My Grandfather was the most remarkable man I never met. All I have are the stories from my dad that told me he was a good man to my dad. My dad was 11 years old when my grandpa died and he was the only one by my grandpa’s bed when it happened. Here’s the crazy part…my grandpa was 87 years old when he died of a stroke. For those of you who don’t see it, that means my grandpa was 74 when my dad was born…and my dad was the 3rd youngest. He had 2 brothers younger than him.
Our family history is full of stories. My great-grandfather was 101 years old when he died. Once again, in true family fashion, there’s a sideline to this story. He didn’t die of old age or disease or anything like that. He died when he took his first (and only) ride in a Model T and it rolled over.
Both of my parents come from long-living families. My mom’s side lived into their 90s while my dad’s side had a half dozen live into their 100s. If any of you ever read about Lazarus Long in Robert Heinlein’s sci-fi novels, there was a secret society that had long-living families marry into other long-living families that extended their lives dramatically. I might have a shot! I’ll just avoid any rides in a Model T and I should be fine!
Anyway, back to my grandpa and his propensity for having kids even into old age. He had 21 kids in all, 13 from my grandma. His first wife died when he already had 8 kids so he found and married my grandma to care for them. He was 55 years old and she was just 18 years old. They were farmers so every time a kid would grow up and leave, out came a new farmhand from my grandma. I imagine it went like this:
GRANDPA: Well, Claude’s leaving for the army tomorrow.
GRANDMA: Crap…well, I’ll be in the bedroom waiting.
Needless to say, she was not a pleasant person the 3 times I met her and really, who could blame her? If you had read my earlier blog “Big Babies,” you would understand that this family thing of every baby being over 9 pounds probably got a little old for her. My dad was 12 pounds at birth so that might explain why she never seemed to care for him, even though my dad was my grandpa’s favorite.
Another story passed along by my grandpa was our relation to Abraham Lincoln. Sure, this is the part where I lose half of you readers, but if you give me a moment, I’ll explain. The way it was told to my dad, Lincoln’s aunt had married my great-great-grandfather, making Abraham Lincoln my grandpa’s second cousin, my dad’s third cousin, and my fourth cousin. Growing up, I believed my dad, but my brothers and other relatives weren’t so sure. It wasn’t until one of my aunts produced an old newspaper clipping talking about it that they thought it could be true. I didn’t care what they thought…my dad believed it and that was good enough for me. In the clipping, my grandpa talked about how “Uncle Abe” would rough house with the kids, my grandpa included, before he became president. The only thing I can find, other than the clipping itself which I have a copy, is an abstract online talking about the very same article. Hardly proof, but I still don’t care.
We even talk about the “Lincoln gene” in our family. Most of the males in my family range from 5’6” to 5’9”, but every now and then, we get a really tall one. That’s the one with the Lincoln gene. I remember going to family reunions and it seemed like every tenth person towered over everybody else. Just the sight of that would cause all the relatives in their 100s to cluck their tongues from their wheelchairs and begin babbling about the Lincoln gene…of course, that’s where I got the term to begin with.
So there it is…I’m related to Abraham Lincoln. My dad said so.