We End in Joy

We End in Joy: Memoirs of a First Daughter

Angela Fordice Jordan
Foreword by Marshall Ramsey
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hxd7
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    We End in Joy
    Book Description:

    We End in Joy: Memoirs of a First Daughteroffers an extraordinary perspective on public life in an intimate account from the daughter of a highly controversial southern governor and a widely beloved first lady.

    Angela Jordan enjoyed a comfortable and quiet life in Vicksburg, the small southern town in which she was reared. She was a thirty-five-year-old mother of three daughters, and a woman with a politically liberal bent, when, against all history's odds, Mississippians elected her conservative Republican father, Kirk Fordice, governor in 1991.

    Suddenly fate threw the whole Fordice family into the glaring lights of public life. They made headlines, enlivened the 6 o'clock television news, and provided fodder for every dinner table conversation and robust political speculation around the Southeast. As the Governor and First Lady Fordices' longstanding marriage dissolved slowly and publicly over two terms in office, everyone with a newspaper subscription or a cable connection watched the trainwreck and high-profile betrayals.

    In honest, direct, sometimes poignant, and often funny prose, the author offers a rare glimpse into a profoundly complex family and its painfully public fall from grace. Though the book is the story behind the headlines of one of Mississippi's prominent families, Jordan's narrative will also resonate with anyone who has experienced humiliation, divorce, or loss, whether public or private. Through it all, Jordan finds a story of joy ascendant, and the wonder of discovering that in the deepest sorrow, light and love always shine through.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-702-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-2)
    Marshall Ramsey

    Most editorial cartoonists never get to meet the families of the people they draw.

    I pity my fellow cartoonists.

    I moved to Mississippi a month after Governor Kirk Fordice had his horrific wreck near Grenada, Mississippi. It was 1996 and I was still trying to figure out the state (never mind someone as bold and colorful as Governor Fordice). My early cartoons of him were clumsy and tone-deaf.

    The thing that forever changed my Fordice cartoons was a complete afterthought. The governor had called out President Bill Clinton for the Monica Lewinsky incident and was soon spotted coming off the...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    This is my story. The story of what it felt like to be me, me in the shadow and the bosom of my family . . . me, the first daughter of my beloved home, Mississippi. If part of this is your story, too, please don’t get caught up in fact checking. I am not going to. I’m just going to tell you what it felt like, how it still feels—the truth ofthatis what interests me.

    My dad asked me once if I would talk to some guy who was supposedly writing his biography. The man wanted...

  5. PART ONE

    • [PART ONE Introduction]
      (pp. 9-15)

      From a great distance, in late November, Greenland is anything but green. I am tired to the bone, but excited at the same time. I am returning from a long journey. Decisions have been made, and change is afoot.

      I rest my head on the window and look down at a landscape both achingly beautiful and completely foreign to me. Sharp, snow-covered mountains and, for as far as I can see, not a sign of life of any kind. But, instead of white, the sun has washed the whole vista in gold, as if some exuberant artist, with no idea...

    • How They Met
      (pp. 16-18)

      They met at a taffy pull. The details are lost except for this: the next day he called her on the phone. She stood in the hallway of her parents’ house in Memphis, next to the built-in telephone niche, cord wrapped around her arm, grinning. After he’d asked her out and she’d accepted, she hung up and let her body slide down the wall, and there she sat, on the floor, a giggling puddle of joy. My grandmother never approved of him, but she knew her daughter well enough to keep mum on the subject.

      My mother’s father worked for...

    • Shrill Bitches
      (pp. 19-21)

      Gigi, my father called me. Their girl. The little princess. First-born of four, I was. But the others were boys, so I also enjoyed, and sometimes endured, only-daughter status. More was expected of me in the manners and etiquette department, less in the realm of ideas and business productivity. The former expectations bound me and I strained against them always, but lack of them in the latter freed me.

      Like a medieval maiden, I was born of privilege and, like any manor-born princess, not expected to carry my own weight or make much of a mark in the world. Instead,...

    • The Red Dress
      (pp. 22-24)

      My daddy once bought me a dress. Himself. With no help from Mama. She made sure I knew that he’d picked it out himself. It was red velvet and had a dropped waist with a wide, satiny sash in green, blue, red, and white plaid. I loved that little dress because he picked it out himself. And I loved the feel of the velvet. Soft and smooth if you rubbed it one way and rough and bumpy the other way.

      How is it that your mother can lovingly and carefully select gifts for you for every occasion, but when you...

