“We will be the best parents in the whole damn world. He or she will have the best of everything, if I have to work seven days a week, 24 hrs a day.”
-U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. George T. Pidgeon
June 8, 1945
“The woman we buried today was not your grandmother.”
“Maintenance of Way” is a railroad term, and it refers to the crews responsible for building, maintaining, and repairing tracks, bridges, any part of a railroad’s infrastructure.
The letters “M.O.W.” often appear on the hard helmets of the men and women who populate these departments, and it’s true that you can’t run trains without tracks, and you don’t have tracks without “M.O.W.”
My father, Mike, worked in M.O.W. for more than 40 years as a track laborer and crew supervisor, and there are few in the world who know more about the engineering of railroad tracks than him. What I never knew, though, until I was 33 years old was how his own life ran on tracks that needed repair.
Maintenance of Way, the working title of my memoir, is an investigation into the circumstances around my father’s birth in 1956, how he was forcibly removed from his young mother, and nearly 60 years later, the race to reunite them before it was too late.
Dad revealed the truth of his lineage during a wake for who I thought was my paternal grandmother. That’s when he informed us about his young birth mother, the affair my grandfather had with her in the 1950s, and how after reconciling with his wife, my late grandfather stole their infant son out of the arms of his mistress.
No one had heard from the young woman for decades or knew where she was. All my own father had were three clues.
A name: Dorothy Lipp.
A place: Cincinnati in the 1950s.
And a warning: “My (adopted) mother told me never to go looking for my real mom. She said I wouldn’t like what I
The story of Maintenance of Way takes place over two years as I attempted to uncover the truth of what happened to my father as an infant, even though most people who had been involved had passed away.
And with few clues and the words of a long-dead grandfather known for deception, the chances of ever finding Dorothy Lipp were slim, if that was even her real name.
Here at Pidgeon’s-Eye View, I’m documenting the process of writing this memoir and the attempt to bring to the shelves of a bookstore. I hope through this that you find courage to investigate your own family mysteries and tell your own stories. I hope also to provide insight into the challenges and lessons of writing and publishing a memoir, even sharing insights from others who have gone before us.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.