Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Smith Family Tales’ Category

In case you’re too young to remember, writing a “letter” once was a common form of communication.

It was a physical, non-digital thing. Not to get too technical, but it was, like, sheets of paper that you wrote words on. When you were done, you put the sheets in an “envelope,” and the Post Office delivered it to the intended party. Got it?

Recently, I came across an old “letter” that I wrote to my parents and siblings in 1972. It came back into my possession after Mom died.

In late ’72, my wife and sons and I had just moved from Metro Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale, and I was writing to give my folks the latest news. At the time, Britt was seven years old, and Dustin was 18 months.

It’s an interesting look back at our lives in those days and of the boys as kids. Fun and nostalgic. Here it is.

———

1540 N.W. 62nd Terrace
Sunrise, Fla. 33313
Nov. 5, 1972

Dear Smiths, one and all,

I thought I’d write our new address above just to see how it feels. This is the first time I’ve written anyone from our new house. In fact, this is the first time I’ve written anyone since we got to Florida. Now that I think about it, it’s one of the few times I’ve written anyone from anywhere. Oh, well.

Firstly, we all are well, although feeling a little out of place. We’ve been in the house since the middle of October, and that’s hardly long enough to find the bathrooms, much less feel relaxed and at home.

I managed to get out and cut the grass once, but I had to borrow a lawnmower. Now the grass is ankle deep again.

But really, I suppose you want to know about Britt and Dustin more than the grass — although there is a similarity in that all three are growing like weeds, ha ha.

As far as adjusting to the place, Britt has done much better than Dustin. Britt made a lot of friends around the neighborhood right away, so everything’s hunky dory with him.

Dustin, on the other hand, is just now coming around. For the longest time he wouldn’t leave his mother’s side, following her from room to room, wailing like a lost soul. Now he will venture into another part of the house on his own, for instance to get a toy from his room, as long as one of us is sitting down and probably won’t vanish before he gets back.

His latest favorite thing is to go out in the back yard (escorted, of course) to run around. He will look up with a pleading eye and say, “Bemly OW? Zobloo OW?” “Ow” means “out.” The rest of it is anybody’s guess.

He still isn’t talking very much, but he does use certain words to get what he wants. He says “Dow?” in the same pleading way when ready to get down from the dinner table. He says “Ba-ba?” when he’s tired and wants to lie down with his bottle. He calls me “Da.” He calls Deanna “Ma-MA.”

The child is whip-smart and headstrong. As often as not, he wins a confrontation because he’s not afraid of anybody or anything. He sees outlasting you as a challenge.

When we set the table for dinner, he is known to climb up on a chair, climb from there onto the table, and proceed to toss napkins and silverware onto the floor. If we take him down and say, “No, Dustin” in a calm manner, he shrieks and proceeds to scale the chair again. If we take him down and bark, “Dammit, quit!” he shrieks and proceeds to scale the chair again.

Climbing is his thing, as you know. He can climb a glass wall. The other day, I was moving the porta-crib into our bedroom so some friends coming to dinner could put their baby in it. Dustin wanted to get in. I said no, I need to move it. He ignored me, grabbed the side rail, and began hoisting himself up, gripping the bars with his toes. It was like watching a monkey or an acrobat.

Britt’s big deal is that he learned to ride his bike at long last. He got it last Christmas, and finally, he’s out there riding up and down the sidewalk. For the longest time, he avoided it because he didn’t want to fall down and get hurt.

We admitted he would do some falling, but argued that the rewards of being mobile would make it worthwhile. No dice. Eventually, we got some training wheels, and that helped. Except that he leaned to one side, and the rubber wore off lopsided.

When he saw that all the kids in Sunrise ride their bikes to school, he wanted to join them really bad. And he finally did — with the training wheels still attached. Bad decision. He got teased something awful.

That did it. He finally let us teach him to ride. It only took about half an hour and one or two harmless falls, and then he was fine.

