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Archive for October 9th, 2007

“Be careful, you might find a bunch of horse thieves.” My grandfather startled me with his response. Years ago, when he was still alive and I had not begun to map our family history, my mother and I were having a conversation about possibilities.

My grandfather was not one for political correctness. He loved prodding sacred cows and much to the dismay of my grandmother, could find humor in the darkest of situations. He was serious about the horse thieves though. I thought it out of character for him to express any sort of anxiety about anything. Looking back I think he was trying to say, “Don’t ask questions for which you do not want to hear the answers.” It takes a certain bravery to go looking for what was forgotten.

Humans are extremely resilient and adaptable creatures. Often the mechanism for overcoming adversity is to repress.  It hurt, so I will forget. That which we do not acknowledge cannot hurt us. I think about my great-grandparents living near the coast during the 1900 Galveston hurricane which destroyed their home and took their firstborn. Lives were destroyed and some survivors literally walked away and never returned. (Does that remind you of anything more recent?) I think about my great uncles who served. Even decades after the war, they would not discuss their experiences beyond a certain point. It was as if the story just ended in the middle.

Fortunately time heals even generational wounds. Descendants have the benefit of looking back without the pain of individual experience. Perhaps my grandfather underestimated me. I like to think that I strive to live with open eyes, an open mind and an open heart. I want them all, rich and poor, horse thieves and heroes, beauty queens and beggars, cowboys and indians, slaveholders and slaves, politicians and clerics, midwives and morticians, the sane and the mad. They all belong to me.

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