Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Grab the Hankies -my real story of losing and finding!
THIS POST HAS nothing TO DO WITH ART BUT i HOPE IT WILL TOUCH YOU-IT EXPOSES MUCH MORE OF ME THAN i EVER THOUGHT i MIGHT SHARE Publicly- BUT WITHIN this post MAYBE there is something for YOU?
For purposes of ease of identification I refer to the man I grew up with and the only Father I ever knew as "Dad".
It is also, at this point, still a matter of assimilating, revising and discarding as information becomes available from my remaining reletives on my biological fathers side.
My Mother had problems.
She may have been abused as a child physically and mentally.
She certainly had a childhood that found her family moving around the eastern half of the country like gypsies.
Her parents were not young for that period her father having been born in the 1870s and her Mother in the 1880s so they were both past 40 when she came along in 1920 (the second of 2 children, her brother was born according to census records in 1918).
Her mother, my grandmother, was a cold, acidic woman who had been a camp follower of Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson possibly Madam Blavatsky and who knows what other “gurus” of the time.
As a child I remember Grandma watching Oral Roberts and Kathryn Kuhlman on the TV and sending off envelopes of money to any celebrity preacher that caught her fancy.
Grandma and my Mother were not close; my grandmother lived with us because my Mother was afraid of her.
Along with her mainstream religious beliefs Grandma wound in a bit of supernatural and psychic lore and had even warned both her children that she was a witch and to cross her meant dying a terrible death.
This would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that people who disagreed with her seemed to meet bad ends.
Her own son married against her wishes and moved across the country to work as a diver on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
After being cursed by his Mother he was killed by an exploding steam hammer which apparently nearly took his head off.
Strange for a man who had seen much military service and would have more likely succumbed to the bends as a diver.
Grandma’s sister who she wanted to move to California succumbed after several very painful operations including a led amputation that all went septic.
Even my own Mother withered away in a nursing home wasted in body and mind, fearing the dark and the cold of some hell she imagined waiting for her.
Mother’s father may have been an FBI agent, or a policeman, he was pretty surely a barber in his later years and according to family lore cut the hair of one or both of the Wright Brothers and either Laurel, Hardy or both.
He was a large man, perhaps 6 foot two or three, 300 lbs. plus and gruff.
He carried a pistol in the car with him and often wore a shoulder holster.
The family seemed to wander partly on his whims and partly on my Grandmothers psychic directives and lived in various places from Ohio to Massachusetts, Atlanta and Florida.
My Mother claimed she attended 21 schools between kindergarten and High School and making friends was hard.
She did manage to hold on to a few childhood friends in Cleveland, Ohio; one of whom survived her.
How or way she and her Mother ended up in California is a mystery.
Her Father had died of a “massive coronary”; she may have attended the Ringling Art School on scholarship, she may have attempted nursing.
There are so many conflicting stories it’s hard to find the truth among them but at some point during the Second World War they came to the Los Angeles area.
My Mother was not exactly beautiful but she was striking and knew about clothes and hair.
She went easy on the makeup and had serious opinions about what did and didn’t look “cheap”.
For a time it seems that most of her friends were Lesbians and her closest friend Shirley had a gay brother, Ray, as well so it’s safe to say she traveled in gay circles.
There is also the possibility that Mother’s brother may have been stationed in San Diego at the end of the war and that’s the reason they came to California.
This narrative makes more sense if they landed in the San Diego area rather than Los Angeles.
Only recently I have discovered that birthdates, locations and names have all been changed over the years as the family moved around and my Mother, MARGARET later became Marguerite and eventually Barbara.
Her story was that she was told she looked like Barbara Stanwyk, the actress.
Since she had no legal middle name she chose Barbara which she liked better than Margaret and let people think that was her name.
This doesn’t explain why her brother started out as Robert and became Roy or Royce and her mother is listed on census records as Sallie, Leona and Leota as the years went on.
