After Her Death, Orphan Boy Learns He’d Been Living with His Mother All His Life under One Roof – Story of the Day
Walter lived with his grandmother and his aunt, Jeanette, his entire life. His aunt barely spoke to him and was reserved, making him curious in many ways. But she died of cancer when he was 17, and suddenly, he discovered something shocking in her room.
For as long as Walter could remember, he lived with his grandmother, Georgia, and his aunt, Jeanette. He was eight years old, and all Georgia ever said was that his mother, Jeanette's sister, had run away after giving birth, and they decided to raise him themselves. Also, they didn't know anything about his father.
But something about his aunt Jeanette was a mystery. She barely spoke to him, and her room was always closed. She was a young woman and had never worked. She only left her room at night, way past Walter's bedtime. But he often sneaked out to see what she was doing.
Jeanette usually sat at the veranda of their house embroidering something. She worked on clothes and had displayed a few framed embroideries around the house. But most of them were off-limits too, and Walter only got more curious.
Walter stood up, holding the papers in his hands, and demanded an explanation from his grandmother. "How could you? You've hidden the truth from me all these years!
One night, after ensuring that Jeanette was busy at the veranda, Walter sneaked into her room. It was pretty standard, although there were embroideries he had never seen lying about and even a sewing machine.
But something else caught his attention. It was a chest, and he tried to open it, but it was locked tightly. The young boy pried it open but couldn't. He started worrying that Jeanette would return so he returned to his room that night.
Every night after that, he did the same thing and tried to pry the chest open to no avail. Eventually, he convinced himself it held something vital to his life. Perhaps, it had more information about his mother and father. It could be anything else, but he had to know.
Neither Jeanette nor his grandmother ever caught him, but he lost interest after many attempts and never again snuck into his aunt's room.
"Walter, come here," his aunt Jeanette called him from her bed in a hospital. He was 17 years old, and this was the first time she had ever spoken to him. His grandmother had just walked away to get something from the cafeteria. He walked stiffly to her and leaned down to listen.
"I have a request. There's a chest in my room. You'll find the key in one of the drawers. I have a dress there that I embroidered myself. I want to be buried in it, please," she told him in her weak voice. The disease was too advanced this time, and she knew she would die soon.
It was only when she relapsed a year ago that Walter discovered that Jeannette had been sick before. She got treatments for it and went into remission when he was three years old, but her body was weak. That's why she never worked and stayed home most of the time.
Now, it was back, and this time, there was nothing else the doctors could do for her. Meanwhile, Walter was almost an adult, but the idea of losing any family member was terrible to him.
Still, he had to nod. "Sure, Aunt Jeanette. I can arrange that."
"Thank you, dear," she answered and went to sleep. She never woke up.
Walter and his grandmother returned home to rest. The funeral was the following day, and they needed some sleep first. But upon arriving, he remembered what he had promised his aunt at the hospital.
His grandmother went directly to her room and closed the door. He went to Jeanette's room, approached her drawers, and searched for the key. It was on the first drawer.
"I wonder why I never found it when I was a kid," he muttered as he grabbed the chest and sat on Jeanette's bed to open the lock.
There was a white material on top, but it was not a dress. "That's strange," he said softly while taking it out. But there were other things inside. There were several envelopes and papers, and he spotted his name in some of them.
After flipping through them, Walter realized that one of them was his birth certificate, which he had never seen, and Jeanette's name was listed as his mother.
"What is this?" he asked himself and flipped through more documents.
He discovered one that explained how Jeanette relinquished her parental rights to his grandmother, and everything finally clicked. Jeanette was his birth mother. There was never anyone else. But why did they lie to him all these years?
"What are you doing in here?" he heard his grandmother demand from the doorway.
Walter stood up, holding the papers in his hands, and demanded an explanation from his grandmother. "How could you? You've hidden the truth from me all these years! My aunt was my mother!" he said emotionally as tears filled his eyes.
"NO! What are you doing with those? You weren't supposed to see them!" Georgia bellowed and tried to pry the papers from his hands. But Walter had grown too tall for her. She tried to jump but still couldn't reach them.
"Grandma! For God's sake! You tell me the truth!" Walter demanded as the tears spilled over.
His grandmother tried to maintain a stoic face, but in the end, her face scrunched emotionally, and she started speaking.
"When Jeanette got pregnant at 16, it was a disaster. I told her to get rid of it, but she wouldn't listen. It would've been a disgrace for people to know that my daughter had a child at her age and out of wedlock, no less!" Georgia wailed. "So when she had the baby… well, you… I forced her to give me parental rights. We signed all the papers and everything."
"That's insane!" Walter yelled, stepping back from his grandmother. He stared at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.
"It didn't work! People knew exactly what happened and rumors started flying around. That's why we moved from Arkansas to Texas. I couldn't stand it. Over here, no one knew us, but I still decided that the best story to tell was that you were my grandson from a daughter who ran away," his grandmother continued, tears steadily falling from her eyes.
"I don't understand. Why didn't she fight with you?" Walter demanded.
"Jeanette… well? She was still a teenager. She didn't have a choice. She had to obey me. And then… well, we discovered she was sick. It changed her. She went quiet and wanted nothing to do with you, so I think I made the best decision," Georgia explained, wiping her tears but still emotional.
"No, you didn't. Look!" Walter yelled and pointed at one embroidery that he hadn't understood at first. It was a mother with her child. It was Jeanette and Walter. He picked it up and shoved it in Georgia's face. "She was my mother. She did love me. But you forced me away from her although we lived in the same house!"
Georgia took the embroidery in her hands and stared intensely at it for seconds. She started wailing once again, and Walter ripped it off her hands.
"I will never forgive you for this!" he threatened, and the power of that statement sent Georgia into hysterics. Walter felt it in his heart too, but he was determined.
Obviously, his mother wanted him to discover this big secret. That's why she talked about the non-existent dress on her chest. He only wished he had opened it sooner and found the truth before she was gone.
Walter stayed with friends over the next few months, and when he turned 18, he packed his things from Georgia's house, leaving forever. He took his documents and the embroidery of the mother-son image. He visited Jeanette's grave often.
Years later, when he bought his first house, he framed the embroidery and placed it where everyone could see.
What can we learn from this story?
- A mother and her child should always be together. Georgia tried to separate Jeannette from her son, but she was always there in her way. He resented his grandmother for her actions later on.
- The truth has a way of coming out. Walter discovered what his grandmother had done, especially because Jeannette was already gone by that time. The truth can come out, but it might be too late to make things better.
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