Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Class 5 – A Confidant Confesses


Class 5 – A Confidant Confesses

Class Notes:
  • Mention where customs are
  • Describe the room in more detail, what is the décor,
  • What’s mom’s house look like
  • Flesh out the story
  • What is the story, put it against a framework, compare it how I am missing pieces in my history, because I no one has told me about my own history.
  • Start with the eulogy to memere and how the uncle’s tell me what a good job I had done.  Then being in the in basement of the church with the groups of different people at the different tables and how my mother tries to jump from each laughing with each and me standing by the kitchen with my dad.
  • Appreciate her evasiveness.  Be more specific
  • Did I ask “How is my uncle? How is she related to me?”


As I prepare for graduation, I ponder on who to invite to share this with me.  Extended family has never played a prominent role in my life.  My father from a family of eight, with cousins I barely know.  My mother one of three, her older brother Eli from a previous marriage and her younger brother Robert who died in a car accident at the age of 9.  It’s an obvious choice, mom, dad, Kyle, Miranda and memere.

When I left that winter day in March, sadness had filled me.  I wanted to move, and because of my detachment from my family, I thought I would be ok.  It wasn’t until I returned home for my biannual visit that I realized the role I was to play.  My mother, who had just turned 40, sat me down and decided she should tell me about “the rest” of the family.  For all of my young life, I thought I had known everyone there was to know of.  Although not close like some families are, everyone knew each.  Until today. 

I have just gotten in from a harrowing day of travel.  I left my home on the west coast in the wee hours of the morning, hoping to sleep on the red-eye flight.   Still drowsy reaching Detroit at 6 am, I found my way to the next gate so I could sleep for another 3 hours until my flight for home left.  Another 1-hour flight and 2 hour drive home after you get thru customs, I pull into the driveway.  It is now 1pm E.S.T. and I am rejuvenated.  Without even having a chance to put my bags down in the foyer, my mother starts in on the news she has just found out.  We have more family.  I stop her from continuing as I am trying to figure out where these people come from.  I go to the kitchen and rummage through the fridge, looking for something to quench my thirst.  She follows me to the back patio as I settle in to hear the rest of the story. 

“Well you know about your Aunt Bea, right?”  I pause and think for a moment.  Of course I know about my Aunt Bea, she is my mother’s half-sister.  Then I stop.  But who is her father.  Then more thoughts enter my head as I consider my grandmother’s sordid past.  “Ok…Aunt Bea, Uncle Eli (who’s father is Robert Haggar and he died), my mom (who’s father is Laurier) and my Uncle Robert (same dad) whom I never knew because he died at the age of nine in a horrific car crash.  Then of course there are the family strays that you call uncle or aunt but really aren’t.  My uncle Pitou, who was taken, is as teen by my grandparent’s (Laurier and Alice).  That’s all I know about I tell her.   There are more? And how many are we talking about?  I couldn’t really tell you want she said next, because my head started to dance with fantastic scenarios of who these people are, and how they have missed us so much that they want to meet me and all is good in the world.  My bubble suddenly pops.  I am brought back to the reality of what may or may not have happened.  My Aunt Bea is way older than my mom, at least 20 full years, and she’s the oldest.  That would’ve made memere very young when she was pregnant.  And to not just have one child, but several could mean only one thing, my grandmother was a young teen who was in love or she was molested by her father.  My mother continues on with her speculations of what could have occurred.  It all made sense to her, seeing as my grandmother’s mother had no love for my grandmother.  Instead of happy theme music behind wild thoughts, all I could hear was the chant “Jer-ry! Jer-ry!” and seeing my grandmother on the stage trying to explain the story to an angry mob.

I ask my mother if she has talked about this with memere.  She says that my grandmother answers very matter-of-factly that we’ve met all these people at some point, weddings, birthdays, and reunions.   But my mother has no recollection of being told these people were her brothers and sisters.  Just yesterday she was the youngest of 4, now she was the youngest of 9.

I decide that I as favorite grandchild, and protector of my mother, that it is my job to get to the bottom of this.  I wait until after dinner, and my mother telling me the rest of the story, before I go and visit. 

As I pull into the driveway of my grandmother’s house, I feel good.  A little light-hearted but that’s just the nerves.  I don’t really think things out about how I am going to get her to spill the beans, she just will.  I’m the favorite, why wouldn’t she want me to know.   

I walk in my childhood home slowly.  Apprehension and fear have now set in.  The lightness from my heart is now deep in my belly and feels like a million butterflies are trying to escape.  My grandmother who is now hard of hearing and refuses to wear her hearing aids is startled when I walk in, even though I tried to be as loud as possible.  She gets up from her rocking chair to greet me and asks if I’m hungry.  I’ve just finished dinner but can always down a few of her famous chocolate peanut butter drops that she has made just for me.  I take a few cookies, grab a glass of milk and join her in the living room.  I survey how the décor has barely changed since my last visit 2 years ago.  There are more pictures on the bookcase I notice and realize this is my in.  I get up from the couch and nonchalantly comment about the photos.  “Wow, memere, you’ve gotten more pictures, but who the heck are they of?”  Ok, no so discreet.  “That’s your cousin Paul and his wife and their kids”.  “Hmmmmm, I don’t know a cousin Paul.  All I have is Jeremy, Jody and Monique, I don’t know a Paul.”  I am too far in to now try and be subtle; I have failed at being a spy.   “She continues on to say that he is my uncle Leo’s kid”.  “Yeah, uncle Leo, again mere, Aunt Bea, Uncle Eli…” Nothing.  She is good I think to myself.  So much for the straightforward approach.  I go into the kitchen to regroup.   I head for the fridge to get some more cookies and milk.  Think Jennifer think, how will we make her crack.  I can hear her from the kitchen telling me about the other pictures I don’t recognize on the shelf.  That’s your uncle Pierre with his kids, and you know your Aunt Bea’s kids.  Aha!  You do know that I don’t know.  I’ve got you now I think to myself.  “So tell me more about this Pierre character, where’s his wife, who’s his dad?”  Ok subtly is lost on me.  “His wife died, she says…..and……I think to myself?  His dad is who?”  This game of cat and mouse is wearing on me as I wonder what is going thru my grandmother’s head.  We sit in the silence of t.v. playing.