Honey Grove, Texas - Haiku - On the joys of research and new family discoveries

in #poetry2 years ago

Honey Grove, Texas
Birthplace of my dad, home to
his family's graves

donaldson_mildred_pic that accompanied obituary, April 1918.jpg

In a weird kind of symmetry, Marek wound up last night, staying in Honey Grove, Texas, having driven through the cemetery where my dad and his family are buried on his way into town.

He was en route to Paris, Texas, where my dad went to school and met his lifelong best friend, and the closest thing he ever had to a real sibling, my "aunt" Fran, Francilla Arvine, whom I knew literally from birth.

I've written about her before.

The last time I was in Honey Grove, when I completely fell in love with the town and its surroundings, was in January, 2001, when we interred my dad's ashes in the same plot with his parents and paternal grandparents, as per his wishes.

I was VERY lucky, in that my father made his wishes fully known to me, long before he died, that he wanted to buried in the family plot with his parents and grandparents.

And, quite frankly, he wanted me to spend absolutely the least amount of money possible, as he had little respect for the funeral industry as a whole, and did not want me to be in their thrall.

In the end, I abided by his wishes with one exception; I did purchase a headstone for him, which he would probably have considered an extravagance, but there it is. He wasn't around, I made the final decision, and I felt strongly that he deserved the honor.

His parents and paternal grandparents are the only other Donaldsons interred in Oakwood Cemetery, which as I have come since to understand is "the" cemetery in Honey Grove, Texas, as in "the" place to be buried.

Like any of that truly matters.

The interesting thing to me, was that, as I never found when my dad died in Dec 2000, now among the first things found online are his family's burial records and obituaries, which I am glad to have found, but still find quite odd.

The one I am happiest to have found was the one for my paternal grandmother, my father's mother, of whom I have written before, as she died at age twenty-five, when my father was a mere eight months of age.

Still, to have found her obituary is a bit odd after all this time, not least because it was accompanied by the photo of her above, which I had never seen. It is, in truth, one of the most flowery obituaries I've ever read.


Here is the text of the obituary, in case the jpeg above is not legible:


Truly it is a sad event that this item chronicles. Wednesday morning the heartbreaking news came from Paris that Mrs. H. H. Donaldson had closed her eyes forever on the scenes of earth and had passed to the great beyond. The precarious condition of this good woman was known to all friends, and yet she was so young and useful, and had gained such a warm place in the hearts of our people that even in the face of this distressing news, there was a hope that the faint spark of life might be fanned into a flame and the good woman spared to her loved ones and friends. But the silver cord was severed and the golden bowl of life was broken, and this lovable woman is to us but a sweet and enduring memory.

A few years ago Miss Mildred Ayrer came to us as a teacher of domestic science in our public schools. In this capacity she served us faithfully two years. Then she gave her heart and life into the keeping of the man who had won her love, Dr. H. H. Donaldson. Now she has passed on, leaving a vacant chair in the home and a wound in the heart of all who knew her. Mrs. Donaldson was a sweet and gentle woman, a lovable Christian character, and in her death the world sustained a real loss. She is survived by her husband and a baby boy eight months old; also by her parents, and several brothers and sisters, who live in San Antonio. May the God of mercy be gracious to all the bereaved.

The remains were given burial in Oakwood yesterday, following the funeral service, which was conducted by Rev. E. L. Moore.

According to the online burial record, the photo was obtained from the Honey Grove High School annual in 1914, the first year when she was a teacher there. She would have been approximately twenty-two years of age when this was taken.

I was grateful for this information, as I knew she had gone to Honey Grove as a teacher, shortly after she graduated college in 1913, but I had no idea which school had employed her as a teacher.

As of today, the small town includes a grammar school, middle school and high school, but I'm guessing that in the nineteen teens the grammar school and middle school were one and the same. I could easily be wrong, but it is relatively unimportant to me, now that I know she was teaching in the high school.

Interestingly, I found myself addressing her photo last night, telling her that I wished I had known her. But, even more pointedly, I wish her son had known her, and had memories of her, and that she had known him as he grew into a man.

