Wednesday, December 03, 2003

 
I took my partner to hospital today for day surgery to remove a melanoma from his cheek. The procedure, requiring digging a bit deeper than usual for these operations, necessitated transplanting of a bit of skin from elsewhere to properly seal the area. He has very pale, delicate skin and is prone to these lesions on his face and scalp, most of which is exposed. Usually the doctors can remove them without surgery but this one had gotten a bit too big for that.

We try to remember sun screen and/or hats for him whenever we go out into the sun to hike or garden but unless he were to live permanently in a beekeeper's headgear, there is really no way to give him the kind of ultimate protection he needs; he is genetically English/Irish and his skin just cannot take a lot of sun.

I'm a real mongrel and proud of it. My paternal grandparents were Italian and French and my maternal grandparents Welsh. Two generations before me, everybody was an immigrant in the great wave that came from Europe in the thirty years both before and after the turn of the 20th century. It made for an interesting and rich, culture while growing up. However many in the family, my father included, wanted to assimilate as quickly as possible and consciously decided to drop as many of the trappings of their parents' old lives. My father even proposed changing the family's name to something "American" (anglo-saxon, actually) and nearly got himself thrown out of the house for the suggestion.

A couple of years ago I inherited something like three cubic feet of mostly unannotated family photos and documents. I knew a great deal about the family but not nearly enough. I've been researching and calling everybody who is left with any connection to the grandparents' generation for help. In the process I have uncovered a couple of delightful family scandals and looked on the faces of people going back into the 1870s I had heard of all during my childhood but never known. Their stories are emerging slowly and are actually fascinating.

In the process I have constructed what is now a six generation family tree from the great grandparents down to the generation that will one day perhaps include my grandchildren, and that now consists of my first cousin's granddaughter. I am including dates of birth, death, marriage (when available), date of arrival in the U.S. (the online Ellis Island records have been a treasure trove), name of ship and ports of departure from Europe and arrival in America. Gradually, others in the family are becoming interested in the emerging document and lending great support. I had feared we might all pull apart and lose touch as we descended through the generations, but this family tree is proving to be the agent of reunion for us all.

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