My Dad

My Dad Billy Ray Hardin
My Dad
Billy Ray Hardin
Growing up in Clovis, NM, memories of my Dad are mostly of him at work.  Dad leased a gas station, and ran the business along with the help of my mom.  The first station that he managed, was pretty far from our home, on what was called the base highway, because it led to Cannon Airforce Base.  The first few years of operating the station, Dad kept it open 7am to 9pm 7 days a week.  Because I was still just 5 years old, I spent those days with Mom and Dad at the station.  Mom would take me to the library, I was an early reader, and I would read much of the day.  I also liked to stick a red rag or grease rag in my pocket, and follow Dad around.  He would let me go into the shop bay, but not out in the drive where the pumps were.  He was always protective of me getting hurt.

Dad also had a disability.  He never talked about it and he never let it stop him from working.  When he as two years old, a family member was driving with Dad in the front seat of the car when they had an accident.  I never knew the details except that the car drove under a semi truck.  Dad amazingly survived the crash, but his right arm and hand were torn up pretty badly.  His right hand turned completely under, and he could not use those fingers. His hand was never fixed.  There was no attempt at surgery. For reasons unknown, it was just left that way.   Many years later after Dad had retired, a Dr. told him he would love to fix it for him, but by that time Dad said he was too old to worry about it.  Dad also had a knee that was held together by screws.  This incident was in his teens, and another car accident.  With no one willing to take care of him, or possibly couldn’t, he was left in a hospital for a full year.  I can’t image that, but it is the truth, verified by one of my sweet great aunts, who used to visit him. Dad had many things happen to him in early life that probably could have just kept him down, but he was a survivor.

I watched him work, walking on the concrete and pumping gas in the New Mexico heat. I watched the sweat drop into his eyes and him wipe it away with the red rag. I watched him pull his pants up and tighten his belt. He was losing weight. He was small anyway, he probably weighed around 140 lbs. I cried to a God that I really didn’t know yet, but I believed he was there. I asked him why? Why did Dad have to work so hard out in the sun? Isn’t there a job inside he could have. I would watch Mom take his boots off at night and gently work on his feet. He had calluses and corns. As a little girl this made me so sad. I wished God would change things for him, give him an easier job. Finally my Mom saw the toll it was taking on him. I believe it was by her encouragement that he started closing on Sunday. The pay that Dad received from gas, was only pennies on the gallon. The station was open to take in flat tires and cars with issues. Dad together with Mom learned to fix many of those issues. I can remember my mom doing what they call rebuilding a carburetor. She was definitely not afraid of work. Once my Mom got here finger hung in the tire machine, big machine that they use to take a tire off of its rim. To this day there is a mark on her wedding ring where Dad pried her finger loose. God answered my prayer in not exactly the way I had asked, but he gave my Dad a much better station, with better location, and a better owner to work with, who paid him more money on gas purchases. Dad was able to hire extra help and the station eventually became known as the best full service gas station in town. They had contracts with the post office and the police department. That meant not only did they purchase their gas from the station, but Dad was responsible also did all of the maintenance and service work on each of the vehicles.

Dad, and Mom too, had huge hearts for helping others. Dad actually had his phone number printed on the large glass front window of the station. In an emergency call Bill — — —-. I’m not making this up, he truly did this. It wasn’t uncommon for him to get a call late at night from someone who needed help. Broken down vehicles, but also just people traveling through who had run out of money, and needed gas to get back home. I don’t think I ever heard him turn away anyone. If he could help he always did. I hope I can always have the kind of heart for helping people that he did. I believe I got my survival skills and work ethic from him. My Dad had his flaws like we all do, but he was a good man and I am forever grateful for the good things I can hold onto from him……My Dad.

Finding A Star…The Rest of the Story

imageThat night at Chastains was a night that I will probably will never forget. Toby introduced us to some of his family and friends in between sets, and the band and Toby sounded great. He sang several songs that he had written, and also a rock song with a rap in the middle. It was the first time I had heard anything like that, but it worked! It really worked! Creativeness in music and songwriting was certainly one of his strong characteristics. I don’t think there’s much that he wouldn’t try musically, and he seemed to just have the gift for putting it all together and producing something that makes you want to hear it over and over. The night went by way too fast, and we all made plans to meet for breakfast in the morning.

