Saturday, June 21, 2014

Family History

As I mentioned in my last post, my Dad, who I have not seen in over 20 years, and his wife who I have never met, came for a visit.  They were just passing through on their way to Colorado, so we did not have a ton of time together.  I was very nervous...but like you all told me, I should not have been.

It was fine.

We had a great time!

We drove up to Jerome AZ, which used to be a cool little ghost town, but now is a super tourist trap.  There are a gazillion little stores now, some with some very cool original art, most with your typical western (made in china) gifts, and just one actual "Antique" store.

There is a one room museum, which you can tour for the super low price of 2 dollars- or half price for seniors.  While it isn't super exciting, if you are a history buff like me, it is certainly worth the entry price.

We had lunch at a little place called "Grapes" which had delish sandwiches, and free wine tasting.  I tasted one- it was much too dark and heavy for me, but it had a bucking bronc on the label which is why I tasted it at all.

Mostly we just had fun hanging out together and catching up.

After Jerome we drove back home and I made a quick mexican dinner of shredded beef burritos (crock pot time) and spinach enchiladas.   If you have never had spinach enchiladas, you have no idea what you are missing. They are the very very best!  Especially the ones I make.  :-)

My 3 sons who live in AZ and their families came over.  They have never met my dad at all, so they were pretty excited. Everyone got a long great.

While the food was cooking, and we were waiting on everyone to show up we had a little time to really sit and talk and I started asking all the questions I could think of about family history, based on research and the little bit I remember.  My dad still owns my grandparents home in Shreveport, which originally belonged to his grandparents. It has been in the family now for about 80 years, and is actually a "Dower House" off of a larger plantation.  For anyone who does not know, a  dower house was what the father of a young woman would offer as part of his daughters dowry in order to entice suitors to marry his daughter.  Usually it was built on the fathers land although far enough away that the newlyweds had their own space.  I suspect that the ownership of that portion of the land would be transferred over to the young man who married the daughter.

This particular house is not what you would call a mansion by any means, but it is a super cool old house, with the big front porch, and white columns out front.  All the land around it has been built up and although it used be it residential area, it is mostly industrial now, and certainly not a desirable neighborhood anymore.  My cousin is renting the house from my dad, but all of my grandparents stuff is still there, and my grandmother had generations of family items stored up in the attic. Things like her grandmothers diaries, and wedding dress. Photos- trinkets- just a ton of super cool family stuff.  He has told me more than once that I need to come down and go through things to see what I want out of it, but of course it hasn't happened yet.

When I was a little girl I would go to visit and I loved going up in the attic and seeing all cool stuff.  My brothers and I ran around that house like a bunch of wild Indians, and I'm sure drove my grandparents crazy.  I remember that our favorite thing to do was to stand at the top of the stairs and jump down each flight (there were 2) and see who could make it the furthest. How we didn't break our necks I'll never know.  We played hide and seek and I remember their was a closet at the end of one hall that actually was shaped like a huge L- and it was almost impossible to find someone back in the back.  I always imagined it was like a secret room.

I stole this from google street view
You can't tell from this picture but everything around it is
either industrial or old run down housing.
It is as if this one little patch of land remains seated in
earlier days when the entire area was prosperous. 
The family business was Durham Builders, started by my great grandfather and carried by my grandfather and then my dad as well. My grandmother did the book work, I suspect for all three generations, until she couldn't see well enough to do it anymore.  I believe they hired a gal to do it after that. Durham builders mostly designed and built beautiful custom homes. These were the kind of homes that took more than a few weeks to build, and were built specifically to the customers wants and needs. They could have done tract homes I guess, but they wanted their houses to be special, not just something that got thrown together.    Besides the custom homes,  they also had a special crew just for roofing jobs, which stayed busy year round.  The office was built on to the back of the house and was run right off the property there.

My dad finally retired and shut the business down a few years back. With no one there to carry it on, it was just getting to be too much for him.  Plus he had health issues.  One thing I just learned last night is that one of the biggest reasons that there is no one to carry on the business is because my dad's second wife (the evil step mother) made a point of throwing away any letters we sent to him, and had him convinced that we wanted nothing to do with him. What she did caused a huge rift between my dad and his children.  It breaks my heart to know that he has spent a life time hurting, think we had turned away from him, and we spent that same life time thinking he did not have time for us.   All this just came to light recently when the evil ones sister told a friend of Karen's about what had happened.   (Karen being the current and final wife)  However, it is what it is, and at least we know the truth now.  The business is gone, but we still have family and that is what matters.

Of course we talked about horses, and I remembered that he had horses when he was young, in fact the first time I ever rode in my life was on his horse Baldy.  My mom rode, and my uncle rode as well. (he and my mom met because she and my uncle were very good friends who rode together) I knew all of these things.  What I never knew until yesterday is that my grandmother also rode.  She had a big gorgeous Tennessee Walker which she used to ride.  I must find pictures of her on this horse.  Surely there must be some in that house somewhere!

I believe that we are going to attempt to make a trip down there sometime this fall.  That is what we are talking about anyway.  TC is excited to see more about my roots, as is Simon, who know virtually nothing about "where he comes from".

Of course before everyone went home it was family picture time.

(L to R)TC, me, my Dad, his wife Karen, my son Cody, Grandson Nate, Son Jesse,
 his wife Dawn,  (fr row) Simon and Grandson Alec

The two in this picture that are not in the first one are
Kat- Cody's GF and her son Dominic.  and then that
is Shea Lynn who comes to ride Melody. 

So now it is back to the grindstone.  I feel like I have't ridden in forever, so hopefully I will get to do so tonight.  I had to work today to make up for having yesterday off to spend with my family.


  1. Heartbreaking to think that someone would be so mean as to deliberately keep a family apart...but Sooo glad you got the chance to see each other, clear the air and catch up. :-)

  2. I am very glad for you that it all went so well and you were able to reconnect. I think it's been 25 years since I saw my own father, I can understand both your anxiety and desire to get to know each other again. Hopefully, you'll be able to set the anxiety aside now and just enjoy each others company.

  3. That was a mean and selfish thing to do, so much hurt that could have been avoided.
    So glad it went well, and that you can now come together as a family once again.
    What a gorgeous old house! My kind of house, although I'm sure I'll never get to live in one like that. not too many built like that up here. Bet you will find lots of treasures when you revisit that attic.
    And I think you should do a tutorial post on your spinach enchiladas.