Posted by: suekenney | September 27, 2011

Family History Up Close

Because my mom is now in a nursing home, we kids have to get her house sold to help pay for the nursing home.  That means cleaning out a LOT of stuff accumulated over the nearly 60 years that my parents have owned the house.  One group of items of considerable quantity as well as variety is the family history:  memorabilia from as far back as the early 1800s; old letters and post cards equally as old; the genealogical research (notebook after notebook!) that my maternal grandmother did several years ago; countless photographs that exhibit almost the entire range of photographic history.  Packed up into boxes of various sizes, there are about 60 or 70 boxes of stuff (rough guess-timate).

And it’s now mostly in MY house.  I told my family, since I was interested in it, that I would take responsibility for the genealogical stuff from Mom’s house.  My husband and I took two trips, with the back of the pickup loaded high, to cart it all to our place.  And now I have to store it (at least temporarily), and sort it, and decide what best to do with it.

I’ve been skimming through several of the boxes, mostly to get a rough idea of what their contents are.  I’m getting a kick out of seeing photos of my parents and grandparents – even great-great-grandparents! – as young children or babies.

My dad with his niece Elizabeth

I don’t remember my dad with anything but medium brown fading to gray hair – but when he was younger, he was called “Red.”  Somewhere in my STUFF is a little envelope with a lock of his hair, snipped by his mother when he was just a  wee tad – and it certainly was red.   He was the youngest of 6 kids; he was only 8 or 9 years old when his niece Elizabeth was born.  In fact, when she was in high school, and he was in the Army Air Force during World War II, once when he was home on leave she asked him to escort her to the high school prom and so was able to impress all her classmates with the glamorous serviceman who brought her – she, of course, not divulging that it was her UNCLE.

Dad was just 19 when the US entered WWII.  He and his next older brother both joined – Dad in the Army Air Force, Ben in the Navy.

Dad and his parents, 1940's

Dad never made it overseas – the family rumor I heard was that while horsing around with some of his fellows, he broke his arm, and was still recovering from that when his unit shipped out.  He never talked about his service years; he never talked much about himself at all.  But among my treasures are hundreds – literally! – of letters written by his mother, who must’ve kept the post office in Worcester, MA, in business with all the letters she wrote.  I’m hoping that as I get the chance to read through those letters, I’ll learn more about my dad in the process.

Dad died almost 20 years ago, when my younger son was only 7 months old.  I still miss him a lot; he was a hard worker, a dependable man, occasionally given to goofiness.  I wish my boys could have known him better.  He would have certainly enjoyed watching them grow up.   Hopefully I can pass on to them some knowledge of who my dad was – and how proud I am to be his daughter.

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