Monday, April 20, 2009

Time to Blog about Finding Family

This will not be news to bloggers but it has become abundantly apparent to this writer that if you are having life experiences that might be worth writing about, you do not have time to write about them. And of course the opposite being that if there is time, what is there to say!

If you follow my blog at all, you can tell I have been having lots and lots of life experiences this spring...... or none at all..... since I haven't written about a thing lately.

I'll admit to being really busy but will try to focus on just one thing. Just got back from a business trip to Phoenix but was lucky enough to have one free day to pursue my own interests. And I chose to look up and visit some long lost relatives that I had never met in person...... my father's first cousin Gertrude who is 95, and her son, an amazing artist. 

First I'll talk about visiting with Gertrude. She has spent most of her life in the Phoenix area but did visit Kansas relatives for long periods of time as a young girl and young woman. She was able to tell me tidbits about my paternal grandparents (who were gone before I was born) and great-uncles and great-aunts of that era. Things you'll not find in old newspaper articles or the census reports. I was thrilled. And I hope it was a good experience for her as well. She lives in her own home but has some health issues so has an attendant person who was very friendly. Having artists for children, her house is a virtual gallery. My two hours with her were not nearly enough to take it all in. And of course I thought of more questions to ask after I left. Her hearing is not the greatest so I'm not sure how comfortable she would be with me asking them over the phone. Perhaps I can write.... an old-fashioned paper and ink letter, for a change.

One of the things she talked about was my Great-uncle Vernon who was a doctor and had a big house on the beach in California. I never met him. When she was a child she said the Arizona summers were so hot, it being before air conditioning, that they spent a lot of time visiting him and other relatives in California. Aunt Eddie Hines (my grand-father's sister) and her husband Frank also had a house there at that time. Aunt Eddie is one I've never know much about so it was like meeting a new set of people I'd never known. She talked about staying with Aunt Eddie in Manhattan as a young child but the household was uninspiring for a youngster.... no other children to play with.... restrictions to certain parts of the house. There were two staircases and Gertrude was not to use the front stairs. She much preferred to go to the farm where Aunt Bertha had children she could play with. And she said Aunt Eddie seemed happy to have her there as well.

She said others in the family didn't care too much for Eddie's husband, Frank, probably because he was very successful. But Uncle Frank liked Gertrude and treated her with a coin and a wink whenever they met. 

About Gertrude's son, my second cousin Ed Mell. He is a well-known artist in Arizona with a distinctive style that is easily recognized. His work is in large oils and in sculpture, and can be found in the galleries of Scottsdale's art district among other places. There are posters of his Grand Canyon Music Festival work available at art poster places. I stumbled onto his work when browsing thru a museum bookstore back in the '90s. Saw this art book with work I found to my liking but I didn't know the artist. While leafing thru the pages, what should I see but the mention of his mother Gertrude Sargent. While I did not know the person, I certainly knew the name, as my parents had talked of her and her brother when I was growing up. Closer inspection showed a photo that includes my great-grandmother who, to my knowledge, I had never seen in any photo before. Its taken me over ten years but I've finally gotten to meet Ed.... both a relative I didn't know I had, and an artist whose work I admire.

A bonus of the day was getting to visit Ed's studio and to meet a friend of his, another artist Gary Smith from Utah, a very nice gentleman as well. 

Ed's brother Lee is deceased and brother Frank is in ill health so I've waited too long to meet them.

I suppose there should be a moral or something to all this. I guess it would be.... if you're at all interested in the people of your grandparents generation, don't put off visiting those who knew them, back when. And there might be a bonus in meeting some very interesting relatives of your own generation as well. What a thrill it is for me... maybe it would be for you as well.

1 comment:

coloradocowgirl said...

Very Interesting. I would love to get copies of the letters you got from Aunt Daisy. What an incredible insite to history.