As a child of the mid 1900’s (I was born in 1949) I remember only vaguely a house in Lynwood, California (a suburb of L A near Inglewood and Huntington Park), a fox terrier named Frosty (bet he was a Christmas gift) and some random neighbors.
In the early 1950s (maybe 52) we moved to a new house in Rivera, a sleepy little post war bedroom community Flanked by two rivers, the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo and hacked out of old Orange and Avocado groves between Montebello and Whittier.
Grandma had gone back to Ohio at some point and in 1954 my sister Donna came along my dad’s name was Don and to “avoid confusion” I was called BUDDY.
Buddy like Pal or Champ was one of those boy names that you wear not so much as identification but more as a generic reference for people who don’t know your name.
“Is your Mom home Buddy?”
The Fuller brush man and Watkins guy always seemed to know my name as did the milkman and Harold who drove the Helm’s Bakery truck.
Despite the fact that my name was Donald even teachers called me Buddy.
Grandma came back from Ohio to “help with the baby” my sister and almost immediately I was on a bus on the way to Cleveland and Cincinnati with Grandma to visit her friends and cronies.
So I spent that summer on a Greyhound Bus accompanying my 70 something Grandmother across the country or in dark and musty parlors being a “good boy” while Grandma talked to her old friends about my Mothers terrible behavior and “fast” lifestyle.
Mother wore shorts and halter tops when she gardened, even in the front yard and red lipstick and nail polish.
My Grandmother didn’t approve of any of these things.
There was more but it would be a number of years before I understood the rest.
Our family (as I knew it) was a confusing lot.
Brothers had married women who were sisters and then divorced, switched and remarried and everyone had remained friends-they all seemed to come from Ohio or Kentucky.
There were various “Aunts” and “Uncles” some of who were “by marriage” and others honorary or Godparents and way too many Grandmothers at one point I had Grandma Fran (by far my favorite), Grandma Hilliard (Mother’s mother), Grandma Ada (Dad’s stepmother), Grandma Souard (Dad’s Grandmother on his Father’s side) Grandma Grey (Dad’s Grandmother on his mother’s side) and Grandma Tabbler (My Godmother’s Mother).
Other kids were actually jealous that I had all these grandmothers.
Of course I lived with Grandma Hilliard.
Grandma Hilliard loved to stir up trouble and she went after this pursuit with much gusto and effort.
Mother’s friend Shirley from the lesbian years was friends with Grandma Hilliard and they spent some time every visit conspiring privately.
This always seemed to make Mother nervous but somehow Mother could never get rid of Shirley the way she did other people who made her nervous.
I noticed that over the years people just stopped coming by or disappeared from holiday gatherings.
Some died, some got angry and some just vanished.
Bonnie and Lois vanished.
Bonnie was a very butch lady and she had a variety of lady friends until Lois came along.
I always liked them and Lois especially.
She was a soft, watery eyed woman with too much perfume and a somewhat helpless quality who worked as a secretary at a trade school where lots of foreign students applied in downtown L A.
When she found out I collected stamps she started saving the envelopes with stamps from all over the world that formerly had been thrown away and quickly doubled the size of my meager collection.
It wasn’t that they came by that often but people you care about leave a void when they stop coming.
Maybe I just missed the stamps?
There were others and the older I became and the more I noticed (Precocious little fellow that I was) the more Mother edited the visitors list.
This editing became an issue since Grandma also like the visitors and missed the steady stream of people from “the old days” and thus began her campaign of propaganda that would change my life and affect it for the next 50 years.
I don’t remember the exact day or date by Grandma told me in fairly plain terms that my Father wasn’t my father.
I don’t remember exactly how I felt about that because the man I knew as Dad was a somewhat vague member of the household since he got up and left for work in the middle of the night and came home at promptly 5:45pm every evening when we had dinner and then he watched TV for a half hour or so and went to bed.
He worked Tuesday through Saturdays and slept late on Sundays, Monday he was home with Mother and they did whatever projects they were working on in his “off time” so my sister and I really didn’t know him other than from the brief time we saw him and vacations.
