My Mama Story
By Jamie J. Brunson

I was told that when I was 2-years old my father murdered my mother. He shot her in the throat. She died 30-days later in a hospital – a paraplegic who succumbed to pneumonia. I know now that it’s unreasonable, but I was always secretly angry with my mom because during her last 30-days of life, she never left me a note, a word of explanation or even advice to live by just in case she didn’t make it. Didn’t she even think that if she died, someday I’d grow up and want to know who she was, how she felt about me, what she wanted for my life? Or even better yet, wouldn’t I want to know in her own words what the hell happened? But all I had was a very short story; a silent, angry family; and, instructions not to bring the subject up.

My uncle was there when it happened though. He witnessed the whole thing, and never got over it. I watched as his memory of the event turned to bitterness, guilt and anger. Then those poisons ran through him like a stale virus creeping in the blood. That virus moved from him to each one of us.

I didn’t want to believe that my father would kill my mother. Who would? I didn’t want this to be my history. There had to be some kind of misunderstanding. But I still needed to know why I had been orphaned.

So when I was 20-years old, I found my father. It wasn’t hard. There he was, listed in the telephone book. Just 20 miles away. So I picked up the phone and called him.

When he answered the phone, I told him who I was and that I wanted to come over. By the time I got to his house, it was full of people. I guess he didn’t know what to expect and wanted plenty of witnesses.

Finally the moment came and we were alone. I asked him squarely, “Did you kill my mother?”

My father told me an elaborate tale of espionage, intrigue, conspiracy and police corruption, all centered around my mother, who was clearly some femme fatale. He told me he would never have killed her. He loved her. He said that corrupt police officers where she worked killed her. And I lapped it all up.

He said my mother loved him too. In fact, as evidence, he told me how, after she was shot, she lay in his arms dying. She looked into his eyes and said, “Oh God, I love you Jimmy.” (My father’s name was Jimmy.) Then she closed her eyes. He also told me that when he was alone, he would often hear her ghost calling out to him from behind closed doors, or from the bottom of the stairs.

Words cannot describe how I felt at hearing his version of the story. Why was it that when she faced death, her last thoughts were about him? Her last words, for him? These questions opened up a hole in me, that I started drowning in – an inconsolable, unbridgeable drowning hole.

It wasn’t long after that, I lost contact with my father. He and about $700 bucks he borrowed from me to get some life insurance. Go figure.

One day I was riding on a bus in New York and I just knew. My father had died. I called around and found someone who would know. The lady told me that my father died of lung cancer and brain cancer simultaneously. He was about 90 lbs. I never had the chance to attended his funeral. I don’t know where he is buried. Sometimes I wonder if it was a lie, and that he’s still alive. Maybe I’ll see him in the street someday.

Even with the news of his death, my drowning hole was still there inside me. Still widening every time a love affair went wrong, a friendship went array. Why couldn’t anybody love me? Why couldn’t I be first in someone’s heart. Why doesn’t anybody ever stay around?

I don’t know why, but one day, I decided to go to the courthouse and pull the transcripts from my mother’s murder trial. I was determined to find out on my own what really happened to my mother. I figured the court’s account would at least give me some truth. Maybe I’ll get some peace.

Case records are filed under the name of the Defendant. So I had to look up my mother’s murder case using my father’s name. The case file on my father was huge. I learned that he had a long, violent history. Things he was convicted of, people he hurt, I still can’t talk about. I sifted through case after case, until I found my mother’s murder trial records.

In the transcripts from my mother’s case were accounts from police officers, family, friends and witnesses. I patiently copied every single page on the courthouse Xerox copier for 5 cents each. I needed to take the material home and read through it in private.

Over several days of too much caffeine, liquor and reading, I read every single filthy word my father said in court about my mother. I read about how my father threatened her by saying, ” You won’t live until Friday.” How he fought with my uncle in the street. How he tried to run my uncle over.

I learned that my father admitted to killing my mother in court. He plead guilty and did time. He must have forgotten all of that they day I asked him what happened. Just slipped his mind. But my uncle never forgot. My uncle, who was there when it happened.

My uncle gave a thorough account of everything in his testimony. My father rang the door bell. My mother opened the door. My father shot her in the throat. My father shot at others inside the house. My mother fell down on the ground. My father ran away.

Aside from the killing her part, my father got one other very important detail wrong. Guess it was because he was too busy running away at the time.

Laying there, in a pool of her own blood, my mother did speak. But she wasn’t laying in my father’s arms, confessing her love for him with her failing breath . She didn’t look lovingly up into my father’s eyes and say, ”Oh God, I love you Jimmy.”

What she said was, “Oh God, I love you JAMIE.” She said my name. JAMIE. JAMIE. JAMIE. Not my father’s name, JIMMY. Her thoughts at that moment were about me!

A drowning person goes down in the water, then fights to rise. They pound the water in vengeance and anger – just to breath. Then they go under again. Plunging, pounding, rising and falling over and over again. But too many times down under the water, and you lose your strength. You lose hope of ever getting enough air to live.

As I was reading the transcripts from my mother’s murder trial, I felt myself going down for the last time. This was all just too much. But when I saw my name on the page, right there in black and white, I fell to my knees. The xeroexed pages in my hand were evidence of love. I let them loose in the room and the loose pages rained down on me. A lifeline to pull me out of my drowning hole.

It’s a long, long journey back from drowning. The ascent is slow. But air is promised at the surface.

I want my mother to live on and on. I want her to be known.

I don’t remember my mom’s face or the touch of her hand. But now I know she loved me first. Now I got something to remember her by. Isn’t that all that really matters?


~ by jamiejbrunson on August 23, 2009.

One Response to “MY MAMA STORY”

  1. …an amazing and powerful story….if it were fiction…I could easily leave it at that…but, because I know every word is true…those sentiments are accompanied with tears…..ESM

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