Well, I guess I need to finish this up and get it to the mail-lady. I thought she was a mail-man for a long time because she wears one of those pith helmets, and all I ever saw was her head bobbing past the fence. But then Deanna told me she is a she, and I looked out the side window, and sure enough, a mail-lady.

Or, as Allan puts it, a mail-man lady.

I’ll try to write again soon about how we’re progressing. Meantime, drop me a note. I know Mom will write because she gets to feeling guilty like I do.

Love,
Rock

PS: Dustin did fine trick-or-treating, but he didn’t know what in the world was going on. He was dressed as a farmer with a red bandana. Britt was a cowboy in full western regalia, including chaps, hat, and six-gun.

Sunrise 10-18A

Sunrise 10-18B

———

FYI, the above “letter” is contained in an “envelope” with a “postmark” reading “6 NOV 1972 U.S. POSTAL SERVICE FL 333.” Affixed is an eight-cent EISENHOWER USA postage stamp that had to be licked.

 

Read Full Post »

Meet the Fam

My previous post was a report on how I got motivated last year and began tracing the Smith family lineage in a serious way. With the help of Ancestry.com and other online resources, I traced the family way back — to the King of Jutland, a Danish Viking born circa 760 A.D.

His name was Halfdan Haraldsson, and he lived 33 generations ago, in the Early Middle Ages. Back then, Charlemagne was King of the Franks, forcing Christianity on everyone, and the heathen Vikings were busy plundering the region.

When doing the research, I focused on my paternal lineage, and I was able to follow the Smith name back 400 years before I ran out of clues.

That was disappointing, but not fatal. It was an easy matter to switch from paternal to maternal lineage and keep going back. Eventually, I stopped with Halfdan.

To be clear, the line of ancestry I documented is just one thread in the greater tapestry. I followed the most promising clues, going in one direction when others were equally available. In the end, I identified one specific chain of relatives out of a veritable web of them.

With that preamble, here is a summary of what I learned about our forebears over the 1,200 years between Halfdan Haraldsson and the Smiths of today.

———

Denmark, Germany, and France

Halfdan Haraldsson (circa 760-810) was born on the Jutland Peninsula in northern Germany near the Danish border. He lived in Denmark as an adult, fighting various rivals and becoming King of Jutland. He was a Viking and certainly facilitated much of their signature raiding and plundering.

The son of Halfdan and his Norwegian wife Helga was Harald “Klak” Halfdansson (c. 800-854), who succeeded his father as king. Harald married Sigrid Helgesdatter (800-854) also Norwegian.

Fam-1

King Harald “Klak” Halfdansson.

Klak’s son, Godfrid “The Dane” Haraldsson (825-885), was in line to become king, but he was impatient. Godfrid moved south with a contingent of followers and seized land in Germany. Twice, he led raids back into Denmark, trying to overthrow his father. He failed.

Godfrid finally gave up and moved further south, establishing a fiefdom in Guines on the northern coast of France near Calais. Godfrid’s son Sigfrid (905-968) was the 1st Count of Guines.

Beginning with Sigfrid’s son Ardolph (965-996), the family name was gallicized to Le Blount.

Ardolph Le Blount was the 2nd Count of Guines. His son Rudolph (996-1036) was the 3rd Count. Rudolph’s son Robert (1036-1086) was the 4th Count. There was no fifth Count because events led the Le Blounts to leave France and become Englishmen.

To England in 1066

In 1066, William the Conqueror assembled an army from across France to invade England. That undertaking was, as you undoubtedly know, successful. Sir Robert Le Blount (the 4th and last Count of Guines) commanded William’s fleet of warships. He was known as “the Admiral.”

As the spoils of war, the Admiral was awarded a large chunk of the county of Suffolk, northeast of London. He became the 1st Baron of Ixworth, that being his town of residence in Suffolk.

Between 1066 and 1270, six Le Blounts held the title Baron of Ixworth.

Fam-2

The family coat of arms.

During the 1200s, the family name evolved to Le Heyre, Le Eyre, and Eyre. Historians haven’t confirmed the reasons.

