March 17, 2008

The Broken Branches of My Family Tree

Well, today is St. Patrick's Day! So, drink hearty! And begorrah! And something. . . IRISH!

True fact that's factually true, unless it isn't: I'm 50% Irish, with a 25% dilution of French and 25% Polish blood if the conventional wisdom is to be believed. It's the 50% Irish that's always been up for speculation, however.

You see, my father was adopted at around the age of five (maybe seven, I'm not sure on some of the particulars), along with one of his brothers--another brother, and a sister, were never adopted and thus lived considerably different lives. The important point is, my father spent quite a bit of his early life in an orphanage after being taken from his biological mother and father, who were deemed abusive at worst, neglectful at best. Whatever the case, they weren't up to parental snuff, according to the state.

At any rate, my father and one of his brothers were adopted by a good old, hard working, salt-of-the-earth couple who owned a farm out in the agricultural Minnesota flatlands around New Ulm. Specifically, my father went to school in the state's toughest-named town called Gaylord, and was a football running back for the intimidating-sounding Gaylord Gaybees, which has, since that time, I believe changed it's mascot. He eventually went on to college in Bemidji, where he was quite the successful track and field pole vaulter. It was there where he also met his future wife, with whom he'd eventually spawn his most important achievement. . . me.

But, getting back to the ancestry of all this, my father never much cared about, and never sought out, his biological parents, and they, certainly, had no interest in seeking him out. My father was busy being a happily-adopted young man, while his biological parents were busy living lives of unconcerned debauchery, if the accepted narrative is to be believed, and there's no real reason to doubt it. As far as my father was concerned, he and his brother were adopted and loved and nurtured. What more could he they ask for?

Forgotten, in his adopted bliss, was he had a sister and a brother who had journeyed down far different paths. His sister, having never been adopted, found her way to San Francisco, where she eventually married and had two children. The other brother, similarly, gravitated to the West coast, although he didn't quite make it all the way--details about his life and whereabout are sketchy on my end, although I'm told I met him at least twice when I was quite young. The sister, fortunately, never forgot about her lost siblings and eventually sought them out, locating them in the late 1970s, which resulted in a reunion of sorts that garnered a little bit of local press coverage. While the sister did, indeed, also have the opportunity to speak with her biological mother, my father never had any interest to do so.

Which brings me back to today: St. Patrick's Day. I'm told my father's biological mother--my grandmother--was 100% Irish, with a storied history that included being purchased at a religious revival event, as well as being one of the few Minnesota women of the time to attend college, although I don't think she ever graduated. My father's biological father--my good old grandpa--was also supposedly 100% Irish, and named "Jonathan Ellington Jr." Again, if the accepted narratice is to be believed, my biological grandfather is buried in Minnesota's very own Ft. Snelling National Cemetary, although I've never sought to verify this.

So, there you have it; my tenuous claim to 50% Irish blood on this St. Patrick's Day. I don't know if it will help me celebrate the day any more or any less, but here's to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Posted by Ryan at March 17, 2008 10:37 AM | TrackBack
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