05 November 2009

The Grandmother I Never Knew

Myrtle Mae Borgstadter Beffort 1918 - 2009

I had some news a couple of days ago. My Grandmother, Myrtle Mae Borgstadter Beffort passed away in Salina, Kansas. She was 91 years old. She was the only grandparent on either side that was still living. Well , not really living - I was told that she had been in a nursing home for the last 10 years suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

I never knew my Grandmother. She is my father's mother. Growing up, I know that we made a trip to Kansas to see them because I have photos. My mother says the last time we made the trip I was 6 years old.

My father and grandmother

My father never talked about his family, not really. I can only recall one thing that my dad said about his mother . After he had a few cocktails I remember him saying that he used to call her "Myrtle the Turtle." I do not remember why he called her that. I only remember him saying that he NEVER called her that to her face. My father died in 1988 at the age of 52. I was 19 years old. An age where I thought the world revolved around me and only me. I never got the chance to even get to really know my Daddy. At that time, it also never occurred to me that my Grandmother had lost her oldest son. Two weeks later, my grandfather dies. First her oldest child and then her husband. If she made any contact with my family during this time, I was not aware of it. I was in my own little world of shock and unbelievable sadness that my father had died. It was my first experience with death up close and personal. Here it is twenty years later and I still miss him. My grief is not over him dying. Not anymore. I grieve because I feel like a part of me is still missing. Not knowing about my father's life makes me feel like a part of me is missing.

As the years went by I began my journey researching my family history. I had always intended to make a trip to Kansas , knock on my grandmother's door and see if she would talk to me. Ask her if she could tell me why or what happened in the past that prevented us from having a relationship. Another couple of years came and went and I told myself "Next year, yes next year I will make the trip to Kansas."

My dad has 3 younger brothers. If any of them will talk with me, I still have a chance to begin to fill in the huge void. If I make that trip out to Kansas. I have, through my research, the basic vitals and information about my grandparents. I have some photographs of them. Through a couple of shirt tail cousins who found me a year or so ago I learned some basic biographical information. I was able to get a copy of my grandmother's obituary and it told me some things about her life that I can now add to her story.

I will find a way to honor my grandmother and her life. I need to straighten out my thoughts and feelings about this. I am feeling guilty for not having a meltdown when I heard she died. I have no memories of ever knowing her. I am saddened by the thought that I will never have an opportunity again to try and get to know her. Which in turn makes me mad because that is a very selfish thing to be thinking about.
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