    • A Really Big Fish
      (pp. 25-26)

      I think at their very cores, there was something about my mother and my father that was exactly the same. Some wild heart—she was Amelia Earhart to his Charles Lindbergh, Annie Oakley to his Buffalo Bill. Indeed, my mother was gracious and beautiful and always, always wore her pantyhose, but make no mistake—she was a wild woman at her center! My father was both drawn to this fearless wildness in her and wildly jealous at the same time. He lacked the self-possession and confidence that she had. His was largely bluster and bravado, while hers was a quiet...

    • The Big Color TV
      (pp. 27-30)

      My mother won a TV. It was Christmas 1966. We hadn’t been in our new house a year yet. I was nine years old. We’d never had a color TV before—just the little metal black-and-white set that shocked you every time you touched it. My brothers and I used to fight over who would have to change the channel. When it was my turn and they couldn’t be persuaded to do it themselves, I would cringe and squinch my eyes almost closed and approach the box sideways, like a crab. The moment I touched it— BZZZZZZZTT! A shocking adrenaline...

    • Snake Handling
      (pp. 31-35)

      My father possessed a love of and fascination with snakes. I am told that my first pet was a king snake called Herman who lived in a burlap feed sack. I’m guessing my dad caught him, brought him home in a sack, named him, and let him go—all in the same day. But the story was always that he was my pet and he lived in a feed sack and I would say, “Herman! Get back in your sack!” I have no memory of this. None of it fostered a love of snakes in me. It wasn’t the only...

    • Kitten Tails and Al Capone
      (pp. 36-42)

      Who can understand the mind of a small boy? My father was six or seven when he conceived this diabolical idea. Was there ever a moment when his little heart flinched at what he was about to do? I’ll never know now. Here’s what I do know: My grandmother, Aileen, raised white angora kittens to sell and supplement the family income during the Great Depression. Who was buying pricey kittens in those years prior to the Second World War, I don’t know, but apparently someone was. What warm, adorable fluff balls they must have been, the kind of small creature...

  6. PART TWO

    • [PART TWO Introduction]
      (pp. 43-48)

      We all gathered for Thanksgiving that fall of 2006, and for Christmas a month later. These were not particularly somber occasions, as you might think. Instead, we reveled in the present moment. Mama was with us. She felt well. No one knew how long that could last, so we enjoyed being together. We celebrated. Or at least we all put on a good face.

      In January she had her first chemotherapy treatment. I drove her there. We got settled into a private room with our stack of books and magazines and mints and bottled water and lip gloss and tissues....

    • Garage Sale
      (pp. 49-52)

      My kinswoman Sallie and I had bitten off quite a big chunk here. Mom and Dad had been a whirlwind ever since the election. They had already packed everything they were taking with them and had asked Sallie and me to be in charge of dispensing with the rest. “If you make anything from it, you may keep it,” Mama had said. “We just need the house cleaned out.”

      We spent several weeks, working around our kids’ schedules, organizing, categorizing, pricing, and displaying. During this time, numerous announcements were made to my brothers. “We’ve been instructed to sell everything. Come...

    • Unexpected Friends
      (pp. 53-59)

      “Hello? Is this Angie Roselle?” The voice on the other end of the line was male, very southern, and something else—hesitant, maybe even timid.

      “This is Master Sergeant Fred D— . I’m with the Highway Patrol.” These words would have been alarming in my life BEFORE. Had there been an accident? Was I or someone in my family in trouble of some kind? That was before the election in November. Now, two months later, these kinds of things were becoming rather commonplace. The inauguration and accompanying ball were just around the corner. My daughters and I had bought our fancy...

    • Politicians
      (pp. 60-63)

      I was just trying to have my morning coffee and see what was happening in the world when there was a television announcer saying that my dad had been endorsed by some right-to-life organization. His gubernatorial campaign was in full swing now, and life was starting to get a little surreal. When you get right down to it, most people probably really wouldn’t be comfortable seeing their family members on TV with any kind of regularity. At the very least it takes some getting used to. Or it did for me. Hearing the name Fordice in a public forum creates...

    • Famous Folk
      (pp. 64-69)

      One of the weirdest parts of being the daughter of a governor is the official functions—state dinners, appearances at all kinds of fund-raisers, and the like. We were often invited and sometimes expected to be part of these. I found them mostly uncomfortable and usually tedious. I am in my element at home with friends and family in jeans and a T-shirt. I love to be barefooted, not dressed to the nines and trying to remember which fork to use so that I don’t embarrass myself and my family or, worse, cause an international incident!

      We had occasion to...

    • How I Offended a Former President and His Wife and Then Saved Them Both from a National Incident
      (pp. 70-73)

      “Hey, you two! Quick! Come sit down!”

      What? A member of my father’s staff was motioning for my husband and me to go through the big heavy sliding doors into the state dining room.

