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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grandma and the Prince - Part 25


<==Richie Rich?

My father was 25 years, one month, and two weeks old when his father, my Grandpa Bert, died. Grandpa Bert was 73 at the time. He had been in failing health for years, victim of a bad heart. He died on June 1, 1950 – three weeks before I was born.

In truth Grandpa Bert was my father's stepfather but I didn't know
that fact until I turned fifty. I'd grown up thinking he was my Grandma El's first husband and my biological grandfather. And to be honest, the truth made very little difference in the way I think about him. I've always regretted the fact that I never had the opportunity to get to know him. Grandpa Bert remains, for me, a shadowy figure of almost mythic kindness and equally mythic mystery.

When the Honourable Great Grandpa Fuller died, he left a considerable fortune to his children. I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea how many of them he had or what happened to them. If you’re looking for begats and a nice neat family tree, you’ll have to go to another forest. Mine is dark and dense and tangled.

Grandpa Bert moved from Halifax to Boston at first where his brother, The Actor, was appearing in repertory with Tyrone Powers’s father. The Actor lost his money backing bad plays. Grandpa Bert, I’m afraid, lost some of his money backing the same stinkers. The one that did in The Actor’s nest egg was called “The Hyacinth” and it lost its last petals one evening at a theatre on Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. (Coincidentally, their father's name was Hyacinth.)

From there, Grandpa Bert went down to New York City. Another brother and a sister were now living on Long Island. (I have no idea why they didn’t stay in Nova Scotia.) Grandpa was looking for a way to turn his inheritance into an even larger fortune and he did what any forward-thinking young man at the turn-of-the-century would do: he bought himself a lake in Massachusetts. I mean, wouldn’t you do the same thing? The lake was frozen solid, as New England lakes should be during a hard cold winter. The idea was to cut huge blocks of ice from that frozen pristine lake, store them in ice houses, and reap the rewards all summer long.

Wouldn’t you know it? That year saw the earliest thaw in a century and it wiped him out.

I get the feeling that Grandpa Bert lived the life of an elegant dilettante for a long while. Somehow he ended up as an insurance underwriter. He was nearly fifty when he married for the first and only time. I wish I knew what he did, how he lived, during the years before Grandma El came into his life, carrying the sweet yoke of domesticity in one hand and a cudgel in the other.

So many mysteries I'll never unravel.


PS: I'm Barbara Bretton, a little late today but definitely enthusiastic about sharing my stories with you. Leave a comment and you'll be eligible to win signed copies of CASTING SPELLS, LACED WITH MAGIC, and SPUN BY SORCERY!

15 comments:

Laney4 said...

I was 39 when I learned that my dad wasn't my bio dad. He indeed was married to my mom throughout the years and always lived together, so you do the math....

Apparently the entire town knew my brother and I weren't sired by my dad. Bio dad died in 1979 and didn't tell me (probably because I was a niave 19 years of age at the time). Dad died in 1990. Mom died in 1995. I found out in 1998.

So many stories I could tell, but let's just leave it at that....

Estella said...

I am still enjoying the story of your family.

Virginia said...

I really enjoy your stories! There is so much that happened in my family that I don't even know that half of it. I just live my life and let the past stay in the past.

Pat Cochran said...

Like you, I have many family mem-
bers whom I would love to know
more about. There are few persons
left that we could get information
from. So sad!

Pat Cochran

Kaelee said...

Family history is so interesting. My father and his side of the family were really into recording and saving family stories. I still wish I had paid more attention to them when they were alive. My mom never wanted to talk about family history. Most of the stories from her side of the family are ones my older sister and brother could remember from what my grandparents told them. I was fortunate in that I knew all four of my grandparents. I am also fortunate that I had a younger brother who spent a large amount of time with my paternal grandmother. He was into family history in a big way. He also rescued papers that my mom and aunt were burning after my maternal grandmother died. One is a letter written on birch bark from my grandfather after he came to Canada. He saved money by sending letters back to England using that material. My maternal grandmother was 3 years older than him and a ladies maid but she gladly came to Canada after he saved enough money to send for her.

traveler said...

Family history is always fascinating since it is real and meaningful. Better than fiction and your story is unforgettable.

desere_steenberg said...

Family history is simply facinating, but at lass my family is not one that wrote down their history in a big old book for me to study which would really have of been easier than trying to track it down ! I have so many questions for so many of my family members in the past but they sadly have left our earth before I got the chance to ask , so for now I have to stick to snooping around as much as possible with my nose in as many places as possible to discover any good or bad secrets but I am loving it !

Thanks for the fun post I enjoyed it !

All the best
Desere

Kirsten said...

Wonderful post, and that picture... it reminds me of those vintage Christmas cards. Too cute!!

host said...

Thanks for sharing! I enjoy reading your stories.

SiNn said...

I loveee your books expecually casting spells havent had a chance to read any of the other ones cant wait to tho ur work rocks!

mortalsinn@yahoo.com

susanwilson44 said...

I SO love reading these posts! Keep them coming, they are fascinating x

Michele L. said...

Hi Barbara!

Oh wow! Reading about your Grandpa evokes memories of my Grandma and the hard times she went through. My mom remembers getting slivers of ice from the ice man when he delivered a block. She thought it was heaven! She tells me about the outhouse they used and how cold it was in the winter time. Can you imagine going out to it just to go to the bathroom? Brrr....!!!

Mary said...

I'm so glad you are continuing this story, I have been enjoying it very much.

miztik_rose@yahoo.com

Nas Dean said...

Love reading everybody's family history!

pageturner said...

I've been enjoying all your posts on your family history - thanks for sharing the stories!

pageturner345@gmail.com