Do you know this man? (a revised re-posting)

This is a post I wrote almost four years ago.
Since that time my father has passed away and in such,
I have lost one more person who could help with a few of the pieces of the puzzle.
Also in that time since passed, I had put this quest on the back burner
as I spent all my energies caring for Dad…
However in light of the 4th of July celebration and our Nation’s observation of our Independence,
I thought it appropriate to rerun this particular story about a lost soldier who offered
the ultimate sacrifice to this great Nation of ours….

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into
the deepest valleys;
look on them as your own beloved sons,
and they will stand by you even unto death.

Sun Tzu

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(Capt. Frank F. Crenshaw)

No, of course you don’t.
I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking
out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do…
I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.

This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather.
I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection;
a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded
as he lead his men against an ambush attack in a battle known as the Battle of Puttol.
He eventually died from his wounds….
But that’s about all I’ve know of this enigmatic figure.

I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of
LaGrange, about an hour south from where I live now.
I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years,
always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.

And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon
last summer (2012).
I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones.
No problem—I’d find it right off the bat…

Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery,
in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon,
watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery,
and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business.
“Where in the heck is he?” I lamented to my husband.
Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found.
Ugh!

He had come from a rather well to do family of the area.
He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located
was suddenly a huge mystery.
This made absolutely no sense.
“I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county,
to someone who knows this cemetery!”
I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.

I called Dad once I got home.
This is his grandfather, his mother’s father.
He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over
the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man.
I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me!
I was now bound and determined to find him!!

I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin,
who is also a grandson to this war veteran.
This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian.
He too was stumped to the lack of a grave.
But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side,
this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-
which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on,
albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.

This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband
while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought.
We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother
was born and raised.
I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery
and look for the Crenshaw family plot.

I called Dad on my cell phone and he told me where the cemetery was located—-
sure enough we found it.
The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just
can’t be missed sitting in the middle of town.
I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s—
my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—
“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply
file that thought away for later.

My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife,
another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here.
I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation.
History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….
some of whom I knew and others I had never known…
and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—
and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day.
Funny how that all works.

Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months
as it seems other things just took over life.
I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago.
I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me
to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites
in the city cemetery.
I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.

The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after
I finish my story.
However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research”
and will call me back the next day.
A week passes with no word.
I give it another go calling the cemetery office.
This time I get a machine.
I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number.
Within just a few minutes the phone rings.
“Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research.
It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…”
long pause…
“he doesn’t seem to have a marker.”
What!!” I practically scream.
“Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker.
Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.”
“Oh no sir,” I almost indignity respond,
“they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”

He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which
I immediately call and, once again, leave a message.
I later get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher… of course.
I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know.
He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials.
Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there,
or so states the book of books,
but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion.
The million dollar question of the hour is–
where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…

And speaking of, here is his story…

My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company.
He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia.
He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War,
with the rank of First Lt.
He was a member of Ray’s Immunes;
a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the
Spanish American War.
It was thought that due to their being from the deep south,
they may be more “immune” to yellow fever
(what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…).
His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever,
what I am assuming to be Malaria.
At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia.
38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness
but fortunately survived.
At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.

The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain
(which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer
branch of the US Army).
He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania.
His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines,
where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control
of guerrilla insurgents.

On June 5, 1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men,
who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol,
the Philippines.
This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia,
as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit,
deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.

The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack.
Captain Crenshaw had his men to take cover but as he rose to lead the charge,
his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head.
Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated,
at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness.
Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.

He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable
amount of blood.
Evacuated to Manila, he was eventually placed on a transport ship for home,
but due to rough seas in the South China Sea,
the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms.
Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions,
while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected.
He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed
in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been
labeled as “insane”.
Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
He bribed a ship’s steward to help tend to his wounds.

Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention.
Almost 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the musket ball still lodged in his skull,
both blind and partially paralyzed,
the ship eventually docked in San Francisco.
Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to await the arrival of his nephew
and to procure him proper medical care.
For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco.
He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was immediately
taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.

Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests.
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old.
He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone
(my grandmother being on of the 4 children).

He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in
state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia.
There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body,
which was led by General John B. Gordon,
taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia.
Upon his death,
Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel,
as was put forth by the President of the United States …
and yet he is in an unmarked grave.

The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry.
It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran,
who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone.
I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document
his years of service or either document his pension.
“Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago”
hence my letter to the Commander,
as well as copies to both of my senators.
As I told all of them:

It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero.
It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor,
posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country.
My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband,
who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone,
had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.

So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.

Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted
and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me.
Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—
only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—
I sadly feel time is not on my side.
Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.

And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man,
not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife
who had to raise 4 small children all alone–
with only 3 surviving to adulthood.
His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one
time deal– how I admire that commitment.

It was this young soldier,
not so different from today’s soldiers,
who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home,
the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved
in either World War.
It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly
113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26

Do you know this man?

This is a post I wrote almost four years ago. Since that time my father has passed away
and in such, I have lost one more person who could answer a few questions.

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No, of course you don’t. I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking
out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do…
I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.

This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather.
I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection;
a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded
as he lead his men against an ambush attack in a battle known as the Battle of Puttol.
He eventually died from his wounds.

I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of LaGrange
about an hour south from where I live now.
I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years,
always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.

And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon last summer.
I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones.
No problem—I’d find it right off the bat…

Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery,
in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon,
watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery,
and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business.
“Where in the heck is he?” I lamented to my husband.
Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found.
Ugh!

He had come from a rather well to do family of the area.
He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located
was suddenly a huge mystery.
This made absolutely no sense.
“I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county,
to someone who knows this cemetery!”
I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.

I called Dad once I got home.
This is his grandfather, his mother’s father.
He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over
the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man.
I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me!
I was now bound and determined to find him!!

I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin,
who is also a grandson to this war veteran.
This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian.
He too was stumped to the lack of a grave.
But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side,
this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-
which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on,
albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.

This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband
while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought.
We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother
was born and raised.
I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery
and look for the Crenshaw family plot.

I called Dad on my cell phone and he told me where the cemetery was located—-
sure enough we found it.
The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just
can’t be missed sitting in the middle of town.
I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s—
my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—
“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply
file that thought away for later.

My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife,
another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here.
I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation.
History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….
some of whom I knew and others I had never known…
and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—
and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day.
Funny how that all works.

Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months
as it seems other things just took over life.
I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago.
I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me
to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites
in the city cemetery.
I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.

The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after
I finish my story.
However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research”
and will call me back the next day.
A week passes with no word.
I give it another go calling the cemetery office.
This time I get a machine.
I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number.
Within just a few minutes the phone rings.
“Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research.
It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…”
long pause…
“he doesn’t seem to have a marker.”
What!!” I practically scream.
“Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker.
Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.”
“Oh no sir,” I almost indignity respond,
“they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”

He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which
I immediately call and, once again, leave a message.
I later get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher… of course.
I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know.
He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials.
Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there,
or so states the book of books,
but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion.
The million dollar question of the hour is–
where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…

And speaking of, here is his story…

My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company.
He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia.
He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War,
with the rank of First Lt.
He was a member of Ray’s Immunes;
a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the
Spanish American War.
It was thought that due to their being from the deep south,
they may be more “immune” to yellow fever
(what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…).
His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever,
what I am assuming to be Malaria.
At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia.
38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness
but fortunately survived.
At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.

The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain
(which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer
branch of the US Army).
He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania.
His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines,
where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control
of guerrilla insurgents.

On June 5, 1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men,
who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol,
the Philippines.
This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia,
as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit,
deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.

