Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Sunday, May 7, 2017

make your own stew

 The other day I was writing about context and how it shapes our lives and thinking. It is something we may or may not be aware of. Often times I believe we are aware but don't share that awareness with others. That was especially true with previous generations. Back in the day you didn't share those things that you felt may have influenced you in a negative way. In a way it was a sign of weakness to do so. You were expected to just accept whatever the reality was and continue on. That has certainly changed over the years, now we use those experiences to our advantage. We call ourselves " survivors. " Not all these things we survived were life threatening things but perhaps life altering. In some cases nothing more than disappointment. That isn't to say that disappointment can't have a profound effect on you, it most certainly can.
 I was thinking about this and trying to put my own fathers' life into context. He was born in 1924, five years before the great depression. Growing up that would have been normal for him. I'm certain he heard many complaints from everyone about that. The first thing I believe you would need to understand  about him is his mom died a few days after giving birth to him. His father remarries  in 1927 when he is three years old. He and his older brother Elwood are left to be raised by his maternal grandparents. His father lives in the same town as he does and has two other sons with his new wife but never does  his father bring him or his brother to live with him. He never sees or hears about his other Grandparents for reasons still unknown to me. Surely this would raise questions in a child's mind. My father never spoke of any of this and so I can't say how he felt about that. I do know that in 1932 when Dad was eight his father was going to Florida to find a place to live. He had some job opportunity down there and promised to come back and get all his boys. Grandfather Elwood died in Florida in 1932 from a ruptured appendix ! How must Dad have felt when he heard that news ? It must have been a huge disappointment. Did dad feel grief ? I would think he must have to learn his father had died. Still he was eight and had only known his grandparents in the role of parent. Was it also a big disappointment to know he would never travel to Florida ?
 The years go by and Grandma was doing the best she could but those young boys were a handful. From all accounts they were both a little wild in their youth. Perhaps Grandma wasn't as strict as she should have been. But we must remember she had lost her daughter and was now raising her grandchildren. At some point Dads' brother gets into some trouble with the law. It has something to do with stolen property. Now there is the sister of their father, Aunt Mildred that lives in Chicago. She has married well, as the saying goes, and comes to take his brother Elwood away before the law can act. Elwood is off to Chicago to live in a metropolitan area with great schools and what surely must have been perceived as luxury. Aunt Mildred was rich ! The truth is she was rich in a comparative fashion. So I would think that dad then views this and thinks, brother Elwood is being rewarded for bad behavior. I'm still stuck here, in the sticks being raised by my Grandmother. Where is the justice in that ? But, this is the 1930's and you don't complain openly, you accept the situation and make the best of it. There are no grief counselors or intervention centers. You will not receive therapy or drugs to help you cope. No, this is just life, deal with it. In a few more years the war comes along and he is drafted into the Army Air Force, flying missions over Burma and into Europe. Surviving the war he returns to his home with Grandma who is now dying from cancer. In less than a decade she will be gone, Dad is married raising four children, two from Moms' previous marriage, and struggling to get by.
 All that is context that I was unaware of for many years. After my dad's passing in 1990 I took an interest in the family tree and set about unraveling some of those mysteries. In doing so I found I was really discovering context. As to motivations I can only speculate, but knowing the situation adds depth to that speculation. My Grandfather Elwood Sr. came from a well to do family. His father, Christian had married into the Gaffga family. The Gaffga family were successful business folks and had a very profitable concern going on. When Great Grandmother Reichart, the former Catherine Gaffga, passed away it appears that Grandfather Reichart became estranged from that family. He would pass away in 1940, of stomach cancer, in the Alms house at Yapank, New York. The Gaffga family was never mentioned in my youth and so became a new discovery in context for me. I found many relatives that lived close by that I am certain my father never knew about. Dads' brother would move to Chicago permanently, obtain a college education and become a successful electrical engineer. My father was the " poor " brother that lived in the sticks.
 It is interesting to learn all of this after the fact so to speak. I do believe it speaks a lot about my fathers' character. He never spoke about any of this that I was aware of. Mom says he would occasionally speak of his father but that he didn't really remember him. Well, he never really knew him is my thinking. I never heard him complain about his lot in life. Seems to me he would have been justified in doing so had he chosen too. Dad didn't deal with what ifs. Dad dealt with whatever life handed him and just kept going. Strong and confident is the best way I can think of to describe him. Opinionated and headstrong, yes, he certainly was, and some say I inherited that trait from him. I am flattered to think so. All stories are best told within the context of time. I wish I had asked or heard more when I was a lot younger. But I do think that maybe it is best we not know certain things as well. Knowledge can taint as well as flavor. It all depends upon the ingredients. Yup, sometimes it is best to just move on and not " stew " about what could have been. It is better to keep on going and make your own stew.