Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Who Do You Think You Are?

I've been enjoying this reality show about celebrities searching for their ancestry. I watched Rita Wilson's episode online tonight and found myself identifying with parts of her story. I found out not long ago that my grandfather had a first marriage to another woman before my grandma and he had a son that died at a very young age not long after his mother died. I got the feeling from my father that this "first family" was never discussed when he was growing up. He knows nothing about his half brother. To have such a huge tragedy in my grandfather's life - losing his first wife and son at such a young age, then remarrying and starting a whole new family... I don't know how anyone could move on and start over after such a tragedy. It boggles my mind.

My Dad's family isn't particularly close. I know virtually nothing about my Aunt D and only slightly more about my Uncle J and his family. I did spend time with my Uncle/Aunt and their 2 daughters when I was growing up, but lost touch with them in my teens. Haven't spoken with anyone on my Dad's side of the family in many years. My Uncle J and his wife had more than their share of tragedy too. They lost their only son in infancy. Another story that no one ever talked about. I guess that is just the way my Dad's family is. Tragedy is buried and never discussed. I have always believed that pain shared is pain halved. It helps to talk about things. My heart goes out to my Aunt M. I can't even imagine what they must have gone through.

My Mom's side of the family was also fairly close-mouthed about a lot of things. My mother and I had a long conversation one night about her family history. She has many unanswered questions about the early years of her Mother and Father's marriage. Something about them being broke and living with my Grandfather's family in PA for a time. Grandma didn't get along with her husband's sister. She felt very isolated and lonely being so far from her own family in upstate NY. I got the impression she was thrilled when her new husband gave in and moved them back to NY. But I have a feeling there is a lot more to her story. I'll never know any of the details. All of my grandparents died long ago. I think my Mom has some regrets that she never asked her own Mother for more details - pushed for more.

I strongly feel we are all a product not only of our present, but of our past. These family stories are part of who we are, what we are made of and where we come from. It's why I felt such a strong desire to seek out my birth parents and hear their stories. Hearing my birth mother tell me about her family/childhood and some of the details about how I came to be really filled a hole I had. Part of me is still missing. Hopefully I'll have all the pieces connected one day.

With the internet and websites like ancestry.com I know many people have become amateur genealogists. I did some research with Tyler when he had to do a family tree last year as a class assignment. We were able to find out all sorts of interesting things about John's side of the family. Several of his cousins have researched the family fairly extensively. It's fascinating. I know my family has a lot of interesting stories hidden in the past, but sadly I don't think we will ever know the full truth.

Yet another reason why I feel compelled to write down all the stories of my life. All those seminal moments that helped make up the person I am today. I think my boys will appreciate this digital document some day. It will help them know and understand their Mom a lot better. Warts and all. :) Plus it gives me many opportunities to tell and show them what a miracle they both are to me and how much I love them.

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