I believe it was a Denny’s. Present were myself, Toby, Mr.Shedd and Fred Cortez, who was Toby’s close friend and owner of Chastains. After what seemed like small talk that would never end. Harold said something close to this,

“Well I’m interested in doing a record on you….”

Toby immediately replied, “I want you to produce me.”

So there the conversation began of the timeline and what that might look like, and then one small detail…

Toby asked, “What about the band?”

“Well you can use any band you want on the road, but I don’t need a band on the label.”

Toby truly was the backbone of the band, but I’m sure it was still very disappointing for those other men who had played with him for quite some time. But business is business so Toby Keith solo artist was about to get his big chance.

I excused myself to the ladies room, and on my way back out, Toby and I were face to face in the small bathroom entryway. We were both speechless really. I think I let out some kind of immature girly squeal and hugged him. Neither one of us could have fathomed the road that lie ahead.

It was several months before recording actually started. The project fittingly titled
Toby Keith, was recorded at the famous Music Mill Recording Studio in Nashville.
The label staff were throwing around the idea of which song to use as the first single. They decided on a song, which would later be given the title of the most played country song of the 1990’s. That song, Shoulda Been A Cowboy was Toby’s first number one song, and still one of my favorites.

I continued to stay close to Toby and his career that first year.  I can remember thinking, wow that was easy!  But in reality I would come to learn that these types of success from an artist on their first album are pretty rare.  Many times it takes lots of trial and error, and even then there are problems such as record companies closing down, and getting radio to even play your songs.  Yes, I learned a lot during that time about the business of music.

One afternoon Toby called me up, and asked me if I would be interested in working with his Fan Club. I immediately said yes, but fear shot up through the back of my neck like it was on fire.  He asked me to get back with him about a time that we could talk about the details.  I said I would, and hung up the phone.

What have I done?  I don’t know anything about a fan club?  Did he say, “working with his fan club” or “running his fan club?”  What if I screw it up.  What if I don’t know what I’m doing….what if….what if
What if he can’t pay me….I can’t quit my Flight Attendant job.  So here is where I did what I had done so many times in my life, I didn’t respond back to him, out of fear.  I was afraid to try.  Afraid to fail.  Afraid of disappointing him.  Afraid that in the big world of the Country Music business, I would look stupid.  Fear and Pride, the bondage that kept me from trying to do a job that might have eventually led me to my dream of working in the Music Business.

Over the years we have kept in touch and my family and I make it out to a show when we can. I still love music, but God has given me another passion, to help others in recovery, and serve him. Through Toby’s support, we are able to give Life Recovery Bibles to the women in the jail ministry class. God is good, and he knows what he’s doing, even when we have no clue😊

Finding A Star……Continued

Who said timing is everything? In this case I guess it was pretty close. I pulled out a tape of songs written and recorded by my friend Toby and the Easy Money Band. Perfect! I love his music, maybe Mr. Mercury will love it too. I popped it in my topper pocket, and headed toward his seat. For a split second, I almost turned around. If I give him the tape, thats the only one I have…..Funny when I think about that today, but that is the truth, I didn’t want to give up my only tape of my friend. I thought better of my turn around plan and decided to give up the tape.  Approaching his seat, a little nervous, I wanted to say the right thing.

