“Apple-Blossom Oak” flows very naturally into “Ancestors” for me. On my father’s side, there is a strong connection to our Irish blood and we all know the Irish loved their oaks (as did most of Europe.) On my mother’s side, there is a connection by name to another sacred tree – the linden – as well as to the oak again through some mess with the Templars. I planned on delving into these things with this entry, but as I started writing about our family shrubbery, other things came to light; things that floated up by themselves and taste like Truth. So, the original content will be saved for a later entry and instead there is this bumpy path through the mists.
The Players: Opa† in his naval uniform – Oma† channeling Frida – badass paternal grandfather†
Auntie C† – mah ma strutting it Like a Boss – my dad being gangsta
moiself – baby bruvva
Not pictured: paternal grandmother – paternal “family” – paternal half-siblings – maternal half-sibling
This is what I know of my ancestral bloodline:
- Maternal grandmother’s father was an abusive drunk who “taught” my grandmother to swim by throwing her in the canal. In winter.
- Maternal grandmother’s mother left the family when my grandmother was 2 years old. She was a “slut”, by her husband’s accounts.
- Maternal grandfather’s family lived in a windmill; the windmill burned down. Bloodline is Frisian.
- Maternal grandmother survived the war, despite looking “like a Jew”. PTSD prevents her from talking much about her youth. One sister about whom I know nothing.
- Maternal grandfather apprenticed away from his family at a young age. Served as a naval engineer during WWII, stationed in Curaçao. 3 (2?) sisters whom he never had contact with again after leaving Holland.
- Maternal aunt had issues of her own and I was by turns madly fond of her and hated her for the drama she caused.
- Paternal grandfather was a blasting expert for the mines. Also, a stereotypically Irish fighter. Stereotypically too, he left the family when my dad was young and started another one. My dad has many fond memories of him, regardless.
- Paternal grandmother was not a major presence, though I saw her a few times (didn’t like her much.) She remarried and her new husband kicked my father out the house when he was 11, leaving him to fend for himself – no love lost there. Huguenot blood.
- Paternal half-uncles, aunts, cousins etc. were non-players. I knew one cousin for a short while, but generally they were pissed because my dad managed to build himself up to a higher social class than they felt he deserved.
And that’s about it.
I know a bit about my maternal grandparents’ lives – as we were very close – but nothing about their families, or families’ families. My Oma’s father would rant about being of noble blood when he was drunk, which turns out was probably true. My Opa’s family were very… dry, I think. Very old-fashioned Dutch. Being Fries, there’s probably a Norse connection there by way of Viking raids.
ETA: Shortly after making this post, I went to visit my family in South Africa. I only got to spend a few days with my Oma, but she shared some stories and photographs with me, explaining a bit more of her and my Opa’s backgrounds. Basically abusive to some extent or the other; partly a product of the culture and times, but mostly because their parents were shitty people. I made notes on the back of the photos so I would remember. There were plenty of good memories too, but those my grandparents made for themselves.
From what we know, my paternal great-great-grandfather arrived in South Africa by accident. He was one of 3 brothers on their way from Ireland to Australia, but an early delivery forced them to debark and they never left. (I now have a distant relative in Australia who shares my name, which is bizarre. My name is an uncommon combination, to say the least.) My paternal grandmother’s side being of Huguenot descent makes the bloodline French.
And the rest is lost to parish fires, immigration and estrangement.
My mom had a happy childhood (her sister had the complete opposite, despite being raised under exactly the same conditions), but her life prior to meeting my dad was not without painful sacrifice. My dad had a largely miserable childhood, young adulthood filled with hardship and discrimination, terrible betrayal and loss in adulthood, but managed to rise above (because “fuck you” that’s why.)
Where does that leave me? An immigrant child of immigrants, making a new life; it seems that’s the pattern for us (my brother lives outside of South Africa too).
On the one hand, it burns, this not-knowing. I want to know. If I know, I can understand. I can see my web.
On the other, I am largely free to spin my own. Decide where I fit for myself, beholden to no one.
It’s not about me. It has nothing to do with me. In fact, it’s none of my business. I am merely the end result of a finally successful equation.
My mother’s line didn’t know love. My father’s line didn’t know love. They came together – at a time when each needed severe healing – and finally knew love. And family. And kinship, and support, and all those things that were missing from their heritage for one reason and another. My brother and I are the expression of that success, and the termination-point. It ends with us. Our job is to love ourselves, without the need for raising children of our own blood to “fix” the past. We are the healing. (So don’t fuck it up. No pressure.) *
I wish I could explain what that feels like. “Freedom” is the closest approximation. It doesn’t absolve me of a certain responsibility, but that responsibility is to myself, not the generations who came before me. It’s not my job to make it better. IT’S NOT MY JOB TO MAKE IT BETTER!!!
Holy fuck. Excuse me, but holy fuck.
* For interest’s sake, each of the bloodlines has continued – but separately – through my half-siblings. These paths have involved multiple broken marriages, untimely deaths, several re-locations and generally a lot of ongoing pain and hardship. The pattern continues for the blood that is not joined in healing.