The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack.
Captain Crenshaw had his men to take cover but as he rose to lead the charge,
his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head.
Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated,
at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness.
Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.

He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable
amount of blood.
Evacuated to Manila, he was eventually placed on a transport ship for home,
but due to rough seas in the South China Sea,
the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms.
Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions,
while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected.
He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed
in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been
labeled as “insane”.
Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
He bribed a ship’s steward to help tend to his wounds.

Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention.
Almost 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the musket ball still lodged in his skull,
both blind and partially paralyzed,
the ship eventually docked in San Francisco.
Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to await the arrival of his nephew
and to procure him proper medical care.
For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco.
He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was immediately
taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.

Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests.
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old.
He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone
(my grandmother being on of the 4 children).

He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in
state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia.
There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body,
which was led by General John B. Gordon,
taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia.
Upon his death,
Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel,
as was put forth by the President of the United States …
and yet he is in an unmarked grave.

The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry.
It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran,
who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone.
I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document
his years of service or either document his pension.
“Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago”
hence my letter to the Commander,
as well as copies to both of my senators.
As I told all of them:

It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero.
It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor,
posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country.
My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband,
who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone,
had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.

So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.

Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted
and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me.
Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—
only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—
I sadly feel time is not on my side.
Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.

And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man,
not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife
who had to raise 4 small children all alone–
with only 3 surviving to adulthood.
His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one
time deal– how I admire that commitment.

It was this young soldier,
not so different from today’s soldiers,
who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home,
the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved
in either World War.
It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly
113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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Who in the heck is Sylvia Kay and what have you done with her?!

Ok, so the other day I shared with you my story about my brother.
His was a convoluted story of mental illness, adoption, ending with the eventual taking of a life.
And please, you must not ever think that since an adoption was thrown into that mix,
that adoption is ever a bad thing.
It was just one piece to his very sad story.
On the other hand, there is me… 🙂

I was adopted in 1959.
I was always told that I had come from a Florence Crittenden Home in Atlanta,
eventually making my way through the now defunct Atlanta Adoption Agency.
The Florence Crittenden “homes” were all part of a national organization that aided young single woman
who were pregnant–those having little or no resources or safe places to go.
Sent by their families to these “homes”,
many of these young pregnant women were not bearing the best of news.
A single pregnant woman in the 1950’s carried all sorts of taboos and connotations.

Now whether or not I actually took this route is a bit of that “gray” area surrounding my past.
However, this was my story and I was sticking to it!

I was almost 3 months old when I was adopted.
My parents told me all about being adopted when I turned 5 years old.
I suppose 5 is as good an age as any.
I remember my Dad sitting me down and reading me a book.
A book I came to be ashamed of and loathed—
I didn’t like to acknowledge its existence in the house after the day he read me the story.

It was a nice enough story I suppose…
all about mommies and daddies not being able to have children of their own but having
the opportunity of being able to “adopt” a baby who had no parents.
I was “special” because I was chosen.
Hummmmm…
Really?…special!?
‘Special’ because I was “abandoned” and this poor couple couldn’t have their own child,
so they had to come “pick me” like a piece of fruit…
Hummmmm…
What kind of happy story this was proving to be!”…or so thought my young mind.

I do vaguely remember having to go down to what I know now was a social worker’s office and sit around
“playing” so the social worker could monitor if I was turning out to be “well adjusted”
(had they stopped this little practice by the time Ed, my adopted brother rolled around, as anyone could have seen his adjustment levels were slightly off, we wouldn’t be talking about Ed).

My parents had some friends who had also adopted a little girl at the same time.
We played together and our parents hung out together a good bit.
I hated spending time with these people because they constantly talked about this adoption business
like it was cutting edge material.
They even acknowledged the Adoption day for their daughter like it was another kind of birthday.
Oh my Lord, what was wrong with these people I wondered.

I didn’t like to talk about it.
I didn’t want my parents reminded that they had “something” wrong with them.
I felt sorry for my parents and I didn’t want people reminding them things weren’t as they should be.

