Your fate is to have free will
May 17, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Today I found an artifact that had gone missing. I’d heard about it for years, but I’d never laid eyes on it. Now I’ve examined and touched it. Part of me had wondered if it really existed. Does it prove anything? Yes. It proves that our fate is to have free will. I broach the subject in Ghosts and Ballyhoo, but someday I’d like to write a whole book on fate versus free will. They aren’t mutually exclusive.
My mother and I had an antagonistic relationship until the last three years of her life. To be perfectly blunt, she hated me, even though she didn’t know it. After Mom died I figured out why she felt the way she did. I’m a researcher; unlike a lot of people, I always want to know the answer, regardless of the cost. Though the answer brought a lot of pain, it also allowed me to understand that it wasn’t Mom’s fault.
Here’s Mom holding me when I was about four months old.
That photo says it all. Her expression is what went on inside her when she and I interacted. Her right hand appears to be holding my foot, but it isn’t really. Mom and I never touched. I was raised by a Venezuelan maid named Delia. In all our thousands of photos, there are none of Mom feeding me. Again, it wasn’t her fault.
I don’t feel sorry for myself, so you shouldn’t feel sorry for me either. We play with the cards we’re dealt.
The majority of my life and the lives of my family isn’t for public consumption; however, some things can be told. Mom was almost married twice before she finally wed my father Edward Wictor. I know about Mom’s previous relationships because she told me. In the last three years of her life, I became her closest confidant. As she slowly starved herself to death, her antagonism toward me returned, so Tim and I had to make the agonizing decision to keep me away from her as much as possible.
Again, she wasn’t aware that she was angry at me again. The free will she exercised wasn’t an informed choice. My presence made her emotional state worse, so I wasn’t with her when she died. She’d been comatose for almost three days. I don’t blame her for her anger. She was the victim of many sins and crimes.
Mom went to Venezuela in the spring of 1957. A local newspaper covered her imminent departure.
Life in the Tia Juana oil camp was very different from what Mom had experienced. My detective work has convinced me that Mom wasn’t really allowed to live her own life until she went to Venezuela. Reading old letters and listening carefully during my nightly conversations with Mom helped me see what she couldn’t bring herself to say: Her parents pretty much determined what she would do.
Mom was a rebel. She tried twice to defy her parents, but they called her bluff. Despite being rebellious, Mom wasn’t a fighter. Her oncologist recognized that.
“She’s really not a fighter, is she?” he sadly asked near the end.
No, she wasn’t. So when she fled to Mexico City, and her mother went after her, Mom gave in and came back to California. Her one great act of defiance was refusing to marry a man essentially picked out for her. After that relationship ended, Mom’s father told her that she would apply for the teaching job in Venezuela.
Mom’s parents didn’t know that the oil camp was one big party, every night. Most of the male oil workers and the female teachers were single. Here’s Mom on the left in September of 1957.
Until she told me, I didn’t know that Mom had ever consumed enough alcohol to get bed spins. I’d never seen her drink anything. She said that when she drank even a glass of wine, it made her elbows feel really heavy.
This is the second man who Mom almost married.
I know his name, but it’s not necessary to reveal it. Mom wrote a lot about him in diaries that I read after she died. In her own way, Mom was as much a mystery as Dad, and as I said before, I had to find out why she felt such anger toward me.
Mom’s second brush with marriage ended when the man was forced to leave Venezuela in 1958. Mom and a friend then went…somewhere. It may have been Mexico, Peru, or Trinidad. Wherever she went, Mom had her hair cut.
Mom and Dad told us three different stories about how they met. This is the one I’ll relate.
The oil camp had a country club; after her return from the vacation where she had her hair cut, Mom and a friend went to the club and joined a table full of Trinidadian bachelors. As Mom sat down, an American voice spoke.
“Got yourself clipped, huh?”
It was my future father, Edward. Mom knew who he was, but she didn’t think he was aware of her. It was flattering that he’d noticed her new hairstyle.
After the group broke up, Mom went into the club bar for a shrimp cocktail. Dad entered and asked if she had any plans for the evening.
“Just a shrimp cocktail,” she said.
“Don’t have a shrimp cocktail,” Dad said. “Come have dinner with me.”
She agreed. What woman wouldn’t? Look how handsome and soulful Dad was.
They both went to their separate dorms and showered, and then Dad picked up Mom and took her to an Italian restaurant. She said he put Parmesan cheese in his coffee, thinking the little bowl on the table was powdered creamer.
As they ate, she was overwhelmed with the knowledge that she would spend the rest of her life with this man. The revelation scared her to death. By the end of the date—which included watching a French film in a theater with no roof—Mom had convinced herself that her premonition was just an attack of nerves.
“You’re only the second person I’ve ever told about that feeling,” she said to me.
Mom and Dad got engaged after just a couple of months and married on May 30, 1959. The artifact I mentioned earlier in this post is a newspaper clipping that one of Mom’s friends gave her in 1957 when Mom was accepted for the job in Venezuela. The friend knew someone from Iowa who had that newspaper sent to her in California.
“This is why you’re going down there,” Mom’s pal said teasingly. Mom forgot about this clipping until after she and Dad were married. I’d never actually seen it until today. After Dad died on February 23, 2013, I looked for this artifact constantly for over a year. And this afternoon I found it.
Both my parents made lots of decisions that fulfilled Mom’s premonition. Were Mom and Dad fated to get together? Yes, but their free will could’ve changed that fate.
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