He had red hair and freckles, was a muscular little Irishman with a kind smile and lots of stories about “THE WAR’ where he had been wounded and almost died.
I didn’t look like him but then I didn’t look much like Mother either.
My sister was a sort of combo of the two of them but it was always suggested that I looked like my “Uncle Roy” mothers brother.
Since Roy had blue eyes and a heart shaped face and was whip thin and somewhat British looking I didn’t see how I could resemble him but he was dead and it’s hard to tell what a person actually looks like from old pictures.
There was also the rumor that Dad had been married to an insane woman who had tried to kill him with some scissors.
Like the monster under the bed and the tooth fairy these stories were sort of laughed off and of course Grandma was old and a little crazy so one took everything with far more than a grain of salt.
Then Shirley got into the act.
I was about 12 and the folks had gone off on one of their “adult” vacations to Lake Arrowhead.
Grandma was taking care of me at home and Donna was staying with Grandma Fran out in Van Nuys.
Shirley dropped by for a visit and apparently Grandma put her up to corroborating her tales of another Father.
She didn’t tell me much but enough that I decided to try and find some evidence so I snuck into my folk’s room where Mother kept the “strong Box” which held all the important papers and did a little digging.
I remember I was surprised that the box wasn’t locked and she hadn’t moved it lately.
Mother never let this box rest.
It seemed to move from place to place almost on a schedule.
Papers, secrets and hiding things away would become a theme of my life as far as Mother was concerned.
Almost like a compulsion she would collate, read and reread papers and put them away for safe keeping but they could never rest nor could she; constantly moving, reorganizing and safe guarding any papers she perceived as important in her care.
In “THE BOX” amidst the war records, birth certificates and insurance papers I found adoption papers for someone named Louis Charles Gaus who then had my name after they were adopted by my Dad.
It all happened in San Diego.
I dimly remembered a courtroom and some other vague memories of a man talking to me from behind a desk in a room lined with books.
Grandma must be telling the truth, or at least so the papers would indicate.
I carefully replaced everything in the box and even wiped the box down as I had seen people do in TV shows, erase the evidence, put the box back and crept off to my room to think about all this.
I knew I felt vaguely sick and a little sad but now that I had this information what could I do with it?
I would carry this secret for the next 13 years.
NEW ADDITION: In rereading this narrative I realize I have completely omitted "Aunt Mildred" and "Uncle Donald" my godparents.
Don died early in my life-I believe I was about 10 or so but Mildred was around into the 1980s when she and mother had a rift and Mildred moved to Oregon to be with her family.
Aunt Mildred was very fond of me and somewhat my confidant-she and I shared many "secrets" often before I ever discussed them with my Mother.
She and I did talk about the family in Carlsbad but she shared Mother's anger at them and had her own versions of several stories.
It is fairly certain that Mildred and Don were responsible for my mother meeting my adoptive Father and that Mother worked for DON and not for my biological Grandfather as I had thought. (June 2011)
Here is the first time I felt righteously angry at my Mother but didn’t know what to do with that anger.
Obviously I couldn’t let her know that I had been snooping but why should a child have to carry a burden this great at an early (and formative) period of their life without some explanation?
It never occurred to me until now to be angry at my Grandmother as well.
In her way Grandma Hilliard in trying to hurt Mother had set the truth free and put me on a quest.
Like Pandora’s box, once opened this truth had been released and could now not be ignored, brushed off or disguised with more lies.
Some years later there was a bit of a rumpus when I got my college scholarship or some such legal business and I needed a certified copy of my birth certificate.
By this time the story had evolved into a scenario where Mother had supposedly been living in San Diego to be near my father who was in the hospital wounded from the war so they had to send off to San Diego for a certified copy of the document.
It never occurred to me, literally, until a couple weeks ago (in my 61st year) that if my father were in the hospital wounded after the Battle of Laytee Gulf in WWII when did they have the chance to get together and produce me?