English Nobility

For several centuries, the Eyres lived as proper English nobility with holdings in both Suffolk and the county of Derbyshire, north of London.

In 1424, Sir Robert Eyre (1392-1459) of Padley, Derbyshire, England, married Joan de Padley (1399-1463). My previous post describes Sir Robert’s service as an English knight and the burial place of Sir Robert and Lady Joan.

To America

By the mid-1500s, the names Smythe and Smyth had appeared in the lineage. Richard Smyth (1553-1593) of Herefordshire, England, who died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, is the first Smith in our family known to have come to America.

Richard’s son John Smyth (1592-1649) and John’s wife Margaret Blythe Smyth (1596-1645) were among the first 140 settlers of the Maryland colony, arriving in 1634 aboard the Ark and the Dove.

Fam-3

The arrival of Lord Calvert, leader of the Maryland colony, on the Ark and the Dove.

Maryland and Georgia

In the Maryland colony, the spelling of the family name changed to Smith. Maryland was home to the next several generations of Smiths, most of whom lived in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. I haven’t made inquiries, but many of our relatives undoubtedly still live there.

Around 1800, three Smith brothers from Maryland moved south to Georgia. They were Archibald Smith (1736-1799) and two of his three younger brothers. (Benjamin, George, and Elijah were the brothers, but I don’t know which two accompanied Archibald or where they settled.)

Archibald lived in Hancock County, midway between Atlanta and Savannah. His son moved further south to a rural area near Savannah.

In 1839, Archibald’s grandson George (1817-1867) married Jemima Ruth Sumner (1815-1896), and they settled in Bartow, Georgia, near Augusta. The second of their eight children was John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), my great-grandfather.

In 1875, John Wesley, a Confederate veteran, married Martha Roseanna Sherrod (1854-1939) in a double wedding ceremony with her sister Elizabeth.

Fam-4

The youngest son of Martha and John Wesley was Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950), my grandfather.

Savannah

In 1892, John Wesley Smith and his family moved to Savannah, where he worked as a house painter and roofer. In 1918, at age 73, he died on the job in a fall.

In 1916, John Wesley’s son Walter married Stella Etta Ham (1894-1969) of nearby Pooler, Georgia. The oldest of their four children was my dad, Walter Anthony Smith, Jr. (1917-2002).

Walter Senior was a prominent Savannah businessman. At age 19, he took a one-year business course and became a clerk at the Railway Express Agency. Soon thereafter, he went into the cotton business.

Walter became a “cotton factor” at the Port of Savannah — an agent for inland cotton farmers. His job was to grade, sell, and arrange for the shipment of the cotton to world markets. He was in the cotton factoring business for 40 years.

My dad, Walter Junior, was a bomber pilot during World War II, and he flew jet fighters in Korea. After his Air Force career, Dad went into banking, which had been his major in college. I’ve written about him many times on this blog.

Fam-5

Dad, a dashing cadet at Army Air Corps Flight School. He included this photo with his Christmas cards in 1940.

Today

Names come and go. And soon, I regret to say, the Smith name will fade away in my family.

That’s because all of the children in the latest generation of Smiths are female. When they marry or pass on, our line of Smiths will come to an end. The literal end of an era.

I realize, of course, that a name is a superficial matter. As the foregoing family history illustrates, what counts is the bloodline and the people. I get that.

Still, the looming demise of the Smith name makes me sad.

 

Read Full Post »

The Family Iceberg

Two years ago, I posted a story about finally biting the bullet and delving seriously into Smith family genealogy. As it turned out, we Georgia Smiths originally came from Maryland. I’m not sure what I expected, but Maryland wasn’t it.

Around 1800, for reasons unknown, three Smith brothers left Maryland, where their family had lived for several generations, and moved to Georgia. We, the Savannah Smiths, are descended from one of the brothers, Archibald.

At the time I wrote that post, we also thought we had identified the first American Smith in our lineage: James Smith, who arrived in Maryland from England in 1660.

