31. The Wait

In a little house on Venus Drive, she waited for him to come home from the war.  She passed the time making airplanes and when he got home, he told all his friends that she was a better mechanic than anyone in town. His car ran because of her expertise.

Telling you that much, if you’re old enough, you can probably guess who they were.

They had the kind of love everyone hopes for.  Two young people devoted to each other, growing older together.

He said to her, often, “I will never leave you. Never.”

And she would say, “You can’t promise that. What if you die?”

“Even if I die, if there’s a way, I will be here.”

“Me, too, Mister,” she would say, “me, too.”

She died. Got hit by a car while she was out riding her bike.  He was at home, sensed nothing amiss.  Even when the police finally came to his door, he smiled much longer than was appropriate, because he simply could not believe she would leave him.

He waited all evening for her to come back in the door, to tell him it was all a mistake.

She never came.

Every holiday, he waited for some sign.

“Dad,” his daughter would say, “open the present.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I thought I heard something,” he would lie. He never heard anything.

When his grandson was born, he thought, “This is it, if she comes, it will be now.”  And he waited for anything he could consider her, a noise, an out of place shadow, the smell of her perfume.  But nothing.

He met a woman at church and eventually it seemed to make sense that they would get married.  Still, he didn’t want to offend his dead wife.  “If you mind,” he would whisper, “just tell me.”

But nothing.

His son-in-law was kind of a jerk and he would say things like, “Maybe she’s too busy. Maybe she’s got better things to do. Maybe she’s forgotten all about you.”

But he felt sure, if she could come back, she would have. She never did.

Finally, after years, with his second wife by his side, he died.

It went like this. He had been semi-conscious for hours, not quite able to do much more than mumble.  And then, he sat up, looked ahead of him, said plain as day, “Oh, so that’s why.” and started to sob.

And then, after a minute, he laid back down, and fell asleep. He never regained consciousness.

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I’m Starting to Wonder if I Need Professional Help

Ha, not that kind. Professional genealogical help. Let us ponder the question of Luke Phillips from a new angle. The only people whose word we have that there was a guy named Luke Phillips who was born in 1808 in New York are Ole Luke himself and his family members, all of whom told Census takers that, on and after 1850.

I’ve been reading old public domain histories of Oakland County, Michigan, looking for references to Phillipses, trying to find my ancestors. And I find a Mrs. Philip Erenesberger from Lansing, Michigan claiming that her father, Luke Phillips, came to Pontiac, in Oakland County, in 1828. This seemed like a lead–an actual date of arrival for Luke Phillips. But I look up all Philip Ernesbergers who ever lived in Lansing, Michigan (or Michigan, period) in the 1800s.

There is one. His wife, Ellen, was born in 1806.

This, of course, makes it physically impossible for my Luke, born in 1808, to be her dad. So, then, I have a thought. What if my Luke is Ellen’s brother? And their father–also called Luke–arrived in 1828? I’ve had no luck locating a father Luke, though I have taken to calling my dad and saying, “Luke, who is your father?” which my dad is pretty good natured about.

I decided, then, to look at my dad’s great grandpa, Oscar F. Phillips and try to figure out why it seems that he lived in Oakland county his whole life, except for also living in Ionia county. Well, turns out that there are two Oscar F. Phillipses, married to women named Mary, who, by even greater coincidence, were both deaf. I can hardly believe it myself, but it appears to be true.

The Oscar who is not my relative (I don’t think), was the son of David Phillips (b. 1799). Oscar was born in 1825 in Wayne County, which is just north of Oakland County, and his claim to fame is that he was the first white kid born in Wayne County. He married his Mary and had three children–Walter, William, and Anna. At some point, they moved to Ionia County, which is the same county as Ellen lived in.

My Oscar was born in Oakland County in 1836. He was deaf from birth and married Mary E. Hildreth and moved west to be near her people. They had probably five kids–Barlow (who I can’t find in the censuses as a child, but my dad remembers my grandpa talking aout his uncle Barlow), Carabel, Ralph, Frank, and Clyde.

Now, keeping in mind when the Oscars were born and how very few white people there were in Michigan at the time AND how very few Phillipses there yet were AND that they were born just a county apart to people who stayed in those counties, I’m finding it a little implausible that this is just coincidence. Though, I suppose, it must be.

Still, I find nothing, no records, no recollections, nothing, that puts my Phillipses in Oakland county before 1850 other than their own saying so.

This means one of three things. 1. They’re lying about being in Michigan before 1850. 2. They’re lying about their names. 3. I just haven’t found them yet.

You know I’m hoping for scandal.