Friday, August 30, 2013

Digging up my roots

I realized today how little I have explored my roots. Oh, I know who my grandparents were, and I’ve actually done some work on I can trace my father’s MacBain family back to the time the first MacBain came to Canada from Scotland (War of 1812) but my mother’s family, first generation German, were a complete blank. I can’t even spell my grandmother’s maiden name, though I can pronounce it.

It’s the little but significant things about immediate family that I realized today I don’t know. My father died in 1975, when I was married, living in Texas, with four young children. Dad died at M. D. Anderson in Houston following surgery for an aortic aneurysm. We had a memorial service in Fort Worth and were gratified that colleagues from Chicago with whom he’d worked almost all his life flew down for it. It’s a blur now, all these years later, but I think we had a reception at our house. And then we took Mom back to Tryon, North Carolina, where they were living, for a memorial service and to ready the house for her move to Fort Worth.

But what happened after that? Did Mom go to Canada for a burial? Dad was born in Mild May, Ontario, and grew up living in every small town in southern Ontario. Whenever we drove through that country, we’d go through a small town, and he’d say, “That was the parsonage we lived in.” His family was moved every two years so it was hard to say where he was from except Ontario. By the time I came along, my widowed grandmother lived in Oakville, and that was Canada for me, except for rare trips into Toronto..

Today, doing some work on my cousin’s affairs (she is disabled, and I handle her affairs), I realized I don’t know where my father is buried, except that he’s buried next to my sister, who died as an infant, in some cemetery, probably in Oakville. When I was a child, Oakville was a small, placid town. My grandmother lived a block and a half from Lake Ontario and a few blocks from the small center of town. We walked. Today Oakville is a sprawling, huge suburb which someone told me is a fashionable place to live. I can’t even remember the name of the street my grandmother lived on, though I could walk you room by room through a house that is probably no longer standing.

My cousin has some furniture in her room, and I’ve asked the Senior Health Centre folks to take pictures and send them to me. I want to see if I recognize anything from my grandmother’s house. But of course, there was a whole other side to my cousin’s family—her mother was a MacBain, like me, but her father was a Denison, and she will someday lie in the Denison family cemetery. I have this all figured out, but I can’t find my father or my sister.

I remember when my grandmother died but I didn’t go to Canada for the funeral; if I had I might know where my father is. It’s one of those times I want so badly to talk to my mother.

Tonight at the dinner table, my son-in-law was appalled that I haven’t visited my mother’s grave, here in Fort Worth, for years, and he was even more appalled that I don’t know where my father is buried. We aren’t the kind of people to visit cemeteries. I can’t remember ever being taken to do so as a child or young person. But suddenly it seems important to me to find my father. I guess I’ll begin searching on the Web.

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