Lies Of Omission – Part 54

Grandma’s envelope didn’t contain her death certificate.  I know at one point I did have it presented to me by the mortician, but whether I remembered to place it in this box would yet to be seen as I continue to review its contents.  I wish I’d thought enough to bring a note pad downstairs with me to remind myself to obtain a copy at some point in the not-too-distant future in case it isn’t in here.  I probably will not take action, except for maybe the shredding, until after our new arrivals are here and settled.

I reach for my phone to text myself a reminder, but I left the phone upstairs to charge, too.  Hopefully I could manage to make a note for myself after I finish with these boxes down here and before I complete the shredding, which I expect will be tedious but necessary.  Regardless of what I initially think, I freely admit shredding will probably be the task I’ll procrastinate the longest.

“Douglas and Adelle,” as the envelope states, married each other in 1934, which I knew without looking in the envelope, but I did see their marriage certificate enclosed.  Grandma and Grandpa each told me their own thoughts of how they met, but I think Grandpa’s version included a more romanticized storytelling quality, but Grandma’s likely was more truthful.

According to Grandma Adelle, they met in a café in west Texas in the fall of 1933.  At the age of seventeen, she didn’t earn much, just enough to help her family buy food, or at least what food was available.  Grandpa Douglas, however, told me he met Grandma when the wind blew them together.  Of course, from the tale he would tell me, he likely was dodging a dust storm and ducked into the diner where she worked to escape the pelting of the specks of soil against his face and happened to see a young woman who blew him over with, “…more intensity than the outside gales.”

As he used to tell the story, she wiped the darkness of the storm from his eyes and illuminated his world.  In her words, she gave him a wet cloth to clean the dirt off his face.  Falling in love during the Dust Bowl certainly meant something different to each of them.  Anytime I see images from the Dust Bowl, I think of them falling in love in such troubling times.  I guess they gave me their best example, which probably explains how Daniel and I clung to each other in our first dark hours.

“Thomas, Military,” contains, of course, other papers related to my father’s enlistment, such as his duty assignment, and a deferral that enabled him to remain in Texas when others were being sent to the Korean Peninsula.  The war ended less than a year after his enrollment, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the paperwork were an unnecessary request that time itself would have managed.  Regardless, for what little my Grandma retained of her son’s military records, since he probably didn’t give her most of the records, she likely didn’t hang onto his military documentation as fastidiously as Grandpa’s.  There are several pages that I plan to scan along with Grandpa’s service information.  Perhaps I might likewise be able to do additional research to learn more about his service.

“Thomas, Misc.”  Again with the abbreviation, but nonetheless, I discover a slew of documents about my father, including his death certificate, fills this second folder about the man I really never knew.  I imagine for Grandma, losing her son ahead of her must have been difficult.  For Grandpa, he spoke of battles in North Africa regularly, but rarely mentioned my father.  I don’t recall my mother mentioning him, either, but when she died, I was still only six, so I can’t say I remember as much about her either as I wish I could, much less my father.

My father’s death certificate appears on the top of the pile.  Cause of Death: liver disease.  Born November 16, 1934.  I pause, set the stack of papers and envelope on my lap, and return to the ‘Adelle and Douglas’ folder, which I previously set next to me on the floor.

The marriage certificate states Grandma and Grandpa married on May 2, 1934, which would be about eight or nine months after they met.  More surprisingly, if my father was born on November 16, Grandma would have been a couple months pregnant at the time they married.  I’m not great with math, but I could figure out that arithmetic to realize that no one ever told me they had to marry.  I always believed that Grandpa simply swept her off her feet, and apparently, he swept her into the bedroom as well.  Of course, when Grandpa died, they nearly reached their sixtieth anniversary, so I guess those handful of months between marriage and the birth of their son didn’t add up to much of a difference later in life.  The wind truly blew them together in many ways.

I realize this box is as much a record of the end of so many lives as a depository for memories and emotions I have compartmentalized.  Each folder contains death, even in its statistical, sterile format.  If there were a letter or a photo in any of these envelopes, I might have already lost myself and my composure by now.  I want the story to not be so entirely factual, maybe more personal.

Enclosed are all the people who ought to be my support network, my life’s blood, and my champions.  As I look through paper after paper, they are names that ought to mean more.  I start to get a bit weepy at my own selfishness for not feeling more for them as they reveal themselves from a handful of plain envelopes.

My grandparents did their best to give me a life, a warm childhood, and despite my own poor dating choices, it hasn’t always been thoroughly horrible.  I’m alive, which some days feels like a win, and I’ll likely live longer than either of my parents did.  My grandparents set aside enough money for me to attend college without any debt afterwards, even if I didn’t have any real direction.  I’ve kept myself employed and fed and sheltered and still standing upright, most of the time, which is more than I can say for any of the names listed on these envelopes.  On top of everything else, I am living a life with a man who adores me and strengthens me, and even though he’s half a world away, I know that I am not alone as I take each step going forward.  I wipe just the tiniest touch of moisture that my eyes start to build up in their corners onto my shirt sleeve and I proceed on to the next page of my family history.

“Thomas and Rebecca.”  It’s hard to believe there’s even an envelope with their names.  I never knew them with a mere conjunction between them, much less a life together.  Granted, by the time I showed up they’d already raised and lost a son, so I ought to give them more credit for the decades they were married.  Simply because I don’t have any memory of their lives together doesn’t mean there wasn’t something between them.  They divorced in 1977 or 1978, probably seventy-seven, but I’m not certain exactly.  I begin leafing through the handful of pages for their divorce document, which if Grandma had a copy, she might have included here.


NEXT: Lies of Omission – Part 55


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