Thoughtful Thursday: Question

May 21, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayI just had a chance to spend a few days with my grandmother. These few days were the most time I ever spent alone with her. I grew up halfway across the country from her, so I only saw her every couple of years. As an adult I’ve seen her even less often. I had a great time hanging out with her and the twins, and we did a lot of talking.

In one of the first ever Thoughtful Thursdays, I looked for clues about infertility in the family tree.

My father comes from a big family. Not big as in can’t-remember-everyone’s-name big like my mom’s family, but big enough. Four kids. Spread over almost 20 years (clue #3). With as much as 7 years separating siblings (clue #4). Infertility? Losses? Both? Very suspicious.

During this visit, I felt like if I ever wanted to find out the truth about infertility on that side of the family, it was now or never. I didn’t ask outright; instead, I left openings a few times. “What was it like to have kids who were 7 years apart?” “That’s a long time to be an only child.”

At first, she didn’t take the bait. And then she did. I learned more than I ever expected! Years of trying, ineffectual doctors, starting the adoption process… fascinating stuff. I am so glad that I asked (albeit without really asking).

What question do you wish that you could ask a relative? If they are still around, why haven’t you asked?

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18 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Question”

  1. Kristin Says:

    My mom’s mother had 3 kids and each were five years apart. I’ve always wondered if that was planned (as she claimed) or if it was because of fertility issues. Sadly, she isn’t around anymore for me to ask.


  2. DH and his siblings are all 5 years apart. DH suspects fertility issues, but we’ll never know, as his parents passed away a while ago. Same situation for my dad and his siblings (although my dad was born about a year after the marriage, so no initial problems apparently). I’ve actually never considered asking my grandma. If it would have been my maternal grandma I would feel more comfortable asking, but this one is not really easy to talk to about anything important…

  3. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    Well, I would love to ask….but the questions are not related to fertility.

    I want to ask an estranged aunt (X) as to why she was not there for her own father when he was admitted in a hospital and on his death-bed.

    My mother has three sisters. One of them was geographically too far-ff (a different continent), the other one was tending to her third kid, and was having a busy domestic life. Only two sisters could have made it, and my mother made the choice to be by her father’s side by quitting a few weeks before completing her WHO sponsored project that would have landed her in Switzerland. Her superior held out the position for her, told her that she could come and finish the task. But because this other sister did not fill in for a few days, my mother lost the project….the cycle of events after that kinked the professional direction of my mother.

    My aunt X is alive and was widowed recently. Her only son was not there to perform the last rites of his own father. Life has come around a full circle, and why I do not ask the question is because it is my mother’s to ask. She has forgiven my aunt, but I am not satiated.

    The other question I want to ask my now-deceased uncle is a detailed download on how my grandparents were and if I could dip into his lively reciting of our history. When he described valour, it felt like one was sitting on the edge of a battlefield watching warriors charging!

  4. Kymberli Says:

    My maternal great-grandmother – Big Mama – passed away in 2001 when I was in my second trimester with the twins. I was devastated. At the time I didn’t have this particular regret, but now I do. I regret that when she was alive, it never occurred to me to ask her all about our family history…to learn what her parents were like, what was the motivating factor for moving from Arkansas where extended family was up to Chicago where there was no family, to ask how far back into our lineage that she had knowledge of.

    Lately I’ve been very interested in learning my family history and have been poking around Ancestry.com trying to piece things together. I’m sure that Big Mama would have had far more answers that a few random hits on a website. This desire to know my lineage makes me miss her all the more.

  5. Carrie Says:

    I’ve actually been working on my family tree and can trace my ancestors on my mom’s side back to my greatx5-grandpa who was my first ancestor in America. (fascinating stuff!) I’m excited to see if I can trace it back further, but haven’t had time. I’d love to do a roadtrip some day following my ancestors and end in England where they came from. That would be so awesome.

    That being said, I really want to learn more about dh’s side for our children. (All I know is that they are Czechoslovakian.) We are going to be visiting both sides in Nebraska in a couple of weeks and I am specifically going to make sure that I ask them about their ancestry. I want details so that I can work on tracing it for myself. Sadly, his mom’s dad has already passed and her mom is at the beginning of stages of Alzheimer’s so I’m not sure how much we’ll learn. That kind of information is impotant and if it’s not ever shared, it’s gone when the people who knew it die.

    As far as infertility goes, I don’t know that we’ll learn if dh’s sperm is hereditary or not. Because it seems to be “fixing” itself, I really do think it could have been stress/health related and it just so happened to be crappy when we were ttc.

  6. a Says:

    I did the family history bit with my aunt and my mom…so I would like to go back to the third grade and relearn all that information, so I could retain it. I would love to hear all the stories of being the child of my paternal grandfather again – apparently he was quite the reckless driver…but that may just have been because driving was still pretty new back then. I still have two aunts left, but my oldest aunt and my dad told the stories the best, so I’d like to hear them tell the tales again. I’d like to spend more time with my mom’s mom too, because she had quite the interesting life. Apparently, she was all for joining a convent until my grandfather talked her out of it.

    I’m “lucky” enough to know where my issues come from…medical history is pretty open in our family. I want the anecdotes…like how it came to pass that my that one of my grandfather’s brothers or uncles married two women named Ella (one of whom was related to my grandmother – must have been a tightly packed neighborhood).

