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MY "mom" passed away today...

My "mom" passed away today: January 10, 2013. Brenda Joy Shepherd.  My parents divorced when I was very young, in 1969 I was 6 years old. My Dad re-married. Dad had just come off a difficult break up and re-bounded into another relationship, meeting Brenda at a bar. Over a discussion learned she was recently divorced as well, and with a small daughter of her own.  My brother and I were given over, by the State of Texas, to my "mother" (Linda Townsend); whose heroin addiction and prostitutional behaviors ended up 'losing' my brother and I. Having been left a a babysitter for three days alone got the Child Protection Agency of the day involved. My brother and I became wards of the State and placed in Buckner's Children Home in Dallas, Texas.

After my Dad and Brenda married in a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses they came and got us out of Buckner's   One of my earliest childhood memories is waking up in the dark, in the front seat of the car looking up into Brenda's face asking, "Are you going to be my new mommy now?" Which she replied, "If you want me to be." "Okay." I said then drifted off to sleep again. I really was "the red-headed step child."

With Brenda as my "mom", (I never knew my mother for Linda was in a Huntsville prison  I met her in 1979; another story altogether); things seemed different.


I was raised as one of Jehovah's Witness. I always thought of it as a "normal" childhood - like everyone else. As the years passed and I grew, I realized I was different on so many levels. Yet my differences would not make me bitter but into a more empathetic adult.  As a Jehovah's Witness we were not allowed to "do anything".  That's hard for a kid. I remember standing just out side of the classroom during morning prayers or saluting of the Flag at school, not going to football games; getting off the Track and Field Team in Junior High School like I wanted because it was an "evil competitive Worldly sport".  I recall many many times how "Jehovah disliked little boys who did 'such-n-such'.  Masturbation would have had me stoned just outside the city limits had I lived in the Biblical era, I was repeatedly told! Never knew what that was; but my older brother was "leaning in that direction". When I could not understand something like a math problem or Bible verse I was constantly asked if I was retarded or just plain stupid. I have heard a constant ringing in my ears ever since I could remember, ear infections and slaps up-side-the-head were my childhood normal.  I knew my parents loved me because they always told me how hard it was for them to discipline such a wicked but loved child who couldn't get things done right. I do not remember when I stopped wetting to bed, early teens I believe. My brother, sister and I were "loved" just not in the same room together. There was always yelling, strife and contention. Some "drama" played out on a nightly bases. Our Brady Bunch family was nothing like the TV version of the merged unit. Ours was the example of dysfunction and disguise. No one ever knew the perfect family Jehovah provided me in my youth.


   Brenda passed away from complications resulting from Emphysema. I had not spoken to her since the divorce from my father in 1991 or so.  Only recently, after 22 years had my (step) sister, Cindy and I begun corresponding via handwritten letters, e-mail, and a few verbal phone calls was I actually able to hear Brenda's aged and chronically ill voice. My reaction was - disinterest. I know some will think me callous and cold, but when you have had such a disconnected upbringing and "disinterest" how else should I have reacted to such dismissal of "normalites of life"

  Upon hearing the news of my "mom"'s passing I caught myself being more emotional over the elementary school shootings than her loss. I am not upset or numb or in disbelief.  It is more akin to "disinterest".  My mom passed away today and I don't seem to care about it.  Maybe the emotions will come crashing in upon me later and you can feel the sense of loss in my words. Maybe some day I will find those word. Several years ago when my wife's beloved poodle died, I learnt the definition of "weep" for I never cried so deeply for someone before, not even for my father. I feel "emotionless" at Brenda's death, does this make me a bad person? or just a distant one?

I spoke with my sister, Cindy again on the phone. Hysterical, overly emotional, crying and repeatedly; yet, it was all very appropriate. She lived with "mom" and saw her die, and actually started CPR before EMT arrived. Was a caregiver and sitting 24-7. After the 2 hour phone conversation I had her calm and rational again. She's handling everything, and the focus is overwhelming. By the end of the conversation she was able to articulate and plan things in a way that can begin her closure and a new journey, as difficult as it will be dealing with such a deep loss of personality from her daily existence.

We talked. I had purposely estranged myself from her and manned up in telling her so and why. We both now have closure and a real beginning in our renewed relationship can begin. I told my sister she could write me again with all the gory details of her "poor pitiful me of a life" but I did not wish to hear it repeated over the phone as I enjoyed my own drama (LOL) without adding hers into the mix.

I told her she was a major source of my deep depression but now was the time to reinvent ourselves anew. Happy New Year, 2013. "Did" and "do" begin with the letter "D" but are vastly different creatures altogether. I told her we can not undo or go back but that we can change the here and now and create better memories among ourselves. I did this same thing with brother and things have manifested beautifully.


Cindy is growing. We all are. Death is a Life changer. Some say I think of Death and Dying too much. I say... THE WHEEL TURNS. . . everything is going to be alright now, there is "balance in the Force" I'm good now, finally.


The Best of my Parents as I remember them. There was joy, and character worth emulating. They must have done some things right, look at my daughter - She turned out wonderful, with beautiful children of her own, so I guess we did alright to. The Wheel Turns.

I do miss them, very much; but we can only go forward in time that is given us.
What makes this picture so difficult for me to look at is knowing their time is over. Kind of like when Jack returns to the Titanic. I can't  believe they both really are gone. The lonely moments stretch out into the harsh acceptance that I no longer have living parents. I am the youngest of their joint three children. But hope is not lost for they had two beautiful grandchildren and wonderful great-grand ones who shine even brighter. I am blessed; I know my parents were proud of me (they told me so).  but it still hurts all the same... Bye "mom" you were loved.

1 comment:

  1. In my country there is a saying "afa anaka" which means the one that has died has become the innocent one once again" It is now up to us the ones that are living to do what is right in the eyes of the Lord. Just thought I should share this with you, because your story really moved me and touched my spirit.

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