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Thursday, June 3, 2010

You Cannot Spell Families Without Lies

Woodrow and Lucille Stevens, circa 1943

When I was fourteen, I found myself uprooted from my life and living with my real father whom I barely knew in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. This was the summer of 1995 when Michael Jackson's You are Not Alone song was popular. Oh how I felt very alone that summer. But that's not what this post is about--this post is about how my father sat me and my twin brother and my older sister down for a chat in his dog and mouse turd infested house across from the Warehouse Market to tell us how we were Heinz 57's. You know, like the ketchup.

Real Heinz.

At that time I thought what he was trying to tell me in his own special way is that I am part Hispanic, Choctaw, English, Scottish, and other white stuff. I was thinking to myself, "Duh dude, that's why they call it the American Melting-pot," but never in my fourteen-year-old mind would I ever realize what he was really talking about until just two years ago.

Even when he spelled it out for me in college.

When I was going to Ricks College up in Idaho, I took a Family History class. I was one of the unique individuals that had none of her genealogy done like most of the Latter-day Saints in my class. Most of my classmates came from long lines of Mormon families and it seemed like most of them had nearly all of their work done for them. Me? I had my work cut out for me. So I did the one thing I promised myself that I would never do--I picked up the phone and dialed my father's number to discuss genealogy with him.

He promised to give me as much information as he knew as long as I didn't baptize any of them because he didn't want any of them going to hell.


He proceeded to tell me about a man named Charles Hines that lived with his grandmother back in the 1940s. He told me that he really wanted me to find this man--because he was curious to what had happened to him. I blew him off. I didn't have the time or the desire to find some random person.

Then two years ago, I found my long-lost aunt who I hadn't even knew existed my entire life. In fact, my father didn't even know she existed--his own sister. No one knew about her or her family. Later I also found another aunt from another marriage of my grandfather's. Bittersweetly, I also found the one aunt I had been searching years for who had been adopted, however she wasn't interested in forming a relationship with her birth family.

It was in a conversation with the first aunt I found that she mentioned a strange story to me that I had heard bits and pieces to, but finally was told in it's entirety. My grandfather enlisted in World War II in 1942. Shortly thereafter, my grandmother discovered she was pregnant with a third child. When my grandfather returned from service to visit his family, my grandmother packed up her belongings and abandoned her enlisted husband and all three of their children. In a panic over what to do with the children, he had them sent to live with his parents until he could figure out what to do with them. But before he did so, my father (his third child) came down with a horrible rash-like condition on his feet which prompted my grandfather to take his son to the family doctor.

The doctor didn't know what the rash was, however he had some revealing words for my grandfather...I imagine the conversation went something like this: "I should tell you something...this child that you brought in today I have been seeing for some time. Unfortunately, he has been coming in with your wife and another man. I am afraid to tell you that this is not your son."

And you wonder why I call myself the Screwed Up Texan...

Two things I learned from these conversations: 1.) I now know why I get a danged rash on my hands from time to time. What I usually mistake for poison ivy is actually a condition called pompholyx eczema, that by the way itches like H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks. It's a blistery, inflamed inferno on my hands. 2.) I may or may not really be a Hines. Or Heintz. Or Heinz. Or however you spell that last name instead of the name I grew up with and that is recorded on state vitals.

Oh and 3.) Like in the movie Four Christmases, you cannot spell families without lies. Go on, try it.


Tufa Girl said...

Unfortunately we all have these in our families. Do not think you are immune. In my family the stories came out after my parents had passed away. Come to find out they were not my parents at all. I would have loved them anyway but wished they would have been brave enough to tell me the rest of the story.

FluffyChicky said...

It is sad that lies are part of families. At least you can make sure that you are honest with your family. I know I am all the time. Especially when it comes to telling the truth about who at the last Cadbury Egg that was discretely hidden on top of the refrigerator.

Candance said...

Girl, when the kids have to do their family tree at school, I cringe. Every time. There's so much shit on my mother's side that I am forbidden to tell anyone ever because she and her siblings are mortified by it and big believers in the idea that if you act like it didn't happen, then it didn't. Except that it did.

That's the long, long way to say I'm so right there with you!

Foursons said...

Wow- that is an incredible story. I feel like a terrible therapist when I ask you how that makes you feel, but I sincerely want to know.

Vanessa said...

Holy fascinating story. That should be turned into a movie or something.

Screwed Up Texan said...

Candance, I so want to see your family tree.

Foursons, Like a redneck. You know, like one of those that attend NASCAR events. Oh wait....

Teddy Started It said...

It seems like you can't spell families w/o skeletons either...well, technicaly you can, but it seems like all families have them. Mine include a european finishing school, an orphanage, and uncle known as Dad, a dad known as uncle and a case of poison ivy that blew the lid off of everything. I prefer to think of it as facinating as opposed to embarassing. But then I like to embrace my white-trashiness;D

Lily Storm said...

I can totally relate. I at least know some of my family history, but am lacking in most of it. I have been having to use my historian skills I just achieved to hopefully discover some of my relations, but even they may not be the right ones! LOL

My daughter says my family tree is crazy, but then she married into a crazy family tree. Just reconnected with my own half brother who may have more details for me. Here's hoping!

NitWit1 said...

It is interesting what you unearth when you begin to dig into genealogies and biological roots.

I'm an adopted child who found my biological family. It was an interesting journey which continues today.

But you sometimes need to buckle up your seatbelt to stay in your seat for the ride.

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