While growing up, my mother called me, “Frances the Talking Mule”. I felt criticized, dismissed, unloved. Yet, as a grown up that phrase feels empowering. I speak my truth like a mule.
I see myself as a wallflower in high school – my sister being the pretty one who attracted boyfriends, overlooking me, one year older.
At 16, mother’s anger yells, “He’s not your father!!” shocked to learn I didn’t own the same father as my sister and brother. Yet, I’d always felt very loved by my ‘adopted’ dad and not by my bio-mother – both raising me. I am a child of rape.
My brother and sister both married once. I am divorced four times. Three amicable divorces. The fourth being a lifesaver. Gregory’s verbal abuse of me taught me to cry, deep time. Openly raging like a crow’s call.
Eventually, my license plate exposes my vanity: CRYBABE.
As far as I know, I am the only family member with a master’s degree. My maternal grandfather, Bernard, earned a Phd. in chemistry from Geneva University in Switzerland, emigrating to the USA to work for his uncle Murry in the copper mining business, who with his six brothers became the millionaire Guggenheim family, creator of the famous Guggenheim museum in New York City.
Maybe grandpa Bernard Guggenheim is the ODD One Out as he disowned his Swiss-Jewish family and became a farmer in the small village of Willseyville, NY. My mother, Ellen Guggenheim never learned why her father left the Guggenheim mining business.
It wasn’t until 2017 that the connection became clear. My cousin, Clare, an avid Ancestry.com hobbiest, used 2 obituary articles my sister recently found in an old album mom owned which I promptly sent to him. I am the family of origin roots investigator, years ago finding mom’s letter of 1980 to Werner Guggenheim, who was not able to establish a proven relationship with the billionaire Guggenheims.
Why do I want to find out why grandpa disowned his Guggenheim family? It’s not about money – like it wasn’t for grandpa Bernard, who died owning a small farm, being married to grammy Alice, who only had an eighth grade education. ODD again.
My dad was way ahead of his time, being an equal parent in the 1950s, being more emotionally available than my mother, being one of the first volunteers for Suicide Prevention and Crisis Service in the 1970s. Without a college education, daddy rose from being a lab technician at Cornell University to becoming a Research Associate in space sciences, analyzing moon dust from the first landing on the moon. Definitely, on ODD one out!
And the one I think of daily because he loved me more than anyone. He died of a sudden heart attack in 1977. Since being heartbroken during my fourth marriage – I am learning to be with my childhood tears, buried by society’s shame. I cry many times a week remembering to appreciate daddy who loved me, yet sadly we feared to say those three precious words to each other face-to-face. Only in cards and letters. In the cards (at that time) as someone has said.
In September of 2017, my European vacation ended in Poland, where an argentine tango acquaintance, Alek, hosted me for a week. ( I met him in 2016 where we danced weekly at Cornell’s physical science building for the three months of his brief internship here). He and his parents and brother and sister heard my family of origin story, laced with tears. His mother’s eyes became misty as she says, “I feel like we really know you.”
While at Alek’s brother’s flat, Chris played videos of music he loves, then asked for my favorites. When he played So She Dances, a waltz tune sung by Josh Grogan, I danced for Chris and Alek, two men I hardly knew, in Chris’ living room. Surprising myself.