My Grandma Fran had talked about going to San Francisco to see my Dad, her son when he finally was back in the states and what bad shape he was in and how long it took for him to recover; literally years!
I had known and accepted that Dad was shipped back to the states in a body cast and then had been basically in the VA either up north or down in Southern California for many months if not years after.
The powers of denial are great and we don’t want to think of our parents as liars.
From a fairly early age I had known and pretty much accepted that I was Gay.
It didn’t seem strange to me, it seemed like the right thing for me to be and I firmly believe I was born this way.
Gay people in those days had to fly very low under the radar of parents, family and friends.
I was lucky.
Being in theatre and the arts it seemed easier for me to grow and develop without some of the horror stories I have heard from other gay men over the years.
I didn’t get beat up or thrown out of the house and while I kept my secrets it seemed almost like a fair trade that I let my Mother keep hers as well.
When I hit about 25 I had a very comfortable life, friends and income and all the years of secrets on secrets had piled in on me so I had “THE TALK” with Mother and got as much as I could out in the open.
Actually it wasn’t very hard to get the GAY thing out of the way.
Mother more or less told ME she knew I was Gay and had come to terms with it.
Meanwhile I had started the steps to get a lawyer to try and open the adoption case and find out who I was related to on my missing and supposed dead biological father’s side.
When you let people know that you are now in on the secrets and they don’t have to lie anymore there is instant relief and rapport and an immediate need to dump all the information they have been with-holding for all those years.
I began to get little pieces of the story and where the pieces agreed I kept special note of them.
When my Mother caught wind that I was sleuthing and had a lawyer she pitched a huge fit and reminded me that I had never known these people and if they were interested in me didn’t I think they would have come looking for me at some point?
That HAD occurred to me but also the possibility that they didn’t know where I was or that I had a new name also bothered me.
Even now that question has gone unanswered, “WHY?”
These were people who knew when I was born and had seen me, touched me, that I couldn’t remember what had I done that would make them not care enough to come and try to locate me when I was of age?
Having been born in 1949, 1970 when I was 21 would have been a good time to make themselves known.
I had added a new layer of anonymity when I adopted a stage name in the early 70s and virtually everyone knew me by that name so literally I could have been introduced to one of my cousins and neither of us would have known we were related to the other.
I used to joke that I never dated anyone from San Diego because I didn’t want a modern version of Oedipus Rex…I don’t suppose that sleeping with one’s first cousin would be the end of the world especially when two men are involved but still the concept was an affront to my provincial morality.
Rather than risk some horrendous meltdown I dropped the search for the time being and over the next decades would occasionally revisit the notion that I had Aunts and cousins somewhere that I had never met and might like to know.
My friend Rosemary with whom I lived platonically for several years was a believer in pursuing a cause especially if there might be an inheritance involved.
Rosemary always had her hand in someone else’s pocket or was pursuing a deal that would bring her maximum monetary reward for the least possible effort.
There was a legend that on the day I was born my paternal Grandfather in a fit of pride had marched out and purchased 100 share of AT&T stock in my name-as I remember that tale came from Shirley.
I have no idea how much a share of AT&T sold for in 1949 but along with the rumor that Grandfather was owner of a successful electronics business and had owned several homes in Carlsbad or at least purchased same for his daughters…anything was possible.
Mother had told me that “the old man” had died as had my grandmother. (LIE)
I had garnered the information that I had two Aunts on named Fern and the other named Irene or Irma.
Both Aunts had children so I had first cousins.
The big hitch was that I had no married names for any of these people so unless someone had reverted to Gaus I had no way to find them.
Still, I assured myself, the business might still be in operation or someone might remember the family in such a small town.
Anyway, Rosemary suggested on a bright and sunny Sunday that we drive down to Carlsbad and POKE AROUND.
This would have been 1978ish.
I had no idea that BOTH my Grandparents were very much alive at that time (my Grandmother passed away in 1980 and my Grandfather in 1982. Ironically my adopted Father also died in 1982).
