Kindling a fire to light a permanent midnight
Appeal Staff Writer
For 28 years, Rose Watson lived in a world so dark and cold even her memories had frozen over – memories that included the loss of two infant daughters, the broken-bone crunch of her own childhood and grizzly abuse at the hands of a man named William.
For years, her brain fired chemical darts of amnesia deep into her psyche to allow her to cope, but her capacity for burying her life’s truths eventually caught up with her.
The Carson City woman began developing cysts – psychosomatic manifestations of her inner turmoil forced their way to the surface. A doctor suggested hypnosis. What came out was a lava flow of raw emotion and mourning. And memories. Pieces of her past began breaking through the surface like long-buried caskets in a flooded cemetery.
The hypnosis thawed the glaciers that had insulated her from the heartbreak, but it took retired FBI agent John Peterson to piece her life’s puzzle back into a recognizable enough nightmare so that she could finally begin to heal.
“I’ve lost a lot of time,” said Watson, closing her eyes behind a pair of dark sunglasses.
Rose remembers the early shadows of childhood, being 6 years old when her father died, being raped by her three brothers. She remembers her mother as a belligerent drunk.
“I was doomed, and I knew it,” she said of her formative years.
Watson was 19 and living in Bartlesville, Okla., with her daughter Maria and Dora four months on the way when she met William.
“I was too stupid or blind to recognize who he really was,” she said.
William began beating her a month after they exchanged wedding vows.
Rose was used to it, but drew the line when William started abusing her daughters.
“He took Maria by the arm and threw her across the room,” she said. “He busted her lip and fractured her jaw. He was a monster inside and out.”
One day, William asked Rose if she wanted to take a ride. She didn’t. But William controlled her.
Against her wishes, they stopped at William’s friend’s house and dropped off the kids.
It was the last time Rose Watson would ever see her two children.
They drove. Watson remembers asking to stop for a soda. She figures her husband must have put something in the drink. She woke up under a bridge in Corpus Christi, Texas
Was William going to kill her there? The thoughts raced, but so did she – out of the car as William chased her. She managed to grab a rock and threw it.
“I ran like hell until I couldn’t run anymore,” she said.
Once safe, the first thing she did was try to contact her children. William’s voice came over the phone: “If you ever call again, I’ll cut your face.”
The local police said there was nothing they could do.
Watson lost her ability to cope. She fell into a living coma of dread and lost time. Her kids, her husband, her life – all gone, down a one-way tunnel of black.
Years later, her life had become stable. Her new husband treated her well. So why were her emotions spinning like bald tires on ice? Then came the cysts and hypnosis.
“I couldn’t believe the things I started to remember,” she said.
When memories of her kids came back, Rose rushed to search. “I would’ve paid $100 million to find them,” she said.
On a whim, she found John Peterson’s name in the phone book and called him.
“She told me she had a couple of daughters that may have been adopted out at a very young age,” said Peterson.
It was a difficult case. Confidentiality laws made it impossible to tell who the adoptive parents were. All records had been destroyed.
By sheer luck, one of Peterson’s old FBI buddies had been chief of police in Bartlesville when the kids were adopted. He knew who the adoptive parents were, and another FBI buddy located the foster father in Ohio.
“He was reluctant to say anything,” said Watson. He said he had “paid damn good money for those kids” and wasn’t going to give them up.
She quailed in disbelief. William had sold her children?
But the girls had been found; they were alive. “It was like winning the lottery,” said Wilson.
Rose wrote a long letter to her daughters, now in their late 20s. “Eight pages,” she said with a sniffle. “I had to introduce myself to my own kids.”
She waited. Four weeks went by, and no word came. Finally, she got a letter with an Ohio postmark. It was from Maria, now called Jeannie.
“I ran in circles,” said Watson. “My head hit the ceiling all day.”
It was a tough letter, filled with questions. The girls had been told their mother was dead.
But it was a first step toward what Watson hopes will one day be a happy reunion in Ohio. To that end, she is saving her money for the trip.
Communication is slow, but Watson says she hopes the years between her and her daughters will one day thaw, just like the memories of the life she once lived.
n Contact reporter Peter Thompson at email@example.com or 881-1215.