when I started this blog five years ago, I was a pet sitter and the name animal-crackers made sense. now I'm a stay-at-home-dad and freelance writer, but rather than confuse everyone by getting a different blog, it's just easier to keep posting things here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Remembering Lucille

My dad's stepmother, Lucille, died this weekend. Her life, as I know it, was complicated.

Lucille was having an affair with my grandfather when my grandmother committed suicide. My dad and his two brothers (Steve and Jack) were teenagers and blame Lucille (to varying degrees) for their mother's death.

In fact the three boys moved off the farm and into an apartment in town. Imagine three teenage boys taking care of themselves, with jobs and school and everything else.

Lucille and my grandfather married and had two children.

Steve went to college. My dad joined the Army and served stateside. Jack joined a couple years later and went to Vietnam.

Dad left the Army after a few years and returned home to find his father in the hospital. A week later, my grandfather died.

Dad stayed and helped support Lucille and his two younger half-sisters. Eventually he met my mom, married, had kids and enjoyed a stable, rewarding job with American Silk Label.

(I'm not sure about the time frames, but Lucille worked for ASL for a while, as did my mom, Uncle Tim and Aunt Shirley and probably several cousins.)

We visited Lucille regularly, maybe three or four times a year. Always for Christmas. She gave the worst Christmas gifts -- cheap stuff from the Ben Franklin store. Looking back, I understand this was all she could afford. She was very poor.

It was my mom's parents whom I called Grandma and Grandpa. We saw them two or three times a month. Plus my mom's brothers and sister (and dozens of other relatives) all lived in the area. So that was the side of the family I grew up with.

Still, Lucille was Grandma Gernert. Whatever her relationship with my dad, she was my grandmother (albeit it the rarely seen one).

I can't remember the last time I saw Lucille -- maybe 20 years ago. I received an occasional card from her, never gave it much thought.

She surprised me a few year ago, though. When Dylan was born and still in the hospital, Lucille crocheted him a baby blanket. It was unexpected and sweet.

Lucille's life was complicated, and I don't know it well. However, she was a significant force in my father's life -- and indirectly in mine. It would have been easy and understandable for my parents to never speak to Lucille. But they didn't.

For better or worse, Lucille was family. And I mourn her death.
posted by todd at 12:19 PM


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