When I was a kid, we visited my Mom's dad and brothers and sisters in Garrett twice a year. We also visited her brother in Kentucky, and we drove all the way down to Florida to visit her high school friend.
Why did we never visit her cousins in North Manchester?
It was only about an hour's drive from Grandpa's farmhouse, and about half an hour out of the way on our usual route home.
And -- Mom grew up with them.
In 1942, when she was five years old, she moved to northern Indiana with her family, so her dad could take advantage of factory jobs during World War II. Cousin Crit and his family moved into the Old House on the hill, about a quarter mile away.
Mom must have seen Cousin Crit's kids every day. They must have gone to school together, played together, visited each other constantly, year after year, from 1942 to 1959, when she married my father. Why did she never see them as an adult?
There was something fishy here, some scandal. And there was probably a gay connection.
In the fall of 2006, I made a few phone calls.
"There's no mystery. We only had a week to spend in Indiana, and just count up all the people we had to visit: my Dad, two brothers, three sisters, their families, your Grandma Davis, your Aunt Nora, your Aunt Edna, their kids. There was no time for any side-trips."
That answer didn't hold up. Most of Mom's family came by Grandpa Prater's house to visit us. There was plenty of time for a side trip.
"Besides, most of Cousin Crit's kids weren't living in North Manchester. Only Wilkie and Alice."
I checked the list I copied from the family Bible. Wilkie, born in 1939, probably named after the presidential candidate.
"Wilkie was only two years younger than you. Were you close growing up?"
There was a long pause. "Not really. He had his own friends and his own activities. All that long-hair stuff, theater and music. Nothing to do with me."
My gaydar went off. "I see that he never married. Was he gay?"
"Of course not," Mom said definitively. "There were lots of reasons not to get married in those days."
2. Aunt Mary, Mom's older sister.
"There's no big mystery. None of Cousin Crit's kids were your mother's age. They were separated by something like five years, which doesn't seem like a lot when you're a grownup, but it's a big deal when you're young. Who wants to hang out with a baby?"
"Wilkie was only two years younger than Mom, though."
There was a long pause. "Oh, right, I forgot about Wilkie. He and your Mom used to be friends when they were little -- they played dolls together, that sort of thing. But around high school, they drifted apart. Your Mom was all about dating and boys, and Wilkie didn't want anything to do with that. He never had any girlfriends."
My gaydar went off.
The full story, with nude photos and explicit sexual situations, is on Tales of West Hollywood.
See also: A Sausage Sighting of the Mysterious Boy at the Old House.