While we spent several hours in Carlsbad on what turned into a miserable, rainy, grey day I found no telephone numbers, no one who remembered them or if they did remember it was some vague snippet from days gone by.
I was mere blocks from quite a few family members without knowing it.
There is literally a possibility that at one point I was standing on their front lawn next to a Catholic Church and had I gone up to the door and inquired at the house next door to the church, I might have met my grandparents right then.
The years went on, the millennium came and went; Mother’s health started to decline and perhaps for reasons of guilt or panic, who knows, she began to talk a little more about “Bud” my biological father and his family.
She had reserved most of her hatred and vitriol for my grandfather and the Catholic Church and had little to say or share about my Grandmother or my Aunt’s.
She claimed she couldn’t remember it had been too many years.
At one point she even expressed an affection for “Fern and Irma” and said they had been kind to her and she was sorry I had missed the chance to know my first cousins one of whom was male and slightly older than me.
For me, who had long pined for an older brother…sad?
When she passed away I had to contact that friend who survived her from her younger days in Cleveland.
Joyce was about 90 and seemed unaware that I didn’t have much info about my missing family.
She chattered on about her visit to the family home in Carlsbad while she was here in California.
I was totally unaware that Joyce had ever been in California.
Most importantly I got a different picture of my family especially of my Grandmother as this sweet, nurturing woman who cooked and sang and fed people.
This was also the first time I actually put together the facts that Mother had worked for Bud’s father at some point. REVISION JUNE 2011-It is now fairly certain that my Mother never worked for the family business (source: Aunt Irma).
She had been vague about a job with an electronics company; there was even a picture of her in the office from about that mid 40’s era. (REVISION: Apparently this picture is from a job she had in Los Angeles-I had always thought that Mother and Buds marriage had been played out in San Diego/Carlsbad but since they owned a house in Lynwood...Bud also was supposed to join his Father in the familt business-I still don't understand some facts about unions and his driving the cab while waiting to get union clearance in San Diego-However this may be the reason Mother was angry at my biologicsl Grandfather-since my dad was killed while driving the cab and there were plans to move to San Diego in the air Mother may have blamed him for my Fathers death.
Also Mother may have not wanted to move to San Diego and this may have been a part of the domestic tension during this period. June 2011)
I learned that I was German on one side (Gaus) and French (Bibeault) on the other and the most important added bonus: Joyce had a picture of my Father which she would mail to me.
When the tiny snapshot arrived it struck me that the man in the picture looked more like my Uncle Roy than I did he also being slender with a heart shaped face and a widows peak on his hairline-It even occurred to me that Joyce had made a mistake and sent a picture of my Uncle Roy but there was the name “BUD” on the back.
Anyone who has been on this kind of search knows that it can be a long, frustrating exercise in futility.
I have never understood nor has anyone offered a good explanation as to why the census has to be withheld from public information for 70 years.
The 1940 census would have been a huge help in my search as would the 1950 version and especially 1960 and 70 where I would have seen that my grandparents were still alive.
Of course those days were before the internet and easy access to public records and before many documents were transferred from microfilm to electronic storage.
I suppose at some point I could have enlisted the help of some media reunion factor like Maury Povitch but the concept of sobbing away on National Television was smarmy and unappealing.
My sister and I had discussed my search casually a few times and it had come up in various conversations often with strangers who were sharing their own separations from family members or involved in searches for missing kin.
It seems many people are tracing their genealogy and along the way finding that things are not always as they seemed or were presented.
I was growing weary of the search and also as more and more family passed on less confident that I would ever find any of these people who were more a concept than a reality to me.
When 2010 rolled around and I found that the 1940 census would be withheld until 2012 I pretty much gave up.
On May 15th, 2011 I was sitting with my sister in her kitchen in Northridge doing what we seem to do best, rehashing the past and our discoveries that our Mother was a consummate manipulator and bender of the truth.
Mother had skillfully and maliciously manipulated my sister and me for many years.
