Thursday, May 22, 2014

More Thoughts from Genealogy

Over the past month or so I have been doing some long neglected genealogical research. It is interesting and exciting as well as unusual. A couple of the unusual feelings have to do with seeing names pop up when I am doing a search for information. Every time my mother's name (with her maiden surname) appears there is this moment of "Wow. It's her." Since she died over 50 years ago it is quite an experience. Almost like having a time machine that transports me back to a world that has long since disappeared.

The same is true when I came across my dad's Army enlistment card or my grandfather's draft registration card. Since he was already into his 50s in 1942, it was sometimes called he Old Men's Registration.

But perhaps the one thing all this work is doing is to make me travel back in my own mind to long lost memories. One came to mind today as I was thinking about the family. It was a memory of my grandfather one particular evening when he was "babysitting" my brother and myself. Actually, we were staying overnight at his house where he lived with his daughter, our aunt and guardian along with our Dad after our mother died. It was probably the summer or fall of 1962. He was 85 years old by this time but still very active, making his daily walks downtown, taking care of his garden and yard.

But he had long since forgotten anything he ever knew about taking care of 11 and 14 year old kids. I was his oldest grandchild- and there were only two of us. Neither his older son or daughter ever had children. Just his youngest son, our Dad. In fact Pop Pop was already 72 when I was born. I don't remember what he made us for supper that night. He probably warmed up something our aunt had put together. But then he made us coffee. I had never had coffee in my life. In 1962 there was no such thing as "gourmet" coffee as we know it today. In fact, from everything I've read of the history of coffee in the USA it was pretty awful stuff.

Anyway, he served it to us and added milk to make it less coffee-ish I assume. It was awful. I kept adding more milk- and it kept getting worse. He went back to the living room to read his paper or whatever and I finally gave up on it. Down the drain it went.

At that time I am sure I had no idea what he must have been thinking or feeling. All I knew was that he didn't give us anything worth drinking. Today it struck me about his being out of his element. In a day and age of the first half of the 20th Century, men like him did not have a whole lot to do with child-raising. Not to mention that his own children were now between ages 57 and 61. I never did have a relationship with him that brings back any memories other than of him working in his garden or taking a break to watch the New York Central freights go by on the hill behind his house.

As I work on these family tree searches and the memories they bring, most of them have the slightly washed out color and haze of old pictures. They don't have the sharpness or intensity of color that I see looking out my window here this evening. There is no brightness of sun or even clarity of memory. Perhaps that's why I am putting the current effort into the research and the memoir I am also working on. It's a way to bring some light and color to the past, a past that has, I know, made me what I am, but at the same time has kept itself hidden from my sight.

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