Maupin Roots Can’t Die

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Something amazing happened to me this past Saturday. Well, first, let me back up; there’s some history here. I often refer to my late stepfather as my Dad, because that’s what he was/is to me. My birth father left my mother when I was five years old, and although through the years, she and my family never spoke ill of him – in front of me, I knew there was resentment — I often wondered about him. Comments were made like, “you’re just like your father!” … “you’re as stubborn as a Missouri Mule! (his birthplace)” … “You look like the Maupins, you look just like your father” All of these things were true, but still I wondered where he was and how he lived. He was a career military man, and I would dream he was off in some faraway land, taking romantic war photos. All I knew was his name was Bill Maupin and his mother’s name was Hopie, who supposedly lived in a small house with a garden and chickens, right in the center of the campus of the University of Missouri. I never met Hopie, but always dreamed of what my fraternal grandmother was like; I had no clue! My father was clearly ashamed of his past, and did not like to talk about it. One amusing story I recollect was of Hopie mailing my mother some eggs from her chickens – just mailed them – my father was so embarrassed and angry, he grabbed the box and stuffed the mess in the trash. When I heard the story, the family laughed about it; I, on the other hand, thought it was a very tender and thoughtful act.

I found my father in a very unusual situation. It seems, I had a brother; a real live brother. You have to know, I was raised as an only child in an extended household in Queens, NY. This home consisted of my mother and I (and my father, when he was still there), my maternal grandparents, and my Aunt Thelma, my mother’s sister, who had an apartment upstairs. It never occurred to me that I had a sibling. Ray Maupin is my older half brother. In 1974, he came into my life, announced that he was my brother, and he had been looking for me most of his adult life. There was no disputing his claim, because he looked and acted just like me! He also looked and acted exactly like my father, Bill. Ray said my father was in a VA hospital in Manhattan and wanted to see me. It was up to him to bring us together. Reluctantly, I went to see him. The reunion was the most awkward, bittersweet thing I’ve ever imagined. The 6’5″ cigar chewing man was strangely the way I remembered the last time I’d seen him 15 years earlier. Finally, I was able to look into that face that everyone said was mine. No doubt, true enough. I was his.

Over the years, I wondered what this reunion would be like; I always knew it would come. I thought I’d seen him countless times in the subway, driving to the beach or in a store. And, once in the audience of a theatre where I was onstage briefly for one night – I caught a glimpse of a man I believed to be him. I imagined I would be angry, bitter. I really wasn’t — I was curiously unfeeling, and experienced an odd feeling of power, peering down into the face of the man I once called “Daddy,” aging before my eyes — a man begging for the love and affection of his daughter, yet still bathed in the arrogant cavalier manner he was known for. Yep, I was just like him, and he was now 60, and I was 20.

I also learned of a sister who lived with her mother Willa Belle Scott, in Detroit. Virginia (a/k/a “Ginger”), also older than I, was born with brain damage and had some mental disabilities. Gazing at photos of her (Ray had archived everything he knew about us, and brought albums), I again looked into my face. My heart held four solid lumps, one for me, one for my father, one for Ray and then Ginger. Who were we, and where did we come from?
Oddly enough, the first person I called back home in Indiana to tell about my discovery was my “Dad” – my stepdad, Lewis Poindexter. He and I had a rocky start when my mother married him. I was 14, he was 33, at the time, and the culture shock of moving from NYC to rural Indiana was just ridiculous! But, he’s the one I reached out to and told. When I moved back to Indiana, a few years later, he took me to Ponderosa for steak, and we talked about Bill. That is when my bond with my “Dad” was cemented.

Over the next year, I forged a relationship with Bill, although I felt it was strained, I wanted him in my life. But the year with him was weird. He would take me places, buy me things, and frequently had me over to his apartment that he shared with his new common law wife named Doris, and a very nasty Dalmation named Gaylord, who liked to pee off of their 25th floor balcony to the street below. Doris was very nice; but I kept feeling she was in the way. My feelings for Bill were twisted and warped. One minute I loved him; the next I was angry for him leaving us; and sometimes I was cruel in my thoughts, trying to see what I could get from him to make up for the past. Of course, you can’t make the past up; it’s simply that, the past. Gone forever.

