We probably have never met, but you may have seen me before. I was that little guy watching funerals from the steps of the Catholic school across the street from Galloway & Sons Funeral Home in Beeville, Texas. I especially loved seeing the big cars that led the processions to the cemetery. It kind of reminded me of the movie “Harold and Maud.” Sometimes, I would peek in the windows along the sidewalk. We lived in a small town where there wasn’t much to do, and those steps gave me a front row seat to plenty of excitement.
First: The back story. I was born Michael Anthony Scruggs, April 2, 1952, in the naval hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. From there, my life became slightly complicated. William Edward “Bill” Scruggs and Geneva Irene McGhee “Eve” Scruggs were my birth parents, and I also had two older sisters, Cheryl and Deborah.
In 1953, when I was not quite 1, my mom gave birth to my little brother Patrick. Because we were born so close together, they called us the “Irish Twins” – Pat and Mike.
That same year, for whatever reason, Bill and Eve Scruggs decided to give my sisters to my mother’s family in Victoria. My younger brother and I were put up for adoption. The childless couple who adopted us were from Aransas Pass, near Corpus Christi. The man I call my father was a civil service employee at the Naval Air Station in Beeville, and my mother was a homemaker. Our names were changed: I became James Owen Kurtz, and my brother was now Larry Wayne Kurtz.
The years passed, and, when I was 20, a young woman visiting my brother’s friend for dinner mentioned that when she was 5, she had two brothers, Pat and Mike, who were given away. What a coincidence!
Cheryl, my newfound biological sister, told me our birth parents were still together, living in Chicago – and still regretting giving us up. I really struggled to come to grips with what might occur emotionally if we ever met, but I eventually contacted them, and we exchanged photos by mail. That’s when I found out we had a much younger brother whose fourth-grade school photo was almost a duplicate of my own at that age.
Starting in the mid-1970s, I was traveling regularly, and, on a trip to Chicago, I contacted my birth mother and told her I would like to meet her and my birth father. When I arrived at their home, I found that they had planned a party at an Irish club my Uncle Joey owned. There I met my father’s four brothers and three sisters and, more importantly, my father’s mother, Anne Virginia Durkin Harkins, who was born in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1909. She was the hostess of the club, which had an organ behind the bar and an Irish flag hanging from the ceiling.
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Southern Calls Issue 35
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