms. a closely knit group. they all knew one another. and knew one another's secrets as well.
but i should start this at the beginning of the story. october, 2008.
dad died on thursday, in the wee hours of the morning. october 23. on october 24 my two sisters and i went out to henryetta to make arrangements and to check on dad's house, since it had been uninhabited for several months. we decided to go thru things in preparation for . . . what? i'm not sure. we really weren't sorting through things to determine who wanted what, or anything like that. we were just looking. oh, for his will, which was in his safe deposit box at the bank, and other paperwork that might be meaningful. mineral rights things and such.
lynda and i were looking in dad's closet. i guess we'd gone in there initially to get his suit, things that he'd be buried in. and on the shelf of the closet i noticed the leatherette satchel thingy that contained all mom's funeral momentos. sympathy cards and such, along with the guest book. on a whim i opened up the book and began to look through the names. remembering now that i was looking for names of folks we might need to notify about dad's death.
on the second page i noticed a name i didn't recognize at all. and that was surprising as the last name was nix. i had always felt pretty certain that i'd known, or known about, all the nix people in the area. but i wasn't familiar with this name. i asked lynda, "is this a cousin or something? this - - - - nix?" and then she told me what she knew.
we had moved to arizona when i was 5. i'd just turned 5, in fact. lynda would have been 11, jo 7. so both my sisters had attended the one room school in ryal, oklahoma. across the road from joe bob's general store, gas station and dental clinic. and school aged children from as far as 8-10 miles away all attended this school with my sisters. i think by then it had grown into a two room affair. plus a gym of some sort. and a baseball field. the point is, they all knew each other, these ryal kids. and some of the other kid had teased/told lynda that she had an brother, - - - - - nix.
she said when she'd been told this she went home and confronted mom and dad about the claim. and she remembered that they seemed to be a bit upset that she'd asked. but basically, they denied that - - - - - was related in any way.
fast forward a few years. we'd moved to arizona. lynda was maybe 12 or so. mom had started working at j. c. penney's. no longer a stay at home mom. and one day when lynda went out to get the mail she noticed a letter addressed to dad from - - - - - nix. and when mom and dad got home, again, she asked who this might be. and what was the letter about? and again she felt she'd struck a nerve. mom and dad did not want to discuss it.
we had older cousins that lived in the ryal area. went to the ryal school. across the road from joe bob's super market, laundromat and barber shop. and we visited the area just about every year on vacation. fun trip to come back to oklahoma and spend a little time getting spoiled by our grandparents and playing with our cousins. lynda heard more about - - - - - nix from some of our older cousins. but she'd learned not to try to discuss him with mom and dad.
as lynda matured and learned more life lessons, she paused at times to reflect back on the mysterious - - - - - nix, and formed her own opinion of what really had taken place. her conclusion, of course, was that dad had likely fathered a child out of wedlock prior to he and mom getting married. then, she'd just filed all this knowledge away in the back of her mind. and hadn't really given much thought to - - - - - nix for a very long while. until, that is, october 24, 2008. when i brought it up.
to say i was stunned would be a gross understatement. how can i possibly have lived through my 39 years of life, ok, maybe a few more than that, without knowing i had a big brother. as a small guy i'd always dreamed of having a big brother. in fact, back then my idol was my cousin shorty. a few years older than i. but a cool guy. he had a guitar, a motorcycle, and eventually, a car. and when i was 10 or 12 years old i wanted a big brother just like cousin shorty. and here all along perhaps i had one and never knew it.
and now comes the perplexing part of all this. lynda knows about - - - - - nix, and that he very possibly is our brother. and i know about - - - - - nix and that he very possibly is our brother. but what now? do we act on this. oh, and jo doesn't know. should we share this info with her?
well, i went to the family matriarch. aunt virgie. and her story pretty much confirms what lynda had surmised all those years ago. seems as though dad had some sort of relationship with - - - - -'s mother prior to mom and dad becoming an item. and - - - - -'s mother became pregnant. and she told dad that he was the father. and dad denied it. and denied it. and denied it.
