Dare I Call It Murder? A Memoir of Violent Loss - Larry Edwards

Had I made a mistake by not going? Pangs of envy needled within. The Marquesas seemed to be an earthly Elysium. But could I have prevented my parents’ deaths? Could anyone have?

<< Previous Next >>

Excerpt  . . .


Dare I Call It Murder? - A Memoir of Violent Loss - by Larry M Edwards

Sunday, February 26, 1978

Midnight approached as the Boeing 747 lifted off from Los Angeles International Airport. I had dozed only a few hours over the previous two days, yet sleep eluded me still. In the darkened cabin, I reread the letters my parents had sent from the Marquesas Islands, where they spent the final two months of their lives. Through their terse words, they lived again.

The voyage from San Diego—two thousand eight hundred seventy-five miles across the open ocean—had taken nearly a month. Some days had been fun, others downright miserable. They suffered from seasickness and equipment problems; they had to motor through the doldrums. At one point they rode out a squall packing fifty-knot gusts. But the legendary trade winds lived up to their centuries of renown:

We arrived on Wed., Dec. 14, after 27 days. The island was right where Gary said it would be. . . . The trades are fantastic! Set the sails and did not touch them for five days. . . . Warm rain, it just felt good to stand in it and get rinsed off. . . . We caught two fish on the whole trip. Both the last day. A small albacore and 42" mahi mahi. Beautiful fish and good eating. Lori likes fish now.

The islanders had welcomed my parents and offered fresh bananas, pamplemousse (a variety of grapefruit), coconuts, and wood carvings in exchange for music tapes, Playboy magazines, and .22-caliber bullets. The islanders also invited the Spellbound crew to a wedding feast:

What a celebration. They have a roofed-over area about 150 feet long. Pits to cook food in, racks above ground to cook meat. They served beer, wine, punch. The guests were playing guitars and singing when we got there. I wish I’d recorded it. Then they stopped and the rock band with big amplifiers started.

Wish you would have come.

Had I made a mistake by not going? Pangs of envy needled within. The Marquesas, a sprawling group of volcanic islands some two thousand miles southeast of Hawaii, seemed to be an earthly Elysium. But could I have prevented my parents’ deaths? Could anyone have?

In another letter, they wrote:

The mayor of Nuka Hiva let us use a pavilion Christmas day and we had a potluck with all the other boaters. Boats from England, Holland, Australia, 2 Canadian, Panamanian and 3 American.

The Monday after Christmas we took 26 people to the north side of the island. Four boats took part in the operation. Eighty people in all. They gave us a feast, and we all stayed overnight with them.

New Year’s Eve we went to see a woodcarver and his wife and had dinner with them. They fed us lobster, raw fish, fruit salad and a cooked banana dish. Mom ordered some things, so we may never leave.

As I returned the letter to its envelope, a group of giggling children paraded up the aisle in a game of follow the leader.

How can you laugh? My parents have just died.

Yet, their smiles and laughter evoked memories of my own childhood, of carefree days exploring the woods that surrounded my family’s home in semirural Juanita, northeast of Seattle: Playing naked in the ravine behind our house with Gary and boyhood friends as we reenacted Lord of the Flies; deer hunting with Dad; swimming at Aunt Betty’s beach; Dad’s laughable first attempt at sailing the dinghy he had built.

I yearned for those days. Of course, they weren’t all carefree.

My biological mother—Birth Woman, I call her—abandoned my father, brother, and me when I was four, Gary three. In the years that followed, images of her leaving haunted me: Birth Woman slams out of the house, vaporous memories ghosting through the mind, teasing clarity, then bowing to obscurity: Pouting, shouting parent . . . swinging skillet . . . swirling skirt . . . rattling the windows of a little-boy mind as she spins through the door and slips from view, trailing family detritus in her hedonist wake.

Torment lay in words left unspoken, transmitted instead through a look of disdain, a slam-banged door, her absence. The Little Boy formed his worldview, his sense of Self, in those hate- and fate-filled Sprang days—his toddling mind distorted, his life’s well poisoned. Betrayed by one he loved. Betrayed by his own befuddled brain. Confusion leading to conclusion, however irrational it may have been.

After she left, we never saw her much. But I sense her leaving to this day as I stumble over a swayed mind-set, voice shrilled then silenced by a constricted throat, companion to unembargoed tears. Her chaotic exit triggered a rockslide that crushed my Self and left our family battered, like a storm-tossed vessel at sea.

One night she stopped by the house, near my bedtime, wanting to take Gary and me out for an ice-cream soda. Another pouting, shouting affair.

Loren and Jody Edwards wedding photo

Wedding Day:
Loren and Jody Edwards
and their blended family,
June 16, 1956.

Three months after the divorce became final, my twenty-eight-year-old father married Joanne Howatson Peet (everyone called her “Jody”), a twenty-two-year-old widow with two young daughters. Matchmaking friends had paired them up at a New Year’s Eve party, and they embarked on a whirlwind romance.

Jody’s first husband had died on her twenty-first birthday, following a car wreck. Struck by a drunk driver. She, six months pregnant with Bobbie, emerged with a broken arm and multiple cuts that required more than one hundred stitches. Nine-month-old Aileen suffered from a broken collarbone.

Gary and I met them on a wintry day at the house in Preston where Jody lived with her parents. As Dad pulled into the driveway, I spotted a small figure swaddled in a heavy coat standing near the front porch. I climbed out of the car, and Dad urged me forward as the bundle of wool waddled toward us.

Dad kneeled and said, “This is Aileen. She’s going to be your sister.”

Her eyes sparkled with curiosity. I smiled, pleased with the notion of having a sister, yet wondering what it meant. Jody stood on the porch and beckoned us into the small farmhouse.

As I stepped inside, the heat from the woodstove sucked the breath out of me, and someone stripped off my coat. Gary pushed me from behind, then ran toward the kitchen, shouting. My father went after him, and I stared at the unfamiliar adult faces gazing down at me. A whiff of baking cookies scented the air. Somewhere a baby cried.

When Dad married Jody that June, I was six, Gary five. Aileen had not turned two, and Bobbie was six weeks shy of her first birthday. My father formally adopted them shortly afterward. Kerry arrived a week before our parents’ first wedding anniversary. For Gary and me, Jody became “Mom.” For Aileen and Bobbie, Dad was the only father they ever knew. . . .


I blinked awake as the airplane’s cabin lights came on and we began the descent to Tahiti. A flight attendant addressed the passengers in French, reminding me that I was about to arrive in a foreign land. As passengers raised the window shutters and the morning light streamed into the cabin, I peered into an uncertain future.

What does it hold for my family? For me?

Read other excerpts from the book:
Author's Note
Chapter 1 excerpt
Chapter 2 excerpt
Chapter 2 excerpt (continued)
Chapter 3 excerpt
Chapter 4 excerpt
Chapter 16 excerpt
Chapter 28 excerpt
Chapter 32 excerpt

Release date
July 9, 2013

Marking the 35th anniversary
of the deaths of Loren and Jody Edwards

The book will be available for purchase at Amazon.com,
Barnes & Noble, and other retail outlets.

For periodic updates,
please sign up for the mailing list.

If you want an autographed copy, contact Larry directly
and you will receive details on how to order it.

    Copyright © 2012-, Larry M Edwards