1977, I received a phone call from Mom telling me that Aunt Fern's daughter, who was like a sister to her, had been in contact with Mom's biological mother, Alma, and that Alma was interested in meeting her. Was Mom interested? She was and they met several weeks later in St. Petersburg, FL. By now, mom had been divorced from my dad for 4 years and the last of the 8 children were getting ready to move out of her house.
Mom and Alma knew each other for 7 years before Alma passed away. We learned from Alma that she had married Jim in St. Paul, MN, where he had a drug store. They married when Alma was around 50 and eventually relocated to St. Petersburg and they never had any children. Jim never knew that his wife had a daughter somewhere. It was when Jim died in 1976 that Alma began to think about her daughter and the possibility of knowing her.
In the 7 years Mom knew her mother, she was never told who her biological father was. She did learn that Alma had become pregnant in 1929 and told Mom that her family sent her to Minneapolis to have the baby. Alma stayed in the Cities and mom was adopted by the couple back in LaCrosse. Aunt Fern was a family friend of Alma's and also who knew the couple who adopted mom.
After Alma died in 1984, Mom went looking for her father. She had enough information that she gleaned from a few of Alma"s friends who slipped her some clues. Her investigation seemed to point to an attorney in a law office in LaCrosse where Alma worked. His name was Donald and he was Jewish and married. We were raised Catholic and found that interesting. You just didn't have babies if you weren't married in 1930. So she was whisked away to Minneapolis and the secrets were maintained.
Mom also discovered that Alma's husband Jim had served on the St. Paul Transit Board was indicted for taking kickbacks on the bidding for the purchase of trolley cars. There are newspaper accounts of some of this but for some reason, Jim was let off or had his charges dropped. Alma told me once, under the influence of one too many scotches, that she and Jim had left Minneapolis and she carried $100,000.00 under her dress on the train to Florida. They purchased a small tourist hotel in downtown St. Petersburg called the Tropicana that Alma manager until Jim's death.
When Mom died last August, one of the few things my sister had to do was notify the Sun Trust Bank that Mom had passed, thus dissolving the trust that Alma had left behind for my mother. It was divided 8 ways between my siblings. A lifetime filled with secrets ended materially when I deposited my modest portion in the bank. But I will spend the rest of my life wondering about how the secrets of my mother's life impacted and changed her life in dramatic and powerful ways.