By keeping us constantly at odds she could play one against the other and avoid a united front she could also tell each of us the truth as she wanted it to be and never have to worry about us comparing notes.
My sister asked again about my looking for my missing family and I told her that if I didn’t find anything in 2012 I intended to give it up.
I want to reiterate that I only ever knew one Father in my life-he was a kind, simple good man-"Bud" had been killed shortly before Christmas in 1948 so my Mother would have been about 2 1/2 months pregnant at the time since I was born on schedule in July of 1949).
My search was more about my missing reletives and my roots-the other side of a lifelong one sided (and anger filled) story my Mother's version of people and events.
Joining various online services and paying for documents etc. can become expensive-I had learned that if I did a search in San Diego I would have to pay for the document search whether or not it produced any results.
Over the years, friends who had internet access or were members of Ancestry.Com or other such services had taken time to find little bits of information for me-always too late and too little but I did have some solid info.
I knew by this point that my Grandfather had lived until 1982 and I had his social security number.
One night that week I was sitting with my laptop and decided that instead of playing trivia games on Facebook I would poke around with some Google searches and Ancestry.com just to see if anything new came up.
A friend had suggested that many newspapers kept lengthy obituary files dating back for many years so perhaps an obituary search might produce some information.
I was messing around with various combinations of search queries and was just about to give up when I did one last search on Google with just the name Gaus and the word Obituary.
A number of results came up but my eye was caught by the 2nd or 3rd post which contained the phrase,” preceded in death by her…mother, FERN GAUS B---“.
My heart started that hopeful thump when you feel as if the treasure hunt is about to payoff.
How many Fern Gaus’ can there be?
I clicked on the link which took me to the Obituary file of the Las Vegas Sun coincidentally the newspaper my friend worked for in the past.
The obituary I was looking for took a bit to find since I had to start at page one and scan all the listings in between but finally I spied the name again…sister in CARLSBAD…Brother in San Diego.
Too many coincidences!
Now the question was what next?
This woman who may be my first cousin had died in 2010 in Nevada, Las Vegas to be exact.
I had lots of names including her children but now I had to find one person to contact.
I thought about it for a while and decided on her sister in Carlsbad or her Brother in San Diego and after some more arguing with myself decided that sensitive
questions from a stranger might best be put to a man rather than a lady.
Some strange man calling after 8 on a weekday evening asking leading questions would certainly elicit a hang up from me.
I started searching for the person who might be my Aunt Fern’s son using the name William but got nowhere-many of us are not listed in the phone books and in my case my professional name comes up on Google but not my adopted name.
I reread the obituary and saw he was listed as BILL so I tried again and got pages of results.
He or someone of that name was listed with numerous professional references for his business there was even an address and a phone number.
I looked at the clock, 8:05pm, not too late on a weekday.
Perhaps I should drop a note but what would my therapist say?
DIAL THAT NUMBER!
So I did.
A warm deep voice answered the phone and I launched into my spiel which I had hurriedly rehearsed while dialing.
“Good evening, I am so and so calling from Seal Beach, California and I have a rather strange question for you.”
I’m sure he thought I was either a salesmen or someone calling in relation to his business.
“Was your mother Fern Gaus?”
There was a moment of hesitation but almost an interested, curious tone when he responded. “Yes she was.
“I think I’m your cousin.”
I heard myself barely whisper the words and it struck me I sounded a bit apologetic in the process.
“My father was Bud Gaus and my mother was…”
“My Auntie Barbara, oh my god you’re little Buddy.”
With those words the tears and frustrations on 50 years, the feelings of being alone, the not connecting or knowing who exactly I looked like all came pouring out and over the course of the next several hours and several phone calls I have very little memory of what we talked about.
My cousin has lost both of his sisters, my Aunt Irma (Bud’s other sister) is still alive-he took time out to call her, my picture had been on my grandparents mantle for many years, I am descended from the man who invented logarithms, my father was a trombone player who drove a taxi cab…
The bits and pieces of a lifetime come first in the most available memories but are tumbled and mixed with emotions.
