Recently, I began asking my dad more about my mother’s family.
Even though my mother has been gone since 1987, my dad is still an amazing source whenever I’m craving insight into her family. He has been and still is the go to guy when I want to know anything about my grandparents or mother. I’m pretty sure if my dad ever took piñata form, and you knocked him open, nothing but stories would come falling out. I may look exactly like my mother, but my personality is straight up from my dad.
I have written before about my grandmothers. This time around, I wanted to dig a little deeper about the one who I barely remember or who I think I barely remember. (Does remembering a deep smoker’s voice telling me to give her “some sugar” count as a memory?) Who is my mother’s mother?
When I googled my grandmother’s name, I found out my great grandparents name, which I never knew before. But I don’t want to just create a family tree, look at all the filled-in names, say, “I’m done,” and then pat myself on the back for doing such a splendid job. I want to get to know these names, not just where they place in my family tree.
During my great family google, I even uncovered a great aunt’s name, which I had never heard (or maybe I had, but it had been so long that I had forgotten). According to my dad, my great grandfather and his family arrived in Texas in a cover wagon. My mom’s cousin told me that my great aunt was a loving woman who greeted beloved family members by kissing them and exclaiming, “I love you!” Another cousin of my mom’s said that my mother made the best lasagna.
See, I did not know that.
My grandmother died when I was 3 years old of lung cancer, and my mother died when I was 7. I’m not that close to my mother’s siblings since I have never lived in the same state as any of them. I have these family members out there who I don’t know, and who don’t know me. Sadly, I have these family members I will never know.
Every time I look at this photograph of me sitting next to my grandmother, where my face is so done up with so much makeup that I looked like a toddler beauty queen, it makes me laugh. Man, she must have had a good time painting my little toddler face. I wonder if she would have found my anti-girly girl personality during my teen-aged years to be unbecoming and would have had talks with me about how I could pretty up my appearance.
While pictures are great, stories are something else. When I hear these stories, no matter how insignificant they might be to the story teller, my grandmother and mother come alive. They become real people. Any stories about these women slowly fill in giant holes in my heart that cancer created. I don’t care if the stories paint either woman in a less than flattering light. They were real life humans once, before cancer came along, and they had flaws just like everyone else.
I am third generation cancer. I am sad that I never got to hear stories from my grandmother about what my mom was like as a child. I have certainly never dreamed of shopping for wedding gowns since my mother and grandmother are no longer here. Cancer took them from me, but lately, when I learn more about them, they are more than the disease that took their lives. They are my family, and I know that I come from a line of women who will always be more powerful than cancer.