For those who haven’t read my past two installments regarding my birth father: when I was 21, I came unannounced and with no prior warning to his office in the Pentagon. I needed family information for job applications, and I was curious about this man I no longer remembered.
After a few minutes of conversation, Col. Victor Hobson asked, “Is there anything I can do for you?” After a pause he added, “I know that’s a silly thing to ask.” When I didn’t speak up, he said, “There’s an aunt of mine who’s asked about you. And my father. You’re a pretty girl; I hope you’re cagey with the boys!” He chuckled at his remark.
I laughed. “I don’t know how cagey I am, but I’m not planning to get married soon. I’m going to be in two weddings this summer, but I’d like to get a job that lets me travel.”
From his manner and despite the occasional nervous tremor and the loss of eye contact as he glanced down at his desk, I could see he was enjoying our interview. There was an essential charm and ease of manner about him as well as an obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness in his comments. He was making it easy for me to like him, and I could tell he was impressed with me. To make himself a bit more at ease, he took out a cigar and lit it. I positively hated cigars, but kept my mouth shut and was relieved the odor wasn’t overpowering.
Amazed at my own composure, I sat fairly still as we talked, able to answer sweetly and without much hesitation. The pencil I had brought with me suffered from all my tensions; I mauled its eraser with my fingers.
He asked about my accomplishments in college, and inquired after some of my mother’s relatives he had known and enjoyed years before. Not long ago I discovered he’d sent an older cousin of mine WWII German Army souvenirs from the battles in Italy, where my father had fought. I still have a tiny helmet with a blue clover insignia—he was part of the Blue Devils, the 88th Infantry Division, the first American unit into Rome in June 1944.
He then told me a bit about his Italian wife, Maria Luisa, nicknamed Migia, and how he’d met her in Trieste, Italy, where he had been stationed right after the war. He and Migia had a fifteen-year-old daughter Susanna and a thirteen-year-old daughter Marlena. He related he’d been in the Army twenty-three years but had never run into my stepfather.
“I have to admit something,” he confessed after a while. “The office had a party at Blackie’s in Washington for lunch, and I had a few martinis. It’s a good thing I had them before you walked in!”
I laughed, and he joined in. “I knew this meeting would surprise you,” I said, “and I was sure nervous, but I figured this was the best way to do it.”
“How long are you going to be here?”
“I don’t have to be back at William and Mary until next Wednesday.”
“Would you like to meet my family if I came by to pick you up? I know my wife would love to meet you.”
“I’d like to very much,” I answered sincerely. The meeting was working out better than I expected.
“Are you sure?” he asked again, apparently still uncertain about my walking into his life, and his guilty feelings probably nagging at him.
“Of course,” I replied as I wrote down my friend’s telephone number.
That night at the Reiners, where I was staying in Alexandria, I got a call from Migia. With her charming effusiveness, it was as if we had known each other for years. Although Italian, her low mellow voice and speech bore scarcely a trace of accent. She knew just what to say to put me at ease and make me feel wanted. She couldn’t wait to meet me on Sunday, but in the meantime Vic, as she called him, wanted to take me to lunch on Friday. Could I meet him at the Pentagon? It was all going faster than I had imagined, but I was excited and enthusiastically told her I was looking forward to all of it.
Last installment next week.