It is amazing to realize how personal choices are so fateful–full of fate–not just for the one who chooses a certain path or makes a decision in life, but for those who literally come after them. In fact, some of our choices actually determine just who comes after us on the planet!
For example, I asked my dad, Scott K. Hancock, who was in his late seventies at the time, “Hey, Dad, you were quite the ladies man in your day. Was there a woman who you let slip through your fingers?”
He looked at me funny as if to say, Well, my son is in his fifties, and I am about done on earth, so I guess it’s all right to tell it. “As a matter of fact, there was a girl back in Corsicana, Texas during the War. Her name was Thelma Mae. I should have married her, but I didn’t. I got cold feet and stood her up. That was a mistake.” I could tell it was difficult for him to talk about.
I said, “Yeah, but what about me? You married Mom and had me right after the War. If you had married that girl, I would not exist! This very conversation we are having right now would not be taking place.”
“I guess you are right,” Dad said, righting himself, withdrawing back into taciturnity, no doubt wondering what had gotten into himself for sharing anything so personal.
“I am glad that you didn’t marry her,” I finally said. And that was about all we said that day, for I had already seen the windows of communication being shuttered over his countenance. A couple of years later, Dad died. That was 2002. We never talked any more about it.
I shared our talk with my wife Linda. “If Dad had done right, if he had kept his word and promise to Thelma Mae, our kids–all five of them–Danny, Noah, Sara, Hannah, and Joby–would not exist. And our grandkids–no Cody, Austin, or Baby Katy. It would be a totally different universe. Linda, you would have existed, of course, but not you you. We are the sum total of our experiences, so subtract our 40 years together, and who then would you haver been?”
Linda just looked at me with that quizzical beginning of a smile that said, He’s out there again, but I love him.
“So my Dad’s betrayal of that girl some 65 years ago created a parallel world that permitted nine human beings to exist that would not have existed otherwise. How can good come out of something bad–something so bad that it would haunt my Dad all those years?”
Then I thought of God’s foreknowledge. He knows all things beforehand. There are no surprises for Him. And then the scripture, “He puts it into their hearts to fulfill His will.”
I talked to my Mom about this story, and she filled me in with the details that Dad did not share.
Dad and Thelma Mae had written each other for four years during World War II. They were betrothed. She had worked and had saved up, and her trousseau was full. All was ready with the wedding dress, linens, and fineries. Even furniture awaited their housewarming. When Dad did not come back for her–and that without a word–she was heartbroken.
Instead, Dad married my Mom Louise in December 1945 and immediately took off to Califorinia for a brand new start. I now know the reason for the sudden departure was as much personal as it was for financial considerations.
My Mom told me that a couple of years after their move, my grandmother wrote them a letter. That would have been about the time, ironically enough, I was born. She said that Thelma had died. Mom said she read the letter, and it didn’t say much more than that. Mom asked Dad who the girl was, and he said, “Oh, it was just a girl he had known back then.”
Mom said that after moving back to Texas in 1955, she had spoken to a woman she met at church in Oak Cliff that had known Dad and all the Hancocks of Kerns, Texas. She filled Mom in on what had happened to Thelma Mae. She had died of a broken heart in 1947. She just wasted away. Probably took pneumonia because she wouldn’t eat and take care of herself. She was buried in her white wedding dress, and on her breast was laid my Dad’s 8 x 10 Army photograph and a stack of love letters he had written to her.
Oh, my God. The sadness that my Daddy endured for the rest of his life–a sadness that paved the way for me and my family’s existence! How unsearchable are all the ways of this life, for I was born out of a betrayal–possibly the most hurtful of all the sins. I would not have come into existence had not my father made that fateful choice and its accompanying regret–a remorse that he carred with him to his grave. Kenneth Wayne Hancock