On my 21st birthday, he gave me 21 silver dollars, and Doris loaned me a mink stole to take on a cruise with my Aunt Thelma. As usual, he acted as if nothing had changed; as if he had been there all those years. I asked him about Hopie, but he would never answer me.

At some point during the year, he moved to Kansas to live near Ray. I did not realize my father was dying. He suffered from narcolepsy all his life, and even exhibited it when he was with me, falling asleep at stoplights, in the middle of conversations. At the VA Hospital at Ft. Leavenworth, he was diagnosed with brain cancer, where he died in October of 1975.

It was then that my heart began an overhaul. This is when the true anger, resentment and bitterness began to swell inside. I only had him for one year!

Ray tried so hard to remain in touch with me, calling, visiting, sending cards and pictures of his many children. But, it was hard for me. I was afraid of reconnecting, and perhaps losing again. He often asked me about our family; if I knew anything. I knew nothing. And, eventually I lost touch with Ray. I tried often to find him, but never could. Every now and then I would “google” his name or Bill’s name; even Hopie’s name – looking for a clue … nothing.

This past Saturday, I googled my father’s name one last time, and an unusual link popped up. It was from a post on Rootsweb.com. Apparently, there had been a Maupin reunion last year. I sent an email and asked if anyone knew anything about my family. And wonders of wonders, I received a message back within the hour. A gentleman named “W.A.”, from Kansas City, had a “bit of information” … All I wanted to know was Hopie’s name and perhaps my grandfather’s. What Mr. “A” advised me (so far) has been mind blowing!

Hopie Ramsey Maupin (my grandmother), b. 1887, married William H. Maupin on Dec. 23, 1911. They had three children; George, b. 1905; Julia, b. 1913; and William (my father), b. 1914.
Hopie had a brother named Henry Wright Ramsey, b. 1872, who never married, and died of liver cancer in 1926. They are the children of Martha Wright Ramsey, b. 1832.
Martha (my great grandmother) was married to Jerry Ramsey. She died on June 11, 1930 from complications from Bronchial Asthma (a condition I have suffered from since birth). Martha Ramsey was the daughter of Melinda Jameson (my great great grandmother), possibly (1808-1850), a slave
.

Apparently, Mr. “A” is an expert on the Maupin family, as he himself is a Maupin as well – only he is Caucasian. He explained that most of the Black Maupins did not survive, and he has been interested in that branch of the family for decades. He started climbing the family tree in the 70’s. He also also advised that he had found a death certificate for a man named “Boston Maupin,” but cannot find any links to him. He somehow keeps thinking he is my ancestor. If this is the case, Ray and I are the missing links – Boston may have been a freed slave, and it is likely that Maupin was the owner’s surname.

A couple of years ago a young soldier was missing in Iraq by the name of Keith “Matt” Maupin. I remember how I kept staring at his picture, and once again, I saw my face … only, he, like Mr. “A”, was Caucasian. But, I know deep inside, somewhere, we shared the same blood. When his remains were finally found, I cried for days.
Mr. “A” is continuing on his search to help me find and know where I come from, and I continue to search for Ray and his family. I know this story isn’t all that interesting to everyone. We all have our journeys. But, in light of things happening in my life lately — all the sadness, depression and frustrations, etc. This news has brought so much happiness and relief to me. Saturday was a great, great day!

Even more amazing, a few years ago, I found a hybrid tea rose called “Hopie Girl.”  A simple little bush, with a soft, elegant, pale yellow rose with about 40 petals. I planted her – in honor of the grandmother I never knew – about four years ago but she only bloomed for me once. I was about to shovel prune her — until this morning, when she greeted me with the most magnificant blooms you ever saw!
And the plot thickens …

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