“Please, have a seat Mrs. Stone and Ms. Stone.” Darlene Hudson, Esq. sweeps her hand like she is about to hit a forehand, indicating the two seats facing her desk. Winter light filters through the white curtains behind the desk embracing Ms. Hudson and her high-backed black leather chair in its glow. “How can I help you today?”

“I need to make out my Will, I told your assistant when I made the appointment.” Mom grips the armrest of one the chairs. My hand on the back of the chair keeps it stable while Mom lowers herself. Once Mom is comfortable, I sit in the other chair. “There is another issue we need to have addressed.”

“Well, The Will should be straightforward enough. You tell me who you want to make provisions for, and I’ll write it up for your signature.”

“I want to leave everything to my…”

“Daughter.” I place my hand on Mom’s and give her a little smile. Mom blushes as she smiles in return.

Mom turns her gaze to Ms. Hudson, “Do I need to adopt her or is it ok to just name her in my Will?” 

“Do you need to adopt your daughter?” Ms. Hudson leans forward, her eyebrows drawing together over her pert nose.

“I’m not her daughter in the legal sense, but I’m her daughter in every other way, in every way that matters.”

“It’s been a joy having you as part of my life.” Mom’s eyes glisten with tears trembling on the brink. The chemo treatments have left her prone to tears.

“You have a lot more life in you.” I give her hand a squeeze.

“That’s not a problem, your legal relationship isn’t important. We don’t have to mention any kind of relationship in The Will just designate who will receive your estate.” Ms. Hudson makes a note on the legal pad in front of her. “You do share the same last name so are you Mrs. Stone’s niece?”

“No, it was just a matter of needing to call Janet something.” Mom said.

“Needing to call Janet something? I don’t understand?”

“That’s where it gets tricky. You see, I don’t know what my legal name is. That’s the other thing we came to you to get fixed. I need to establish my legal identity.” I feel Mom quiver. Mom has spent most of the past fifteen years taking care of me. She is the strongest woman I know but the treatment for her cancer has taken a toll. I need to take the lead on this, it is my identity that needs to be established.

“I’m sorry, are you saying your legal name isn’t Janet Stone?” Ms. Hudson places the pen down on the legal pad and leans back into her chair, her eyes widen like a child opening a present Christmas morning.

“I don’t know what my name was before, but I am now Janet Stone.” This is more difficult to explain than I thought.

“How do you not know your name?”

“Fifteen years ago, this month, Mom found me in the dumpster behind her restaurant. Thank God she checked before the garbage truck came.”

“There had been instances of people tossing old mattresses and such in the dumpster to avoid paying to have them hauled away.” Mom said.

“There I was on top of the garbage, right Mom?”

“That’s right. I looked in the dumpster and there she was all bloody and moaning.” Mom shifts her position. She finds it painful to sit in one position for too long. “I called for Billy to come out, he’s a big boy that Billy, strong as an ox, and I had him get her out and carry her up to my spare bedroom.”

“Why didn’t you call for an ambulance and the police?”

“I didn’t know if she needed an ambulance. Do you have any idea how expensive they are? It’s a small town where everyone knows everyone, so I knew she wasn’t from around there and she didn’t have anything but the clothes she was wearing, which wasn’t much, I can tell you. Poor thing had been tossed out like she was trash.” Mom opened her purse for one of her embroidered handkerchiefs. “My best friend Sharon was a nurse, so she came and looked Janet over.”

Ms. Hudson nodded. “When did you call the police?”

I couldn’t suppress a little smile picturing Mom rolling her eyes.

“The police? What good would have come from calling them? The barracks is over an hour away to begin with and all they would have done was take a report and tell us they would keep and eye out. That’s what they always told anyone in town who called them when something went missing.” Mom crushed her handkerchief in her hand. “Besides, this girl was in no condition to talk to them and I already told you she wasn’t from town so until she could tell us who she was-”

“When I was well enough to talk, I couldn’t tell Mom what had happened. I couldn’t even tell her what my name was. I remember when Mom asked me what my name was, I opened my mouth to tell her but nothing came out. I didn’t know. I had no idea who I was or how I ended up in the dumpster.”

“You haven’t tried to find out who you are?”

“No. Mom said I needed a name since she had to call me something. She suggested Janet.”

“Janet was my Mom’s name. I always said I would name my daughter Janet, but the good Lord didn’t bless me with any children. The only thing my husband didn’t give me.”

“So, in a small town where everyone knows everyone, you suddenly had a daughter no one knew about?”

“I told people she was the daughter of a distant cousin on my husband’s side. He grew up in the Midwest, so no one questioned it. Most people just nod when you say you are helping a young person get back on their feet. It would be rude to ask any direct questions. The gossip only lasts until the next event happens.”

“Ok, so you didn’t call the police and you didn’t go to the hospital. Do you have any documentation of your amnesia?”

“Well, Sharon helped. She worked at the local medical center and discussed Janet with the doctor. We used the day I found her as her birthday and estimated the year she had been born. She’s been under his care ever since. He was sure Janet’s loss of memory would be temporary”

“But it wasn’t?” Ms. Hudson leaned forward scribbling notes on her pad.

“I worked in Mom’s restaurant once I was strong enough. I’ve learned every part of the business.”

“How did you pay your taxes?”

“Don’t you worry about that. I made sure everything was above board and got Janet a taxpayer identification number.”

“So, Janet has an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?”

“Yes, like I said we assumed she would get her memory back and then she would know her Social Security Number or be able to get it.”

“Driver’s license?” Ms. Hudson added to her notes.

“I never applied for one. I’m able to walk everywhere I need to in town. To be honest, I’ve never had any desire to leave. I feel safe in town.”

“We could put out feelers for any missing persons for the time you were found. Submitting your DNA to ancestry sites is another option, see if we get any hits.” Ms. Hudson turns the page and continues with her list.

“No. I don’t want to find out who I was.” Ms. Hudson stops writing to look at me. “Someone, I don’t know who, beat me up and left me for dead. Why would I want to possibly tip them off that I’m alive?”

“But you can reclaim your identity.” Ms. Hudson said.

“I have my identity. I’m Janet Stone and this is my Mom. I may not remember who I was or what my life had been like, but I know it wasn’t better than the life I’ve had with Mom.”

“Ok. You’re the client. I’ll have to do some research. I’m sure there is a way we can establish you as Janet Stone in the eyes of the law. Let’s make an appointment for Friday, if that works for you. I can have your Will ready for your signature and I’m sure I’ll be better able to advise you on the next steps to establish your legal identity.” Ms. Hudson comes around her desk to shake my hand. Mom nods, too tired to speak. 

January 07, 2021 18:25

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Katie Moyes
19:31 Jan 14, 2021

Lovely sentiment of found family. I do have one main question, how old is Janet? The first description you have is "there she was all bloody and moaning." Now, I don't know why, but my first thought was that this was a newborn being tossed in the dumpster immediately after birth. In another part, you mentioned Janet had been living with her mother 15 years and there apart about the mother wanting children, so I thought maybe a small child. Then another part mentioned "Most people just nod when you say you are helping a young person get back ...


Andrea Kepple
23:10 Jan 15, 2021

Thank you for the feedback. Just the kind of feedback I look for.


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