We were wrong. That distinction, it now appears, belongs to Richard Smyth (1553-1593) of Herefordshire, England, who died (at a young age, you’ll note) in Massachusetts.

James wasn’t even the second American Smith. His parents, John and Margaret Smyth, were here before him. They were among the original settlers of the Maryland colony, arriving in 1634.

For us, those revelations were a big deal. Prior to 2016, we could trace the Smiths back only as far as Archibald. No one could figure out where he came from.

We guessed he was Scotch-Irish and came from North Carolina, because that’s a common background for Georgians. Now, suddenly, we had traced our lineage back 400 years to England.

Well, I’m here to tell ya, that was just the tip of the family iceberg.

Last year, feeling on a roll, I continued the research and traced our ancestry back a lot more. A WHOLE lot more.

I followed our lineage back through many generations in England; and before that, through many more in France; and before that, to Germany and Denmark.

At the moment, our earliest known ancestor is Halfdan Haraldsson (circa 760-810) a Danish Viking king.

I could have kept tracing Halfdan’s forebears, but I had to stop somewhere.

While doing all that digging, I learned some interesting lessons about genealogical research.

Lesson 1. To state the obvious, a family tree consists of numerous lines of ancestry, branching out (pun intended) in all directions. When you research your ancestors, you enter a labyrinth that is complex and mind-boggling.

You have two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and 32 great-great-great-grandparents. That takes you back just six generations.

In addition, every generation consists of some mix of sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Not to mention divorces, re-marriages, stepchildren, and adoptions.

In light of all that, genealogical research means choosing which path to follow out of many before you.

Lesson 2. On the positive side, this complexity also means that when the clues run out and you hit a roadblock, you can back up a step and explore another path.

Lesson 3. In my experience, the hardest part of the research was of the generations immediately preceding me.

I suspect that’s common. Like most families, the Smiths were ordinary folks leading ordinary lives. They were farmers and merchants, not presidents and popes.

They were not lauded for grand accomplishments, their deeds recorded in history. Most made the newspapers only upon birth, marriage, and death.

If your family includes presidents or popes, doing the genealogy will be a snap. If it doesn’t, be prepared to work hard for every tidbit of information you unearth. Believe me, that goes double if you are a Smith.

Lesson 4. At some point, you may discover an ancestor who was famous to some degree. This will be an important breakthrough, because someone likely has done the genealogical work before you. The famous person’s lineage will be on the record, waiting for you to find it.

In other words, find your celebrity, and the rest is much easier.

In my case, I came across a celebrity of sorts in Sir Robert Eyre (1392-1459), an English nobleman and knight who fought in the Battle of Agincourt (France, 1415) during the Hundred Years’ War.

If the name Eyre is familiar, you’re probably thinking of Charlotte Brontë‘s novel Jane Eyre, which takes place in the same family in the 1700s.

Doing the research back to Sir Robert was difficult and slow, because most of his descendants, as far as I could determine, were not remotely famous; researching the generations before him was much easier, because in his lineage was a succession of barons, counts, and kings.

FYI, Sir Robert and his wife, Lady Joan Eyre, are buried at St. Michael and All Angels Church in Hathersage, England.

This brass plate is affixed to their tomb:

Eyre-1

Nearby, this plaque is on display:

Eyre-2

Sir Robert and Lady Joan had 14 children.

In my next post, I will present a summary of the Smith family lineage, from Halfdan Haraldsson to the present.

I decided to make that a separate post, in case you aren’t interested in someone else’s ancestors and have better things to do.

You’re welcome.

 

Read Full Post »

Later this month, my twin granddaughters Katie and Kelsey turn 17. The other day, I sent a text message to their dad regarding gifts. Here is our exchange…

Rocky: For the girls’ birthday… cash or gift cards?

Britt: Thanks for asking. Cash seems to work best these days.

Rocky: Roger.

Britt: They really deserve coal.

Rocky: Suck it up, Dad. Your function right now is to provide a target for teenage angst.

Britt: Seems I am ground zero.

Poor Britt. He’s a good guy and a good dad, but his fate is to endure the classic parental trial by fire with two teenagers at the same time. That’s brutal.