“Excuse me, I just remembered that I have this tape of my friend Toby from Oklahoma. He is a really good singer, and I really like the songs that he writes. Would you be willing to listen?”
“Oh ok, I’ll listen to it in the car a little later, I’m a bit tired right now.”
My heart sunk. He’s giving me the brush off. My only tape……Oh Lori, maybe he is just tired, besides you have always thought that music sounded better blaring in the car anyway, right? Then I realized the tape I handed him had a name and only a name. That wasn’t very smart. I quick scribbled my name and number on a piece of paper and headed back to Mr. Mercury.
“I’m sorry to bother you again. I realized that if you like the tape, you will need a contact.”
He was very polite and said, “Oh yes thank you. Is this you?”
“Yes it is.”
“I will give you a call. Thank You Lori.”
“You are welcome. Thank you for being willing to listen.”
Ok, now that was a little better than, “I’m tired”. Maybe he will listen. Maybe he will like it. Maybe…….Oh there I go again…big dreams…..
The trip ended three days later, and I walk in the door of my apartment in Nashville. Just a one bedroom, but it was nice to have my own place. In New York we lived four to a two bedroom, which was fun for a while but not a life I wanted to live for too long. I did what I always did coming home from a trip, I went straight to the answering machine to see who called me when I was gone. This was before the days of affordable cell phones. The only cell phones out there were about the size of a good size paper back book, with a long antenna sticking up on top, and not yet affordable for most people. I pushed the flashing button to see who had called. The first call caused me to sit straight down on the nearest chair.
“Ah hello there this is Harold Shedd with Mercury Records. I have a tape here that you gave me on my flight to LA….ah let’s seeToby Keith? I listened to his music, and I was pleasantly surprised. Could you give me a call back? I have some questions for you. Thank you, Goodbye.”
Nervous I grabbed the phone. I couldn’t wait to talk with Mr. Shedd.
“Mr. Shedds office.”
“Yes hello my name is Lori Hardin, I am returning Mr. Shedd’s call.”
“Just one moment………Lori, please hold for Mr. Shedd.”
“Thank You.”
“Hello Lori nice to hear back from you. I’m interested in hearing more from Toby. Did he write the songs on the tape?”
“Yes he did.”
“Do you know if his publishing is open.”
Publishing open……not sure what that means….
“No I don’t but I can find out.”
“Yeah why don’t you do that, and do you have any more of his music I could hear?”
“Yes I have a project he recorded about a year ago with his Easy Money Band”.
“If you don’t mind, drop that in the mail to me, my assistant can give you the info., and then find out about publishing and give me a call back. Will that work?”
“That’s fine. I will get right back to you.”
My heart was pounding. In my gut, I somehow knew that this man was truly interested in Toby, and I also knew he had the power to give him his big shot. Only one problem. How do I get in touch with Toby? The only time I would ever see him was when he was performing somewhere. I didn’t have a phone number, address, anything. I did have a number for one of his band members, I decided to start there.
I called this gentleman and he actually answered the phone. I explained the situation and asked him for Toby’s number.
“I’m sorry Lori, I don’t think Toby would want me to give out his phone number.”
“Are you serious???? Do you know how big this could be!!!!! Here is my number……….call him right now and tell him to call me it is urgent!”
Somehow the seriousness of the opportunity got through this guys head and he said, “OK, I’ll call him now.”
In what seemed like forever, my phone starting ringing…….. 

I’m really having trouble finishing up with this story. Not that it isn’t a great, fun story, but as I was reading through what I had written, I wondered why I was writing the story at all. I started it out wanting to share how fear had been such a huge part of my life when I was younger, and that was my focus. But somehow I got into what I think sounds more like, look what I did, I am so wonderful.  That really wasn’t my beginning intent. But you see I  have this thing called the flesh, and the flesh really likes to feel good. It really likes to pat itself on the back.  I am going to try to continue this story in a more appropriate way, that might have some hope for others as well.

The phone was ringing. I picked it up quickley, and yes on the other end was Toby Keith. I explained to him the details of my flight and that a Mr. Harold Shedd was interested in his music and wanted to hear more. He knew right away who Mr. Shedd was, and before the days of Google, he was able to enlighten me as well. I asked him about his publishing, which was open, and if he could send me more music.

The next few weeks, Toby sent me more music and I delivered it to Mr. Shedds office. At one visit he asked me if Toby would be performing anywhere the next weekend, he had some free time and would like to fly out and see him. Toby happened to be playing at a club close to his hometown on just that weekend. Thats perfect, said Mr. Record Guy. I will have  Joyce book my flights. Now, are you going as well………These words made fear race from my shoulders all the way up my back. I had never thought about that. Then he said, “You did put this all together……” “Sure I can do that.” Oh Lori what are you saying. You don’t even know this man, and all you know about the music buisness you have read in books.

Here’s where the fear began to really torment me. What if something goes wrong……what if he doesn’t even like Toby when he hears him. What if he is not a nice man……then what. You are pretending to be something you are not Lori. You know nothing about the music buisness, you just have a good ear for music. You are acting like a manager, and you are not.

