Paul Stetson

By / February 23, 2016 / Short Story
Taylor's Wedding

Taylor’s Wedding

My daughter, Taylor Foos, is taking a writing class in college.  I think it is pretty darn good, give it a read:

I grew up in the big state of Texas, the eldest of five sisters, all with different fathers. Mother was a loose woman, and was proud of it. She had me at the ripe age of fifteen in 1969. I never knew my father growing up. Mother claims he’s dead. I suspect he’s just dead to her. I do know that his name was Paul Stetson and that, “he was an arrogant son of a gun”, Mother would always blurt out when she drank too much gin. I never really had much interest in attempting to find him until I came upon a worn, dusty box in Mother’s attic. She passed away a year previous to my discovery, but I was just now going through all of her things. See, Mother was somewhat of a hoarder. Growing up, we never had much. That led her to treasure every little thing she received in her life. Which resulted in an attic full of old things that held no monetary value.

When Mother passed, she left the house to me. It was the house we grew up in and I loved it dearly. My great grandfather built the house back in 1935 and it’s been passed through the past three generations ever since. As the oldest sibling, it was my destiny to inherit it and my younger sisters had no qualms about that. They didn’t want to obtain the burden of ridding the house of all of Mother’s useless items. I welcomed the task. Maybe it would give me a better glimpse at who Mother was as a person. She always talked about all the things she could have become if she hadn’t had children. Although I think Mother lived her life as though she did not have five daughters at home, needing to be loved by her. As the eldest, I became the mother that Mother had never been capable of being. I bathed them. I fed them. I changed their diapers. I told them Mother loved them and the reason she wasn’t home was because she was out finding us a daddy. There was probably a little bit of truth to that statement. After I tucked them in and kissed them goodnight, I would go to Mother’s room and lay on her bed. I would imagine her there, holding me tight to her side my head tucked close to her heart. I would hear the steady beat of her heart and feel my head rise and fall with each breath she took. Instead of the usual alcohol that could be smelt on her at any given time, I would smell the enticing scent of lavender and hear her whisper that she loved me more than anything in the world. I would soon fall asleep to just wake up when she stumbled into bed around three in the morning. She always let me stay sleeping in her bed but I’m not sure she even knew I was there.

In the Summer of 2007, Mother received the diagnosis that she had pancreatic cancer. Her sickness consumed her body and just six months later Mother was dead. I spent that six months taking care of her while I watched her once youthful body whittle away to skin and bones. Her formerly curvy figure that men flaunted over for decades became saggy. I was there for her while my sisters continued to live their lives. They would call just to see if she was dead yet. There was always a pause filled with disappointment when I answered them with a no.

I made all the arrangements for the funeral. It was a beautiful ceremony. All my sisters were there and paid their respects to a woman they never really knew. After the funeral was over, all my sisters traveled back to their homes in various parts of the U.S., while I stayed in our home state of Texas to live in the family home. There were many projects that needed to be done to make the house livable. I owned my own interior design business, so I was looking forward to renovating my childhood home. The memories that were made there would always stick with me, but the house needed a major facelift. I decluttered all the rooms and kept little of Mother’s possessions. I remodeled the kitchen and both bathrooms. I painted every room and bought all new furniture. A year later, when it was all completed, it felt like a different home entirely. Exactly what I envisioned.

I still had the giant task of cleaning out the attic. I waited to do that until last because I figured it was bunch of legal papers and things that had been filed throughout the years. I never expected to find a worn, dusty box with my father’s name across the top. It had been so long since I had even thought about Paul Stetson that it took me a few seconds to comprehend that it was my father’s name on the box. I cautiously opened the lid, almost expecting Paul Stetson himself to jump out. What I found instead were a bunch of letters written in cursive handwriting with Mother’s name on them. As I began to read them, I realized that Paul Stetson was not dead. He was in a prison somewhere in East Texas and had been there some time serving a life sentence. In every letter, he asked how his darling daughter was doing and when Mother was going to give me all the letters he had written me. I’ve never received anything from Paul Stetson. The last letter was dated September 18, 2007. In the letter, my father was upset because Mother had not replied to his last ten letters. He stated that he would not be writing her back because he could take the hint. He went on to say that he has always loved her and always will, but that he imagines she is either dead, or has no more feelings towards him anymore. If only he knew. I sat against the dusty attic wall and cried until no more tears would come. I cried for the family we never could have been. I cried for all the years that my father knew about me but could not be a part of my life. I cried for Mother, who loved a man she could never be with. At that moment, I knew Mother loved me. She had kept me from the same heartache she spent her whole life enduring. Heartache that goes by the name; Paul Stetson.

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Todd

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