Rosella Tolfree’s Mother’s Day

Published in
10 min readJan 19, 2018
Photo by Natalie Toombs on Unsplash

The last spring was 18 years ago.

During the Second Age of Humanity, mankind took IVF technology to new heights. The DNA of human life could be read, recombined digitally, 3D printed as a living zygote, grown to a blastocyst and implanted. This technology was then combined with the female android series known as A-4s who were able to do live births. This gave rise to a new way for humanity to reproduce, and new social problems as well.

Last spring on this Mother’s Day I don’t even recall thinking about this, and it was just as hot and dry like it is now. It has been eighteen years ago since my father’s death. I was 25 then and now I am 43.

But somehow, the recent events at work have brought me back to my father’s death. Normally I don’t deal with death. Most of the time I am filling out paperwork online concerning senseless people trying to damage our Nation’s monuments, and organizing arrest raids against them. But recently I have had to investigate several cases involving death. Death like my father’s own death. A death that happened eighteen years ago on Mother’s Day. A puzzle I could never figure out. Just like the puzzle of how I came to exist and who’s my birth mother.

Here I am sitting in my furnished one-bedroom apartment in Washington, DC. I am the only Special Agent of the Washington Residential Field Office of the Investigative Services Branch of the Ranger Marshals. I am like an FBI agent, working for the U.S. National Park Service, with no budget and none of the cool CSI toys. Yet I haven’t a clue who my mother is and my dad’s death is an unsolved mystery.

I never really saw my Dad much in our small apartment in San Francisco. He was always at work at the public warehouses, and I always was asleep before he got home. I had no brothers or sisters. Hell, I had no mother or other relatives to speak of that I knew. It was just me and Dad in that small apartment in San Francisco. He never talked about his work, never brought friends home if he had any. Dad never dated. It was just him, me and the rest of the world.

Dad would leave in the early morning before I got up, I would feed myself, do my online school work for the day, then do any chores around the house. Sometimes I would play with some of the kids in the apartment building. At the end of the day I would get myself ready for bed. That was the routine since I was seven. My God, I was such a self-sufficient obedient child when I think about it. I really wasn’t like the other kids in the building. The ones with two parents, or brothers and sisters. Somehow they always seemed so noisy to me. So agitated and filled with problems.

Before I was seven, Dad was home more often. He worked odd jobs just around the block, and I would visit him or he would come see me during the day. I would stay with Nǎinai upstairs. She was such a nice old Chinese lady. She would always cook me General Tso for lunch, and make it extra spicy like her mother used to do in old China Town before the renovations. I have not found a place yet that can get it as hot.

Yet, here it is Mother’s Day, and I don’t have one. Mother’s Day growing up was such a problem. Mom just didn’t exist. All I had was a Dad. I knew kids were supposed to have moms. The other kids in the apartment building did. Some had two. I would see their mothers from time to time when I played. But I had no Mom, and Dad never talked about my Mom. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of her. When I was little I comforted myself with fantasies that Mom was either sick in the hospital, or away on business somewhere. When I was a young teen I started to ask questions about who my mother was and where she was. Dad was not forthcoming about the information, and just told me to stop asking. I recall my teen years being trying times during Mother’s Day, and I would lock myself in my room to avoid Dad and the subject. Once I graduated online high school, some online friends and I got together and rented an apartment while we studied at online college and worked odd jobs. That is when I gave up on trying to know about my mom and focused on myself and my own future.

It is so silly when I think back now when I was a late teen that I did one of those online genealogy searches. Only I discovered that my birth records were part of the Great Vital Records Hack where 35.2 million vital records were lost in a massive cyber-attack across 51 states and all the genealogy websites. It happened when I was three. I was already in online preschool at the time, and Dad just filled in California’s request for my information conveniently leaving the birth mother and any second genetic parent field blank. When I tried looking him up, he was part of the same purge, but never complied with any state requests for reconstituting the records. I even did one of those genetic spit tests using a holiday cash card I got from Dad one year in some vain hope of knowing something about my heritage. The results came back as a negative resultant. So I had no DNA? No, evidently something happened in the lab with my sample, and they refunded me my purchase. They always said these tests were imperfect at best. I was so doggedly investigative even back then. I just had to know the information like I do today with any case.

Even still, there are days now I really suspect I am a clone of my Dad from an A-4 Android with their ability to birth humans. I so hope I don’t turn out to be a true asexual clone of Dad, because socially that would just be the worse. I could be bypassed on rank promotions due to prejudices I could do nothing about. If I am a clone, I hope I am eukaryotic. At least that would mean I know Dad had a second source for my DNA in addition to his. Hell, I could have another Dad instead of a Mom. Although, somehow I don’t think so. Dad just didn’t seem like the type. If I am a clone, I really hope I am eukaryotic, people see these clones as superior, sometimes even to naturally conceived children.

Oh man, I remember as a kid, Dad smacking me across the face when I suggested the idea I was a clone of him. That was the only time I had seen him actually mad at me or he hit me. Then he begged my forgiveness as he held me. That was really weird when I think back on it, but as an adult in my 40s it makes a lot more sense.

