Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Part Of Who I Am ...

Over the past 24 hours, I've learned some fascinating family history.

I've never known much about my father's side of the family. Growing up, we were never close with them. My father didn't talk to his mother for most of my childhood. We never really spent any time with his half-brothers. That side of my background wasn't very family-centric.

My mother's side of the family is the complete opposite: It takes 30 minutes to say goodbye for all the hugging and last-minute chats. So some might suggest that my father's family was simply more standard, compared to the love fest that occurred whenever the Serbs congregated. But no: Dad's family was more family in name than in practice.

Yesterday, in a casual conversation, my brother Brian mentioned the death of my paternal great grandmother. The story goes that one day, when my grandmother was a girl, her mother sent her to the park to play, then went to the store and bought the ingredients for lemon meringue pies. Came home, made said pies, ate one, and lapsed into a diabetic coma, never to regain conscioiusness.

That's right: My great grandmother died of lemon meringue pie. This, I know, is not (supposed to be) funny. But as a writer, I was astonished at what a great detail it is. Lemon meringue pie poisoning.

I mentioned to mom this morning that I'd never heard that story.

"Really?" she said. "Do you know how your great grandfather died?"

Uh, no, as a matter of fact, I don't.

"Overleeching," she said.



Turns out ol' great granddad went to a woman for a little leeching to cure what ailed him, only the leech woman wasn't around (mom didn't know if she was merely absent or dead), so the leech woman's daughter tried her hand at it. Leeching, turns out, is not for amateurs. He lost a lot of blood, but made his wife promise that she'd never reveal what happened, so even when he went to the hospital, and the doctor remarked that he'd lost a lot of blood, mum was the word.

So my paternal great grandparents died of lemon meringue pie and leeches.

"How am I even remotely normal, coming from that?" I asked my mom.

She told me that my maternal great grandmother died of heart disease and her husband died of an unknown illness, but I'm assured that desserts and insects were in no way involved.


Anonymous Doreen said...

My sympathy for the loss of family members and your recent knowledge of the manner in which they died. BUT .... as you said ... wonderful to have in your "writer tool kit" !!

10:07 AM  

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