Thursday, July 24, 2008

Branches and roots

Monday was Dad's birthday. I know I haven't posted any updates lately, but he is doing very well. He claims to be walking everyday like he's supposed to, and he recently started a new job. I found myself appreciating his birthday and Father's Day a bit more this year.

Sunday afternoon, we took him out for birthday lunch. He was going on and on about a hydrogen fuel cell or something, so I know he's back to normal. Of course, now I'm expecting just any day to see him on the news: Man Blows Garage Off House. After all, Dad's all about making the blog.

After lunch, we went to the cemetery where Dad's parents are buried. (Doesn't everyone visit the cemetery on their birthday?) I'm ashamed to say I didn't remember exactly how to get there. I've probably only been four or five times that I remember. For whatever reasons, we never visited it as much as we did Mom's family's cemetery.

We were just never as close with Dad's family. First of all, Mom had eleven brothers and sisters. Dad only had two half-brothers, and they were both fifteen to twenty years older than him. Dad was the baby of everyone, by far. At least one of his first cousins was thirty years older than him. He's actually about the same age as his nephew, who I got to meet when Dad was in the hospital for his open heart surgery.

Riding down the quiet, narrow two-lane road that leads to the cemetery, I looked at Dad and tried to imagine what he must be thinking and feeling, about to visit the site where his parents were laid to rest. I couldn't. But in that instant, I appreciated him and I appreciated the day even more.

When we arrived, I instinctively headed for my grandmother's grave. My grandfather's first wife died young and he is buried next to her with a joint headstone. About ten feet away sits my grandmother's stone, all by itself. It breaks my heart all over again every time I see it. Maybe because it seems all too fitting.

As I said earlier, we gravitated more towards Mom's family. Dad's father died when I was one. My grandmother had a serious car accident not long after that and never drove again. I remember Dad would go get her on Christmas Eve day and she would bring presents for us. They were really bad presents, too, like athletic socks with wide red stripes and bad games like dominoes or something. And I feel guilty even as I'm typing this.

Then we'd spend Christmas Eve at my other grandma's house with Mom's family, and we'd go back there for lunch on Christmas Day. I remember sometime on Christmas afternoon, Mamaw or Mom or one of my aunts would fix up a plate and put tin foil over it and Dad would take it to his mother.

And in her whole life, as long as I knew her, she never once complained. Of course, now I wonder why was it like that? And I imagine her sitting there on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning all by herself. And I can't think about it without becoming deeply saddened. And I just want to tell her I'm sorry now, but I can't. So that's why it breaks my heart anew each time I visit her grave.

Sunday afternoon, I walked around more than usual and tried to find more Bone family graves. It's an old cemetery with lots of graves dating back to the 1800's. There were two Bones who were in the Confederate army and one who served in WWII.

With Mom's family, I've heard many stories. And what I don't know, I still have Mom, four uncles and three aunts that I can ask. But with Dad's family, I hardly know anything. And there's no one left to ask other than Dad. So I asked lots of questions, trying to learn all I could.

I don't know why it had never hit me before, but I realized that my grandmother was the only person buried there that I had actually known. And I miss her, for sure. But standing there Sunday, I found myself missing relatives that I never met.

That started me thinking about doing research on Dad's family. I want to get to know, at least in some small way, the family I never knew. I want to write things down and be able to pass along stories to the next generation. And if I don't do it, who will?

Dad told one story Sunday that I'd never heard before, although not family related. We passed a house where a classmate of his had lived many moons ago. Dad said he drew the boy's name for the Christmas party in sixth grade, so one day he asked him what he wanted. The boy's response? "You can just get me some cigarettes."

"If heaven was a town, it would be my town, on a summer day in 1985. And everything I wanted was out there waiting, and everyone I loved was still alive..."


  1. This is probably your rawest post ever and the one to make me cry the most--well for the first time

    Bone your parents must be so proud of you. As your tor I am

    The whole post was great but the ending was hysterical. Which I needed after crying

  2. Oh I don't know the song but it's so perfect. I always think of 1985 as the last perfect year

    And I'm really not sure that the ending was supposed to be so funny but it made me laugh and that's kind of hard to do today

  3. Thanks for sharing, this is a nice post and I love that ending about heaven and 1985... it was a pretty good year for me.

  4. I've done my family tree. I found out many secrets and was all cool, I highly recommend it.

    Start first with the living and everything they know. You'll be able to look up your grandparents since they've passed away (you can't find the living as easily). is a great place to try...and too. If anyone else related to you has done the research, it might be posted there.

    good luck.

  5. I loved this- i'm reading this at the beach with my friends and they're laughing at me for crying.

    But in all truth- it's so easy to take the older people in our lives for granted- what a blessing that you're still able to hear from your dad! Each day is another story to learn!

  6. In my dad's family there was no one else other than my dad and my grandmother. His father died when he was 2 years old. At that time my grandma was expecting another child, another son. That boy died whn my dad was 12 years old. My grandma raised my dad single handedly. In India, life of a widow is very bad even now in some places. A widow at the age of 18 was no cakewalk. She struggled to bring her kids up. No one from her family was ready to support her.