The thing is I really look like Dad a lot, but just a female version. I am just a short as he was, and I get my red-hair from Dad. Except he always had his in a crew-cut style. I wonder if his hair would be long and thin like mine if he grew it out? Or would his beard have been like that if he grew one? That would have been really interesting to have seen, my Dad with long, lanky red-hair and a long red beard, especially with our moderate brown skin tone. Talk about standing out in a line-up.

When I think of line-ups, for some reason I recall the day I told Dad I was going into the Ranger Marshals. Maybe because it was the way Dad just stood there as in a line up. Dad was his typical emotionless self about the whole thing, but I knew he was happy with the decision. Dad was like these big silent types who spoke very few words, and could express emotions even less. I think that is where I get my cold and calculating nature from that has helped me in my career as a Special Agent.

Growing up I know Dad always wanted me to excel in academics to my best ability even though he wasn’t always there. I poured myself into them for him. I cannot explain it, but he always seemed proud of my academic abilities even though he never really showed it. I just knew he was always proud of it.

Or maybe this is just my wishful thinking of a happy childhood? No, I do think he really was proud of my academics and my entry into the Ranger Marshals. In a lot of ways, I was doing better than him, and I think that made him happy somehow.

When I think back, it is really odd how he died on Mother’s Day. It would be a few years later, after his death, when I became a Special Agent for the ISB, that I was actually able to look up the information on his death. I wonder if his death is why I asked for that transfer to the ISB in the first place? Or was it just the encouragement of my superiors because of my analytical test scores? All I recall is I just wanted out of the main Ranger Marshal units at the time because I had enough of the supposed team work. The pettiness reminded me of the families back in the apartment growing up.

When I got the chance to look up his death, it was listed as a cold case. He was found dead in one of those public warehouses he worked at. Simply hit over the head by blunt force trauma. No leads, and no suspects. I am amazed they didn’t classify it as a basic accident, but I guess the City of San Francisco didn’t want to deal with the safety liability issues at the time. I tried several times to solve it, but the Associate Special Agents in Charge wouldn’t have anything of it as it was outside the ISB’s jurisdiction. I did find this one other record involving a self-driving car accident in Louisiana where he and this woman by the name of Mora were injured. Mora had died on the scene due to her injuries. He was in his late 20s at the time, but never talked about or ever mentioned it to me growing up. This happened way before me, because he had me when he was about 40. Maybe one day I will figure all this out.

Funny how death works. It doesn’t really care about the time or place. You just die where and when you die. When I think of my recent cases, I wonder if that Congressman knew that when he entered the park that he was going to die that day? Or that young lady whom the County found rotting in Rock Creek Park? Did they know? Did my father know 18 years ago? Or what about that Mora woman he was with in that car? I wonder sometimes how much we know about our time and place of death. My Dad never spoke of death. Never mentioned the death of any relatives or personal friends. I guess I had that child impression my Dad would always be there no matter what because he always was there. Why would there be a time when he wouldn’t be there? He was supposed to always be there, at least long enough for me to ask once more who my mother was when he was in his old age. Like that last secret revealed upon his death bed. But this is not to say death was unfamiliar to me as a child.

Nǎinai died when I was fifteen, so I knew about death. She died in the apartment above us and I saw her sitting in an armchair just staring into space. Not moving or anything before the Police and Ambulance came. I wasn’t creeped out or anything by it. To be honest, it fascinated me, since it was but an hour prior I knew she was alive. Then she was dead. The paramedics said her heart had stopped because she was old. Dad wasn’t old when he died. Not like Nǎinai. No, I recall the paramedics saying she was something like 110. Dad wasn’t even close to that. He had to be at least 65. My God, I don’t even recall celebrating his birthday. We just never did. We did mine, but never his. Wow. The things your mind just assumes as you get older.

Hell, I wasn’t even around when my father died. I was in training with the Ranger Marshals at the time. I had just finished college, and had entered the Ranger Marshals under the U.S. Park Service. Oh man, it was so long ago. I don’t even remember if I just finished Boot Camp, or not. I just remember coming back from some long hike, and someone coming up to me giving me the message and all the red tape I had to go through to deal with the situation. It took a year before I could even get permission to leave and go back to deal with the back rent owed on the lease of the apartment. Had I known about this side of the fine print of what I signed up for I might have thought twice. I couldn’t get out there in time to claim my father’s body, and the San Francisco Medical Examiner processed it as unclaimed. I couldn’t even file a claim online like L.A., because they were not set up like that. By the time I could do something it was too late, and they wouldn’t tell me what they did with him because they wouldn’t acknowledge me as a relative. The whole thing was such a mess. But then again, whoever thinks their parents are going to die? As children we live like our parents are always going to be there no matter what.

Well, Dad, I don’t know where you are exactly. You were processed by the San Francisco Medical Examiner before I could claim your body and was turned over to some contractor for disposal. Hell, I don’t even know if you had any brothers or sisters for me to call Uncle or Aunt. I never knew my grandparents or my mother. Not that I am bitter about all this, but here I am recalling your death on Mother’s Day, 18 years later. Now it is just me and the rest of the world. A world filled with really crazy people and unresolved mysteries. Especially my own personal mysteries about you and my Mother.

So here is to you, Dad, wishing you a Happy Mother’s Day.

This story was written by Seth Underwood.

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