Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Other Side (of my family)

(Pictured to right: Manerva, Mary, and Maryanne - my great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother)

I've just come in from a visit with my mother, who, unfortunately, resides in an assisted living facility due to a movement disorder (Parkinsonism?) and increasing dementia. Some visits are short and some are long. This was a long one, due to my showing her recordings of my daughter (a violinist) playing several pieces, and the fact that I had several "newsy" items to update her on.

My mother is pretty much in her "right mind". Her dementia has manifested itself mainly in her ability to take care of her ADL's, and has robbed her of most of her gross and fine motor skills. But, she can still hold a good conversation, and she knows what's up about everything and everybody. The rest of our family (except for my daughters) has basically abandoned her, and on the rare occasions they do have contact with her, they treat her as if she's not herself anymore, which doesn't help her at all. However, when my daughters and I visit her, or take her out, we treat her like the mother/grandmother she's always been, and the longer we are with her, the more of her true personality and still-intact intelligence shines through.

Anyway, this evening during our visit, I was sharing with my mother that the tenants who've lived in her rental home in Norfolk have given their move-out notice, after being in the house for about six years. This was the house that my mother grew up in, which was first owned by her grandparents, then her mother, and became hers shortly before my grandmother's death. My mother had the house renovated in the early 90's and has been renting it out ever since. But, since she been disabled, the responsibility for this property (along with everything else of hers) has become mine, so it was with a bit of a sigh of relief that I shared this news with her, adding that "now we can sell it." My mother's reaction to this was quite genuine. She sort of gasped, and teared up, and responded by quietly saying, "Yes, I guess we can." I thought it was over, so I just sat silently for a minute, but then I heard a very quiet, "I was so hoping we could keep it in the family. It means so much to me." A brief silence followed this, as I watched my mother blinking back tears, and then I responded, "I know, Ma, but it's just too much for me." This she repeated, almost in monotone, but then she added, "I know it is. You have too much on you." We went on to discuss the pros of selling the house - what she could do with the money, etc., and then it was all better. But I couldn't get this out of my mind on my drive home. Here's why:

My ancestry research has been almost soley dedicated to my paternal side. For some reason, I just feel more like I "come from" that side. And besides, my mother's side is smaller. Her siblings are still living and they seem to know who they are. Oh, and there's the other problem of my mother's father abandoning the family when my mother was four years old. No one has ever heard from or about Daniel Webster Hill again.

When we were kids, my brother, Arthur, and I used to claim that my mother's mother was HIS grandma, and my father's mother was MINE. It seemed that they loved us that way, although that probably wasn't true. But on my drive home tonight, I realized that I've really done my mother a disservice by not finding out as much as I possibly could about her roots. Yes, I located them in the census way back to my great-great grandparents back in the beginning of my research, and I've searched high and low to find out about my grandfather, but I haven't done the HALF of the work that I've done on my paternal side, and I plan to change that, beginning right now. So stay tuned because Walter and Manerva Brown Davis (my gg grandparents), Daniel and Mary Davis Hill Thomas (my grandparents), and even my mother, Mary Anne Hill Yarborough will begin to make themselves known on my blog!


  1. This is a tough situation and you are doing the right thing by spending as much time as you can with your mother. I look forward to reading about her side of the family and hope that you have a lot of success in your research on that side.

  2. This is a beautiful generational photo.