August 16, 2005


In 1964, just after my parents got married, my maternal grandmother and her four brothers became bitterly embroiled in a legal battle over money from an inheritance. A relative had died, leaving behind a little money to which they all felt entitled. Yet, my grandmother was what could only be described as a rampant and enthusiastic alcoholic. Her brothers' well-founded fear was that the influx of cash would be used solely to finance liver failure. My parents got involved, they all went to court and my grandmother eventually prevailed. And stopped drinking for good. But she refused to speak to her brothers again. Likewise, they wanted nothing to do with her.

Forty years later, only two of them are left - my grandmother and my great uncle Dick. Several years ago, my mother finally broke the ice and got in touch with my great uncle. He was reluctant at first but, after a little warm up time, we've spent every holiday together and get together for no apparent reason every couple of months. And yet my he and my grandmother refuse to talk despite the fact that they're both getting older and have a total of 182 years between them.

There are, however, baby steps. Several weeks ago, my mom was in California visiting my grandmother. Knowing Dick's birthday was coming up, she gave my mom a present for him. You see, when they were both relatively young, their parents died and their grandparents took them in and cared for them. Dick has never been able to find a picture of his grandfather, a man who he's admired all of his 89 years. My grandmother had one. And it was her gift to him.

Until Saturday, Dick had never held a baby. Pictures of us rectifying that situation are online at Flickr.

Posted by Chris at August 16, 2005 7:59 AM

Are you sure we aren't related? I used to joke around that my family enjoyed playing the Hatfields and McCoys, and we're all Smiths. Family battles over money and land are never fun... but I'm glad to hear that things seem to slowly be working towards a resolvement.

Posted by: amber at August 16, 2005 8:31 AM

Oh, Chris. What a sad and beautiful thing - I'm so glad you got a picture of it. Really, this is making me quite teary.

Posted by: samantha at August 16, 2005 8:35 AM

I like how honest you are about your family. I always find it humorous when people try to be all secretive about having little kinks in the family chain...because you know....WE ALL HAVE 'EM! Some are just worse than others! Lord, you should hear about my godmother who lives in a trailer with her strip-bar working third husband....I wish I was making this shit up!

Have a good one!

Posted by: wn at August 16, 2005 8:36 AM

How did Dick react to the picture? Could this be the beginning to talking to his sister again? Isn't it sad how we humans can be sometimes?

Posted by: angela marie at August 16, 2005 8:37 AM

I guess it's not too late. But if they're going to make up, now would be a good time to start.

What a great gift.

Posted by: cassie-b at August 16, 2005 8:43 AM

That's good, that they're at least making baby steps at last.

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 16, 2005 8:52 AM

Reading this was like opening a gift. When I read that your grandmother sent your great uncle the photo tears welled in my eyes. I hope he knew at that moment that no matter what had transpired in the past she loved him and loved him beyond measure. Please tell us his reaction.

Posted by: Angie at August 16, 2005 8:52 AM

Wow... what an amazing story. I can relate though, since there is a similar situation with our family. Except it was my uncle (by marriage) fighting my dad for the land my father inherited when my grandfather passed away. My father eventually caved, and sold most of his land to my uncle and aunt (his sister), but kept a portion of the land for us. Our family decided it was best to give in since the land (and $) wasn't as important as family.

PS. We found an apartment in VA!!! And we're moving the 29th! YAY!

Posted by: Corinne at August 16, 2005 9:01 AM

Chris those pictures are beautiful and I'm glad that Dick has now had the joy of holding such a precious bundle. I come from a fairly disfunctional extended family and I just think that it is amazing that they are making these moves toward each other after all these years. My Grandmother would regularly tell me stories of being someplace with my grandfather and having him talk to someone as if they were a co-worker only to have him tell her later that it was his cousin. I have found out in recent years that there are countless cousins of mine on my father's side of the family that I have never known. It's amazing how important family is and at the same time how easily we lose track or decide not to be in touch with our extended family. I think that what your grandmother and great uncle are doing is beautiful and I hope they both get to see resolution of their relationship. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: j.tonic at August 16, 2005 9:17 AM

What the heck are you doing making people cry so early in the morning? :) Wow, that was incredible, Chris. That will haunt me.

Posted by: jen at August 16, 2005 9:20 AM

What a beautiful story! Sad, but beautiful. Isn't it amazing how babies change people sometimes?

Posted by: Julie at August 16, 2005 9:31 AM

That's so nice of your Mom to try and bridge the rift. We can be so stubborn at times in our unwillingness to forgive because we believe we're right we miss out on what could have been endless joy in others.

You'll have to keep us updated.

