Last week I visited my daughter, and as we sat outside, enjoy a bit of a breeze in the sweltering heat, and listening to the boys having fun in the pool, we talked about family. I told her about a circle diagram a dear friend had made for me, showing the ancestors of my grandmother (and therefore of course my ancestors too). I mentioned to her how I want to do our family tree, not only for myself, but for those who come after me.
I know a great deal about my mom’s family, but very little about my father’s, because of the youth he had. Talking about this, sparked some memories from my childhood.
My father and the orphanage
My father was fourteen when his father passed away, and not long after, his mother had met a new man and planned to get married to him. However, this man had two children of his own, and he didn’t want his new wife’s children in the house. My father and one of his sisters were the only two still living with their mom — my father was the youngest child. His mother brought these two teenagers to the orphanage. My father was there for three or four years, until he learned a trade and got a job.
He left the orphanage and rented a room with a couple, who took him in and looked after him as if he was their own child. When I was born this couple was still in my parents’ life, and they still were until we moved to Southwest Africa (Namibia) when I was ten. By then they had a child of their own, the very man who sexually abused me when I was nine.
My paternal grandmother
I have this hazy memory of a gathering at my father’s half brother — it was either for a wedding or a funeral — and on our way to the venue, and older woman sat in the car with us. She was neatly dressed, and had a bandage around her knee. She was also not very talkative, and definitely didn’t appear to have a warm or welcoming personality. I only observed her from a distance.
On our way back home that day, I asked my parents: “Who was the aunty with the rag around her leg?”
The both burst out laughing, and my father said: “That’s your grandmother, my mother.”
Now I can’t remember one single moment of friendliness between my father and his mother, opposed to how close he was with his half-brother.
The above must have happened before we moved to Windhoek in Southwest Africa. One day we all set out to go to Gobabis, a town east of Windhoek. Apparently my father had discovered — or she must’ve told him — his mother lived there. I do believe they told us we were going to visit my grandmother, but I never regarded her in this way. There was no bond. She never cared for us. I literally grew up with only one grandmother, my mom’s mother, who was a warm and loving soul, a real grandmother.
The only thing I remember of that day is the big light blue greenish house with the big front porch, and the big yard around it, all with reddish-brown sand, dry scrubs and trees that gladly offered some shade in the scorching heat. It was the typical half-desert look, and in the heat of the afternoon the sounds of insects continued to slice the air around us. The property was a huge, open stretch of land, with a wire fence around it, and in it two gates, one for the cars to drive up the driveway, and one for pedestrians to come in from the gravel road.
Back then children weren’t allowed with the adults, so my brother and I were outside playing and exploring while the adults talked, and I don’t think I would even have wanted to be with them. After a couple of hours we went back home, and that was it.
Now those are the only memories I have of my paternal grandmother. I don’t remember one hug from her, one kiss, nothing. There might have been a hug and a kiss on greeting her, but they made little impression on me, either because she was a cold person, or because I only saw her twice in my life.
After that afternoon with my daughter, I finally started up the genealogy program I have bought back in January, and created a file with my name. I added myself, my husband, our kids (with their fathers, as Master T and I have three kids, but none together) and I also added my mom and her mom, my grandmother. Of course here I thought of the circle diagram my friend had made for me, and I sent her a message that I have finally started with the program. She offered to sent me the file she had created.
The next day I sat dabbling in the help section of the program and figured out how to join the two sets of data together – the bit I have already created, and the bit my friend sent me. Not long after I had a new file, and in it was everyone! Without her work of love, it would’ve taken me ages to find all those people, I am sure.
In the meantime I have started adding people from memory, mostly from my mom’s side. I can add everyone up to the generation of my grandsons. On my father’s side, however, I can add very little. I have already started picking my father’s brain, asking him to help me with his side of the family tree, and for the rest I will have to see how much I can find on the Internet.
It’s interesting how a casual talk about family spark some memories, and how doing this family tree, make me think of more!
On the day I wrote the above, I sent my father some questions, and it turned out my memories weren’t totally correct. We did visit his mom, but she lived in Witvlei, not Gobabis. And, the woman with the bandaged knee wasn’t the same woman. It was his stepmom, not his mom. I thought about changing the post, but decided to leave it like this, because this was how it was in my memory. Still, I am happy to now have my facts straight!
© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay