A few weeks ago, one of my clients lost an employee. They’re one of my better clients, which is difficult because it’s a company full of “Good ol’ boys,” but they like me a lot–they just also don’t know much about me. The guy they lost was a manager, the go-to guy for anything that was difficult and unusual, and an all-around good guy. A few months ago, he was diagnosed with “some long, technical word for cancer,” and he died a few weeks ago. He went from perfectly healthy to dead in just months.
Today was the second time I’ve been to the client since the guy’s death, and it was a really jarring experience–no doubt one that they haven’t noticed. The world kept turning. Looking around the office, it was impossible to tell that such a person as Martin had ever lived, and his job was a big part of who he was. One dude got promoted and essentially took his place, and that dude’s old desk sat empty, but the world kept turning. Martin lived, he died, there was a brief period of mourning, and then life went on.
That’s my mother.
She disappeared when I was 12 years old, and until I was about 20 or so I hoped every single day that she would pop back up. From the time she vanished to shortly after I turned 18, I didn’t see my brother at all because he stayed in Arkansas with our family there, and they didn’t have anything to do with us. My brother said that he didn’t contact my sister and me because we asked difficult questions about our mom… When my sister and I went to Arkansas when I was 18 and she was 19, to bridge this gap they had created between us all, that was among the things that our brother told us. It was difficult for him to answer questions about our mom.
He had forgotten entirely that she was my mom, too, and that she was my sister’s mom, too. He came to visit us one day when he was working in the area; I was 15, and it had been three years since we had seen him, our brother, and three years since our mom vanished. Of course we asked him about mom. Unlike him, we were out of the loop. Our mom had been missing for more than a month before anyone let us know, so it was no surprise that when we finally got the opportunity we asked a lot of questions.
It basically went down like this: our aunt, mom’s sister, called us one night and talked to our grandmother for a while. Then our grandmother broke the news to us: mom had been missing for a month, she allegedly left with a truck driver named Tim, and no one knew where she was. And that was it. We never heard anything else. The next thing we heard was when our brother pulled into the driveway one evening three years later.
He said that he was working nearby all week, and that he would come back the next evening when he got off work, and would stay the night with us.
He didn’t come back.
Three years later, my sister and I went to Arkansas to see them. We had jobs and vehicles by that point, and we just decided one day to do it. Less than a year later, our brother died in an automobile accident, wrecking his car at the same turn he’d wrecked at years priorily. Previously, he had escaped uninjured, though he totaled his car. This time, he died within fifteen minutes. From the time we contacted to his death, we did see him pretty regularly; often, he came to see us, but sometimes we went to see him, so we did get a year of seeing each other roughly once a month before he died.
When he died, my sister and I went back to Arkansas for the funeral services, and I left after spending one day there. I realized I hated these people I was surrounded by. The only one who was worth a fuck was my sister; the rest were assholes. At one point, one of my cousins said to me, “He was like a brother to me…” in full disregard of the fact that he was a brother to me. And she expected pity and sympathy from me?
That was the whole vibe with the family in Arkansas, though. My sister and I weren’t part of the family. Our brother treated us that way about our mom, and never stopped to consider that this was our mom that was missing, as well. He never thought about the fact that he had a job and a car and could have come to see us countless times throughout the years and that we would have given anything to see our brother. Once again, as had been the case when we were children, no one was trying to imagine what the world looked like through my eyes, or through my sister’s eyes. No one was considering our emotions, our best interests, or our well-being. A quick phone call to my grandmother to relay the message to us, and that was it for three years, until our brother happened to stop by. And we probably would have never seen him again if we hadn’t decided, quite arbitrarily, one day to go to Arkansas.
I actually cried last night about the whole thing, which is highly unusual and something I haven’t done since I was 13 or 14, when I stumbled across that webpage again. A few years ago, I emailed them and asked them if they’d be willing to take those pictures down and replace them with a better picture of my mom. They said they wouldn’t, because those were the most recent and therefore would make it easier for someone to identify her. I pointed out that it had been 13 years, and that she was certainly dead, but they weren’t interested in hearing that.
Last night I started to email them again to reiterate my request, since it has been 17 years now, the last person she was with has been convicted of an unrelated murder, and a few other things like that, but I stopped halfway through. Because I realized that I don’t have a better picture of my mom. At the time that I emailed them, I guess I just assumed that I had pictures of her. I know that I had one of her when I was 13 or so–it was a beautiful picture of her, long before she started messing around with meth and started looking like… that.
And now those pics are the only pictures I have of her.
I don’t need no arms around me
I don’t need no drugs to calm me
I have seen the writing on the wall
Don’t think I need anything at all
No! Don’t think I need anything at all.
All in all, it was all just bricks in the wall.
All in all, you were all just bricks in the wall.
It’s been a rough life, really. Between all that insanity–most of which I haven’t even gotten to in Dancing in Hellfire, which is alarming because it really doesn’t need to go over 70k words and I’m about half that already–and the religious oppression that my dad and grandmother forced onto me, it’s been a rough ride. But there once was such a person as Patsy Lee Baker.
She was murdered, and the world kept turning.