Sunday, January 22, 2012

Excised Heritage - Chapter 2

     Suzy felt the vibration of the garage door opening below her and knew that Sam was home.
She waited until he came upstairs to her in her quilting room rather than take a mother-run to see how the in-office surgery went. Only taking a quick glance up to see her son at the doorway, she tried to keep her voice as nonchalant as possible to avoid sounding too smothering to her still growing adult son.
     “Hi, son. How did it go?”
     “Mom, this sucks! I could hear every piece of cartilage crunching under his knife, and I could hear every stitch going in and out my ear; the thread even screeched as he pulled it through. The Novocain was useless, and it still hurts.”
     At that, Suzy couldn’t help but stop her own needlework, and rose to give her son a gentle silent hug.
     “You know the worse thing? Sims said that there is no guarantee that it won’t grow back. I know he was the best, and he knows a lot about keloids.  Been doing this kind of surgery where there have been so many docs that wouldn’t touch ‘em.  But the weird thing is the stuff he told me about them.  He said that they mostly grow on black people. “
     “I had heard that.”
     “Mom, why would we have them then?”
     Suzy shrugged and walked back over to her quilting frame.  Taking the taut sandwich of material into her lap, she picked up the needle once again only glancing quickly at the bump in her own wrist.  “You, know Sam, because you never even knew your grandparents on my side, I have always wanted to get information about them down for you and your sister.  I know so little and no older relatives are around to fill me in. Your dad was the late child with siblings in their 20’s when he was born. Kind of a shameful thing back then.  Dad gave me a few tidbits, and I have made those into stories for you, but I really don’t have much in the fact department.  Besides, I’ve learned that most history is created by the winners not the losers, and the stories will exalt the winners and their families more than give any credit to the downtrodden. Then in recent years, it was cool to create exposés of the inhumanities…  ”
     “Mom, Mom, what are you getting at? You’re not answering my question. “
     Suzy looked up from the tiny handstitching and smiled, “Sorry, son, still in teacher mode, I guess.  What I’m trying to say is that I don’t have any clue because the clues are hidden. Something shameful would never be written down.  A late in life birth would have been shameful, or mental illness, any disability, or possibly some negroid features in a Caucasian family might bring up side comments like “they must have had a Nig…:” Her words choked in her mouth.  “Oh my, I haven’t thought of that phrase in such a long time.”
      Sam looked confused, and she caught his expression. “Growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70s surely makes me sensitive to saying that word out loud, and I remember many heated discussions with my dad about it. I never considered him a bigot, but he was a product of his time.”
     “Mom, you’re trying to nigger aren’t you?”
     Suzy was shocked at her son’s flippant behavior to even say “THE N WORD” out loud.  Even out of context it chilled her to hear it. “Yes, I am. The phrase ends with … in the woodpile…ever hear that?
     “Not really, but I can get the meaning pretty easily.”
     “Well, back to the keloid question, all I can say is that it’s entirely possible. Your grandfather’s, my dad’s family was from Tennessee before moving to Texas at the turn of the century, and I have no way of figuring that out.  The country is a big melting pot and the backdoor stories aren’t in the history books or even family bibles.”
     “Mom, would it make any difference if it was true?
     “I suppose not.  You?”
     “No, but I would like to know. Even with today’s technology and research, I would think it would be easy to find out more. “
     “Believe me I have tried. When Chris died your great uncle gave me a software program to trace my roots.  Kind of a weird sympathy gift I thought at first, but I did start digging.  Then I got hooked and it was an addiction to keep looking.   I eventually had to stop because it was taking up all my time.  I had hit a “brick wall” as they say in the genealogy world.  Along the way I found so many relatives that I felt a connection to. Many times I wondered if they experienced the same feelings that I have felt. That’s when the stories started to flow. “
     “What stories? I didn’t know you had written anything.”
    Oh, my great reader.  Oddly no one in the family seems to care about these so I have just stashed them away until you are ready for them. Probably after I’m gone.   I guess it’s my way of saying, I was here and that  I mattered  - something that I feel all those ancestors deserve, too.  Maybe I’m doing it a little for Chris, too.  So many of those ancestors were young like Chris when they died.  I want to know that they mattered more than what kind of heritage they hold.  What kind of dilemmas, challenges, and heartaches they had like we have had.  Maybe we can learn from them. At least know that the past is nothing to fear any more than the future.  If it helps anyone to stop living in any kind of fear, it’s got to be worth it.”
    "Okay, but I think you need to find out the heritage stuff, too.  Maybe you’ll find out about your hearing loss, or heart attacks, or even the depression issues that seem to run all over this family."
    "Well, if it keeps you from thinking everything that bad happens because of what’s around you than what is in you, then it might be worth the dig. When you're ready to hear more. I'll tell you. What do you say?"


