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Who's your Daddy

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...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

everyone has a history and story to tell

My maternal grandfather died when I was 2 years old of a ruptured aorta. He was 46 years old. His life is only remembered through my mother who is mentally ill. Some of her memories are very lucid, others not so much. My job has been to decipher the truth and the fiction of her memories.

His name was Orville McCaw and records of his existence have been impossible to find. No birth record can be located in Oklahoma where he supposedly was born about 1914.

I could find no death record, yet was finally able to find someone who has seen his grave site in Oklahoma. This same woman, now probably deceased, sent me photos of my grandfather. When I say his face I saw my mothers eyes looking back at me. I saw my exact receding hair line when I was the same age as him in the photo. It sent shivers down my spine and tears to my eyes. I had never seen a picture of him because my grandmother and he had divorced before I was born and fought over the custody of my mother. I wasn’t allowed to ask about him growing up (I was raised by this grandmother who was wonderful in many ways). My mother says that he treated her mother like a queen. My grandmother says that he wasn’t a good man. Who was I to believe?

All of the players are dead now except my mother. Who was this man? He was a welder on the pipeline that sent him from Oklahoma to Illinois where he met my grandmother. He was away a lot traveling on the pipeline throughout their marriage. I found out that he was a stock car racer with many trophies which my mother pawned off for money during her drug days. I learned that when my grandmother became ill with TB he moved her and my mother to Missouri where there wasn't a law requiring TB patients to be institutionalized.

Orville went by the name of Bill his whole adult life. I can understand why with a name like Orville. His mother was Elfie Slaughter who I never got to know. She called and asked to speak to me at every holiday and on my birthday. She desperately wanted to see me, but I didn’t know her and I was afraid. Speaking to her on the phone was strange for me. My grandmother or mother didn’t really want to have much to do with her. I guess my mother really never knew her much.

Bill was Elfie’s only child and he died young and her only grandchild didn’t want to see her and her only great grandchild didn’t either. Oh, how I feel such remorse for this!! Elfie lived a very long life. When I found out she did not die until 1994, I was stunned. I had so many opportunities to make an effort to see her. I failed. My life required so much explaining, I always avoided even thinking about the past. A wrong that cannot be corrected.

Genealogy has given me a link to a very secretive family history. I have found tremendous things and I hope to continue. Bill McCaw still remains a mystery to me. I long for finding any information about him. His life could not have been so forgetful.

Divorce and early taboo pregnancy leaves many hidden secrets that are hard to flush to the surface. Those that hide them think they are helping. Those they think they are helping feel robbed. My genealogy has so many broken branches it’s no wonder I grew up knowing nothing and hearing nothing of who I am made from.

This is my fabulous grandfather. I, apparently, used to adore him, tear up his Cuban cigars for fun and hit him over the head with my bottle when he slept. He must have had the patience of Job! I missed having his presence in my life. And, I know his presence in my mothers’ life would have made a difference.
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