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Yes, I read lots of non-fiction, not as much recently as I would like. Mostly early American History, but I have another (of many) interes...

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Advantages of Knowing Your Past

For those lucky people who have been given a true sense of their family history my story may seem quite unusual. However, today families are disconnected by distance, family strife, and pain. This is how my genealogical search began.

I was a mistake. As cruel as that sounds it is a fact I cannot change.

My grandmother, who raised me, went to great lengths to protect me and her family. The positive of this, what you don't know cannot hurt you, right? For me, the downside was a broken past with many unanswered questions.

Until very recently I knew very little about my biological father or my maternal grandfather. There were no pictures, no stories, just secrets. Fortunately, my step grandfather (my grandmother's 2nd husband) was my "dad" and a great male role model. For this I am especially grateful. However, there was a hole in my life.

In many southern families there are often handed down, unspoken traditions of keeping bad family events and people locked in the recesses of memories, so they may somehow disappear or better yet, have the pretense of never existing. For me, these secrets affected my life and still does.

My step-grandfather "dad" died of cancer in 1991. My grandmother "mom" started showing signs of not being the strength of the family (which she always was) around the turn of the century. I realized many questions that I was afraid to express in the past, had to have answers or they would disappear forever. It was time for me to push. Just who am I?

Secrets, no matter how noble the cause, leave pain and longing. Children are emotionally and spiritually wise beyond our wildest imagination. They can sense something amiss even when no words are spoken. Unfortunately, they, many times, place blame upon themselves. My blame for myself was strong. Had I not been born my biological mother would have had a better life.

My mother was 16 with a bright future, headstrong, extremely intelligent, and musically gifted. Like many teenagers she became interested in the opposite sex and became pregnant with me. My father had not yet turned 18. They tried the honorable thing, married, moved into a hovel with no running water or heat. It didn't last.

My grandmother was 37 when I was born. She and my mother's father "Bill" had divorced bitterly fighting for custody of my mother when she was about 10. My grandfather "Bill" lost and remained in the same area to be close to his daughter, even though he wanted to return to his home in Oklahoma.  My mother wanted to live with her father.

When my mother turned 18 and was legally an adult, she and her dad "Bill" took me with them to live in Oklahoma. We were there less than a year when my mother's beloved dad died instantly at the age of 47 of a ruptured aorta. She returned with me to Kentucky and told her mother that she couldn't handle raising me. This story wasn't told to me until I was much older.

It gets more complicated....when my grandmother and "Bill" where married and he worked traveling often as a welder on pipelines, my grandmother developed "TB" at the age of 25. My mother was 5 and getting ready to start school. My grandparents moved suddenly to Missouri because it was one of the only states that didn't require "TB" patients to be institutionalized. My grandmother was bedridden for a very long time. Lost a large portion of one lung. My mother was not allowed to play with other children and was isolated.  My mother's life was tragic from the beginning. Thus my guilt only grew.

What I have found is that secrets and tragic circumstances can leave a person with no past history. For many, this doesn't matter. To me, it is my whole being. By digging into my past and my families past for answers I have discovered my genealogy.

I don't descend from Royalty and even if I did, I could care less. What I do descent from is the most fascinating historical past I could have never imagined! It reads like a wonderful historical novel.

This is just a small window into my life. I hope by sharing this others will learn the value of family lineage no matter how bad it may seem. It is my dream to honor those who came before me, their stories run through my blood. The gift of family, no matter how turbulent, is a powerful gift. The world really is a very small place.

I am changed in ways that words cannot describe by what I have found about my family. I have had strangers on the Internet contact me who have the same family lines as mine. I have had pictures of my grandfather (I had no pictures or even a description of him) sent to me by just posting a query on a genealogy website. I received an email one day two years after leaving this message saying, "you must be the child of Diana?". She was my grandfather's niece. She sent me pictures of my grandfather's "Bill" mother. My own mother has many of her features.

My dear grandmother "mom" did not have an easy death. I was with her and knew there was so much she wanted to say to me. I knew she was sorry for the pain, but I told her it was OK. She asked me to look after my mother who is mentally ill. She knew I blamed myself for her life being so difficult. She shared with me a story.

When my biological mother was pregnant and in about the 7th month I almost didn't make it. While she was outside my mother's hospital room she told me she had prayed that I would die. "How could a child have a child?" One of our neighbors had stopped by to comfort her and said, "You have no idea what great things this child may do!". She told me how grateful she was that I had lived! are the stories from history that have led to me being alive............
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