When my publisher, Karen Syed, proposed the idea to create an anthology comprised of stories about missing people I immediately thought of my series. My character, Grace Marsden, remembers how her mother anguished over the disappearance of an older sister, never knowing her fate. In the first book, The Rosary Bride, the fact that Harry Marsden, Grace’s husband had been kidnapped in a foreign country and was missing for many months and eventually presumed dead plays into the dynamics of the story.
I wrote the back story as a prequel to the series. It wasn’t until I’d turned in the story that I began to think about the pain of someone gone missing in real life. The story, Harry’s Fall from Grace, was fun to write but it was fiction and therefore involved no real heartache.
I’m first generation Italian. My mom came here as a war bride in 1947. My dad met her as a G.I. in WWII. Neither one of them talked much about their experiences during the war.
My dad was a long way from Taylor Street in Chicago when he deployed to Italy.
My mother and her aunt had been separated from other family members. There was uncertainty and fear. Yet amidst the fear there were pockets of humor that they would share with my brother and me.
My mother explained how my dad drank all of her father’s homemade wine then returned the empty bottles to the shelves. After the Allies liberated the town and her family was reunited my mom told her father that the Tedesco (Germans) must have done it. Her aunt wasn’t there to contradict her story because she had hurried to a neighboring town to check on other relatives. My mother never saw her again.
My dad told funny stories about tricks he and his army buddies played on each other when the “war was slow.” The pranks reminded me of the TV show, MASH, and we’d beg for more stories. Inevitably the war kicked in and my dad and his buddies shipped out to Anzio. He’d get quiet then sad telling us he never saw some of those men again.
As a young girl I heard my aunts' hushed whispers about a favorite older cousin, Chickie. She moved to Las Vegas, a bold move for an Italian girl in the 50’s. I never saw her again. I was ten years old and soon stopped asking and forgot about her.
My mother’s aunt, my dad’s buddies, my cousin all went missing.
Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced during WWII. My mother arrived at Ellis Island in 1947. Her aunt eventually resurfaced having been evacuated from a town in the path of the German push. The train she escaped on took her north to Switzerland and years passed before she could get word to her family.
My dad stayed close to a few army buddies until they scattered to all parts of the country to pursue new civilian lives and the ties lessened. He never did find out the fate of one buddy in particular after they fought on the beach in Anzio.
It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was deemed old enough to know the story on my cousin. She’d been missing in my life but flourishing in her new life started as a runaway two decades earlier.
To loosely paraphrase Forest Gump, “missing is as missing does.” So many definitions, so many explanations.
I have been blessed in the fact that I have never experienced the anger, the anguish and eventually the quiet gnawing of never knowing the fate of someone I loved.
The anthology Missing is dedicated to those who suffer the daily pain of not knowing. Proceeds from the sales will be donated to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the hopes that more funding can lead to more answers
I am honored to have been part of this endeavor.
National Writing Month
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