Archive for August, 2014

Grandma’s Story

It’s been an amazing day already and it’s barely 11am.

So after one of my father’s parents died (I forget which one) about ten to twelve years ago, I discovered that the woman I had called “Grandma” my whole life was not my biological grandmother. My biological grandmother abandoned her family when my dad and his siblings were tiny children, probably around 1954 or ’55. Dad really didn’t want to talk about her much, but I did learn her name and the fact that she had sung on the radio with my grandpa when they were young. There were a couple of rumours about why she left, but I didn’t really make the time to substantiate any of them.

Fast forward to this year, when my dad died, and as you can understand I started to get curious. I had learned that she had been very young when she and Grandpa had gotten married, young enough that she could have still been alive today. With the help of a friend of Mum’s who likes to do geneaologies, I got the chance to see not only my great-grandmother’s obituary from 1976 but my grandmother’s obituary from 2007. I was very disappointed, but it said that she still had living family. I was determined to try and contact them once I received the full report.

Mum’s friend is still working on it, but the other day she actually sent me a phone number for my great-aunt, Grandma’s younger sister, who is living in Ottawa. She cautioned me against being too excited (“She’ll be quite elderly now, and maybe the number is out of date” – since when is 79 ‘quite elderly’? Ah ha ha) but I didn’t care. I phoned the number this morning…and got an answer.

We had an amazing talk about Dad (whose nickname was apparently “little sugar man”), Grandma, and the family. One of the family rumours, confirmed by my stepmother, was re-confirmed by Aunt Betty: Grandma was a lesbian. She left her family and hitchhiked all the way from Whitehorse, where Grandpa was stationed with the air force, to Vancouver, and worked her way slowly back to Ottawa. She never remarried and never changed her name. She also played the guitar, sang, and yodelled like a boss.

The craziest part of the whole story? Aunt Betty (and probably Grandma too, as they lived together for a time) lived within ten minutes of where Mum and I lived when we were in Ottawa.

I also received an email address for my second cousin and her daughter, and am hoping to one day actually see a photograph of my grandma.


This journey has been unbelievable. I hope to one day in the very near future go and visit, because according to Aunt Betty, I am “always welcome.”