I wish I could go back to that young girl and tell her that she does have talent. I would tell her, “You are a good communicator, people like to talk to you. You are a hard worker, and yes you do have a great ear for music, the kind of ear that instinctively knows what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to try.

The week passed and Mr. Shedd and I flew out to Oklahoma City to watch Toby perform at a club called Chastains. When we walked in the door Toby was on….and I do mean ON! He was singing a cover of The Kentucky Headhunters Song called Walk Softly on this Heart of Mine. Mr. Shedd had just signed the Kentucky Headhunters about a year earlier, and they were hot! Another moment of great timing.

As the night went on Toby sang many songs that he had written. Blue Moon, She Ain’t Worth Missin, Wish I Didn’t Know Now. These songs in the very near future would top the Billboard Charts.

New York With No Clue

At 21 years of age, I flew into New York City, alone, on American Airlines.  The company had allowed me to check two bags, therefore I chose the largest I could find and threw in everything I could think of.  I navigated one of those push carts and finally made my way to the taxi pickup area.  The horns honking and people shouting were just like in the movies.  I smiled at all the noise. It seemed so exciting. I was a Flight Attendant living in New York City.  Yes I know I hadn’t unpacked, or found a place to live, but that would be easy it’s NY City, there must be a million places to live.  

Fortunately I was meeting three other new hire Flight Attendants at the Milford Hotel in the city.  When you are a New Yorker, you start calling it “the city.”  The Milford Hotel at that time was one of our layover hotels, until a maid was found stabbed to death in one of the bath tubs.  The rooms were tiny, really tiny, but on a new hire salary, all four of us were sharing one room.  I still don’t know how we got all of our luggage in that little box.  It was wall to wall luggage and lipstick.  One of the girls from Dallas TX had lived in a larger city, and actually had a plan.  She had scoured the papers and magazines for rentals, but at the disappointment of most of us, our budget would end us up in Queens instead of “the city.”

We were the first Flight Attendants to move into 119-40 Metropolitan Ave., Kew Gardens, Queens.  The building was family owned, and we all knew the owner and head of the family as Frank.  Frank and his sons, made it a point to be very good to us, even picking us up in the family station wagon to move us from the Milford to Queens.  The apartment building was brand new and very nice.  We even had an intercom to buzz folks in when they came to visit. Pretty hi-tech for where I came from. We furnished the two bedroom apartment with modest means.  The bed I purchased was a futon type thing. Early on I knew that I would never truly call New York home. Exciting and fun that it was, the big city life was great to visit, but as the saying goes, “I wouldn’t want to live there.”  To this day, New York City is one of my favorite cities to visit.

After about a week in New York, I flew my first trip.  Back then the crew would sometimes play jokes on the new hires.  I was asked by the Captain to take an air sickness bag into the cabin, capture an air sample, and bring it to the cockpit.  Luckily about half way through the retrieving of the bag, I realized it must be a joke.  I was also put into the overhead compartment in first class.  I was pretty small back then.  The agent failed to give the crew a heads up that we were boarding, so first class passengers got a peak at the crew trying to get me out of the bin.  My first layover was on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale, I still have a photo somewhere of me and the crew on the beach having a cocktail. I knew I was going to love my job.   

My second month in New York, I was on what they call Reserve.  I had certain days off, and the rest of the days I had to be on call to the company.  I carried a beeper and the one who had my number was crew schedule. I was on call to three different airports, so my bag always stayed packed and ready to go. Flight attendants on reserve kept two staples in their bags, a swimsuit and a sweater because you never knew where you might end up.  I was still a huge country music fan and on one evening I went to a concert at Madison Square Gardens.  Alabama and The Judds.  Half way through the concert my beeper went off.  I was given an assignment for early the next morning.  I don’t remember going to bed that night.

In the small area where we lived in Kew Gardens, we felt almost like celebrities.  Everywhere we went we were asked if we were Flight Attendants.  Looking back, we were all young, cute, girls with accents from other parts of the U.S. and we hadn’t quite made our way in the craziness, so I’m sure we stood out.  Back then I didn’t mind standing out, I liked the attention.  