Posted by: Grace at August 16, 2005 9:34 AM

That's so awesome. Baby steps are wonderful, aren't they?

Posted by: Queen of Ass at August 16, 2005 9:36 AM

personally I think the vodka in the background is perfect :)

Posted by: stinkerbell at August 16, 2005 9:48 AM

I too thought the vodka was poignant and a link in the story for sure! Every family has those skeletons in the closet, I say bring them out and rattle and shake those bones! It is glorious in all our humanity. But some times, families are SO dysfunctional, it is better to forgive and free them...

Posted by: Gypsy at August 16, 2005 10:12 AM

it seems every family has issues like this. for whatever reason my paternal grandfather didn't talk to many of his siblings and so I know nothing of these people or where they are. So much family history has just been completely lost because there is no one to ask. My mother no longer speaks to one of her uncles and his entire family and, while I agree with her reasons, it bothers me that I have no connection to my grandfather's brother, someone who could tell me what my grandfather was like growing up.

Posted by: laura at August 16, 2005 10:33 AM

It seems that the longer a grudge lasts the harder it is to get past it. The longer you go without talking the harder it gets to make that first step. Hopefully they will get back in active touch with one another before it is too late. :) Life's too short.

Posted by: Erin at August 16, 2005 10:55 AM

Wow! What a moment to witness. I'm sure he was deeply touched. And how does someone of that age go his whole life without holding a baby? Wow! That truly is unbelievable. And by the way, Beth looks fabulous! Was she really pregnant a few weeks ago?!?

Posted by: jaime at August 16, 2005 11:48 AM

I hope that they can find enough common ground to speak again.

I myself haven't spoken to my half sister in three years. With the exception of calling her to tell her our grandfather had passed away two years ago.

Our differences aren't over money, or possesions, but about who I am and who she is. Maybe one day the rift can be mended. This post gives me hope.

(ps this is same uncle with the purty red sports car?)

Posted by: Angelia at August 16, 2005 11:51 AM

Why do you always insist on making me fill up when I have important meetings? Why? Do you have some kind of emotional antenna that lets you pick the moment when I least need to look all red rimmed and snuffly?

Man, you are good.

Posted by: zeno at August 16, 2005 11:51 AM

Wow. Every family has these fights, and it's nice to see that once in a while we humans can rise above them. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Heather at August 16, 2005 12:04 PM

Please warn me before you post a beautiful story & picture like this. In combination with my funny hormones it's making me cry even more than when I'm watching Oprah. *sniff*

Posted by: Sweety at August 16, 2005 12:06 PM

This site has just melted my mind recently all I can think of are one word comments. The one Im thinking now?....Beautiful.

Posted by: Kelly M. at August 16, 2005 12:11 PM


Almost two centuries between them and yet life is much too short to harbor grudges that rob us of the love, family, and memories that we could have during all that time.

Your picture is magnificent and so captures a feeling that borders between hope and despair.

I hope that they resolve this before time runs out and then there is only one.


Posted by: Michelle at August 16, 2005 12:34 PM's insane how people can hold a grudge...of course if you read my entry today, I certainly can understand how these things happen between siblings.

Posted by: Ginny at August 16, 2005 12:42 PM

What an amazing story, it almost brought tears to my eyes.

Posted by: ava at August 16, 2005 1:42 PM

This is a really nice story. Hopefully, it ends just as well as it sounds it might.

And, yeah, the Stoli in the picture was a nice, ironic touch, directed or not.

Posted by: bmh at August 16, 2005 2:08 PM

OMG Chris, what a good story. Thanks for telling us.

Posted by: Annie at August 16, 2005 2:58 PM

Brings to mind "Will the circle be unbroken"
and other thoughts on the cycle of life. This post made my day.Beautiful B&W photos. Thanks.

Posted by: vicki at August 16, 2005 4:13 PM

My family quarreled a lot too. Unfortunately there aren't many of us left anymore, but the ones of us that are left are pretty close. Blessings upon you and your family.

Posted by: dragonlady474 at August 16, 2005 7:30 PM

I guess that just goes to show that it's never too late... for patching things up OR holding a baby for the first time... among other things.

Way to go on recording both happenings!

Posted by: ironic1 at August 16, 2005 9:37 PM

Buh. Thanks a lot. Crying at the keyboard. I must be premenstrual. Or suffering from abandonment issues. Or both!

Posted by: Kelly McCord at August 17, 2005 6:42 PM

This is definitely a Hallmark moment and will forever be in my heart. Thank you so much for sharing it with us Chris and I'm so happy for your family.

Hugs, Zissy

Posted by: Zissy at August 18, 2005 2:33 AM