It hasn't taken me long to experience my first epiphany of 2009.
During a recent interview I was asked several questions which I answered separately and honestly. Afterward I was re-thinking my answers and realized what I multiple-personality-disorder I must sound like. My life, and therefore my past, has been so bifurcated!
On one side I have the genealogy of being a descendant of James Cahill who was on the boat with George Washington - that family declined through the years but made a comeback in the 1900's with entrepreneurial spirit, that was my paternal grandfather's paternal side. All of my birth father's half brothers went to college or an official trade school and had careers. One of them is a multi-millionaire. So I was the 2nd generation of college graduates on that particular branch of the family.
Above: Here is a photo of my father (Walter Hugh Creekbaum, born 1941) with his parents: Mabel (Wiatt) (Creekbaum) Barlow and Emery Wilson Creekbaum, born 1917. Mabel and Emery divorced before Walter's 1st birthday. They both married again and had many half-siblings for Walter. He was shuttled back and forth his entire childhood. This impacted his life to this day.
Flip this to my maternal grandparents, my maternal aunts and uncles, and you have a completely different story. Also, my own parents divorced before I was a year-old and I was only sporadically exposed to this educated branch (although I saw my paternal grandfather and his wife once in a while, my father's half-siblings on that side never went out of their way to maintain contact with my sister and me while we were children). Anyway, on the maternal side I do not know of one of the previous generations' college education. I have one uncle that was brave enough to leave Indiana and have a great career in the Navy and I am sure he received lots of training there. However, to my knowledge it was the generation of children born in the '60's and 70's (my generation) who first attended, and graduated, college. Many of us attended only as adults after starting our families.
Yet, I have this far reaching experience from my Unce Jimi Barlow and (the late) Aunt Karen Barlow Alexander, my birth father's half-siblings on his mother's side. They were both educated right out of high school and showed my sister and I the greater world. From an early age I can remember staying with them and reading great classics. My birth father, though he did not attend college, is extremely intelligent and is a voracious reader. I spent many Summers of my late youth and teenagers years living with them and experiencing the lives of educated, career-paced individuals.
To the left is a photo of a typical Sunday afternoon at the farm of maternal GRANDFATHER, Stephen E. Abernathy. Many cousins frolicked and wreaked havoc on the 52 acre farm in rural, west-central Indiana. This is about half the Abernathy siblings and half the offspring. Center is Grandpa, in his 'bibs' - a WWII hero how took custody of my mother and her three siblings when he returned from Germany. As a toddler to early teen, my mother was raised by a stepmother who died when she was was a teen. Soon after, her birth mother died and she had never been allowed a private visit. After Grandpa's last marriage, adding in a few more siblings - the total was 13. Mother moved out upon her 18th birthday. Married at 19. Had my sister at 20. Since then she has worked non-stop.
I don't know exactly where this leads me, but recognizing the vastly opposing history of my familial branches really struck a chord with me. I feel I may be a good example of the balance of the auto-didactic and the formally educated. Each approach enhances the other. While I deeply regret my adult $20,000 student loans, I would never trade that mere piece of paper for my mountain of knowledge that I learned through the curiosity of a creative mind.
Above right, is the photograph taken in 1981 during my sister and my visit to Texas, where all of Mabel's family and offspring had relocated at that time. From left to right: Uncle Jimi Barlow, an award winning journalist (Walter's half-brother), my sister Lisa (before her Sr. Year of High School), Aunt Karen (Barlow) Alexander, a speech therapist and author who died of breast cancer five years ago (Walter's half-sister), me at age 12 (I am hiding a cast and had 50 plus stitches in my head from a three wheeler accident that morning, I think I was high on Tylenol 3!), my birth father, Walter Hugh Creekbaum - he lived in TX for several years before relocating to Bradenton, FL.
I pay homage to both sides of my genealogy. These ancestors and recent life mentors have made me who I am today. I appreciate my education, possibly more than those who felt they were 'owed' it, because I longed for and sacrificed to receive it.
And I humbly thank the relatives that took the time and money to expose me to the wider world. Perhaps they saw in that child, some potential for a better life.
Who I am - is equal parts biology and biography. I continue reaching for balance in both areas and to pass along the beneficial lessons, while hoping the inheritance of broken families will not adversely effect my children.
On the right - a photo of my sister, Lisa and me, probably taken Feb/March of 1968. Right before our father left.
Although I had a brief marriage in in the late 90's (1987-1990), I was lucky enough to get out of that situation and have now been with my husband, Don, for 18 years. We have three children who are almost alone in their status of being raised by both their biological parents.
To the left is a beautiful picture of my mother - the resemblance is uncanny. Here smile is still just as wide and warm and her eyes still sparkle.
After a long life of working endless days she will be retiring in just a few weeks. I am looking forward to seeing her for more fun times - hoping to take her to see Loretta Lynn's Museum and also go on an antiquing/quilt viewing trip to Paducah, KY.
I feel that I am amazingly OK given the broken branches of my family. I hope I am reastablishing some nurturing roots for my children - understanding our histories is one step along the way to evolving and preventing damage.
As I continue to untangle my roots, I do know that IT IS WELL, WITH MY SOUL - EVEN SO, IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL. Read More