      “Oh no!” We both said in unison. “We’re going home.” This had already been a long and stressful day. Former president George H. W. Bush and Mrs. Bush had been in town for a day-long multifunction fund-raiser, and we had been asked by my parents to be present for part of it. I had managed to offend both Bushes over the course of the day. The...

    • Feet of Clay
      (pp. 74-76)

      His feet were terrible due to no care at all and toenail fungus that he flatly refused to treat or even to feel embarrassed about. “These are the feet God gave me. They get me where I need to go,” he liked to say.

      I had just arrived in the upstairs private quarters of the Governor’s Mansion to find my beautiful mother kneeling in front of her disgraced, pajamaed husband and tenderly rubbing lotion into those awful feet, a scene that is forever burned into the lens of my mind’s eye.

      He had only come home from the University Medical...

    • Hustle
      (pp. 77-80)

      My ninety-year-old grandmother has called and asked me to drive her to “the McRaes” for senior day. She will not pay full retail ever, for anything. We call her “Mom.” My mother is her only daughter, and she has one son, my mother’s older brother, Jimmy. I pick her up at her second-floor apartment in town. She is a tiny woman. Five feet, maybe ninety pounds, hair freshly rinsed blue and set. She is wearing a pale pink polyester skirt and a long-sleeved, off-white, button-down blouse. It’s hot, but she never goes out without pantyhose, girdle, and sensible but stylish...

  7. PART THREE

    • [PART THREE Introduction]
      (pp. 81-87)

      During that graduation weekend in May 2007, Mama quietly took each of my brothers and their wives aside and told them that the cancer had returned. She was somber. She was grave. She was still optimistic. “I will beat it,” she said, though with less bravado than before. The doctor’s pronouncement that the cancer was back seemed to suck all the wind out of her. I believe that she really thought she had beaten all the odds and gotten a cure. This news was just so disheartening.

      She went back to Jackson after the celebration was over, but in a...

    • Snow Globe
      (pp. 88-91)

      In the last weeks of her life, my mother told me stories. Some I had never heard, like this one.

      A moment, frozen forever, singular, as rare as a cool breeze in the middle of a deep southern summer. A beautiful, darkhaired young woman sitting on a parquet floor with a small dark-haired girl child in her lap. There is a green plant, large, in a planter made of wood slats with metal bands encircling it. The plant has huge leaves and spikes of tightly furled new growth. Leaves not yet born . . . tender green leaves that have...

    • The Dance
      (pp. 92-98)

      “You seem pensive.” My mother brushes hair from my face with a gentle hand. I am fifteen now; there is not much gentleness between us.

      “What is pensive?”

      “Lost in thought,” she tells me. “You have something on your mind.” The question is unspoken: Would I like to share my thoughts with her? Maybe I would, but at fifteen, I’ve lost my way there. I can no longer imagine sharing my thoughts with my mother. Every interaction between us seems to lead to a foxhole. Hunkered down, adrenaline rush, firing indiscriminately . . . perceiving an enemy. I get so...

    • The Beast Within
      (pp. 99-103)

      My father’s hands are the first part of him to wake up after surgery. His fingers spread wide and then clench into a tight fist. I am caught up in the hypnotic rhythm of this restless grasping and releasing. Mama says it’s arthritis and maybe that’s part of it, but I recognize this motion and I think it’s something more. My own hands do this sometimes when I’m tired or afraid, or when I find myself on some precipice of indecision. They open and close of their own accord, while my mind races on ahead. Sometimes I notice it. I’ve...

    • Supernova
      (pp. 104-115)

      September 7, 2004, from the NASA website: “A supernova exploded in Galaxy NGC 2403, likely annihilating most of a blue supergiant, as central fusion could no longer hold it up.”

      My father died that day. My father’s dying, and later, my mother’s too, coincided markedly with my own dying to my old life.

      During the summer of 2004, my marriage was on the rocks. Destructive supernovas were exploding all over the place and had been for some time. Somehow a conversation about separation had begun and taken hold, and by August I was being carried along in the rush of...

    • Pink Petunias and Mary’s Tears
      (pp. 116-119)

      He loved pink petunias. My dad . . . a conundrum wrapped in an enigma.

      I am a Master Gardener. My MG certification is another one of those things amassed on the road to find out something about who I might be. Now, all these years later, I only have four houseplants, and two of those don’t look like they’re long for this world. I guess I’m over it. When I completed the training though, my dad, being a supportive parent, asked me to spend a day with him, consulting about plantings for his new house. It was fun and...

