Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Mysterious Family Tree

 I spent the afternoon uploading photos to FaceBook so that our just discovered branch of my family tree can see whether we look at all alike.  I must say that I think I see some familiarity in the faces of my new “friends”. 

Me of all people who has lived as a “street rat”, "throw away", "waif", well I do know that family is what you make it.  Being related by blood doesn’t necessarily mean that you are close or that your natural family will be there for you or take care of you when the chips hit the fan.  Yes, it is that way for a lot of people, but it has never been that way for me, at least not as far as my parents are concerned.

My Grandpa, now he was my family.  He loved me No Matter What!  And there was a time when I was pulling a lot of what(TF).  He always said that that “your grand kids are the people you love no matter how bad their parents screw them up.”  Somehow I always knew that to be the case.  As I got older I realized he saw himself in me, my childhood, in my life.

Grandpa, back row 3rd shirtless guy from the left
We knew he was dying (he and I) the last year of his life.  He had given family tree software and what he had known about his family back in Iowa.  He had never had much contact with his dad or the Koffron side of his family, but I believe that set of grand parents were among the relatives he had lived with for some time when he was really young.  Anyway, he said there were things I didn’t know about our family and he sent me on a quest to figure out our tangled family tree. That damn family tree was very important to him, and we didn’t have much time he would say. 

It was the family tree and the CCC, The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a public work relief program for unemployed men age 18-25, it was part of "The New Deal" (he was there from 1937 – 1939 he was 15 when he went in it),  that occupied his mind that last year.

I helped him track down the online CCC museum, he submitted his documents and picture, they were published.  I found out about a Michigan CCC reunion, he sent me documents and pictures, my husband and I promised to go in his place. 

 My grandpa had had some strokes and had a little aphasia, and he didn’t like to travel alone, he was afraid people wouldn’t understand him if he needed help. 

Alex, Mad, Me, Amy & Grandpa

Two days before the CCC reunion my grandpa called to say he had bought tickets and was on his way, by him self and he was going to that reunion with us.  I was stunned.  But it was something he HAD to do.

We went and much to his surprise a picture of him with the boxing team was blown up right there on the wall in the Michigan CCC Camp Museum.  He was slightly amused and he was happy to be with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  But I couldn’t shake the feeling that he was bitterly disappointed, and that he had not found what or who he was looking for.

"Grumpy Grampy" (it used to crack him up when I called him that)
Later he gave me the name of a person he was looking for; from the CCC, I jotted it down on some piece of paper some where (that I have been looking for all week).  He had to talk to them about a thing that happened…from his face I knew what ever that "thing" was he still felt guilty about it 60 years later.  I know the look, I had a miss-spent youth” also, as I would call it (my grandpa would laugh and say “so, that’s what you're call it, Huh?”) 

Why didn’t I just come out and ask him?

I remember googling the name and not finding anything and putting it away for latter, I figured if my grandpa was 80, and they were in the CCC with him he could have been long gone.

But that last  year my grandpa was here I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something hanging out there, something he had left undone and that he was trying to take care of some unfinished business before he died, and I was supposed to help him, he had sent me on a quest but he never came out and told me what it was.

He called me the a few days before he was supposed to fly up, he said he had to tell me something, but he was having trouble with his speech, he couldn’t get it out and he was very frustrated.  I told him not to worry about it, that I could always figure out what he was trying to say in person, “you’ll be here next week, we’ll figure it out then”  I said.

“No, no, you don’t understand, we don’t have time” he said “I don’t think I'm gonna make it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, it is just a few more days, you’ll make it.  We’ll figure it out when you get here.  And just in case you don’t make it, you know I love you.  Right?”


To be continued…

* This post is a part of my National Adoption Awareness Month, a post every day in November campaign, to remind perspective adoptive parents that there are 140,000 kids for whom family preservation is not an option, who through no fault of their own are currently available for adoption in the U. S. foster care system, right here in our own back yard.  If you are considering adoption please consider adopting a foster child or becoming a foster parent.  It could change a child’s life.


Campbell said...

"Being related by blood doesn’t necessarily mean that you are close or that your natural family will be there for you or take care of you when the chips hit the fan."

This has been my experience also. I know so many people related to each other by blood that have no sense of family, that treat each other terribly.

I'm glad you had a great grandpa! It can be huge to have at least one special relationship.

Sunday Kofffon Taylor said...

thank you Campbell, yes it is!

Amy Koffron said...

The CCC was such a cool thing from a economic, sociological, political and historical perspective. Alexandra and I tagged along. We were just proud to be with our CCC-guy. Sunday had matching polo shirts made for all of us to wear that showed his name, camp, group, etc. It was the COOLEST!!

The museum was quaint and a little sparse (like it was in the depression). If was just another museum, until........There he was. His 16 year-old "mug" was there on the wall!! I'd never seen a picture of him as a teenager, I would have never recognized him without assistance. My heart leap with joy. Everything about the trip seemed to resonate with a feeling of unqualified joy for me. I can't think about the trip without shedding a few tears or a whole lot, like tonight.

But, grandpa was not that happy. In fact, he was miserable. Something that he very, very much wanted to do.........was not happening for him or coming together. He couldn't find the "guy" he was looking for.

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