A Death In The Family

Every family has its stories. Some are common knowledge within. Some are skeletons known but to a few. Some are uplifting. And others are sad or tragic even to the point of being so overwhelming to its owner as to be suited only to the voice of another in its telling.

My mother’s father worked as a Switch Monkey for the St. Louis – San Francisco Railroad, aka the Frisco R.R. He was also a true blackguard who bankrupted my grandmother’s lucrative watering hole in the tough Northside of Ft. Worth and defrauded many others, including his own, in real estate deals and more. He married thrice, the last time to a nurse who worked at John Petersmith Hospital and who had been his mistress throughout the first two marriages. His death at age 49 was, to some, untimely and, to others, anything but, with his siblings, two former wives, his only daughter, and many associates counted among the latter.

For officials such as the Tarrant County Medical Examiner, it was a complete and irritating mystery, as his Death Certificate shows. Under the heading Medical Certification and next to the fill-in-the-blank section for Disease Or Condition Directly Leading To Death is typed “(Unknown) Autopsy was made by Terrell Laboratory for Mrs. _________ who refused to reveal results. Waited 20 days. If possible, will forward results later.” Also, the block for stating whether it was Accident, Suicide, or Homicide is blank. So, since Mrs. _________ was neither then forthright nor ever forthcoming, both the cause and the manner of his death are to this day unknown, at least to outsiders. The family, however, has it down as murder by then nearly undetectable barbiturate overdose at the hands of the third Mrs. on discovering that he was bedding yet another.