I became pretty good at getting around using the subway system and buses.  I loved going into the city.  We would go shopping, out to clubs, and sometimes just walk the city to see the sights.  I didn’t realize back then that I wasnt’ be very smart at times with my travels.  I would take the subway alone and sometimes come back later at night than I should have.  I was flashed by a middle aged white man, and mooned by a crazy man, but I was never hurt or robbed.  I learned to walk like I was on a mission.  That first few months I saw Donald Trump, Cindy Lauper, and Cheech Marin from Cheech and Chong.  

Then one day the announcement was made.  American Airlines was opening a Flight Attendant Base in Nashville, TN.  Yee-Haw pick me….and they did.

Finding a Star, When Your Afraid To Shine

It was my dream.  I’ve never really talked about it, somehow I knew it wouldn’t come true.

When I started with American Airlines in 1988, I was sent from Clovis, NM population 30,000 to live in New York City, population way too many.  I was scared out of my mind, but so excited I could explode!  I never really felt like I fit in back home, more my insecurity than anything, so NY was a fresh and exciting start.  I lived with three other young women. in a two bedroom apartment, in Kew Gardens, NY in the borough of Queens. We were the first Flight Attendants to move into the new building.  To this day, it is known as a flight attendant favorite, crawling with blue uniforms, Travelpro suitcases, and five am taxis to the airport.  I loved New York.  I loved the city and all the excitement, but never saw myself staying.  Instead of a bed, I purchased a futon type “thing” and put it right on the floor.  Six months later, American announced they were opening a Flight Attendant Base in Nashville, TN.  They were recruiting for the base.  Here’s where my dream comes in.

From the time I was a little girl, I loved music.  Specifically Country Music.  I can remember sitting in my room playing Ronnie Milsap and The Bee Gees.  I know The Bee Gees weren’t Country, but they were….  The Bee Gees.  As I grew older, I enjoyed many genres of music.  I just loved good music.  I especially had a heart for the songs. To me, a songwriter was in a whole league of their own.  They were gifted people.  Lyrics and Music.  That was my passion.  I find as I write this, that I am still embarrassed to share my heart.  I wanted to work in the Music business, or possibly even sing.

The Flight Attendant base was opened in Nashville, and I got my transfer.  There could not have been a happier young lady on the planet.  The airport held a luncheon at Opryland Hotel for all of the new Flight Attendants and to announce the opening of the base.  We were treated  special, like the city was waiting just for us. It was such an exciting time for Nashville and particularly the airline industry.

I found an apartment close to the airport and settled in.  If you asked me then, and even now, I would say, “I was born to live in Nashville!”  I met another Flight Attendant who liked music as much as I did and we instantly became friends.  Her name was Tamara and she was from Kruger, MS.  Being from a small town also, I had a lot in common with not only her, but the way she grew up. We always had some concert or event to go to on our days off, and because we could fly for free and had the energy of 20 somethings, we stayed busy.

Here I was,  living in the perfect area to pursue my dream.  It wasn’t hard to meet people in the Music Industry, they were everywhere and I was amazed how easy I could strike up a conversation.  That was not me.  But when it came to music, I really had a passion that was hard to turn off.   It also didn’t hurt that I was young, somewhat cute, and could fly around the world.  That leads me to the finding of a star.

When I was in college at New Mexico State University, my girlfiends and I loved to go dancing and listen to live bands. One band that was very popular in the area was The Easy Money Band. The lead singer had also written a lot of songs so they would do original material instead of just cover songs.   I remember thinking that the way they traveled in that beat up school bus, there was no way it was easy.  I loved to dance but I really loved to sing.  My roommate and I became friends with the band and somehow I convinced the lead singer, Toby, to sing a duet with me. We practiced during the day at the club, and he allowed me to sing it with him at night.  We sang a Crystal Gayle song, “Makin Up For Lost Time.”  I shutter now to think how bad I must have sounded, I could never go on stage without a sip or two of encouragement.  I loved it.  Those were some of my best memories of College.

