Mama Got Murdered

Mama – Virginia Isabelle Wathen “Virginia Belle”
Me in 2021; Mama in about 1985

Yes, it happened. I still can hardly believe it. I lived in Oklahoma at the time and Mama lived in Atlanta, Georgia. My brother Tom called and said, “I have the worst possible news to tell you that I could ever tell you.” I knew Mama must be dead then, but there was more. Some people had broken into her house and killed her. She was not assaulted, just knocked over the head and she died from it.

Tom Giglio and Virginia Wathen Giglio

The police never found who did it. They were of the opinion that the murder was an accident; the murderers thought the house was empty and were looking for money or valuables and my mother came out of the bathroom and surprised them. Evidently they hit her over the head and laid her on her bed. The police said that was a mark of respect for the victim. The murderers did take her diamond rings off her fingers and they stole her pistol which was in a drawer by her bedside. At first the police thought they might be able to trace the murderers by identifying the pistol when it came to light, but that never happened. They believed the robbery to be drug-related, as there were drug users in the neighborhood and a needle park a few blocks away.

All of us siblings (five of us) were aghast and took it very hard, and very differently. I wish we had all gone to counseling together about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if that’s something that was provided to victims immediately, before they make mistakes with one another that are fueled by confusion and grief and disbelief? Or shaken beliefs.

So, we have never had to endure a trial, or a mistrial, or any kind of monkeyshines in a courtroom. As for myself, it didn’t take long for me to forgive the people who murdered my mother. They were likely drug addicts who died not too long after she did. They did not profit by the robbery in any financial way. But they sure messed up the house. And the police did the rest.

The fingerprint powder all over the house was a worse mess than the ransack. It is a greasy black substance that is hard to wash off. The police also transported my mother’s body to the coroner and by the time she was released she was in no condition to be seen – too much time had elapsed before embalming took place. She had a closed casket, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to her sweet face.

All of us took it differently. I will speak only for myself.

I became compelled to do things RIGHT NOW that I had always wanted to do. I lost weight, bought new clothes, took a leave of absence from my teaching assistant position and my PhD work, and decided to get out of the orchestra pit and onto the boards. I had always wanted to be on stage, not playing flute for the actors.

So I decided to audition until I got a part. And soon I did. Evidently I brought some passion to the auditions, because I got the lead in one production (The Glass Menagerie at The University of Oklahoma) and a character singing role in another production of The Old Maid and the Thief. I started water exercise and stopped eating and got very very thin, down to 106 pounds. I couldn’t eat. Thinking of Mama dead took away all desire to eat.

At first I could not watch violence on TV or in the movies. It was real to me; it had happened to me.

Later, I became enthralled with violence and emotion in movies. There was a movie where Mel Gibson played a suicidal cop who shouted “Shoot me! Shoot me! Shoot me!” and I felt such catharsis. I guess I had kind of a violent inner depression. I felt a bit like a lethal weapon myself.

It took years to get over the PTSD of my mother’s murder. It still crops up from time to time.

Tom Giglio, me, Angela Giglio Andrews, John Giglio, Jim Giglio after Mama’s funeral. Giglios laugh when their hearts are breaking.
Mama in 1928 – 18 years old
Graduation from Blessed Sacrament Academy in 1927

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