Sunday, January 31, 2010

Family - It's Where You Came From

One of the things that has been occupying Grams these days is planning for my family's first ever family reunion. My family name is Skelton.

My grandfather, Charles Ira Skelton, died long before I was born. My grandmother, Dotsie Zachary Skelton, affectionately known to all of us as Granny, lived in a little tiny house in Bryans Mill, deep in the piney woods of East Texas. They had five children. All three of the boys, James, Buster and Charles, married and had families. Among them they had 13 children. Aunt Nava never married, but she was much beloved by all of her nieces and nephews. Aunt Ava married but had never had children of her own.

To the best of my recollection, Granny died sometime in the late 1970s. She was an amazing woman and quite a character. She was the glue that held our family together and we all loved her dearly. For many of us, she was the one constant in our lives. She was always there in that little house which was always a safe place to go. I promise that in the near future there will be a blog post dedicated solely to my Granny.

Before we moved to the coastal plains of South Texas in 1964, we often lived with Granny in this little house. At varying times some or all of the grandchildren and some or all of her adult children and their spouses lived with Granny. After we moved 500 miles away, we only got to go back and visit Granny a couple of times each year. We rarely saw any of our cousins after that. We simply lost touch with them. Over the last 45 years, we've only seen each other a few times for short visits and family funerals.

Last fall, my brother Charlie, my sister Bylinda and I spent a day together in the Hill Country. As we sat and talked that day we decided that the time has come to get back in touch with the family.

Bylinda took on the job of building a contact list for our first cousins. She was able to locate many of them. She forwarded the list to me and I went to the internet and to Facebook and started tracking down the others. Between the two of us we've been able to contact almost all of our first cousins. And we're working on identifying their spouses and descendants.

What I have found so far, though not yet confirmed, is that my grandparents, Charles & Dotsie Skelton, have at least 94 descendants. My grandparents' five children had a total of 13 children which makes up my generation. Twelve of the thirteen are still living. (My cousin Tommy died in 2000. I didn't even know until we started this research.) We have 24 children. As far as I can tell from my research, so far those 24 children have 24 children. That generation is still young and just starting to have children. When you add all the spouses, I have Identified 94 descendants to date. I really had no idea that there were that many of us.

The sobering reality is that, none of my grandparents' children or their spouses are still living. That means, my generation is the oldest living generation of this family. The oldest of my siblings and cousins are only in their sixties and not a single one of our parents is living. That's not encouraging news as we approach our "golden years." My dad was the baby of the family. He lived to be 78 years old and I think he outlived all of his siblings by quite a few years.

There will be value in finding out our collective medical history. There is so much I don't know. I know my family has had problems with morbid obesity from way back. I know Dad had a series of strokes as well as hardening of the arteries which is what ultimately caused his death. I don't know what any of the others died from. It would be good to find out, just for the sake of sharing that medical family history.

But what I'm really looking forward to is getting re-acquainted with my cousins, people who came from the same roots I did. I've learned from my research that we've made great lives for ourselves and are very successful. I haven't seen these cousins in years and I don't know any of their children, but I know they have beautiful families. Granny's descendants have taken all sorts of career paths. We are teachers, artists, engineers, designers, social workers, stay-at-home moms, preachers, and accountants, just to name a few. But we have a common bond ... we all came from and were shaped by a Granny who loved us. I know she would be proud to know that the Skelton clan is prospering and growing.

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