Now here I am in Nashville,  flying, going to concerts, and hanging around a country music crowd.  I was had no idea how a simple flight to Los Angeles would make my life to come so exciting.  I also had no idea that flight would change another persons life, in a really big way, for the rest of his life.  I was picking up trash in Main Cabin, not First Class, when a gentleman asked me for a market bag like the one I was picking up with.  I said sure and retrieved him a bag.  During the flight the same man would listen to cassette tapes, think late 80’s early 90’s, then toss them in the market bag. Sometime later, he handed me the bag and asked me to throw it away.  Ok, just for the record, when you ask a flight attendant to throw something away, we usually take a looksy first.  Can’t help it, I think we were just made that way.  I took a look and saw what to me looked like demo tapes.

“Wow, some poor people have poured their hearts into these tapes. Oh Lori, don’t be so dramatic. They are probably just looking for a song for an artist. Not like someone’s career is on the line or anything.”

I couldn’t help it, I was dying to ask, so I did.

“You listen to a lot of music.”  I must have sounded like a total airhead.

“Yes I do that’s my job, he said. Then he went a step farther and pulled out a business card and handed it to me.

Without looking at it, I muttered a few, wow you must like you job, and how exciting, do you need anything? Then went on my merry way right back to the galley to take another look. Not sure I even noticed the name but there was the title:

President Mercury Records

Woah…….I was wrong. Careers were potentially made by this man. Someone on one of those tapes may get their chance, or not.  I just threw a bag of dreams in the trash.  Certainly those people have given tapes to other important record people, hopefully.  Nothing against this man, he has a job to do, but wow what a job.  Then I remembered something I had put in my tote bag……………. 



Be Ware of the Hair Salon

On the way to the airport this morning I watched as several men crossed the road adjacent to the Davidson County Jail. I pass this road at least once a week. The faces change, but the pain can always be felt. It may be in their dirty clothes, their faces, the words on the cell as they beg someone to come get them. But the pain can always be felt.
This is always a familiar sight, and sometimes brings back memories of my own journey. This morning, I think of a particular time that my drinking didn’t quite turn out as I wanted…..surprise surprise surprise.
It all started at the hairdresser. You wouldn’t think anyone could get into trouble at a hairdresser, right? Well if you are an alcoholic like I was, then the idea seems quite reasonable. I was trying out a new hairdresser in my home town. Everything…

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How Do You Turn a Mobile Home Over?

My Mom Could Do Anything!

One of my earliest and scariest memories happened when I was about 4. We lived in a trailer in Las Cruces NM. It was me, my sister who was 6yrs older than me, and my mom and dad. I was adopted before I was born. Dad was a truck driver, and mom stayed at home with my sister and I. One day when my dad was gone and my sister was at school, there was an awful storm. I can remember it being very dark and load noises like tree limbs breaking and lightning flashing everywhere. Then it happened. Things started flying, dishes breaking, pictures coming off the walls…mom and I flying though the air and finally resting on what had been the side of the trailer. Things are a little foggy here, but I remember my mom picking me up and running her hands…

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Throw Back Thursday/Missed Blessings

Cole receiving a Pride Award at Poplar Grove School. He was 6 years old. I wasn’t there that day to see his sweet smile. I was in a Treatment Center in Utah. Cole would receive another award that year. I missed that one too. Looking back I’m so grateful to the Aunts, Uncles, Grandma’s and friends who stepped in to try to make things seem as normal as possible. There was also Coles sweet counselor at school. She kept an open door policy for him, and if he needed to talk he could. I would encourage any parents who have issues at home, don’t be afraid to reach out to the school counselors. Most times the children won’t reach out themselves, but as a parent or a family member, you can talk with the counselor and they are more than willing to reach out to the child. That certainly was my experience, and I will forever be grateful. Cole has shared many times the huge impact this woman made on his life.
Today, I am present with all my heart and soul! I am grateful for Gods gift of another chance in life. Next time, I will be there, because I don’t want to miss a thing!
God Bless You


Finding Betty A Story Continues

As I scrolled through my blog today, I decided it was time to continue a story I started quite some time ago. If you would like, you can read the Finding Betty posts in my archives. I will try to catch you up a little here.