  1. I, too, become invested in my roots. Frustrating though are the family stories that are so biased. As your son observes in your family, there is a thread through my own family of mental health issues, some quite serious and these days, the labels carelessly thrown around by the media. There are several suicides of young adults in my family. I find the take on these parts of the family are so diverse and some are cruel. There is a great of sensationalism. I often don't know who to believe. I was very young when the incidents happened. There is an effort to vilify or make a person a saint, a victim. You are right. What are the feelings that make people family, rather than the gossip and misunderstandings, or harsh judgments. My heart simply goes out to people who can feel different and isolated enough within large families to take their own lives. Many times, I put down the ancestry work and live in today, to make my own mark. Perhaps, an unreliable person but President Kennedy is quoted as saying, "All history is gossip." He makes a point though. Instead, it might be said that history is opinion. I find that the pictures I am to see are enjoyable such as those that show someone's smile or eyes passed on.

    1. There does have to be a balance of searching for "then" and living "now"

  2. Maybe, it's where one grows up in the country. I come from an area where bi-racial children weren't common place but weren't "different". After WWII, there were Japanese war brides and their children in our schools. It wasn't until I got older that I realized how fortunate I was to know many interesting people. Like so many, ancestry has been of great interest but I also can find it less than satisfying because of unreliable information. I have appreciated some of the medical information, especially about rare cancers and early heart disease, even when one is fit.

    1. The time and place definitely make a difference about the attitudes, and I do believe that is whey so much of the research IS unreliable.

  3. Questions about race and religion, too, are sensitive areas for people - even for people who say they aren't bigots. I've always felt I am not a bigot - or at the least, biased. I've lived all over the country. My ancestry work has taught me some ancestors were slave-owners. Others, in the same family, were before their time (early 20th century) in the south very public civil rights advocates. At times, I have had to make a conscious decision to be open-minded when taken aback by a knee-jerk reaction. I was crushed by my ability to harshly judge another person for their ethnicity or religion. These times have given me opportunities for knowing who I really am - opportunities to be a better person. For me, a Christian, as I understand Christianity.

    1. Judging others has become so very easy in these days of social networking. Like you, I can only work on my own action of judging and hope it will catch on.

  4. "We're only as sick as our secrets."

  5. Your son sounds like a very caring person. Efforts to look into your hearing loss and other issues is a wonderful idea. No matter what goes on with me, I tend to blame myself. It would be helpful sometimes to know if DNA played some part. Ancestry work always makes me have a great deal of love and respect for people I never knew. Many were heroes in what some may call ordinary lives. Good luck!

    1. Thank you, he is a sweetheart. Blaming myself is an common fault of mine as well. I tend to think that is a "mom" trait.


I welcome your comments and will always respond. If you sent a comment, and I did not reply, then I somehow did not receive your message. If you do not have a Google account, pull down the "Comment As: and click "Anonymous," but you are welcome to sign your name. You may also send any comments to Thank you for visiting.
Blessings to you,