During this time of year that we pause to give thanks, I think it is very fitting that this weeks’ blog should be on Gratitude. We all have a lot to be grateful for, just sometimes we forget to stop and count our blessings and to express gratitude for what we do have.
I am grateful for Genealogy. I wasn’t raised around family since my parents moved us from Missouri to Arizona when I was 11 months old. I lived in Missouri from age 12-14 but because of my mothers mental illness we didn’t get to know many of the relatives. After my mother died in 1999, I had a great desire to know where I came from. And so my journey really began.
Over the last 21 years I have discovered so many amazing things about my ancestors. The most excited thing I have found is actual family! With the onset of social media I have been able to connect with hundreds of relatives. Most are more distant ones but I do have over 150 closer relatives, and only a handful were known to me before this. I have been able to meet a few in person, or talked with them by phone. I have had several who have mailed or emailed me photos and stories about our shared family.
As of two years ago I am the only living member of my family lines going to me. My Dad died in 1974, my mother who disowned me in 1986, died in 1999, my sister who did the same because of my mothers pressure, died in 2012 and my brother who my mother disowned in 1980, died in 2018. I have always felt disconnected from family because of my mother, however now I have a sense of family because of the blessing of finding so many wonderful cousins. I am full of Gratitude!
In 1955 my brother Gordon Smith Wilson, who was 18 years older than I, graduated High School and joined the United States Air Force. He left home and began to travel the world.
In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson made the decision to send U.S. combat forces into battle in Vietnam. My brother was among the first to go. He had achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant and was the LoadMaster for the C130 cargo plane. His unit would fly supplies and fresh troops into the combat zones and then fly the wounded and dead out. He was very good at his job and could even load a plane in the midst of the jungles without a scale.
Gordon, bottom left
About a year into his first tour in Vietnam (He voluntarily served 3 tours) my parents received a letter from the Air Force about Gordon. I remember it so vividly. It was a commendation letter for a heroic act that he had performed. His unit had been flying some wounded soldiers out of a combat zone when their plane was hit on the right side making a hole in the right gas tank. As the gasoline slowly leaked out, the plane began to tip to one side. Knowing they had to distribute some weight to correct this problem, my brother, using sacks filled with grain, climbed up inside the right wing and shoved the sacks as far into it as he could. He did this until there was enough weight to level the plane. They were able to fly the aircraft quite a distance until they could safely land it. Gordon’s quick thinking and courage saved many men that day. He was indeed a hero.
Over the 3 tours that he completed in Vietnam, Gordon was shot 3 times, Once in each of his legs and once in his shoulder. He was captured by the Viet Cong but was able to escape and he was exposed to radiation which left horrendous scars across the bridge of his nose. Through it all, regardless of how anyone back home felt about this war or about those who fought in it, my brother felt he was doing what was needed to be done to protect the country that he loved.
Gordon Smith Wilson was born on April 06, 1937, and died on February 12, 2018.
When I was about 5 years old my brother, Gordon came home on leave and he brought his new wife Lily and her 2 children with him. Lily was born and raised in France. She had met Gordon while he was stationed there, and it didn’t take long before they were married. When they showed up at the door, we were all so surprised and thrilled to learn that they were expecting a baby. It was odd for me to have a niece and a nephew that were only a couple of years younger than I but I was also excited about having a baby niece or nephew.
Lily was a fun person to be around. She had learned to speak English pretty well, although she still had a little trouble making us understand some things she said. One day Lily and I were out in the yard walking around and she was looking very nervous. I asked her what was wrong, and she said, “I like spiders and I am looking for one.” I thought she was nuts! I hate spiders; they are probably the only creepy crawler that scares me. The next day my brother took me with him to the store and he gave me some money to spend. I bought a rubber spider. When I got home. I put it in a box and wrapped it up really nice. I was so excited; I ran to the dinner table and gave it to Lily. She was so touched that I thought of her she eagerly tore the wrapping off and opened the box. The next thing I knew chaos broke out. Lily threw the box into the air and was screaming hysterically! My brother was trying to calm her down, my Dad found the box which had bounced off the wall and had flown over the table and he tossed it outside, my sister was laughing so hard she had tears flowing down her face, the two kids were crying, and my mother fainted.