After a wine filled day watching Montel Williams, I decided it was a good time to find my birth mother.  I was adopted, before I was born and had found my birth mothers name when I was in my twenties, but never really considered trying to find her.  I think I was afraid of what I might find, good or bad, or that maybe she wouldn’t want me to find her.  But fueled with alcohol, it seemed like the perfect thing to do.  Her name was Betty Jean Ducham.  I used the tool that Montel had said was a great source  “Find Anyone Anywhere.somethingorother” I typed in the words Betty Ducham. My heart started to pound out of my chest as I saw a number come up 78.  Your kidding, only 78 found, this might actually be easier than I thought.  There were several Duchams listed in Michigan, but I was born in New Mexico.  There weren’t any listed in New Mexico.  Well, maybe she moved.  Such a small number….I quickly search my own name Lori Payne.  Just to give some perspective, there were 48,000 people with the last name Payne that were in the database, and only 78 Ducham.  I knew at that moment there was no stopping.  With half of the names in Michigan I started there.  There was no Betty, but many others.  I chose one picked up the phone and dialed, without a second thought.  That was always the way I did things when I was drinking, no second thought, just do it.  A male voice answered on the other line. Hello….. Hi there, I said while holding my breath.  My name is Lori Payne.  I believe I might be a relative of Betty Ducham, do you happen to know her?   Yes I do I’m a relative of hers.  Oh that’s great, I say as I start to shake. If I give you my number could you please pass it along to her and ask her to call me?  Even as I write this today, years later, my hands are quivering.  Such a huge decision to have been made so recklessly, but then again that is how I lived my life when I was drinking.  The voice on the other line said, “sure” and I proceeded to give him my number.  What would happen next was even more shocking, not weeks later, not days later, but two hours later my phone would ring.  “Hi Lori?”  Yes this is she.  “My name is Alan, I am Betty’s Son.”  I know my breathing sounded like a woman going into cardiac arrest. Oh hi there, thank you for calling me back. I fumbled through my words and managed, “Did Betty ever mention maybe having a …….daughter?”  Yes, I was told I had a sister out there somewhere, but I never knew how to find her.  Is that you?  The tears started to flow, as I said, I think so.  We talked for a moment and he asked me if he could scan and send me a photo of Betty over the computer. I immediately said yes.  This is what came up on my screen.  I was speechless.   I knew it was her.

Betty Jean Ducham
Betty Jean Ducham

Finding Betty/Continued

As I sit at the computer somehow an ounce of sanity finally hits me. My parents……you know Lori, Mom and Dad, the ones who raised you? The ones who provided for all you needed. Sat up all night with you when you were sick. Sat at the hospital for 21 DAYS when you were a sick baby and they thought you had a heart damage. The parents that showed waited up until the prom date brought you home safely to the door. The Dad that bought your first car, a beautiful MGB convertible. The parents that took in every stray dog that you found and “just couldn’t leave them there”. Yes those parents. My wine filled head decides that I at least owe them a “courtesy call”. I lift my hands from the keyboard, grab the phone and dial. Mom picks up on the second ring. I say hi and cut right to the chase. ” Mom I was watching T.V. and they advertised this service where you can find people on the internet”. “Oh?” she said. I think she knew what was coming. But after all, wasn’t it her who gave me her name in the first place? I told her that I wanted to just see if I could find my birth mother. Probably wouldn’t come up, but you know, you never know. I was surprised by her response. She almost sounded excited, as if, you know, she was curious too. I also heard my Dad in the background giving his approval. She told me that the counselors told them when I was born that the natural curiosity to find my birth mother might come up at some point in my life. She said they were prepared, and they would help me find her in any way that they could. Wow….that was easy. I hung up the phone after telling them how much I loved them,and that I would only find her with their permission, and how great they were, and wine induced bla bla bla…………..The minute I hung up the phone, my hands went back to that keyboard, sweaty palms by now, heart beating out of my chest, and I type www……………com. Ok…..Find Anyone Anywhere, click here…………….Click………Name Address Phone Number, Credit Report, Police Reports, Arrests, Deaths…Click here, or just Name Address Phone Number click here……..Click………Please enter credit card number for one time fee of $59.99. Ok, here we go #### ### #### ##. Congratulations! Who would you like to find? This is it, no turning back, I know the information I am about to get, is going to change my life forever. Wait stop right there Lori. As I write this, I realize that, no, in the state of mind that I was, I did not, and could not, realize that it would change my life forever. Not to mention the other lives it was about to change.em>