They both missed out on a lot.

I remember my mom telling me that my dad resented his mother, almost to the point of hatred, but having had a number of conversations with him about it over the years, I disagree entirely.

My dad loved his mom, even though he didn't remember her. He did resent her dying, and not sticking around to care for him, but that is entirely understandable, as it's hard on any kid to grow up without a mom. But he didn't resent her, herself, nor did he blame her. He knew that she would have stuck around had she been able.

As my dad's father was a busy and successful town doctor, and hadn't the time to care for an infant on his own, my father was initially raised by his father's parents; but after his grandmother died when he was seven, he began to be shunted between a number of relatives, which was even harder on him.

Imagine the disruption to a young child in being constantly moved from place to place, from one household to the next, not to mention from family to family, never really able to call any of the places home, or at least not for long.

As a sensitive soul, artist and musician, I can't imagine the toll it must have taken on him, and I am doubly grateful that he took being a father to me so very much to heart.

I remember being told as a kid that I favored Mildred, and looked like her, but as an adult, having since seen many more photographs of her, I am struck more by how much she and my mom resembled one another. They could easily have been sisters.

Of course, I strongly resemble my mom, so there you go.

Indeed, Mildred's younger sister, my father's aunt Frances, quickly bonded with my mother, and she with her.

They had similar wigged out senses of humor, and were hilarious together, such as one time in 1966, when my mom took Frances to Rose Hills Memorial Park in the hills of Los Angeles, a massive cemetery with an equally massive collection of roses in their immaculate gardens.

The park had a large exhibit honoring the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings in 1066, which both women found so hilarious that my mom swore that they damned near got themselves booted from the park.

I'd love to have been there with them, though as it was summer, I would have been seven, and thus may well have missed most of what they found so funny. Ah, well. ;-)

One thing I do wish I'd known more about was something I discovered in a photo after we moved my dad into an assisted living facility, which was a photo of Mildred, Frances and one of their brothers, sitting in a horse-drawn buckboard, with the caption on the back stating that the photo was taken on their Florida homestead.

As I was still living in Florida at the time, I was especially fascinated, though my dad knew nothing about it, and I never did contact my dad's cousins to find out if they knew anything further. Shame on me.

From the photo, showing a shaggy field dotted with palms and palmettos, it could have been nearly anywhere in the state.

The one thing I did confirm, which my dad's requested before he died, was that the large Victorian home built by his grandfather, which he remembered from his childhood, is indeed still standing, though it has been substantially changed since he last saw it.

My mom and I did a couple of days of Donaldson research in the town library, when we went there to inter his ashes in January, 2001, and in asking whether anyone there was familiar with the house, one of the librarians mentioned that she was pretty sure it was the same house that her aunt had purchased several years before.

Sure enough, when I contacted her aunt, she confirmed that it was indeed the same house, and invited us to tea to take a tour of the home, which was stately and gorgeous. Victorian craftsmanship puts to shame the vast majority of homes built today.

We did join her for tea, upon finishing at the library, and while she told us some of the history of the house, I was able to fill in some of the blanks for her as well. And, in the process, we enjoyed some of the most delicious spiced tea I've ever had, for which I'm sorry to say I didn't ask the recipe . . . it was truly wonderful.

We were surprised but pleased the following morning, when she joined us at the burial site to inter my father's ashes, and then invited us back to have lunch with her and her husband.

I think they wanted us to stay for dinner as well, but all three of us wanted a chance to visit Dealey Plaza before we left, and our plane was leaving early the next morning, so we declined.

But she and her husband were both truly lovely people, we had a wonderful visit with them, and I was grateful that the house was in such good hands.

Interestingly, shortly after I split from my ex-husband, we were talking about the possibility of him helping me to buy a home, and I found out that my great-grandfather's Victorian home was up for sale . . . right about the time that a buyer put in a winning offer. Damn. C'est la vie.

In the end, my former spouse kept his condo, and I got the home we had purchased to use as the business location.

