A few years back I met a cousin I didn’t know about. I knew of this family line, but our contact was almost nil. He was 82 by the time I located him, the son of my grandfather’s half-sister. Looking through papers from genealogy research in 2002, I found the Polaroid I took of him and the directions to his house.
Finding the place was fairly simple, my directions were quite accurate. However, he had passed away a few years before–according to some men working on the property, and his daughter was away for the weekend. Since I was out there I decided to explore the area and came across the abandoned pump station above an old dam at the end of a cul-de-sac.
Built out over the river, the rock structure had bars on the windows and the doors were locked. Looking through the bars I saw holes in the floor revealing the river below. Graffiti covered the walls and it was obviously a dangerous place to wander about in, even if I could have gained access.
The old house across the way from the pump station building was made of the same rock. Boarded up and grown over with vines, it was evident no one had lived there for a long time. Walking around the old house I considered how time washes away memories of the past, and so much of it is left to conjecture, and many times to the negative minds in a family to fabricate.
Looking for this cousin was spurred by the information I found out about my dad, and his Korean War service. I wanted to find out more about the family and possibly dad. Maybe you read the story of my father in the Korean War in an earlier post. While writing that post I was still under the cloud of what our family had passed down as his experience in that war.
What I had found were Dad’s military papers, specifically his form DD 214. According to a friend very familiar with the Marine Corp and what each of the pieces of information meant, “He was an excellent Marine.” After telling my friend the stories of my father in this war, he said that if the stories perpetuated by the family were true they would have been reflected in this form. “This form went with you everywhere you went. The first thing you did on reporting to a new base or leader, is you handed them this form and they signed and stamped it.” According to my friend, if the stories were true they would have been reflected in this form.
Family history is very much like the graffiti littering the interior walls of the old pump station house–random and a story without beginning or ending, just hanging, left to be considered by those who get glimpses of the past, wondering who the names on the walls and symbols of the past represent.
The discovery of Dad’s military papers and understanding the truth about at least this part of his life, gives me hope that in the coming years I will find more truth that was not told by the family. Truth is the way to healing; even if the truth holds something unpleasant, it is always best to know the truth. God says to walk in truth, and that means even in the retelling of our family lore. Because God’s truth sets you free.