For Better or Worse, Richer or Poorer, in Sickness…

My great-grandfather built the house in 1872, in Stony Point, Michigan.  My grandfather was a farmer. He worked his father’s farm, along side his dad, and they grew vegetables together. He made a meager living by selling the vegetables from the back of a horse-drawn wagon, going door to door in that small town.

My grandmother raised seven children, the first born in 1906 and the last, my father, born in 1922. Sixteen years, seven kids. Dad told me once that his mom had a beautiful singing voice and loved to play the organ.

Shortly after the birth of my father, my grandmother was institutionalized with what they referred to as a “nervous breakdown”. Back in those days, I suppose post-partem blues had not been figured out and there was no quick fix for depression. So my grandma lived out her remaining days in an “institution”. One can only imagine what that meant.

My grandpa loved his whiskey.  He used to chop wood for firewood and sell it to the neighbors to earn “money for the drink”.

My dad was about seven when the oldest daughter took all of the kids, hand in hand, and went door to door, and found foster parents for each and every one of them. This way, they could “all stick together”. All of the kids lived within a stone’s throw of each other, and they remained close all their lives.

Think about that for a minute. Can you imagine? Siblings playing in the street and then returning to their respective foster homes for dinner? Unimaginable. Yet I have never heard one story about the sadness that must have dwell in those sweet kids’ hearts. Only good memories.

It is with this back story that I find it absolutely fascinating that these brothers and sisters grew up with a strong faith, boundless sense of humor, most of them with beautiful singing voices and hard-working dispositions. Yes, the drink found its way into the veins of a couple of them, including my father, but so did all of those wonderful qualities.

There are no pictures with Grandma and all the kids together.

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa. God bless you for doing your best during a time of incredible hardship. Thank you for bringing my dad into the world, and my Auntie E, and all the rest. Thank you for what I know must have been a few years of boundless love, lots of singing, laughing, and living life to the fullest. You planted the seed.  It took hold, in spite of shaky roots! It mattered. You would be very proud.


About susansplace

Widowed in 2012, I am a mother and grandmother. Born in San Francisco, I now live in the town I grew up in: Mill Valley, California. I love nature photography. Just an amateur but that's OK! My goal: world peace. Got any ideas?
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3 Responses to For Better or Worse, Richer or Poorer, in Sickness…

  1. Laura says:

    Wow, I just love the old pictures. And listening to the story of our family is fascinating. Life seems so complicated now, compared to then, but it is complicated in a different way I suppose. Back then the issues were just as demanding. I think I would have liked to grow up on a farm. I would have loved to keep those horses!

  2. Marina Smith says:

    I couldn’t help but search the faces of all those lovely brothers and sisters to see if there was any hint of the pain they must have been going through…….nope…..nothing but smiling happy siblings seeming to enjoy their comradery. I’m assuming your Dad is in the front row on the left……is that your Auntie E. with her arm around him?? Were the kids able to see their Mom once she was put in the institution? Did your Dad have much of a memory of her? Which sister is the oldest that had the foresight to foster everyone close by? Were there 7 different foster homes….were any of the children paired up? I envy your recall of your family history, the pictures etc…….plus your ability to story tell it all!! What a gift, Sue!!

    • susansplace says:

      Yes, you spotted my Dad and Auntie E. The older woman in the pic is the oldest daughter, Peggy, who was certainly a hero to that family. All went to different homes. Some were adopted. Dad was not. They got to visit their Mom in the institution but my Dad’s memories are very painful regarding those visits.

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