When my boys Britt and Dustin were teens, at least I was able to deal with them one at a time, several years apart. How would I have coped — or failed to cope — had they been a tandem? Ugly to contemplate.

To be honest, I regret that my parenting skills were never tested on girls. I always wished that a girl had been in the mix. They say boys are easier to raise, but I’ll never know.

What I do know, having been both a teen and a parent, is that parents play a hugely important role during the teen years — as sounding boards and punching bags.

Teenagers need a safe way to deal with and vent some of that pesky angst. If they can’t do it at home, they’ll be forced to find another outlet. That scenario isn’t likely to end well.

And frankly, the parents don’t need to be very good at the task. Or calm and adult about it. They can even rant and blow their cool, if so inclined. No strategy is necessary. You’re free to wing it.

A parent must, however, adhere to a few simple rules: provide the target; keep it in the family; refrain from throwing anybody out of the house; and make it clear that whatever sparks may fly, you love your kid anyway.

Compared to Britt’s situation, I guess I had it easy: one kid at a time.

As for Dustin, his daughters are now 13 and 10. His time is almost here, and he’ll get the same kind of “break” I did.

On the other hand, Dustin and I have to navigate these waters twice. With Britt, it’s one and done. That certainly has its appeal.

Survived

 

Read Full Post »

I’m trying to puzzle out the story of my paternal great-great-grandfather based on a smattering of tantalizing facts. He seems to have led an eventful life in interesting times, and I’d like to know more about him.

The ancestor of whom I speak is John Hubbard Sherrod, M.D. He was born in 1830 in Emanuel County, Georgia, midway between Macon and Savannah.

His connection to the present-day Smiths: Dr. Sherrod’s daughter Martha married a Smith from the next county. Their son was my Savannah grandfather.

This is what I’ve learned about Dr. Sherrod so far…

Family notes say he probably was born in Norristown, Georgia, the son of Mrs. Elizabeth Sherrod, who was born in 1792, maiden name unknown. Nothing so far about his father or any siblings.

In 1851, at age 21, Dr. Sherrod married Elizabeth Moxley of nearby Jefferson County. By the Civil War years, John and Elizabeth had three daughters, Martha, Elizabeth, and Susan, born in 1854, 1857, and 1861, respectively.

When and where Sherrod earned a medical degree, I don’t know. Nor do I have information about earlier Sherrods and Moxleys. Considering his profession, I assume the families were fairly prosperous, but were they merchants? Farmers? Owners of vast cotton plantations? All unknown.

When the Civil War began, Sherrod served as a first lieutenant and Adjutant (second in command) of Company C, 38th Georgia Infantry, CSA. According to military records, the unit completed its training in April 1862, at which time Lt. Sherrod tendered his resignation. Whether he joined another unit or simply went home, I haven’t discovered yet.

I do know that he survived the war, and in 1867, he was appointed judge of Emanuel County civil court. He and Elizabeth also had two more children, John and Margaret, born in 1869 and 1871.

During the Reconstruction years, the history of the Sherrod family becomes fuzzier. Elizabeth died of unknown causes, and Dr. Sherrod remarried.

His second wife was Sudie Dunn, also from Emanuel County. The Dunns seem to have been as numerous thereabouts as Sherrods and Smiths.

John and Sudie Sherrod had at least three children: Charlie, Joe, and Jessie. Charlie was born in 1886, when Dr. Sherrod was 56.

Dr. Sherrod continued to practice medicine in Emanuel County, and/or made a living in some other way, for two more decades. Finding out how long he served as a judge is on my to-do list.

John Sherrod died in 1903 at age 73. After some Googling, I located his grave at a small Methodist church cemetery a few miles south of the Emanuel County line in Treutlen County. Last month, I drove down to pay my respects.

Neither wife, I discovered, is buried with him. I haven’t located the graves of either Elizabeth or Sudie, nor have I uncovered more information about them.