Little did I realize that things were indeed as they should be because we were a family—–
(but then they wanted another baby and got Ed and it was downhill after that,
but I digress again—–the moral of that story,
maybe it’s best to be happy with the one).

Never ever did anyone in my family ever make me feel as if I was anything but a part of the family.
My grandparents loved and doted on me just as they doted on my older cousins.
Dad had ruined my life by giving me the “nick-name” of Julie (see the post on passports),
which, at the time, seemed fine
(again see the post on the whole passport fiasco to understand my sarcasm here)…and so life rocked along.

We never talked about it, that being the whole adoption topic, because remember,
I was “protecting” their sad feelings—or so I always rationalized.
Crazy I know, but what can I say.
Always the old soul in the young body
(now it’s just an old soul whose body had finally caught up—but I digress again).

One day, while I was in college, I found myself in UGA’s massive library working on a paper.
I can’t recall what course or paper it was that I was writing at the time,
but as I was digging around amongst the books, buried in the back on one of the myriads of shelves,
I found some books on adoption.
Curious, I pulled all of them off the shelf,
carrying them back to the table, and begin pouring over what they had to say on the subject.

The next time I was home I found myself asking Mom some questions.
She had limited information as that was how it was done back then.
My “legal” birth certificate listed Mary Julia and my parents as my parents—–
there was no mention about any adoption.
The only thing missing was time of birth…hummmmm.
It’s as if life started for me the day they brought me home—
those missing months prior was a time non-existence.

Mother told me what she had been told by the Agency at the time they got me.
My biological parents had been older…not young teens but rather late 20s.
They were in love but for some reason, could not marry.
My biological mother was petite (I’m short but a far cry for “petite”),
she was popular, a cheerleader (oh dear Lord, a far cry from my tomboy self) and loved art…hummmmmm….
I was an art major at the time, interesting.

After reading a good bit on the subject and talking to various folks,
I understand a few things about adopted kids.
One tidbit I found interesting was that most of the time when a woman is pregnant with a child,
a child she most likely either resents or knows that she is immediately giving up, those feelings
are somehow transferred through the womb—

I also know that many adopted folks deal with the concept of rejection, more so than “regular” folks.

It’s that whole abandonment issue.
All of which now makes tremendous sense to me.

Also, there may be issues with anger and/or simply establishing solid relationships in general,
as all of these deep-seated feelings tend to act as defense mechanisms in an adopted individual.
It all makes sense to me, as I’ve lived it but I’m certain there are those scientific among us
who would disagree—but that’s ok.
I just know what my life has been like…

I love history.
You may realize that by now if you’ve read any of my previous posts.
But the funny thing is that I don’t really know my own history—and that is frustrating.

I love the whole genealogy thing, as one of my grandmothers did extensive research.
She was a Daughter of the Revolutionary War, the Confederacy, the Huguenot Society, etc…
she’s on the freaking Mayflower for heaven’s sake…but I am not, not really.
My spot on her “tree” is not real—
I’m supposed to be on someone else’s tree.

This is what bothers me.
Terribly.
I don’t like gaps—things should be filled in.

It also bothered me when I was pregnant with my son.
The doctors always begin asking about all of my medical histories.
My response is always the same “Who knows??—I’m adopted.”
Is there a history of cancer, heart disease, some other odd malady??—
It’s anybody’s guess.

My son is taller than my husband and myself—he’s built differently.
Big strong, broad shoulders. Very handsome.
Where did all of that come from?
He suffers from migraines. I do too…
But where did I get that from?

He has struggled with a learning disability and dyslexia. I’m pretty sure I did too.
Where did that come from?
I look in a mirror and wonder who it is I look like.
As I age, how will that be?

