Friday, August 21, 2015

I never knew them...

I'm writing these thoughts on this particular blog because they are *definitely* related to retirement - at least for me. What do you call thoughts that a person has now in their retirement years that never occurred when younger. This is not part of my bucket list. (Actually, I don't have much of a bucket list... maybe a few things that I'd like to do, but they're not super important.)

This is something that has popped up in the last few years and the interest seems to be growing. And I have been wondering if it's just me or if it's part of the normal aging process. By now you're wondering what in heavens name (I could have said, WTF... but decided against it) is she talking about.

I'm talking about *my grandparents*.  I never knew them.

Well, I kind of knew my maternal grandfather for a few years. I was 8 when he died in New Orleans. I remember him as a sweet gentle person that always had something nice to say and spoke with the cutest French accent. He used to remind me of Maurice Chevalier. But I wish I could have known more. 

Mom told me that he was a wonderful father and loved my grandmother dearly. She passed away before I was a year old - so no memories there. Mama said that they only spoke French at home when she was young. Grandma raised 3 girls and 1 boy who were all very lovely people - I did know them. We didn't see my mom's brother too often, but we were very close with my mom's 2 sisters - so us cousins grew up together - which is nice since we are now the older generation  and still stay in touch.

mom, her sisters, my 3 cousins and a friend
Both my paternal grandparents died when I was between 2 and 3, so again - no memories. But there are a few pictures and lots of 'passed down' stories.  My grandfather brought his wife and 3 kids from London to the America 3 times (1918,1919, and 1920). From what my dad and uncle could remember, they came because the cold and damp in London was getting to be a hardship. In 1920, they stayed and settled in Florida. My dad was the oldest and about 12 years old on this last trip.

From what I understand, they never went back and I wonder why. My grandfather's younger brother had immigrated to Canada with his family earlier... but I don't know if their parents were still in England. I do know my grandmother's parents and brother were there.  Wouldn't they have wanted to visit them or vice-versa? Was there a rift?  Was it financial? I know there's a story there, but will probably never know it. We were close to my dad's siblings and their children growing up. Although we may not be as close to them as the cousins on my mom's side, we do stay in touch. My dad moved his entire family  from Florida to New Orleans in 1930. 

There are lots of handed-down stories about my paternal grandfather. He joined the British Calvary and fought in the Boer War. He *supposedly* met Winston Churchill while in Africa when Mr. Churchill was visiting the troops as a war correspondent. Later, he was Captain of a barge, a steamboat, and a gunboat on the Persian Gulf. (I have a postcard that he wrote to dad during this time in 1914 when dad was 7). So he had an adventurous life until moving the family to America in 1920. 

But there is very little I know about my paternal grandmother. Her name was Eleanor. Some called her Nellie. My mom said that Grandma served watercress sandwiches and mom never could get used to that.  And that's about it. I really would like to know more.

So-oo I've signed up for a course this Fall in Genealogy. Maybe I can learn a bit more. I know we must have family in England and perhaps in Ireland since apparently my great grandfather moved to England from Ireland when things were bad. But again... just handed-down stories with no confirmation. 

Another conundrum: I was born an *O'Regan* - but the family name was Regan in England and changed in America upon naturalization. I suspect it might have been O'Regan in Ireland and the "O" removed in England  - only to be re-instated later in America. All supposition. There's a story there too... and I'd like to know it. 

Now I'm ashamed to admit that at 70, it's a bit late to be wondering about these things.  Why didn't I ask more questions when there was someone around the answer them? I'm guessing that we get so bogged down and busy with our own immediate lives and family that the questions don't even arise... until it's too late. Well, now that I have the time, perhaps I can make sure that it doesn't happen to my grandkids. Perhaps I can leave a written record so if and when the time comes, they will have some of the information at their fingertips. 

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