I opened the toy chest containing my dad’s stories. He had a bad habit of making multiple copies, so I sorted them into two piles – originals, and copies that I will send to my brother and sister if they want them. I didn’t have time to read any of the stories – I’ll count them later, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were over 100 – but I glanced at the titles while I was sorting. One caught my eye: My Life as I Remember It, by John L. Welsh.
My dad had written out his life story.
I read it, with my jaw dropping. He never finished it – it only went up to the marriage of his first wife – but it contained names and dates and anecdotes from my dad’s childhood.
You have no idea how huge this is. I was my mom’s only child, and I grew up in solitude – no cousins or siblings close by. Right now, I have zero contact with any of my half relatives. I never had aunts and uncles growing up, and knew nothing about my grandparents. It was just me.
I’ve always had a feeling of loss over this – large family gatherings are alien to me, and kind of freak me out. It’s always been just me; I’m not close to anyone outside of my friends and Ed. I’ve always felt that I had no real roots, and I accepted that.
Apparently, this isn’t true.
My dad had a sister named Muriel. She was one year older than he was, but died at the age of 3 from “a compilation of children’s diseases”. My grandmother came from England, and her name was Edith Jane Cornes. She had brothers and sisters – my dad had aunts and uncles who all immigrated to Canada and spread out across the country. They all had children, and I bet the lines are still around today. I have several-times-removed cousins out there, somewhere.
The biggest shock of all was learning about my grandfather.
My dad never knew his father. All he had was a picture and memories handed down from neighbours and relatives, but his name was John James Welsh. He served in World War One and died when shrapnel severed his spine. I actually found him online:
I have a family; a history. It’s not just me. It’s never been just me.
I think I might actually be in a little bit of shock.