My Up and Vanished Life

I don’t know what happened to Tara. I don’t know why I thought I could figure it out. Maybe it’s the writer inside me that assumed I could solve the 2005 disappearance of the Georgia woman? Or perhaps, something else drew me to her case?

My downward spiral started last September when I began listening to the podcast, Up and Vanished: an investigation into the disappearance of Tara Grinstead. Payne Lindsay, a Documentary Filmmaker, was interested in making a series similar to, The Making of A Murderer, and Series where he would pull his resources and try to solve a cold case. He found the case of a thirty-year-old ex-Beauty Pageant Queen and High School teacher, who vanished in 2005 without a trace.

With the help of a longtime and famous investigator, Dr. Maurice Godwin, the series is on a bi-weekly basis with a Q&A on the odd weeks, where Lindsay and Godwin answer caller’s questions about the case. They do a great job, and I got sucked into Lindsay’s journey hitchhiking a ride on the back of his show.

For months, I’ve looked up information, read every discussion board, sought every newspaper article, Television interview, and broadcast about this case over the past eleven years. I have notebooks filled with my questions and found answers. I became as savvy as any other Internet sleuth, and then I did something terrible. I typed up a hypothesis of what happened to Tara Grinstead and sent it to Dr. Maurice Godwin. On a tip line email address, no less!

My email was short. I told Godwin I was an Up and Vanished listener and had an idea as to what could have happened to Tara. I explained my information was from what I’d dug up or heard online, but that if he was interested, I could email it to him.

I convinced myself the worst that Dr. Godwin could do was not reply, but to my astonishment, he wrote back, and on the same day, too! I was thrilled.

His message was simple, “sure, send it to me” and I did. He responded back with “good overview” and corrected wrong information. I couldn’t believe it!

The next morning, I saw another message from Godwin answering questions I had asked the night before. For sixty minutes the two of us corresponded through email. I’d ask a question, and he’d respond. Suddenly, I was important. I was part of something bigger than myself. I was helping to discover what truly happened to Tara! Then the messages stopped.

Of course they ended, Godwin was a busy person, but still, I craved toying with hypotheses to be used in solving her disappearance.

When the thrill of visiting with Dr. Godwin had dissipated, it occurred to me what our correspondence was. He was vetting me. He didn’t know my connection to the case, if I was a witness, or had information about what happened to Tara Grinstead.

All along, as I threw ideas at him, Dr. Godwin was more than likely scouring my Facebook page and email address to see who I was. After all, if I were interested in connecting with people as enthusiastic as me about this case, why wouldn’t I join the discussion boards? Why would I seek Dr. Godwin out and send him a message, via tip line? Who does that? Why did her case mean so much to me? I don’t know.

Is it because there are similarities between Tara and me? She had dark hair. So do I. Both of us graduated from High School in 1993. She was an ex-Pageant princess. Same here-ish—I was the first runner-up in the Little Miss Wyoming Pageant when I was five. In 1993, I participated in the Miss Layton Pageant, made a fool of myself, didn’t place, and don’t like to think about it.

No, it’s more than that. I think I became obsessed with this podcast because Tara’s story is about a woman stopped in time, preserved in a moment without a future. She’s stuck—stuck like me. Perhaps finding clarity into what happened to Tara would project clarity into what happened to me?

I’ll be forty-two-years-old this year, and I have no career, I have little education, and I feel stuck. I’ve looked into going back to school, but the amount of money I’d make after I graduate wouldn’t cover the cost of tuition. I want to be a writer, though I don’t know what kind, or which genre to write, or how to go about becoming one. For half of my adult life, I’ve known nothing but being a mom. I’m too young to be an empty nester and feel too old to have more kids. And I’m way too old not have any idea who the hell I am. I’m stuck, lost. I’ve disappeared inside my own life.

Don’t get me wrong I have an excellent life! I adore my husband and him, me. I love my kids and if asked they would respond with something along the lines of, Ditto. But at forty-one-years-old, who am I? What now?

The interaction I had with Dr. Godwin was good; it snapped me into reality. Although I still don’t know the answers to my dilemma, I’ll continue listening to Up and Vanished, and spinning theories as to what happened to Tara—I’ll skip telling them to anyone else. Now, instead of being so occupied in someone else’s story, I’ll be more engaged in writing my own.

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