Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The past

Lately I've become more interested in my family history.

Some weeks ago, I went to see my father's grave for the first time in years, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is well-cared for. It must mean some of my family are still in the area, or at least visit the family graves regularly (my grandmother, grandfather and uncle are buried diagonally across from my dad). I was pleased I was able to find the cemetery fairly easily and I remembered the approximate area mum had always taken me to as a kid. I searched for quite some time, but couldn't find his grave at first. I think I was expecting it to be run-down and untended. I also didn't think it had green glass pebbly things on it, although I remembered playing with those. For some reason I thought they must have been on a neighbouring grave, but thinking about it, I guess mum wouldn't have let me toy with things on other people's graves. I found my grandmother's grave and since I thought it was a good landmark for mum to help me, ended up phoning her, and as I was talking to her, came to his. It was only a few feet from the other family one, I don't know how I hadn't seen it. 8)

But although I'd known the right area to search from memory, I hadn't remembered how the grave itself looked, and I think I actually didn't think it was his because of this idea I had about it being neglected and without green stones.

I'm not sure why I felt the need to do this, but I guess it's because I have developed this interest in who my family are. Like wanting to know all Gran's anecdotes and memories. I'm also interested in people's memories of my dad. It was important to me to take the kids with me as well, even though it's a bit macabre. It isn't through any notion of him in an afterlife or anything of that nature, it's about connection with my past and, I suppose, my (and their) heritage.

Seeing my uncle and auntie this weekend reminded me that they had known him (obvious, I know, but not something I've ever talked to them about, as far as I can recall). I wonder if I could ask them about it, somehow. I wonder if they remember him with affection or mixed feelings: he was somewhat older than all of them, but it sounds as though they were friends.

Mum remembers the four of them (plus possibly the children, or most likely just J, the eldest) going to the beach and the two men going off fishing in a rowing boat. Apparently they disappeared over the horizon for ages and the women were beginning to get frantic, when they returned to view, with their boat so heavily laden with mackerel it was barely still afloat. My auntie's freezer was filled with nothing but mackerel for months.

A lot of mum's memories of my father seem related to fish. He was a strong swimmer and a salmon poacher, and he used to swim across the river pulling a net and with a heavy stone on his chest to weigh it down at the other side. She also tells me of riding in his canoe while heavily pregnant, with the dog sitting on her lap. Well, couldn't leave the dog behind! :D

She's also said things like she thought it was me, the dog then her in his affections.

He was quite old-fashioned: he used to take her to the pub and he would be at the bar with the men, while she was expected to sit with the women. She didn't like that. She's not big on small talk and she wanted to be out with him. I don't think either of them knew what to expect from each other. Apparently when he was courting her, it had been different. But when they married, he expected her to be the little wifey and content with that.

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