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Grandpa and Dad…

25 Jun

(not really adoption related)

Dad was a storyteller.  He loved telling stories about his relatives, his dad, other people, things that had happened that he found interesting.  All told with his slowly spoken words that highlighted his dry wit, they also included tiny little interesting tidbits woven in.  I never stopped and wondered where his gift of storytelling came from, until I began going through grandpa’s last journal, an odd collection of deep thoughts, ramblings, intermixed with stories of yesteryear, and poems, then it became obvious that dad got his gift of storytelling from his dad.

I have few memories of grandpa as he passed when I was a little one, I treasure his journal though, it paints a picture of a man who was born in the 1870’s who earned his living the hard way, being a lumberjack back when it was done with two-sided axes and cross-cut saws, farming, even looking for gold, going wherever work was to be had…and…someone who held an opinion on everything, and wrote about whatever took his fancy.  A snippet below out of one of his stories to give you an idea of how he told stories, this is one paragraph in a story about a much-loved horse named Dolly who’d passed away…and one of the children in the story would have been dad, and he too told a story about a horse which was probably Dolly…

“We now pause a brief moment for identification. Time of birth lacking: also front and wisdom teeth; slight to mostly bow-legged; a shiny bay coat, two shining blue eyes which denoted intelligence and kindness, a sway back which very much resembled a new moon with its points turned upward to retard the harvest rains.  She showed a devoted affection for children and at the end of Sabbath services; which often were held in our home; and the children had partaken of their midday repast they would proceed to the barnyard, give a shrill whistle whistle; up would come Dolly and after receiving a couple of sugar cubes or a ripe apple would slide up to the old rail fence to make it easy mounting, and when lined up and down her spinal column, like a flock of turtle doves on a hickory limb their tour of the country side would begin, and if they could coax her into a gentle gallop it was much like being rocked in the cradle of the deep.  But now she has left us in sorrow here to mourn.”

Some of Grandpa’s writing though, causes a dilemma for me, at times in his ramblings he includes words that today wouldn’t be used, and that, makes me uncomfortable.  At the same time, from what I read, he was outspokenly supportive of Native Americans rights over that of the white man (in one case he used Indian which to me is okay, but in a different context further down describing what the white race had done he used the r word, hence my being uncomfortable).  So, I’m throwing it out here for discussion.  Is it okay in the context of the time it was written, and the era and history he was writing about appears to be why he used it, should I let go of the uncomfortable feeling, and enjoy it as a glimpse into the man he was, or live with the uncomfortable feelings, and still enjoy his rambling style of writing, or what?  Second part, how does the intent vs. impact play into this when it is historical writing.  How do we, or should we, deal with historical writing?

What would you do if you were me, because I’m sure I’m not the first person to have these questions and feelings?

 

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10 Comments

Posted by on June 25, 2015 in Adoption

 

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10 responses to “Grandpa and Dad…

  1. Paige Adams Strickland

    June 25, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    The “R” word here isn’t used as a label or an insult. It’s used as it was meant originally, to “prevent or hold back”. My impression in reading this passage is that was never the writer’s intent to be hurtful. It’s lovely, lyrical and historic. It’s a treasure from a lost era in time. I like the rambling style and how he describes the kids on the horse’s sway-back like a flock of turtle doves. This is “old-school” before there was old-school. This is a treasure!

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    • TAO

      June 25, 2015 at 7:28 pm

      Paige I agree with how the word retard was used to prevent or hold back in the paragraph…and silly me, I didn’t even remember that “r” would could be mistaken for what I was questioning further down. In a completely different post in his journal – in reference to Native Americans the derogatory r word…he started by describing what had been done to the Indians by the white race and then used the r word to describe what the white man had left them with – the later written as if he was quoting a societal view of Indians and what they felt they deserved. I know I’m messing this up – the first part was his voice, his language, the second part was his take on societal view.

      I love his rambling and as you describe lyrical (perfect descriptor)…I do treasure the entire journal…

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  2. valentinelogar

    June 28, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Tao, in reading we have to always put in historical context the use of words and not be offended. It is impossible for us to apply our own lens, social or otherwise onto history. We might wish they had our versions of truth and moral definitions but such is not the case. Our understanding changes over time, society changes, even words and their meanings change. Why be offended?

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    • TAO

      June 28, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      I wasn’t offended, I was uncomfortable primarily because I think others reading would see him as someone I don’t think he was. I want to transcribe his writings and put them in the family tree for future generations…and I don’t want him to be seen as someone in their family tree to be ashamed of – if that makes sense…

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      • valentinelogar

        June 28, 2015 at 2:23 pm

        It does, it makes perfect sense. I have a great number of family journals. One thing to do is preface for future generations, something that puts everything in context, puts human beings in place and time, language in place and time.

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  3. beth62

    July 1, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    It’s not easy is it? 🙂 My tree is full of it, our story is many, many stories, now, and growing. It’s too easy to turn away with hate, or to join with pride. Some of us know things aren’t that simple, and language and ideas change over time. My young adults get all bent about terms and the hard things many of our ancestors found to live with. It’s so hard talking to my young ones about their ancestors. I think we have tiptoed around so much of it for so long that they do not have a real picture of things. Hell most of the recent college grads that I am talking with don’t really know the basic history of America, let alone the rest of the world. What is up with that? Were they sleeping or were they just not taught? It shocks me frequently.

    Had several freak out at many of the Census terms used, and the information collected. Free Inhabitants and Slave Tax rolls, and the terms used to describe people. black, white, colored, mulatto, negro, indian, redskin, idiots, imbeciles, paupers… Different census takers used different terms in different areas and in different years… The personal journals and terms used are often beautiful to me, mostly horrifying to our young ones. our young ones with college degrees who I would consider uneducated in this way……. Makes me want to go back to college just to see what they are learning there. Must be things seen as more important to learn about is my only guess.

    It takes a lot of time explaining things, there is so much information to absorb. and explaining how, when, what to get angry about and how to process it and what it all really meant then, and now… the young ones eyes glass over, they yawn moan groan and roll their eyes, they call their ancestors, of all colors, bad names when I know they just don’t know enough to be able to process it…
    without just saying: glad this bunch of old people is dead, now if the rest of the old would hurry up and die we might move on to a new world. I understand it, but how can a people make new ways if they don’t know the whole story about the old, and why things changed? Apparently I have become an old boring and extremely blunt ancestry lady. Then I busted their old people theory once again with a picture of our recent young racist/hater/murderer. It’s hard to forgive, hard to push the hate away. We miss our friends dearly, forgiveness comes easier with them in mind, it’s what they would do. This forgiveness doesn’t mean many of us don’t expect to see him hanging from the rope of justice.

    I see where we have separated histories in our education systems, it’s hell trying to combine them to see the truth, to see the big picture. I think it is an injustice. I need a better time line comparing different areas, a better explanation of so much history, laws and social cultures- IN SHORT FORM, easy to read, because our newest generations have no patience IMO, it has to be short and quick like everything else in their lives must be now, easy. Without it mine say I am torturing them LOL

    I am in an area that is full of history from the very beginning of the invasion of North America. (haha one of the big arguments here) We are plowing and working on the same land that our free black and white ancestors owned since the 1600’s, the same land our native north americans inhabited long before and during the 1600’s. I have so many places and museums to use as examples. Williamsburg is a days walk away, Privately owned Reservations not recognized by the federal gov’t to visit. Pirates were hung in gibbets, shot and hung by the neck here, Preachers hung other preachers for preaching the wrong stuff. Black and white men and women free and slave hung for horse stealing, murder, poisoning, etc… Patrick Henry lived down the road from me, Gen. Grant camped here, and here and here, and Gen Lee here and here and here. Daily we drive by historical Black and Indian schools, which were mostly closed in the year I was born, some of the people who attended these schools are my living friends and family, some are those who attended the white private schools when the others closed at desegregation. So not so old of a history to me, but the kids see it as ancient – like me, us LOL. I experienced bussing to different neighborhood schools in the next decade of desegregation. I cared for the husband of a very special woman who fought to get our schools desegregated, My good cousin friend’s parents were able to get the laws changed to allow interracial marriages to be legal here. We have family proof of interracial marriages, free black ancestors who owned property, slaves and could read and write very well, all the way back to the 1600’s and before. My “kids” know about the “ancient to them segregated schools”, and when they haven’t taken it seriously or wanted to learn, they get/got to talk to more old people and mow the grass, clean and paint the old buildings on their summer vacations 🙂 until they do get it!

    I remember some angry stressful discussions with adults about ten years ago at our family reunion. We are a very mixed up bunch in every way you can imagine. We encompass most all of American History. Which makes it easier IMO when the direct and open minded people, those who want the whole uncensored story badly, can get together and rewrite. It’s wonderful, it makes good sense of all the madness found in our past. The others…. the hardheaded and the unwilling to change or see anything other than what they know now… what they are holding on to tightly lest the world will stop spinning, they seem to come along eventually and believe our history, but it takes a lot of explanation and proof. We have cracked quite a few tough eggs.

    Our bunch has grown to over 600+ people now (I’m hiding this year!! OMG it’s just weeks away now!) There is no one stop history book. We realized then that many just did not know the history well enough to discuss it rationally. We began to write and record in different medias our own family history that year, without the generalizations and stereotypes, and hopefully biases that you find in most history books. Although we do point out the biases that could be with each event and time, the arguments involved. I get it, there is soooooooo much. And you will find different stories across the state and the country across times.
    It’s similar to describing adoption thru out time… depends on who wrote the book! And the winners of the war/battle, the ones with power are usually the ones doing the writing.

    I know one thing, when I began my family history project, I got so mad at what I was not taught about American history, and even madder about what I was taught.
    So I guess it’s good that I experienced that, makes it easier to explain much of it to the newbies, and understand why they don’t always believe what we have to share with them today.

    Yeah, too much to type about! I am usually rambling, it’s so big. No wonder so many run and hide from me/us LOL Their day will come 🙂

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  4. beth62

    July 1, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    Sorry if terms I used offended, I have a hard time censoring my language lately, especially when talking about history – me and mine are tired of tiptoeing around history. It’s time to shine a bright light on it, we can’t erase any of it and attempt to rewrite it, it’s time to learn uncensored and biased history and why and how these terms were and are an offense. If we hide it, who will know what we are talking about. TAO you can delete my ramblings if it’s upsetting, sorry, this is your space, I didn’t really think about it while I was typing w/ coffee. I have banned ugly terms in our present language here, especially ‘idiot’. But when speaking origins and history, I tend to speak all about it, the good, the bad and in between. Does that sound familiar? 🙂

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  5. yan

    July 2, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Why can’t it be both?

    Even today when I have the best of intentions, I’m not always the ally I would like to be to other groups I’m not part of. It’s not intent; it’s ignorance. I’m still learning, just like others are still learning about adoption and what it actually means. So it seems to me that you can be uncomfortable with how your best-intentioned ancestors dealt with race in words while also being proud of their actions. Why does it have to be either/or?

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  6. beth62

    July 2, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    yes, why can’t it be both? How could it be either/or?
    I think “times” really stay the same in so many ways. If you look around at todays issues, you will find the very same issues in newspapers in the 1800’s and before. I just don’t believe people change that much, and I don’t believe it’s either/or.
    I have a white military grandpa that assisted in the removal of the Cherokee, his white brother walked the Trail of Tears beside his native wife.
    I have Union and Confederate grandfathers, sons, brothers, fathers and grandsons chose different sides. Same thing in the revolutionary war, 4 of my grandfathers were in the Battle of Kings Mountain on opposing sides.
    I have native, black and white grandfathers/mothers that were held in servitude and slavery, and grandparents that held servants and slaves. And some of those grandfathers held slaves that were their family, some were just like me, a farmer hiring people and trading room and board and hopefully some money for work, it’s just how it was done then, here. It was one way to join or to keep the family together under the horrid laws of the time, and that was the reason for the chattel laws. I say this because so many people believe that every black person in the country now and at that time were Slaves on plantations.
    Many, far far too many were, but not the majority over time.
    Just yesterday in the middle of a bike, band, beer garden I, an unlabeled white Female, stood in front of our bikes between two men talking history for most of the evening. We said everything, and any one of us could have been offended, instead of understanding, if we chose to be.

    One AA gentleman – a proud member of the Buffalo Soldiers Motorcycle Club, and the other a white gentleman – a member of the Sons of the South MC who flew his confederate flags in pride.
    In some decades and places this would be quite a sight, others… big deal.
    It’s been like that forever I think. It depends on the people and the scary social rules, often unspoken and the times. 20, 50+ years ago my life would have been in serious danger, all three of our lives could have been.

    I am not saying what I am trying to say. So I will give up and spare you more torture.

    But I will tell ya, omg, at our family beach vacation last week my 85 year old father said ‘colored people’. This guy is not hateful in that way at all, he attends the AME church regularly for crying out loud. It’s the language he grew up with, and he knows it’s changed now. He was sitting at the dinner table with family, 6 black people and 9 white. All said “!!Grandpa!!” He simply said “Oh, I forgot” Only 3 of the young ones got upset/mad/hateful at the grandpa, threw his old ass under the bus after dinner really fast. The rest teased him, and even giggled a little like he had said butt or fart or something that we would not expect him to say, we understood. He is sharp as a tack still, so it’s not because he was loosing it, that term was not always a negative term to everyone, it was not used with hate by all, it’s language history. And should be easily explainable, understandable, even forgiven… should be!

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  7. Beth62

    August 18, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I’ll be damned. I found a show on TV about history that they will watch and hear.
    It makes it so easy and understandable! And I even like it. I like it VERY MUCH.
    Some episodes are better than others, but I can’t wait for the next one. It is necessary to look past the drunkenness part tho. But you know what they say – drunks tell the truth.
    Plus it’s funny 🙂 and to my people funny = not boring.

    “Drunk History”
    http://www.cc.com/shows/drunk-history/episode-guide

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