June 1, 2011’s anniversary is coming up. Big Brother passed away 10 years ago this week. Glioblastoma, or, more simply, a fast-moving brain cancer. Despite his determination to outrun the odds, Big Brother fought valiantly for 18 months before his worn out body gave up.
10 years since I’ve seen Daddy Dearest, his wife, Shorty, and had to deal with Baby Sis’s hurt that, even in the presence of death, Dad had zero interest in her or my Big Brother’s imminent passing, and was chasing me around his living room in a crazy game of musical chairs, trying to get my attention.
Pictures, family photos, were a fight-worthy prize in our dirty little divorced family never-ending war. Daddy Dearest was holding out a prized photo album – one he denied having – and which had caused such a war of accusations and fact-checking among we three surviving children of his first marriage.
My brother was sleeping in a chair across the room while life slowly seeped away, and Daddy was causing drama trying to get my attention with photos while Baby Sis paced behind him, trying to get his attention and a chance to see the photos of her childhood, of which she had few happy memories.
I don’t need Mom’s stolen photos, even if I would have liked to have seen them, because I have actual memories. And nightmares.
Not being able to get any satisfaction from me (because my only goal was to get through that farewell visit to say goodbye without any drama), I was happy to see my Baby Sis leave that night with the photo album clutched to her chest in victory. And fear that it would be taken away from her. Such were the ups and downs of emotions and priorities when Daddy Dearest and his often overlooked second wife were around.
With all the genealogy research I’ve been doing on Ancestry.com, I’ve been dying to pick up the phone and quiz Daddy Dearest about what I’ve found out so far about his own father’s challenging life, vs. what he has believed or the stories he’s told himself when the man who raised him wouldn’t talk. It’s the stories we tell ourselves to justify our feelings of depression or anger that get handed down through the generations
Is bitterness and anger / depression at thwarted dreams my legacy from my paternal side?
Is acceptance of what is, and happiness despite life’s frustrations, my legacy on my maternal side?
Family trees are funny things. Depression runs rampant in many branches on the paternal and maternal sides. There is always plenty of cause and justification for depression and anger on many sides of our family tree, and then you see the breakout branches of happiness and success despite the clear odds, and it just leaves me shaking my head.
My focus is on memories vs. tales.
I’ve spent so much time debunking stories my Baby Sis and Cousin L have made up, that I sent Cousin L the Gettysburg address of research years back, debunking every lie she had been told with public records which captured the facts at the time they occurred. Sadly, she still thinks there was money to be found as her legacy. And, she believes the lies Daddy Dearest told both she and Baby Sis when his mother, our Nana, died. No, Nana wasn’t being kept alive in Florida or the Caribbean through Uncle Bobby’s CIA-linked machinations to wrest Paul Revere’s Sugar Company fortune for himself, stealing from Daddy Dearest. But, just as QAnon has caused people to believe the most outrageous and fantastical, beyond credibility tales, so has Daddy Dearest caused belief in craziness in some members of our family.
As I’m going through the public records, I’m seeing more evidence that we are connected to the owners of Kelly’s Roast Beef (a beach community staple for years and years, now expanded to even more success). I’m so convinced if it, I’ve sent Cousin L a copy of the book, “Growing Up Irish Catholic (and surviving my Mom’s 11 sisters)” so that she can read it and decide for herself if that branch of the family isn’t a dead ringer for many of the crazy personalities and overlapping timelines and places we have with a different branch of our family tree.
But, to get back to my Big Brother… it’s been 10 years and I think of him often and miss him every day. If heaven exists, I hope he’s reunited with our Mom, our Uncle Andy (just a few short years older than him when he passed), and having a Devil Dog in a private replay of a magical moment with our Baby Sis.
I hope he’s out running, and biking. Playing hockey or baseball with all the little kids in heaven, and smiling his happy smile because he knew life was too short to waste it being miserable.
Life is truly what you make it, and he chose to make the best of it at every turn. Probably our maternal genes showing up, as Betty was a survivor, but she made some pretty terrific kids despite any momentary blips that might encourage anyone to think the contrary.