It’s true that we’re never sure what a day will bring. During the summer of 1953, my birth mother suddenly appeared in my life.
I was riding my Schwinn bike on the dirt road in front of our house when a couple, and their young son, Michael, drove up and asked if my dad was home. The license plate on the car indicated they were from California.
I shouted for my dad who was in the garage at the time. He began walking down the driveway toward us. When he was about half way down the driveway, he stopped. He appeared as though he was in shock.
Within a couple of minutes, I was introduced to the woman standing and peering down at me. My dad mumbled something that sounded like, “This is your mother.”
“My mother,” I laughed. But then she bent down and told me she was really my mother.
“You can’t be my mother. She’s in the house!”
My dad took hold of my hand and we all walked into the house. My stepmother placed her hand to her mouth as she saw the woman who had said she was my mother. As we sat in the living room talking, my older brother, Roland — who had just returned from the neighbor’s across the street — and I were told the story of our mother had left our dad when we were too young to know.
After nearly an hour of talking, my older brother strongly expressed a desire to go live with our birth mother. An agreement was finally made between our mother and dad to let my brother, who was 13 at the time, go live with them at the end of the school year. However, when we continued to receive physical abuse, such as long spankings with a heavy old Army belt, he decided to run away just prior to my 10th birthday.
When my brother told me he was going to run away, he asked me to not tell anyone, especially our stepmother. She was the one who was pretty much in charge of our coming and going schedule. It was late Friday afternoon. He told our stepmother he was going to ride his bike over to our cousin Danny’s house, which was nearly a couple of miles away. He said he wanted to spend the weekend and would call later, if it was OK with our Aunt Maxine — something we had both done before.
At about 5 p.m. that night, he phoned and said it was OK with our aunt if he spent the weekend. He was actually calling from a gas station phone booth, which he had told me in advance he was going to do. Knowing what he was actually doing — hitchhiking to California — I was really worried. My worrying came to an abrupt end at about 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon when my stepmom answered the phone and let out a scream, saying, “What?”
I was standing nearby, as the conversation continued with my birth mom in California. All I can remember my stepmom saying was things like, “He lied to me!” and “How did he get there?” Not able to hear the entire conversation, I later learned that my brother had been able to hitch a ride with a college student headed to Los Angeles.
Our dad had no plans, and seemingly no desire, to have my brother return to Wichita. He had had enough of my brother. His anger seemed to be taken out on me, thinking I may have known what my brother had been planning. Even though I did know, I never revealed that I did.
Fast-forward one year. My brother, knowing what I had to continue enduring from my dad, hitchhiked back to Wichita Memorial Day weekend and convinced me to run away with him. I was on my way to school Friday morning and he was waiting for me near the gas station three blocks from our house, which I rode my bike past every school day.
We made it to Pratt, Kansas, about 300 miles west of Wichita. However, it being a school day, we were seen by the local highway patrol, as we were standing on the highway hitchhiking. We were taken to the police station and our dad was called. Our dad