However, buried next to Dr. Sherrod are his daughter Elizabeth (by his first wife), his son Charlie (by his second wife), and various other Sherrods and Dunns whose connections are unknown. The head of the family surrounded by his flock, as it were.

Dr. Sherrod’s gravestone is six feet tall and fairly elaborate and imposing, as you might expect for a small-town prominent citizen. A separate granite marker with details about his CSA military service sits in front of the headstone.

I was surprised to find a small Confederate flag, a new one, flying next to his grave. It could have been placed by local Confederate history buffs, or it could have been placed by his descendants in the area. Odds are, quite a few of Dr. Sherrod’s relatives, and my own, live in those parts.

The best parts of Dr. Sherrod’s story, I suspect, are still out there — the War, his life afterward, his medical practice, his family. Maybe I’ll get lucky and ferret out more pieces of the puzzle.

Plenty of mysteries, clues, and threads of evidence are there, waiting to consume my spare time.

Sherrod-1

The grave of John Hubbard Sherrod (left) is surrounded by those of assorted Sherrods and other relatives at Midway UMC Cemetery in northern Treutlen County.

Sherrod-2

Dr. Sherrod’s monument prominently features the Masonic letter G with square and compass. The marble CSA marker at the base was placed sometime after his burial. The crisp, new Confederate flag was unexpected.

Sherrod-3

Martha Roseanna Sherrod Smith (1854-1939), my great-grandmother, was the oldest child of John Hubbard Sherrod. In 1875, she married John Wesley Smith (1845-1918), also a Confederate veteran. Their son was my paternal grandfather, Walter Anthony Smith (1881-1950). To the family, Martha was “Granny Smith.”

 

Read Full Post »

Phenom

In 2006, during high school volleyball competition in North Carolina, a kid named Dana Griffin set a record (as far as I can determine) by serving 48 consecutive points.

That’s 48 straight points while serving, not points scored during play. He did it over the course of three games won by his team 25-0, 25-1, and 25-6.

Impressive, yes, with the caveat that in any sport, fantastic streaks happen only at the lower levels. In college and the pros, the talent is too good to allow it.

I mention this because young Dana’s record of 48 points may not last much longer. Don’t be surprised to see it broken by Maddie “Mad Dog” Smith of Jefferson, Georgia.

At age 12, my granddaughter Maddie is a volleyball phenom in the making. On the court, she is steady and effective. She understands the game, plays smart, and gets better every day.

Three years ago, she started playing on a team at the Jefferson Recreation Center, and it quickly became apparent that volleyball is her sport. Today, she plays for her middle school team in the fall, and she plays “club volleyball” in the winter.

Her winter team, Lanier Volleyball Club, is affiliated with the Junior Olympics organization, which prepares girls 10-18 to play in college. Maddie and her teammates are serious, dedicated, and surprisingly good. Many of them, including Maddie, also take private lessons.

Last weekend, Lanier participated in a regional tournament featuring a dozen clubs from around Northeast Georgia. The entourage of parents, grandparents, and other supporters packed the stands, and the noise level was high.

Saturday morning, Lanier won its first game and lost the second. As the tie-breaker was about to get underway, I moved to a spot on the sidelines to take photos. Sports photography isn’t my thing, but I take so many photos that some are always worth keeping.

As I watched the girls practice, a man and woman in their 40s arrived, got settled nearby, and nodded a greeting.

“Our daughter plays for Fayetteville,” the woman said. She pointed at one of the players. “That’s her, number 11. Where is the other team from?”

“Gainesville,” I told her. “My granddaughter is number 16.”

The three of us chatted for a few minutes about the girls, the gym, the weather, and what-not. Then the teams took their positions, and the game began.

Fayetteville served first, and the ball was out of bounds. Lanier was ahead 1-0.

Maddie, who has a killer serve and is the designated opener, approached the line.

She served, and the ball dropped neatly between two defenders. Lanier 2-0.

She served again with the same result. 3-0.

“My goodness,” said the lady from Fayetteville.

