Direct Answers - Column for the week of February 17, 2003
Back when I was in grammar school, every once and awhile I would meet up with a girl my age and talk. Lisa never was around much, but she was always very sweet and nice. In 5th grade she was assigned to my class.
She was absent a lot, and one day I had the courage to ask why. She told me she was sick, and she explained she wore a wig because her medicine made her lose her hair. We left it at that. Anytime Lisa came to class--a rarity--I would hang with her on the playground.
I received much ridicule from my friends for this because they thought I was snubbing them for Lisa. My family upbringing taught me to be nice, and I felt Lisa's needs were much more important than others I knew.
It had been months since Lisa was in class, and one day our teacher was crying. She explained Lisa died the day before and would no longer be our classmate. She told us Lisa fought a battle with leukemia for years.
I was stunned and shocked. Lisa never spoke of her illness as if it could kill her, and I was a very innocent girl in these matters. Well, all those years I have kept Lisa in my mind and heart. When I pass milestones in my life, I reflect on Lisa and say a prayer for her.
I've had strong feelings of late to locate her mother and father. I'd like to tell them that though they never met me, their daughter had a sweet, profound effect on my life. I have no idea what her parents' first names are and don't have money to hire a detective. I read you column and realize you are not detectives, but hope you can point me in the right direction.
I pray regularly and believe something or someone is encouraging me to make this connection. I hope my connection would not hurt or upset. Lisa was such a lovely girl. Maybe her parents would be comforted that after all these years they are not the only ones who remember her.
Cynthia, start with the school. You may get a lead from a former classmate, alumni group, teacher, or the parent and teacher association. Don't overlook the newspaper of record where you used to live. It probably published birth and death records including parents' names. Former neighbors may also help.
Reference librarians are invaluable. They can steer you to public government records and genealogy groups, the experts at tracking families. From among these sources, you will find someone who can help. Our lives are our relationships, and sensing a deep purpose is natural.
When I read Esme's letter, it immediately took me back to my own childhood when my mother would warn my brother and me, "Your father is on his way home, and he is in a bad mood today."
What she called a bad mood was the effect of drinking, and we would actually hide in closets from him. Growing up in that volatile environment has affected me, even today. I relate intimately to the grown-up children you describe: people pleasers who judge themselves harshly, with constant feelings of dread and a need to be secretive.
I want to tell Esme that not only did this impact my relationship with my father, but with my mother as well. I will never understand why she didn't see what staying with my father did to my brother and me. I will never understand why she didn't protect us.
Sometimes understanding "why" an alcoholic drinks can lead to excusing it, and I would stress to Esme how detrimental this can be. If she does not leave for herself, she should at least leave for the children.
Beth, thank you for caring enough to share your story.
About The Author
Authors and columnists Wayne and Tamara Mitchell can be reached at www.WayneAndTamara.com.
Send letters to: Direct Answers, PO Box 964, Springfield, MO 65801 or email: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com.