    • The Gray Cloud of Regret
      (pp. 120-124)

      The sheer childlike joy of standing on my father’s feet and holding his hands while he swayed and swirled me around the room—I have returned to it in my dreams. I watch as small-child me and my father re-enact this ritual dance. I have also had the singular pleasure of seeing my own daughters dance this way with their grandfather—twirling and swirling in a dance of pure love, while time stops and everything else recedes into the background. Just me, dancing on my father’s feet in a spotlight of innocence, a sweet scene, frozen in time, another snow...

    • Eating the Elephant
      (pp. 125-128)

      Going through a house full of a lifetime of personal belongings, where do you begin to “eat the elephant,” as my brother Dan called it? My father left behind so many curious things: a chipped vase full of one-armed reading glasses, seventeen missing their left arms, five, the right, one with no lenses at all; a wooden box that we found in a kitchen cabinet containing thirty-seven “do not remove under penalty of law” tags from furniture cushions (you can never be too careful); his sixth-grade report cards, A’s and B’s, but bad conduct marks on them all. In a...

    • Bolting
      (pp. 129-140)

      “I’m leaving you a little money in my will for travel. It’s given me so much pleasure and I want you to know about that. I hope you’ll take a cruise.” My dad is getting weaker and sicker and starting to talk like this more and more. Wrapping things up, tying up loose ends.

      “The idea of a cruise doesn’t appeal to me, Dad,” I tell him, “but I’d love to go to Scotland and see where the Fordices came from and stand on the ground of the mother land.” He manages a big smile. That would please him very...

    • Iona
      (pp. 141-152)

      Eventually, I did make it to Scotland—just as I’d promised my father. It was a snap decision, though. I had allowed myself to be dragged, by my heart sister, Nancy Carman, to a women’s retreat called “Beneath the Surface, Healing Begins.” This was October of 2006. I was quite angry and did not want to go, initially, but my friend was insistent. There were some amazing women there and, against my will, another layer of the wool that was wrapped around my heart was peeled off. Soul exfoliation, I called it. I awoke from an elusive dream on Sunday...

  8. PART FOUR

    • [PART FOUR Introduction]
      (pp. 153-162)

      How much control do we have over our own destiny? Well, I surely don’t know the answer to that, but I do believe that both of my parents at least surrendered to their own deaths with grace and dignity, realizing that there was no point in lingering here any longer.

      A few days after my brother left, after a private bargaining phase between herself and God, my mother called a halt to all of the testing and treatment and we took her home. Phase 4, Depression, lasted about thirty minutes, and then she moved into Resignation or Acceptance, the final...

    • The Great Abyss
      (pp. 163-165)

      When my mama had been gone two weeks and I was two weeks away from fifty, I loaded up “Little Green,” put the top down, and headed west on what I’d decided to call “the Great Jubilee Orphan Tour.”

      Well, actually, I headed northeast first for a stop in Nashville, where I was treated to a parade! My daughter Jenni gathered all her friends and their toys and her little sister, who had just moved there. We had sparklers, hula-hoops, tattoos and tiaras, bare feet, and bubbles. I was draped in a sash and outfitted with a wand and a...

    • Orphan Solidarity
      (pp. 166-170)

      Hunter called and invited me to go to the cemetery in Madison with him. We took flowers and a bag of Krystal hamburgers, my mom’s favorites. Lance, Dad’s big black Lab, ran around and splashed in the lake while we sat by the double grave eating our little picnic and quietly talking and remembering. I am not a person who finds comfort in sitting by a grave, but I do get much comfort from being with my brothers—more than I ever thought possible. I suppose it’s some kind of orphan solidarity; we’re all we’ve got now, the only ones...

    • The Tenacity of Joy
      (pp. 171-176)

      Nearly everybody on the planet has seen my father intimidating Bert Case on TV. It’s on Youtube, if you missed it. Many also remember him threatening Dick Molpus with the woodshed. A member of his gubernatorial staff once said, “You can always tell when someone is part of the Fordice staff by the big chunk missing from their ass.”

      But I am his only daughter and I can tell you where he cut his intimidation teeth.

      I was a tender fourteen-year-old, a “little hippie chick,” my brothers teased. My best friend forever, Marian, and I were just hanging out one...

    • With Humility and Gratitude
      (pp. 177-179)

      It has taken me over a decade to wrestle this story to the page. I have been so richly blessed and am so grateful for the people who have encouraged me all along the way. They are so many and I will forget some and I beg their forgiveness. I list them in no particular order.

      Thanks to my early readers, Ellis Krinitsky, who gave me “memoir” as the proper vehicle for the story and always steadfast encouragement, and Carol and Jimmy Owens for their helpful and very specific feedback and for the concept of “firefly moments” and stories about...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)