An Odyssey Unexpected

 

One of the things I noticed during my first years of under-employment were  free offers from a famous online genealogy site Ancestry.com.  I never had been interested in genealogy because I had no living family older that me.  Well, actually one of my nephews was born about 3 months before me.

Yep:  my older (and deceased) brother Bill and I were products of our parents new and wonderful 2nd marriage.  They each had  first marriages, with children born  in the 1920s;  then during WWII they found each other and created a new  life which ended up with an unplanned second family.   Surprise!

The magic of  family life  waned and Dad left when I was going on four.  Bill and I entered into a hand-to-mouth existence  as Mom in her new role of  Welfare recipient learned such skills as Robbing Peter to Pay Paul.  It was a challenging time with hunger pangs, leaky roofs and frequent lack of utilities.  We moved sixteen times by the time I was twelve, often sneaking out in the middle of the night to our new abode.

My grades slid because I was constantly tired and hungry.  My brother became an Eagle Scout, straight A student, and captain of the baseball team.  He was allowed  to go to his friends homes  after school to have a meal  then study in warmth and light.  Mom didn’t feel it was appropriate for me as a young girl child to be out at night.

I lied to my teachers convincing them and myself that I didn’t really care about homework anyway and they reported to my mother that I didn’t apply myself, and Mom berated me asking why I didn’t at least try.   I reminded her only one time that we had no light, no heat, no food most of the time.  That might have been the first time she beat me.

Bill graduated and quickly  joined the Navy and went to college.  He really did become a “Rocket Scientist”.  During his post Naval career he worked on a number of space craft.

We were twelve and thirteen when our father passed away.  A bonus of his death was we no longer needed welfare, we were entitled to Social Security benefits that he’d worked hard for and paid for dammit!  Mom felt she could finally hold her head up in town, and she told my brother he now was the man of the house, to which I disagreed. What was she thinking?

In 1966 both our maternal  step-grandfather and our  Mom passed.  It was now just me and Bill, orphans people said   I was a legal a minor with no guardian and few resources while Bill was earning his engineering degree paid for by  the Navy.

I  could not figure out how I could stay in Junior College.  I had fallen in loe with Anthropology in the middle sixties; had visions of a degree in archaeology and working with the Drs. Leakey in the Olduvai Gorge in the Great Rift Valley.  Me, tanned and trim in khaki shorts  and hiking boots, with a pith helmet on my blonde head, clearing dust off bits of prehistoric antiquity.  Africa beckoned and I longed to go.  Oh well, I set those dreams aside and set about doing what needed done to survive: get a job.

Not surprisingly, within two years I was married and working in San Francisco at a bank with a promising career and putting a young husband through school.  He would be getting our degree, our money source, and happily ever after was on the way.

We had a spacious and comfortable studio apartment in Cow Hollow, and Larry went to school while I worked.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but if you were young in the 1960s in San Francisco there was plenty of free entertainment.

We got in with a group of international students who  came over from Europe periodically.  They crashed with us for a month or two, got jobs and paid their share, then returned to their homeland.  Larry and I began to dream of moving to France, and I gave up on Africa and the Leakeys.

One day I came home from work to find Larry siting on the bed with a puzzled look on his face.

“You never told me you had brothers and a sister.”  He waited for an answer looking like I had kept a big dark secret from him.

“Well, yah, I’ve heard about them but never met them.  They are from Mom’s first marriage and I’ve never seen them.  How did you find out anyway?”

“The phone rang a few hours ago.  It was a Private Detective named Anthony Poole.  He wants to talk to you and will be calling back at seven.”

I couldn’t imagine what was going on with a detective asking about half siblings that I’d never seen.   But Anthony Poole filled me in.  I took the call in the bedroom

He had been hired to settle an estate, a relative of Mom’s had died, an Aunt Clara.   I never heard of her.  I knew Mom had a sister, Aunt Helen, but no Aunt Clara.  Aunt Clara was a woman of means and had a lot of money.  An Uncle Cecil had shown up at the hearing and threw a monkey wrench into the settlement by saying “I lay claim to the estate on behalf of myself and my sister Dorothy and her five children.  Uncle Cecil?  My mother had an older brother.

“Have you talked with Moms other children,”  I was curious about them, wondering if I’d ever meet them.

“Yes, I’m pretty good friends with your big brother John, I met him a couple of years ago.  Robert, his brother is a kind of sour person, and your Uncle Cecil gets his  kicks out of annoying the rest of the family.   You know, it has taken me nearly four years to locate  all you kids.  I found your sister in New York, her brothers in Monterey County where they always lived, and your brother in the Navy. You didn’t leave real clear tracks with no DMV records, name change, and moving from Napa County to Hawaii, to San Francisco, four years and a lotta hours at the Shamrock drinking with John!”  He went off in a roar of laughter as I sat in a daze on my bed.

“I’d like to meet my brothers and sisters.  And Uncle Cecil, too.  Can I send you a letter of authorization to release my contact information?”  Then I wondered if they even wanted to meet me.

Pool thought it would be just fine and gave me his address  As a matter of fact, he was in Salinas as we spoke, at the Shamrock, waiting for my brother John to come down from his apartment upstairs.

I guessed they had some drinking to do.

 

 

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