I’ve always been fascinated with my paternal grandfather. He died when my dad was a little boy and there was little mention of him in the household. Dad and his siblings always got tightlipped whenever I or my cousins had questions about him. How is Aunt D your sister when you guys have different mothers? My daddy’s her daddy. Where is your daddy? In heaven. What was your daddy like? You ask too many questions.
We grew up and they kind of relaxed with their daddy issues. I heard a few fond memories of my grandfather. He liked to smoke – he died of lung cancer. He also liked for his kids to run their fingers through his hair as they read to him. He died during an epic snowstorm that hit our town sometime in the 1960s or 1970s.
Despite all this knowledge, I was an adult the first time I saw a picture of him. I was 22 and I was visiting my Aunt D’s house shortly after my father’s death. There was a picture of these men standing in a circle and someone told me that the dude on the end, the one with the big smile was my grandfather. It was jarring to see a picture of this mystery man looming so large, especially since I’d had to tread so lightly on topics surrounding him before. I noticed that granddad resembled my father, but also looked EXACTLY like my uncle, one of my father’s two surviving ‘half’* siblings. (Another daughter, who was born the same year as my dad, died as a child) The best part of the picture was my grandfather’s feet. They naturally poked out sideways instead of in, the sign of a true slewfoot. Just like my dad, and just like me.
Recently, another one of my aunts posted some old pictures on Facebook, and I saw a second photo of my grandfather. This time he was standing in front of a school on graduation day in a dark suit looking very serious, along with a couple of other people that are relatives I don’t remember. He’s standing in front of a school named after a man who is semi famous in my hometown, a freed slave who helped others escape and move north. According to my aunt’s photo caption, this historical figure is also one of my great great grands. Hmmm…..
So now it’s time to ask some more questions. I wonder if I can unearth even more photos of my grandfather. I wonder how exactly we're related to this historical figure. And more importantly, I wonder if this new mystery man was also a slewfoot. The plot thickens. I love family history!
*'Half' is in quotes because my dad didn’t like to refer to his siblings this way. He always said he just had brothers and sisters, not half this and half that.