What can we make of our parents, our grandparents, the network of kin who constitute our tribal past ?
If one is an adoptee, they can’t make anything out of it.
If one is the child of two adoptees, the past is shrouded in mystery.
So learning about my original grandparents was the beginning of a process of interrogating the past. Trying to understand why what happened to my parents had happened.
My dad’s situation is fairly easy to understand. It was the 1930s. My grandmother had an affair with a married man. Giving her the benefit of my doubts, I doubt she knew he was married when the affair started. However, given the outcome – that she went to a Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers to have him, I’m fairly certain she knew he couldn’t be there for her when she found out she was pregnant. I suspect by then she knew he was married.
My mom’s will forever mystify me with questions that can’t be answered and so I find myself forced to live the questions. Some of the aspects, I have rather solid theories for.
Where it becomes muddied for me is why my grandmother’s husband was unwilling to be there for her. Why did he leave her 4 months pregnant ? Why didn’t he respond when she returned to Memphis, after having the baby in Virginia, and the Juvenile Court sought to inform him of his responsibilities ?
Poverty is certainly part of his equation. A superflood on the Mississippi River that was particularly severe in his home state of Arkansas is likely part of the equation too. Georgia Tann sensing a vulnerable young woman ripe for exploitation certainly put the screws to my grandmother.
At least, I know what my parents died not knowing. At least I know now who my grandparents were. My own process now has been to re-establish my own tribal kin network.