All of my little medical ups and downs…who gave me all of that?
I pass people on the street and find myself often wondering if I’ve not passed my parents,
maybe a brother or a sister…

When mother died and I was just 25, and yet to be a mother myself, I found myself at times,
so desperately wanting a mother…
someone who I could confide in, someone who could understand me, someone who could offer advice,
someone who knew the road I was traveling and could tell me what to expect.
When I finally did become a mother myself—boy did I miss having a mom’s help!
It was all solo.
No instruction manual and no mother—Good Lord!!

But people never believed it when I told them I was adopted.
I looked a great deal like mom and dad.
Mother and I both had that oh so southern drawl.
Mother’s, however, was much prettier.
They were my parents and I always knew that to be so—
but I always had the nagging holes, the questions, and the missing pieces to the puzzle.
And of course the obviously painful question—
I always thought I was a cute, good kid, why would someone give that up???!!
Just walk away?

I have several long time, dear friends who wonder much of the same things about me as I do.
They have been very encouraging if I ever wanted to go on the quest to “find out”
but I’ve also always heard that if the biological parent(s) wanted to find you,
they would have done so on monumental occasions—a 16th or 21st birthday, etc.
I also have heard horror stories of other adopted adults locating biological families,
regretting the whole ordeal.
I certainly don’t want that.
I want an Oprah moment.
Who doesn’t?

As long as my dad is alive, I’ve decided that I would not go on this quest.
I think it would hurt his heart.
He lived through, barely may I add, the ordeal with my brother—
losing the same child basically twice—first through the annulment and then by the suicide.
I just didn’t/don’t think I could let him know I was on a quest….

I did however, do a little research and found a site for the state of Georgia—
a place for those wanting to adopt, or those who had been adopted—Families First.
For $35 I could send off for some non-identifying information.
“Ok” I thought, what harm could/ would that be.
What exactly would non-identifying information mean?

I send a check, filled out some forms, and proceeded to wait.

A few weeks passed, I began to forget about my mini-quest…
until one sunny spring afternoon, a packet arrives.
Oh, Lord—this is it—this is “me”
A history of me…
Hummmmm…
My name. My name!!!
Would it be…Katherine?
Elizabeth?
Something beautiful, pretty—and not a nickname that has proven difficult.

I poured over the paperwork.
I read the facts.
Birth weight, size, time of birth.
Hospital. Hospital??
My “official birth certificate” states I was born at Piedmont.
Not so on this now original certificate.
What the heck??? Why is that I wonder—and how very odd.

I read the story given by the social worker who worked with the hospital and that of my “my mother”.

The mother’s, my mother’s story, seems really sad.
It’s a long story, one I’ll save for another post.
More questions than indeed answers.

The parents, my parents it seems, did love one another.
One came from a well to do family, one not so much.
It appears the families may have known one another–or at least her brother-n-law knew my “father”.
She moved from somewhere, in what I’m assuming to be south Georgia, living alone,
with no one ever knowing she was pregnant.
There were two states involved.
Something tragic occurred and there was a separation.

She was a nurse, living alone in Atlanta.
She had no prenatal care. (Idiot!!)
She gave birth and immediately left the hospital, all the same day.
Just walked away.
Wow!
Why?
There was a foster home, then the adoption agency.
More questions, with very few answers.

Sylvia Kay.
Are you kidding me??!!
No offense to any Sylvias or Kays out there, but I just knew I was a Katherine or an Elizabeth…
a Katie or a Beth.

I suppose it’s that southern fascination of our love of Katie Scarlet O’Hara (to be said in a very southern accent).
Oh well, I suppose I’m sticking with my adopted Mary Julia!

And so yes, there are more questions than answers.
I will, I suppose, one day investigate further, but that shall wait—that will be later.
I do know that time is running out I suppose, as my biological parents, if they are still alive,
are aging, just as we all are aging.
Do I want to establish a relationship—no, not especially?
I have a family.
I do have questions however and curiosities, as that is to be expected.
But all of that is, I suppose, for another Scarlet!
And so it shall be…..