back in the early 40's things were different than they are today. particularly in 1940's rural america. joe bob's america. with rare exception when a young woman came to be "with child", the father would always "do the right thing" by marrying the woman. dad did not. he denied any responsibility. i don't get it. because dad was always a pretty decent sort of guy. he normally did the right thing. and we'll never know now the why's and wherefore's of the story. only that - - - - - 's mom had - - - - -, and aunt virgie said that he sure looked like dad did as a child. not as conclusive as a dna match, but pretty compelling evidence for 1940 america.
so now i'm trying to figure out what i should do. virgie pretty much let me know that - - - - - existed, and that she was pretty well convinced he was, indeed, my brother. she even had a pretty good idea where he lived. at least, in what community. no longer ryal. and joe bob's store, gas station and mini-mall had long ago ceased to be.
should i try to contact - - - - - ? and, lynda, virgie and i all pondered whether or not we should tell jo. the general consensus was not to tell jo, as she's been the one closest to dad. she's lived closest to him for the last 20 years, had always had a sort of special relationship with him, and i suppose we felt she was hurting so badly with dad's death that she didn't need another blow like this. so we didn't tell her anything - yet.
but it was pretty much left up to me as to whether or not to contact - - - - -. i was stewing over this for a few days when i got a letter. addressed to: the weldon nix children. dad's address. forwarded to me. no return address. inside a folded, plain white sheet of paper. printed on it . . .
you have a brother
- - - - - nix
- - - - - - - - - -, oklahoma
now who's written this? well, i know for a fact it wasn't - - - - -. don't ask me why. it's too complicated. it wasn't him. but someone who knew - - - - -, knew his story, wanted us to get in touch with - - - - - . so, i got on the internet and did some searching. i found a - - - - - nix in - - - - - - - - -, oklahoma. an address. a phone number. and then i considered the impact of me contacting him. would it be a good thing. a bad thing. and ultimately i decided to take no action. my logic: - - - - - knew of our existence way back before we moved to arizona. we knew nothing about his. - - - - - knew our names (if he hadn't before), where we lived, when mom's obituary hit the local newspaper. (oh, a point of clarification, he really didn't attend her funeral, someone else with some sort of interest, perhaps the same one writing the letter, had signed his name in the guestbook.) but for whatever reason - - - - - made no attempt to contact us. perhaps he didn't want to know us. perhaps he didn't want us to know him. maybe he was put out by the fact that dad denied being his father. or maybe he didn't know the story in the first place. but for whatever reason - - - - - nix had not attempted to contact us. why would we presume it would be a good idea to contact him?
well, friday night, as is our tradition, we went to dinner with jo and mike. well, i did, as hon stayed home not feeling so well. somehow the conversation led to dad. and something made me feel that this was the opportune time for me to tell jo about - - - - -. so i did.
she was stunned. she even thought i was playing some kind of a real bad joke on her. so i brought her home and showed her the evidence. and she's hurt, probably, that we kept the information from her. she's mad that we felt it necessary to protect her. and i guess that's all justifiable. but as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions . . .
aside from the hurt/anger jo felt at being kept in the dark, she went through basically the same thought processes i had gone through a year and a half earlier. and she came to a different conclusion. she wanted to write a note to - - - - - and let him know that we now know about him. and tell him if he has any interest in meeting us, talking to us, or whatever, well, she'd give him her phone number. and she sent that note out today. we'll see where the story goes from here.
but being protected from all this, along with jo, are dad's grandkids. by way of explanation, i don't think any of us have ever felt that dad should win any father of the year awards. he was busy being a provider when we were kids. he didn't seem to take a lot of interest in us kids. i'm sure he loved us. cared about us. but, he didn't show the love. he was the product of a different generation.
however, when the grandkids came along, dad did become the leading candidate for the world's greatest grandpa. an honor he likely would have won many times over. now we have to share the legend of - - - - - with the grandkids that have always felt this guy was the greatest thing since sliced bread. and hope it doesn't shatter their image of the world's greatest grandfather. and i'm sure it won't. just a big surprise to each and every one of us.
so, the story's out. there it is. perhaps this is chapter one. or maybe it's the epilogue. i guess the next chapter is up to - - - - - nix.