  7. s.e. Says:

    My grandparents eloped and were married 6 months before they told anyone, even lived seperately for that time. I always wondered why and never asked. They are no longer with us but this post has prompted me to ask my mother what she knows.

    So wonderful that you had the time with your grandmother and the courage to ask.

  8. Rebecca Says:

    So many questions I’d like to ask my dad about his early life, his parents, his death and suicide. Maybe in the next life.

  9. Elana Kahn Says:

    I wish I could ask my dad about how he feels about my hubby and my kids. I wish I could ask him about other really important things, but I cannot tell you what they are as they are incredibly personal. I can’t ask him as he passed away over 4 years ago. *sob*

  10. Staciet Says:

    My paternal grandmother passed away a decade ago. She had 10 children plus 3 full term babies born still (for a total of 13 children). She had a baby every single year from the time she was 14 on to around her 30th year! That right there just fascinates me. But, I wonder about her 3 born still. No one knows their names, and no one knows the causes of death. I wonder if maybe my clotting issues could have come in to play for those 3…

    I would also love to ask my dad what he thinks of my miracle boys. He never really even had a chance to get to know them before he passed. Sigh.

  11. Sarahbear Says:

    I have just started following your Blog and have read through all of your previous posts – took me almost the whole day 🙂

    If I could ask any question, I would have liked to ask my grandma (passed away before I was born) how she dealt with her cancer diagnosis. I am in remission from cervical cancer which has left me with fertility issues, and could have done with that support.

    Glad to hear you finally had ‘that conversation’ with your grandma, seems a bit like closing the stable door after the horse (or horses in your case!) have bolted, but makes for interesting family history. More than likely you won’t make your little ones wait too long into their adulthood before you share the family fertility history.

    All the best,

    Sarahbear

  12. Heather Says:

    I wish I could ask my grandfather more about World War II now that I’ve finished watching the HBO mini-series “The Pacific”. My grandfather was a Marine in the Pacific during World War II. I know some stories, but I’d like to understand more what it was like now that I’ve seen some stuff on TV. But I don’t know if he’d remember now. He has really bad Alzheimers and is in a nursing home. He also can’t hear much either.

  13. Idraena Says:

    I would love to ask about fertility issues with my family. My dad is one of nine and my mom’s closest brother is a year younger than her, which seems like no obvious hereditary fertility issues, but a couple of comments they’ve made to me about my sister and I have made me wonder. My sister and I are four years apart, which is fairly long these days, and my sister was a total surprise pregnancy. But I’m pretty sure I remember either my dad or my mom saying to me once, “We didn’t think we’d ever get pregnant again since we’d struggled so hard to have you” and her reaction was apparently of total disbelief, far beyond ordinary surprise, including telling the doctor he was wrong. I don’t ask because I’m not entirely certain I want to have the conversation, to actually go through all that, even though I would love to actually know the answers that would come out of it.

    I also wish I could have gotten a chance to meet my paternal grandfather, since I bet he’d have tons of fascinating stories to tell about his life — his grandparents were stage performers, he was a chef and a member of the Merchant Navy, etc. I’d love to have that link to the past, instead of it being cut off. And even though my dad is one of nine, I only really have access to the youngest half of the family, which makes it harder to find things out back in time.

  14. Mel Says:

    I can’t say the question, but I had a moment like that where I tried hinting for a bit and then realized that my heart was pounding so loudly realizing that it could be my only opportunity to know the answer that I just half-screamed it out. I think I shocked the shit out of everyone there. And I cried the entire hour home–not from the answer, but just the stress of getting an answer that could have gone unanswered forever.

  15. Cat Says:

    While I’d love to be able to ask all of my grandparents about their lives and our family history, the question I’d really like to ask is of my mother. She’s still living but I haven’t spoken to her in several years.

    When my dad died in 2004 my sisters and I already weren’t speaking to her because of her latest antic. Then he died and she sued us for his life insurance money, even though she’d divorced him several years earlier. Through the grapevine I learned that the reason she was spreading around was that they’d opened that policy as a way to save for their retirement so she was entitled to the money.

    I’d ask her what she had planned to do to fund her retirement if Dad hadn’t died at the age of 56.

  16. Photogrl Says:

    My grandmother had four children, 2 right away and then about a 10 year span between the next 2 and I think a stillborn somewhere along the way.

    I’d love to ask her about it, but don’t know if I would ever be able to get up the guts to bring it up.

  17. shinejil Says:

    My grandmother had the exact same pregnancy pattern I did (with four of her kids: born 5-6 pounds, a few weeks early, easy labor and recovery). Then she had a loooong hiatus (after a more or less annual pregnancy) until my youngest uncle was born when my dad, her oldest, was 16. I wish I could ask her more about that, and I hope to, next time we see each other.


  18. Oh I have so many questions for my mother about how my sister and I were as babies, but then sometimes I think it’s good that Betty is starting with a clean slate and will never be compared to the baby version of me. Strangely enough, having Betty has brought up a few questions about the really light-skinned contingent in my family. I want to ask that section if there is a white relative that I don’t know about from the first half of the 20th century, but even if I dard to ask, I doubt that they’d be willing to answer. However, this question never even occurred to me before I had a biracial child. I just saw they were really light-skinned and didn’t think anything about it!


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