They didn’t know my mother’s name was Margaret, I didn’t know she had shut them out of my life and will probably never know why she decided to keep me from my family on my biological Father’s side.
Bill offered at one point to take me to my father’s grave.
My father’s grave? My father’s grave…oh the father I didn’t know-he has a grave?
Standing over a field of dead relatives is less appealing to me than one might think but more and more I am looking at that experience as a possible way towards closure that I need to move on.
Perhaps the oddest thing in all of this is how I came to reconnect with family I have yet to meet as of this writing.
If Bill’s sister hadn’t died, if her obituary hadn’t contained my Aunt’s name hyphenated with her maiden name I would still be waiting for the 1940 census.
That departed first cousin is the ANGEL in this story and I believe that somehow she knew that by publishing her Mother’s maiden name it would be of assistance to one who had been searching in scant twilight for many years.
The next evening I talked to my 89 year old Aunt Irma for 2 hours on the phone.
She is sharp as a tack and assures me she has pictures I can make copies of.
I heard a story many years ago that we don’t acknowledge our own mortality until we either have a close brush with death (facing our own mortality) OR all of our older relatives, parents, grandparents, Aunts and Uncles have passed on then we move up and we guard the gates of eternity for the younger members of the family.
My Aunt is the oldest now, guarding the gate for the rest of us.
Since that first evening I have talked to my Aunt a couple times but my male cousin seems less enthusiastic about chatting than he had been that first evening-I almost feel as if I am bothering him when I call.(REVISION: This is probably more about me and my expectations than any reality-Bill has a busy, thriving business and his own life-I am a new addition and he has the right to build his relationship to me in a way that is comfortable for HIM).
This too is a reality of family reunions; the expectations, lives that have been lived on divergent paths, reconciling old images and grudges with the people we are today and simply trying to find a spot for a person who is back after having gone missing for 60 years can be stressful for all involved.
I have great hopes that Bill and I will form a bond-I certainly have my sister whom I care deeply for at this point-a male equivalent relationship would complete me somehow. (NEW INFO-In a recent phone conversation my cousin signed off with "Love you Bud"-obviously he has feelings for me as a family member-remember we still havnt met as adults and while I have no memory of him at all he has a vaugue memory of me as a baby).
This is a short, feeble attempt to write down so much more than the contents would convey-but the message I want to send is this:
NEVER GIVE UP
Somewhere your picture may be on someone’s mantle and for reasons beyond their control they can’t find you.
My Aunt Irma believes her prayers are answered because I have come home to them at last.
It’s bittersweet for her because she resents all the holidays and good times we could have shared and missed-I have reminded her a couple of times that but for an obituary I happened to spot on the internet our reunion might never have happened; we have the chance to meet and spend at least some time together.
I wonder how many times she prayed HER prayer before it was answered.
Very likely many more times than I asked God to help ME find THEM.
This is the first of several articals that I will be posting over the next months as this story unfolds-I hope to actually MEET the people I am sharing with you later this month (June 2011).
So here we are in 2015: Yes almost 2016 as Christmas is looming----This post reemerged and I realized I had left my readers hanging-so here at last is the next chapter:
I did make a date and I drove down to meet my cousin and my Aunt Irma.
It was a strange meeting-we rendezvoused in a restaurant parking lot and then my cousin Bill drove us up to Irma's home overlooking the Pacific.
There is a certain aura of unreality around that whole day-I did feel welcomed but with restraint-these are small, delicate French people-not the robust German-Irish I am used to----it must have been odd for them to have me return a towering monster of a person and past 60.
We went for Chinese food, I heard a little about the family-saw some pictures-it was friendly but something was missing and that was the answers to many questions I had-I someghow got the feeling that they blamed me personally rather than decisions my Mother made for many of the things that had happened.
As I remember I drove home on the rain with more conflicts than I went down with.