Maddie proceeded to serve and score another 12 points straight. Some serves were returned, and several volleys occurred, but each time, Lanier managed to score and retain the serve.

In the end, Lanier won the tie-breaker 15-0. Maddie had served 14 consecutive points.

The couple from Fayetteville walked away without speaking. Maybe they had to be somewhere.

Serving 14 straight was just the beginning. During the next round, Maddie extended her streak by scoring another 24 points in a row. In all, 38 consecutive points served.

After the games, when I rejoined my relatives and the contingent of Lanier supporters in the stands, everyone was abuzz about Maddie’s scoring streak.

“I’ve been around volleyball for years,” said one parent. “I never heard of anyone scoring 38 straight points.”

No, Maddie doesn’t deliver that kind of performance every time. She has served 10 or 15 straight a few times, but never more than that.

And, like all the girls, she has occasional bad days. In fact, later that afternoon, Lanier lost twice and finished the tournament in third place. They were bummed.

As you can tell, I’m proud of my granddaughter and her accomplishments at such a tender age. She has genuine talent and the support she needs to strengthen it. For me, it’s a joy to watch.

Next year will be Maddie’s final year in middle school, but she probably won’t play there. Jefferson High School plans to invite the more promising middle-schoolers to play on the JHS junior varsity team, and Maddie is a prime candidate.

Last weekend, the volleyball coach from the high school came to the tournament to assess the play of Maddie and the other Jefferson girls.

Mad Dog picked the right time to show her stuff.

Serve-1

Serve-2

Serve-3

Serve-4

Read Full Post »

Regrets

A time or two on this blog, I’ve mentioned my maternal grandfather, Bill Horne, who died when I was a kid. Based on what I know about the man, I can’t find it in my heart to have a good opinion of him, as hard as I try to be objective.

Bill, you see, walked out on his family when my mother was a toddler. He left my grandmother and my mom when they were living in Macon, Georgia. He started a new life in Hendersonville, North Carolina, and eventually remarried. He died of cancer at age 49.

After he left Macon, Bill had no further contact with his daughter. Mom had no memory of him whatsoever.

Growing up, I knew those facts, but not the reason for his departure. I was curious, of course, but I never inquired. It seemed best to leave the subject alone and move on, as I perceived that Mom had done.

But later in her life, it became clear that she hadn’t moved on. I began to see that the regret she carried was deeper and more profound than I thought. In retrospect, I suppose, it had to be.

Mom didn’t dwell on the matter, but you knew it was on her mind. You could sense the melancholy when the subject came up.

The matter came to the surface one last time in 2002, soon after Dad died.

As the sorting of Dad’s personal belongings got underway, I mused that I needed to start scanning and Photoshopping the best of the old family photos. Digital versions would last longer and could be shared easily with the family.

At that, Mom brought out a small photograph of her father. It was faded and very tiny — about two inches wide and four inches tall.

Mom had four or five photos of Bill, but this one in particular seemed to speak to her.

I can’t know what Mom was thinking and feeling, but the fact is, she spent her childhood not knowing her father, yet knowing where he was.

It isn’t hard to imagine that the photo signified, maybe even amplified, a lifetime of regret, loss, and disappointment.

When she showed me the photo, she opened up more frankly than ever before about those feelings. But I didn’t press her for more details than she wanted to share. I didn’t ask why Bill left, and she didn’t say.

After we talked, Mom asked me to make an enlargement of the photo, in hopes that would reveal Bill’s face in more detail.

A few days later, I gave her an 11″ x 17″ blow-up of the photograph, made on the oversized photocopier at my office. The quality was surprisingly good.

Mom was delighted. She beamed and gushed and shed a few tears. After some thought, she chose a spot next to her chair in the den and thumb-tacked the enlargement to the wall.

With Dad gone, Mom lived alone until she died in 2005. She had plenty of time to contemplate Bill’s photo and all it represented.

I hope it was cathartic. I hope she was able to put some of the old heartache to rest.

bill-horne

Mom’s photo of Bill Horne (1901-1950) fishing on a pier somewhere.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »