May 31, 2010

Why We Do The Things We Do

I accidentally found on the weekend that Ontario Canada Death Records has been added to on Ancestry.com

I've been waiting a long time to look for the death of my great grandpa Alexander McGinnis. I knew he died in 1935 because the year of death is on his tombstone. Mind you, his year of birth on his stone is incorrect (I have his church baptism records as proof). The stone was erected by his eldest daughter Mary Sheward and I figure she may have been confused about his year of birth but she surely knew when he died!

Finally Ancestry.com has updated the death records to include 1935. I was pretty excited to search for Alex as there's a bit of a story about him.

My dad, who was Alex's grandson, never met his grandfather and grew up believing that Alex was long dead. One day my grandfather came downstairs wearing a suit and tie - which he never did, and my dad asked him jokingly if he was going to a funeral. According to my father, his dad replied "Yes, my father just died" and then walked out the door without another word.

My father was stunned. He was 23 years old and never knew his grandpa was not only still alive but lived just a few miles away. Eventually my father got part of the story from his dad - that Alex and his son Joe (my grandfather) had a huge argument and falling out in the early 1900s and never spoke again. So for over 25 years my grandfather and his father were estranged, and my father never met his grandpa.

Never knowing much about Alex, I was quite curious how and where he died. The death certificate stated that he fell down a flight of stone steps (most likely leading to his basement), broke his neck and was in hospital for 17 days before succumbing to his injuries and pneumonia. I felt very sad reading this, and thought about his son, my grandfather, probably knowing that his dad lay seriously injured in the local hospital but not going to visit him.

What a sad way to live one's life, with arguments and estrangements and pretending that family members don't exist. Perhaps I'm being harsh but it seems hypocritical to me for my grandfather to then attend his dad's funeral. His dad and mother separated when the children were young and his mom had died several years before his father. So it's not as if he went to offer support and comfort to his mom.

Oddly enough I confess that I feel anger at my grandfather for not letting his sons grow up knowing their grandpa. Perhaps I'm misjuding him, perhaps it was his father Alex who refused to give in. Who ignored who? One of life's mysteries and one which I will likely never know what the truth was. To me it all boils down to stubborness and pride and it's a terrible waste.

7 comments:

Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

Wow..what a great story, even though it's a rather sad one. I never knew my paternal grandfather because after he and my grandmother divorced shortly after I was born, he never kept much contact and apparently never cared to know his grandchildren. I've always wondered how anyone could not care to know their grandchildren, especially now that I have grandchildren myself!

Nora said...

How sad... but what a great story to have. really makes you think about the relationships we have in our life, and how we should'nt wait until its too late to make ammends..
Thank you for sharing

Bill West said...

That is such a waste of their precious time. So sad! I have a similiar situation. My mom's parents divorced in the 1930's and he never contacted her or her brother. Now they are all dead, and I never knew him. Life is far too short for such
anger between relatives.

Cliff. said...

My great grandfather and his brother had an argument and didn't speak to each other for 20 years. His brother was upset at him getting the family farm. They ate at the same table during Christmas, family gatherings and farmed across the road from each other. It wasn't until my grandfather lay dying that they made up and agreed that they had been very foolish.
Whenever my argumentative younger brother starts an argument I think of my grandfather and his brother and simply let my brother carry on until he has run out of steam...as Bill said, life is too short...

Apple said...

How sad. We have had several divorces and lots or hard feelings but always made sure that the kids had relationships with all of their relatives.

Tracy said...

My research all began because I found out our surname had been changed when my grandfather was a young man. He had a major falling out with his father, left North Carolina, changed his name and ended up in California. Whatever occurred was apparently so unforgiveable that he couldn't look back. And even more sad is that this behavior has continued on into the next generation.

When these things happens, there is so much anger and hurt that those individuals can't think about what future generations may want. Unfortunately these situations happen far too often. Too much time gets wasted and then it's too late.

Pat said...

My Grandmother died of a broken hip and gangrene. She had been in a home because of advanced altheimers. I was 18 and just ready to begin college when she died. I was never told of her accident or death because my parents 'wanted me to remember her as she was before her 'sickness'" I didn't find out about the cause and date of her death until I outlasted the State of Illinois in a struggle for her death certificate! I cried when I received it.