When everything calmed down my mother asked me “How could you do such a horrible thing to Lily?” I told her what she had told me the day before and then Lily started laughing. She realized she had said that she liked spiders instead of disliked them. Everyone was fine with it except my mother. I got in a lot of trouble for it and almost every day until my Nephew Earl was born I had to hear my mother tell me that the poor little baby was now going to have a spider-shaped birthmark on it and that it will be all my fault. After Earl was born Gordon called to tell us he was fine, no birthmarks of any kind. My mother never believed them; she thought they were just saying that to make me feel better.
I was informed 5 days ago that one of my cousins had passed away. He was one of the 4 remaining 1st cousins on my Dad’s side. That leaves me and 2 other ones left out of over a hundred. My Dad’s side was huge, he had 11 brothers and sisters and most of them had at least 10 children themselves. I was very saddened, not only for Leonard passing but also for the lost opportunity of learning more about my Grandparents.
This scenario has hit pretty Close to Home for me. I am the only person left in my immediate family. My Dad died in 1974, my mother died in 1999 and my sister died in 2012. I had a brother who was 18 years older than I. When I was 6 months old, he graduated High School and joined the Air Force. I had only seen him about 7 or 8 times in my life. The last time I saw him was in 1982 when he came for a visit. While he was there something happened between my mother and him. He abruptly left after a few days because my mother had disowned him. We were told we would never see nor hear from him again. This kind of behavior was common for my mother. A few years later she did the same thing to me.
Almost 2 years ago I finally found my brother after looking for him for over 35 years. By chance, I looked at one of those people finder sites and for the first time his name came up with enough information that I could verify that this was him. My husband and I were leaving for California for a week so I figured after we got back, I would pay for the subscription so I could get his information. When we returned, I put in his information and up popped his obituary! He had passed away 3 days before we got back. I was devastated.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has occurred because of putting off contacting relatives. Over the last 5 years, too many have passed on. I also have only one cousin on my mothers’ side left. SO, with renewed determination, I am going to contact the cousins I have left and ask questions. I will just have to get over the idea that I am being a bother. Time is ticking on and I have to march to that rhythm.
Back in 1981 my Mother, in one of her typical neurotic episodes, disowned my older brother. Although he was 44 years old, had been married twice, had several children and had retired from the Air Force after 20 years of service, he had refused to do as he was told. This was a betrayal in my Mothers’ eyes. It wasn’t the first time I witnessed this type of behavior from her and it wasn’t the last.
That was the last time I ever saw my brother, Gordon Smith Wilson. He was 18 years older than I. When I was 6 months old he graduated High School and joined the Air Force. In the early 60’s he was shipped to Vietnam. He ended up doing 3 tours there by choice. He was a load master on the C-130 Aircraft and was very proficient at loading the planes without the benefit of scales. He was shot 3 different times, each time in the lower extremities. He also received radiation burns on his face when an airplane exploded near him. Because of all the horrific things he saw while in war he became an alcoholic. I only saw him about 10 times in my life. The longest stretch was in 1981. He came to stay with our Mother for 2 weeks. He ended up only staying a week. He left abruptly with no explanation and my Mother said we will never hear from nor see him again.
My Mother disowned me because I married someone she did not approve of. (We have been married for 31 years). She passed away in 1999. From that time on I began searching for my brother. When the internet became available I began to do searches. I made phone calls and sent letters to potential matches, but I had no luck. On February 1st, 2018 during one of my searches I finally found got a hit. I found his information on one of those background checking sites. It gave just enough facts that I knew that it was him. I was ecstatic. My husband and I were leaving for California on the 3rd so I figured I would pay for the info after we got back on the 10th. When we returned, life got busy, so I couldn’t get back to it until the 15th. When I put in his information up popped his obituary! He had passed away on February 12th. I missed connecting with him by 3 days. I was devastated. I was able to find some information on 2 of his boys so my plan is to contact them.
The moral of the story is: When you find potential information on a long lost loved one, do not put off making contact. We are not guaranteed tomorrow!