Over the next weeks and months I talked a number of times with Aunt Irma on the phone-and I genuinely liked her-my cousin Bill was very stand offish in a way and was dealing with his own issues-I would have liked to have gotten to know him-but that didn't happen and at this point we haven't spoken for quite some time and I only ever saw him that one time.
We had arranged a Christmas luncheon with Aunt Irma, her daughter, my cousin Paula and Bill but at the last minute he remembered he would be out of town so I drove down with gifts for all of them and went to an award lunch at a local coffee shoppe not the country club I had been promised.
Paula was fun and friendly but like any two people who meet for the first time-we had no history and no glue to hold us together other than blood and Aunt Irma.
My Aunt died about one year after we met the first time-in the period I saw her once or twice since at 90 something she no longer ventured too far from her home.
Paula's father-MY biological Fathers friend decided NOT to attend the Christmas luncheon so I never met him-I talked to cousin Bill maybe twice on the phone but only ever saw him that first meeting.
I sent Christmas cards to Bill and Paula for a couple of years after Aunt Irma passed but never got a card back-I think the message was loud and clear-we know where you are, OUR questions are answered we don't need the YOU that you are today.
Its a little sad but seriously my Sister and her kids are my family-we have the history and we lived those missing years when the family to the south idealized who I might be and where I was.
I never got a satisfactory answer to the questions "WHY didn't YOU look for ME?".
I had been looking for many years while they lived their lives wondering where I was and honoring an empty space but never doing anything about it-I received nothing from that side of the family; I have no mementos of my grandparents-I did get to walk through the house that Louis Gaus my grandfather built in Carlsbad...it has been moved and now has a gold plaque on it stating it's a historic landmark.
I was encouraged to pull a copy of his will to see if I had been excluded from the bequeaths since when my Father died I moved into his place and deserved 1/3 of any inheritance from my Grandparents estate---I don't think like that, I wasn't raised to think like that and my only regret is that my Mother lied to me and told me both my grandparents had passed away.
My Grandmother loved till about 1980 and my Grandfather till 1982 I could have easily seen them , visited with them and maybe made them feel better about the loss of My Father, their only son and his child (me).
I heard stories many time from Aunt Irma about my grandmother going to mass and praying I would be found but again: WHO was looking for me? I don't think anyone.
Shirley, it turns out was a friend of my grandmothers-I don't know the particulars of that but she was keeping them supplied with school pictures and information till she passed away in the late 1960's.
With her death the conduit between Los Angeles and San Diego shut down so for the next decade they had no way to know where I was-I had moved away from Mother in the late 60s and never went back-if there were any cards or whatever sent to her-she would have not told me since she wanted me away from them-I did find that there were some half truths in her stories but the full truth is in between and there is no one left alive that would know that story.
That's it: the wrap up is I wouldn't try to dissuade anyone from seeking their missing relations but I would admonish them to expect nothing or less---its very hard to create a relationship with people at the end of their lives and one is probably not going to feel fulfilled with the outcome of their efforts to find missing relations-if one does get some closure that alone is worth the effort.
Above all, guard your feelings and take care of yourself-that is the most important piece of advice.
Its so easy to get swept away with emotions and then find yourself where you started alone and with very few answers.
I want to especially THANK DON GERSHBERG-a brilliant therapist who has spent two frustrating years helping me sort myself out and preparing me for the recent surgery, this reunion with lost family and the ability to share my self and my art with you.
Don, Dr. Szeto, my extended family of friends, my sister and my niece ANDREA are all parts of the big puzzle that binds our lives and connects us-and helps hold ME together.
One last ironic note: I have been RICK for so long that I have little connection with that child of the 50's growing up amongst the Orange Groves, chasing crawdads and watching I LOVE LUCY on a 12 inch TV.
Since I have become closer to my sister and her children they have started calling me Uncle Buddy (UB for short).
I need to thank "Buddy" as well-odd to thank ones self but Buddy and ART are the constants which have held ME together for 61 years -always somebodies BUDDY-I love you too... little Bud.