This blog post is by Robbi Nester, a contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. Robbi and I recently shared a couple of e-mails about the genetics of ETL kids – how, if you were raised in a dysfunctional family, possibly due to the impact of genetic neuro-atypicalities, you are sometimes forced to relive those same patterns if your child(ren) have been impacted by these same challenges.
Here’s Robbi’s post:
One day a few years ago while cleaning out his garage, my uncle Bill found a box of old negatives. Having no idea what they contained and being of a curious frame of mind, he bought a photo-scanner on E-bay for a few dollars, and discovered perhaps the only surviving pictures of his and my father’s maternal grand-parents. To my knowledge, my grandmother only very rarely spoke of her parents or the rest of her family, and kept no actual pictures of them, though there must once have been pictures for these negatives to have survived.
Out of the shadows emerged the outlines of a history: in the picture, my fierce-eyed great-grandfather challenges the camera, grasping a chicken by the throat as though suggesting that this is the fate awaiting anyone who crosses him.
My petite great-grandmother, who so resembles my own grandmother, except for the earlier woman’s much more vulnerable expression, lounges on a hammock. To this day, I don’t even know her name for certain.
Indeed, my entire family’s history, at least on my father’s side, is shrouded in mystery. This is because sometime after my grandmother came to the United Statesfrom Russia in the first decade of the 20th century at the age of 12, she effectively wiped out all traces of her former life, including her original surname, family ties, and roots in the old country. In an extreme effort to escape what was to all appearances a traumatic and miserable childhood, she became an entirely different person, one I knew only as Jenny Ketler, the name she took on as an adult, after marrying her second husband, Robert Ketler.
I didn’t think much about this lost history until the birth of my son, Jeremy, named for my deceased grandmother. But then, shortly after his birth, I spoke with my uncle Sidney, the eldest of the children of that generation. He asked me why I had named my son Jeremy. When I replied I had named him after my grandmother, Jenny, he told me that her name had actually been Velma. That’s when I realized that there were many dark corners in my own family I had no idea existed.