Posted by: picturefool | November 11, 2008


On my mother’s side of the family we have my grandmother (crazy) and her brothers (alcoholics) and sister (alcoholic). All of them are, not surprisingly, deceased. The last one to go was my Aunt Fran who, despite her alcoholism and addiction to various narcotics I remember as being fun and sweet and absolutely wonderful.

The reason all of these siblings were so prone to addiction and insanity is blurry. There was another sibling, who would have been the eldest, who died at the age of 2 or 3 from scarlet fever. I’m sure that threw her parents, my great-grandparents, into a terrible state. I can’t imagine…. However, I think there is more and I think it goes further back.

My grandmother always talked like she had grown up in a Currier & Ives painting. There were horseback rides at Christmas and hot cider and playing with handmade toys on warm country days. The implication was that there was money and lots of it. I can’t swear to this but I am pretty definite that she said that they owned the horses.

In truth, they owned a run-down unprofitable farm of some sort. I’m not clear about what they grew or raised there. They were poor. Poor white trash in the deep south of Georgia.

My great-grandfather ended up shooting and killing himself after shooting his oldest son in the ankle. The background of the story is muddy to say the least but that information remains constant: my great-grandfather killed himself.

And that’s my grandmother’s family history… lots of crazy, one attempted murder, one suicide.

My grandfather’s family on my mother’s side seems fairly normal. Divorce seems to be a way of life but other than the three or four marriages a piece I don’t know if any suicides or murders.

Then there is my father’s side of the family.

He, himself, is a criminal with a record a mile long of fairly petty crimes like theft and stalking. Then there is the whole grand theft auto charge. But, hey, who doesn’t forget to return a rental car for five years? We all do that, right?

His sister is crazy. She just is. But it’s an almost good crazy most of the time and I really am fond of her.

Their parents, my grandparents, were a-typical for a lot of Southern families of the time. My grandmother had the audacity to get a degree in nutrition and have a real job running the kitchen at, for the sake of some anonymity here, a large holding facility for crazy people. She worked there until a fall caused some neurological and physical damage that kept her from working. She then stayed home and taught bridge to every woman in town. (She tried to teach me and gave up. My cousin and I are both bridge drop-outs.)

My grandfather had a 7th grade education but somehow built a successful trucking company. It was pretty large and by all accounts quite profitable. He had hoped that when he died (something he began talking about before most people do) to leave it to my aunt’s husband because he had a good head on his shoulders. Basically, he knew my dad would ruin the business. Guess what? He was right on. Unfortunately, my uncle had no interest in it as he was already pursuing a degree in dentistry which has since made him, in his words, pretty well off.

One Christmas Eve my grandfather got a new pistol as a gift. He took it out into the woods behind his house, presumably to just mess around with his new present. At that point the story, like so many others in my family, gets muddy. He either sneezed and accidentally shot himself. (Think about that one. What are the odds of that happening?) Or he turned the gun on himself and shot himself. On Christmas Eve. My dad went to look for him and found him dead. There was a brief police investigation but for those of you who don’t live in the small-town South you need to know that when you are white and have money the police will cover anything up that you want covered up. No one will ever know the truth. Suicide seems the most likely option, especially given the conversations about death and leaving the business to anyone other than my dad.

Until this weekend this was all I had about my family and it was enough to make me say: So, sometimes I need a Xanax but at least I’m not totally nuts.

Then this story rolled in over the news wires (otherwise known as an email from my aunt).

Apparently, my great-grandmother (my father’s father’s mother) was married and had my grandfather and I think at least one other son. Then my great-grandfather died (how?) or just disappears from the story. My great-grandmother remarried. They had a bunch of kids…. four or five. One day her second husband came home and shot my great-grandmother dead right in front of the children. Then he turned the gun on himself and killed himself.

My great-grandmother’s remaining family raised those kids.

So, that’s a new chapter for you. I’m wondering when the chapter will be written about the puppies and the balloons and the unicorns. I’m a little afraid to find out any more.



  1. Have you ever thought of writing a novel? I’m sure there is one in all that history somewhere.

  2. Oh my goodness, I agree with Allan… definitely novel material! I would buy it.

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