Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Little Things

I got an email today that my aunt died recently.  I didn't even know this aunt until a few years ago; she was the older daughter of my grandfather's first marriage, before he ran off with my grandmother and had my mother and three other kids, and before he then ran off with another woman (but didn't have more kids that I've heard about).  My Mom got to know her half sister a bit after both of their mothers (understandably not chummy) had died, and so I met her and visited a few times.   (Yeah, anyone who gets all nostalgic about the joys of "traditional" marriage in my family gets some rude looks; my grandparents were all divorced, and most more than once, and my great grandparents, too.  Ask me about the detective someday.*)

I feel bad for my Mom, but she seems okay.  I think the aunt being almost 90 and in not great health  for several years tempers her feelings.  And they didn't grow up as siblings, so they don't have that sort of history that seemed so important to my Dad's siblings when he died.

Still, it was unexpected.  (For me.  Apparently my Mom visited last week and felt it was imminent.  But didn't mention it to me.  I guess she figured there wasn't anything I was going to do anyway.)

I thought about going back for the funeral, but I'd have to miss half a day of work and travel a whole lot, and that for an hour or so of ceremony, meeting some cousins I don't know.  I'd go if it seemed important to my Mom, but it doesn't.  And I don't think she's covering that up for me.

It's one of those difficult things about being in the middle of nowhere.  It takes me hours to get to anywhere, and I'm pretty much guaranteed a layover and wait.

One of my aunt's kids evidently looked up out mutual grandfather, and had a slightly different first name for him, so my Mom googled it, and is wondering if that's why she has never been able to find his birth certificate.  Then after we talked, I googled, too, and he's listed in this artist book.  And then, talk about weirdness, there's an auction on ebay listing a print of his work.  I've never seen his work before, that I know of.  Except, thinking about it, I probably have, because he did ads way back when, and some of those ads were the sort of thing that you still see.  (Think not nearly as famous as Rosy the Riveter, but those sorts of war postery things.)

I also got news today that our theater department is going to do a Shakespeare play this year.  Hurray!  I wish our two departments would get a little coordinated, though.  I've tried, but then the person I had a little connection with retired, and I haven't seemed able to make a real connection with anyone else.  And there seems to be one of those historical issues between our departments, the sort of thing that no one remembers exactly, but everyone thinks there must be something?

I'm pretty much ready to walk into all three of my classes tomorrow and start.  Copies are made, files are ready.  I've even done the excel grade files.  I take a weird satisfaction from putting together an excel sheet and then doing it with a mythical 80 student, and actually having it work. 

I probably should have been an accountant.  At least I'd make better money and could probably live in an area of the country less distant from family.

I registered for my conferences and put in my money request for the year.  Holy cow, I really SHOULD have been an accountant.

*Okay, the detective.  Supposedly, one of my great grandmothers, let's call her A, got married to P, and had a couple of kids.  Then she got suspicious that P was having an affair, so she hired a detective and found out that he was.  Then she divorced P, and married the detective, K.  They had some more kids, and P went away (I'm unclear where).  Then after a while, K died.  And P showed up again, and A remarried P.

Another one of my great grandmothers fell in love with a guy.  But he went away to the Spanish American War, and she got angry, so she married his best pal.  And they had a kid, my grandfather.  And then the first guy came back, and she divorced the pal and married the first guy.  This happened when my grandfather was an infant, and he was raised by the first guy as his son.  He only found out that he was adopted as an adult, when two women showed up at his work asking for [Uncommon First Name] Smith.  And his co-workers said, there's no [Uncommon First Name] Smith here, but there's [Uncommon First Name] [WAY uncommon surname].  So they got him, and the two women said, we're your sisters!  And that's how he found out he was adopted.  He'd formed a real relationship with the man who raised him, and decided to change his name to be [WAY uncommon surname] for real.  And when the paperwork got done, it changed the spelling of [WAY uncommon surname] to [WAY unncommon surname].  And everyone else in the family decided to change the spelling of their surname, too.  And so, pretty much everyone on that side of the family has a surname that's spelled unlike anywhere else, but it's not an Ellis Island thing.

I have a feeling that the roaring 20s really were roaring in my family.


  1. Roaring twenties indeed! I like these family stories.

  2. Anonymous4:20 AM

    My great grandparents were sort of this way, too. On one side, they were "shacking up" and there was eventually a shotgun wedding and a marriage that lasted until my great grandfather decided he'd rather live alone, which resulted in the family being broken up--kids went to various family friends and neighbors to be raised, all but my grandfather who was the eldest at 14 and struck out on his own. On the other side, my great grandfather wanted to marry this girl, B, but she wasn't so sure she was ready to settle down, so he got mad and married her sister (my great grandmother). Then he proceeded to carry on a raging affair with B, who got married to someone else in the meantime. Family lore is that B's eldest son actually belongs to my great grandfather. Lots of stories about my ggrandfather disappearing and showing up at B's, whose husband eventually died I think.

    Anyway, yeah...traditional marriage what? No nostalgia for the way things were here.

  3. I have similar stories from my family from that era and before. My mother's great-grandmother was the anti-Ma Ingalls. Well, she was Ma Ingalls for a while and then got fed up. See, her husband moved their family, always seeking his fortune and "elbow room," from Massachussetts to Ohio to Illinois to Kansas. In Kansas, when great-great-grandfather said there were fortunes to be made in Texas, great-great-grandmother said, "No more!" She stayed put, he left, and she successfully divorced him for abandonment. He remarried and had more kids (he already had 6!) and so there's a Texas branch of my half-family that we know vaguely about but don't really know.

    And on my dad's side, one of his great-aunts was kicked out of the house at age 16 for god knows what (probably for looking at a boy wrong, knowing that sexually uptight side of the family), but according to my mother (who was keeper of the stories, even my father's), she moved from her Illinois home to San Francisco, became a fur buyer for one of the department stores, married a Native American man, and never had any children.

    I always thought she sounded impossibly romantic, and, apparently, so did my dad's sister, who *ran away* from home and eloped at 16 with a guy who could sing like Frank Sinatra. He turned out to be an asshole, though, and she came home, with a son in tow, to live with her parents, which can't have been good, since I'm pretty sure there was a *reason* she ran away. But eventually she moved to *San Francisco* and married a nice man (having been since divorced) and never had any more kids.

    So yeah, as Anastasia say, traditional marriage what?

  4. Of my great-grandparents, one was a (more or less) traditional marriage. One great-grandfather married three times; one set were Mormons, and he had three wives*; and one set were actors, and while that great-grandmother never divorced her husband, they lived apart and both had other (female) partners.

    *my Mormon great grandfather respelled a very common Scandinavian name, and some years ago, back when google was relatively new, I got an email from a guy with my last name, saying "I guess we're not related, but when you google [last name] we are the ones who come up most often.". Isaid my understanding was that if you spelled the name the way we do, we were descended from my grat-grandfatherX. And of course, X was his great grandfather too....

  5. Ooh, I love the stories, especially the detective one! (And my maternal great-grandmother divorced her husband for abandonment. And my sister-in-law tells stories of her grandmother, who (they think) raised as her own the child of her husband and his mistress. So yeah, so much for false nostalgia about traditional marriages.)