    However, my dad turned out very well considering his circumstanes. With his intelligence, scholarships and of course my grandma's blessings he went on to do his masters in Technology which was unheard of, where he came from. After that he never looked back.

    My dad provided for us all that he never had. I feel truly blessed to be his daughter. He is gone for 6 years now and I do miss him. I miss my grandma too. There is no one else from his side for us to connect to. No wonder, I and my three brothers are very close to each other.

    I know I took up a lot of your blog space. I couldn't resist this as your post touched me. I have not written about this on my blog either.

    Family tree is important. But what you have is important too.

  7. This is hands down one of your most amazing pieces of writing yet. I always think you can't top something else you've written, and you always prove me wrong.

    I was bawling, and then laughing at the end.

    I sometimes feel the same way about my own Grandma, how I never appreciated her much growing up, because I was closer to my other Grandma. And because, as a kid, bad Christmas presents can make or break an impression. (Horrible as that sounds.)

    I'm so glad you were able to appreciate your Dad more this year, and that you took the time to find out some of the answers to your questions.

  8. I am so glad your Dad is doing so well.

  9. Pia - Thank you. It felt raw. I started out trying to make this well-structured post and then things just started flowing about my grandmother.

    I thought the ending was funny. It was funny when Dad told it.

    Sage - Thanks. Between you and Pia, it feels like I missed out on something in 1985. No, wait, maybe that was the year I got my Nintendo? Hmm, I'm not sure.

    Renee - I figured someone out there had done some genealogical research. Thanks for the websites. It never hit me to start with the living, but that makes sense.

    Cami - I think it's easy to take anyone for granted at times. This year has taught me to appreciate the people in my life a little more.

    Thanks for bringing me along to the beach. Or my blog anyway :)

    Gautami - Thank you for sharing that. I loved your last line. You're exactly right. Sometimes I miss people who are no longer here when I should be cherish the time I have with those who are.

    Someone - Thank you. I didn't want the whole thing to be sad and heavy. Somehow, it just kinda worked out that there was some humor and some seriousness in it.

    Sizzle - Thanks. Now if we can just keep him off the local news :)

  10. My family is the same way as far as being closer to my mom's huge family, and not really talking to my dad's side. I researched my family tree in highschool and found out I have family that still owns the old family farm in Germany. Definitely interesting.

  11. That's a really great story! You know how I love cemeteries and I get the same feelings you had when I visit family graves. I think about my aunt her her husband who got married late in life, which is why I don't refer to him as "uncle." They're buried side by side with the same name on the tombstone while his wife of 30, 40 or more years is in a cemetery by herself.

    I don't know much about my family since I was born way after my 1st cousins were all grown up. It's certainly better to hear the stories firsthand than to look up numbers and names in a state or county registry. Sometimes that's all that's left.

    Happy birthday Bone-dad!!

  12. Bone, you make me cry with posts like this, but not in a bad way. I never knew either of my uncles. They both died in the military. The only person I have left to tell me about them is my mom. They passed away young, so it's hard for my mom to talk about them. Bits and pieces come together throughout the years, but I don't know that I'll ever really know about these 2 young men who died fighting for freedom.

    Great post, Bone. Great post.

  13. You know, everyone I know has such great relationships with their parents...and it makes me jealous! In a good way, of course. My father left us when I was 8 and I grew up without a father figure, something I wish everyday that I had (no, honestly, I'm not looking for sympathy, it's just a small truth in this simple guy's life). So, bone, my blog buddy, I'm stoked you're enjoying it for what it is.

  14. Coconut - Wow, how cool! What resources did you use for your research?

    Carnealian - Sounds like you were the baby of everyone, too. Hopefully, you still have cousins you can ask about things.

    It's amazing how just the names and the dates on a tombstone can fill your mind with so many thoughts and questions.

    Jen - I hope you can find out more about them. I wondered as I was asking lots of questions Sunday if it was difficult for Dad to talk about any of it.

    Sean P - I guess I think the same thing sometimes about people whose grandparents are all still alive. But yeah, it's important to appreciate what you do have.

  15. Uh Bone---I only tell all those stories about my family because my father loved to tell family stories. My mother hated to. She had an excellent memory but liked to live in the present My father was her family historian. After he died, my ex-uncle has become her family's official historian as his ex wife has always been a hippie with a very selective memory. She was my idol growing up but idols fall...

    You find family sources in the strangest places is what I'm trying to say--or people

  16. you're always welcome at the beach! it could be a little weird for the whole "Girls Beach Trip" thing though....

  17. Glad to hear you dad is doing well and started his job. Keeping busy will help him recover even more.

    I'm in the same boat as you, Bone. I don't really know my dad's family either. We always spent more time with my mother's family. But, that was because my dad's family never really excepted my mother and he didn't like that. He's always loved my mother more than life itself. I'm pleased I was able to experience such a love. Have a nice day.

    Oh, tell your day Happy Belated Birthday. Hope it was a good one.