So it all worked out in the end, as had I moved to Texas, I would never have met Marek.

Life is wonderful, and getting better, better, and better.

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This! I love every single word. I am struck by the loss of people who can tell the stories behind these old photos - how nice that you've found the one of your grandmother and some info about it. Do you know why she died? The obit mentions that she was chronically ill, I am curious with what.

I am struck too by a feeling of their all still being here, as a reader I went in and out of then and now. The losses, the gains, the tragedies and blessings. So beautifully written.

Parts of this story are very similar to my family's story. My mother lost her mother when she was 18 months, was then shuffled around among relatives who did not want her and were far from kind to her, yet she became a loving and generous mother herself. Her cousin Jane had a similar experience, and for a time they both were "cared for" in an old Victorian house (still in my family although I am the only one fighting to keep it) on a lake in central NYS. I can't bring myself to get rid of old photos of people I do not know, and no one is alive still who would. They probably visited the house on the lake, and I know them there by there presence, if not their names.

Thank you for writing this. I savored every heartfelt word. xo

Thank you for resteeming this :)

I am so happy I came across it!

Thank you, @owasco, for this lovely comment.

I too have numerous photos, from both sides of my family, of people I never knew, and in many cases, died long before I was born.

I did once find a family tree online for the Ayrer family, which was my paternal grandmother's birth family, and I was able to piece together some information from that, and correct a few mistakes I found. I corresponded with the gentleman who ran it for a time, and sent him a number of photos hoping to put names to the faces, but in that we were unsuccessful.

That said, I have no idea if it is still online, or if the gentleman in question is still with us.

I hope that your holidays have been peaceful and full of love and light. Have a Happy New Year.

I saw this on @owasco's resteem and me knowing she only reads awesome stuff, I chose to dig in. I also agree with her comment, what a beautiful write up!

Longer reads usually die somewhere in the middle but you had me following every word to a point of reading it out loud to my daughter. And I will tell you why.

Your grandmother sounds like the most interesting soul who died too soon and whoever did her obituary crafted their grief into something. My mum died when she was only 33. Probably why I am gravitating towards feeling this grief a century later.

I too was 'shared' among relatives. It was whoever had the hardest of responsibilities who would house me for a few days or weeks till it was done and I'd move to the next house. I hated it. I still don't get along with most of them because of how they treated me.

Thank you for sharing this. Truly... :)

So many of us have this story! We think being housed in one and only one home is the norm, but perhaps it's not. I was "lucky" I suppose, although my steady home did not always hold kindness for me.

There is nothing normal about having a normal functional family but it is so sad that even your steady home couldn't afford you enough kindness.

Yes, I was very lucky as well, and even though my family was highly dysfunctional (aren't they all, in some way?), the vast majority of my memories are happy ones. I was very blessed.

Thanks for the lovely comment, @tezmel.

I'm sorry for the hardship in your youth, but yeah, unfortunately my dad had the same relationship with most of his relatives, for the same reason.

His happiest time was when he stayed with his aunt Mamie and her daughter Martha; two years his senior, they got along well, and she was the only member of that part of the family that he bothered taking me to visit.

When his dad died, and the following year when his grandfather died, my dad was away; first in college, and then on the road as a pianist. Both times, his dad's relatives swooped down on their home and emptied it, not even leaving my dad his own belongings.

It was only because of his cousin Martha and her mom that he got anything belonging to his forbears. Thanks to their kindness in sticking up for him, and demanding that certain items be returned, I still have a dresser that belonged to his grandfather, a handmade writing lap desk that belonged to his mother, not to mention numerous linens, photographs, and other mementos.

Bless them both.

Him looking for something to hold on to is a familiar feeling. When they (our relatives) shared everything amongst themselves, we felt like we've lost everything. So I know exactly how he feels about those two special women. They gave him back tangible memories and those help intangible ones to stay even longer.

May they be blessed, yes.

I'm doubly grateful to them, because while I knew my mother's family quite well growing up, I knew very few members of my father's family, and those mostly in passing.

Much much love. Thank you so much for engaging me :)

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