Biff America: The Pope killed Aunt Mary
Mary Parnell took her own life. I was told by my older sister Martha that she “cooked her own head.” That thought gave me nightmares from the time Mary died, when I was about age 6, until I learned the truth years later. I wasn’t even supposed to know that my Aunt Mary had killed herself ” I was told she had a bad heart.
I discovered later that Mary drank a bunch of sherry and kneeled in front of her oven with the gas on and the door open. Before doing so she left a beautiful note professing her love for a man and apologizing for her sin of suicide and weakness of will. When I reached adulthood I made it my business to learn more about the life of Mary Parnell. By then, my parents and family were more forthcoming.
It seems Mary did in fact die from an injured heart. To the best of my knowledge (and much to my chagrin) I’ve never met a real nymphomaniac. Donald Doucette married one.
Donald was the oldest of eight boys; the most serious and spiritual. He might have become a priest but for a wanderlust and love of children. Don joined the Merchant Marines when he was 16 and traveled the world. He returned home 12 years later hoping to land a job and to find a wife.
I’ve only seen pictures of Donald’s wife Florence. She had blonde hair, a weak chin and was plump. She too was raised Catholic and supposedly (as if anyone could know for sure) was chaste until her wedding night. It seems that night opened the floodgates.
Donald told my father that being inexperienced himself he had nothing to compare his new wife’s sexual desires to. He did say he enjoyed the challenge but hoped things would slow down once they had children. Flo never got pregnant and before long she began looking for love outside of marriage.
After Flo’s second arrest for solicitation, Donald moved back into his parent’s house. It seems that nymphomania was simply a symptom of a larger mental problem. It wasn’t too long before Florence became a danger to herself and others. Her family had no choice but to have her committed.
Mary and Donald met in church. By that time, Donald’s wife Flo had been in the asylum for years; at her doctor’s suggestion, Donald had stopped visiting.
They had much in common. Each was from a large family, both traveled in their 20s ” Mary as an Army nurse ” both were devout.
Mary and Donald “went together” for more than two decades but in accordance with the laws of the Catholic Church, they could not marry while Don’s wife still lived. “A valid marriage has to endure until one spouse dies.” Had the couple been wealthy and connected, there was the option of a Papal Annulment; but that wasn’t a reality for truck drivers.
Though Don and Mary knew that their love was genuine and their intentions pure, they placed the laws of the church above common sense. Florence out lasted them both.
I vaguely remember Don and Mary at family functions as the only couple who held hands. Through a child’s eyes Donald seemed worldly Mary seemed nervous.
When I was older and trying to learn more about the lives of Donald and Mary, I spoke to Don’s brother. I knew they never married. But I was curious if they ever made love. I asked Donald’s brother and he said he was almost positive they did not.
He said Donald was willing but Mary was too religious and Don didn’t push her. I was told they were “extremely affectionate” but never consummated the act. Perhaps that’s why Mary seemed so nervous.
After more than 20 years of frustration, Donald died in his sleep from a heart attack. Two months later Mary followed.
When I was a little boy I believed Mary Parnell cooked her own head. As an adult I learned the truth was none the less bizarre.
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