I’m Leaving Today…

I arrived at the back of the school with my one allowed carry-on, one suitcase, pillow and blanket.  I pounded on the band room door and was allowed immediate entry.  The band was finishing up their run-through of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked.  Baggage was stacked everywhere; other chaperons were standing around listening; students who weren’t playing scurried about with an air of excitement and urgency.  Even the principal stood by, overseeing the preparations.

Soon the motorcoach arrived.  Although I didn’t witness it, I was informed that the driver had performed an impressive Y-turn within the confines of the small lot at the back of the school.  My confidence in the journey rose a little bit.

Instruments, equipment, and luggage was expertly juggled into the bottom of the bus.  Students jockeyed for seats next to their friends.  The only thing I cared about was getting a seat with an outlet, because I knew that if I was going to get ANY sleep and not get thrown off the bus in the middle of Indiana for impersonating a motorcycle, I needed my CPAP machine.

I claimed my spot.  My son claimed his across the aisle next to his buddy.  Wheeling and dealing happened so larger friend clumps could sit together.  I ended up moving.  But that was OK, because I wound up next to Jen, Escher’s friend’s mom, whom they had signed me up to room with.   We were quite compatible, especially after we discovered we both like to chew on ice and prefer to sleep in a freezing cold room with fans blowing.

The ride got underway.  We hit Chicago at rush hour and lost a lot of time.  I treated myself to a Coke Icee at a rest stop.  We stopped for supper.  The band director played a couple movies, but most of us were either on our phones, Kindles, Gameboys, or talking to our seatmates.  I couldn’t hear the movies well enough to follow what was going on, so I took the opportunity to read a book I had downloaded to my Kindle months ago by the niece of a friend of mine (The Healing Pool by Linnea Garcia – – available on Amazon.com!)

We stopped at one last rest stop to change into pjs and get ready for “bed.”  I assembled my CPAP with curious onlookers from in front of me and across the aisle.  I explained to them what it was for and they were totally cool with it.  Some of the kids made up a place to sleep on the floor UNDER their seats.  When the bus got underway and the lights went out, it was “quiet time.”  The band director (who refers to himself as “Mama Bear”) had made it quite clear that if ANYONE infringed upon anyone else’s right to sleep, that his claws would come out.   He told them that if they didn’t feel like sleeping, that was fine, but they had to at least PRETEND to sleep.  The kids really respect Mama Bear, and there was not so much as a peep out of any one of them all night.  And I know that for a fact because I really didn’t sleep much, so heard everything.

The sun rose.  I had no idea where we were, even though the boy in front of us was tracking our progress on his phone.   We stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s.  I’m pretty sure you probably heard the staff moaning in dismay back in Wisconsin as they watched us pour out of the bus and form a line that snaked outside the door.

When we had finally all been watered and fed and got back on the road, our tour guide informed us that she was already changing our itinerary due to the lost time in Chicago.  Instead of making the Empire State Building the last stop before we left, it would now be our first stop.

I’m pretty sure that’s where it happened.  When we were up on the 86th floor outdoor observation deck, and the wind was gusting at what felt like 100 miles per hour, I’m pretty sure it blew the diamond right out of my engagement ring.  At least, that’s how I prefer to think I lost it.   That it leaped free and flung itself off a skyscraper is much more dramatic than it slowly coming loose in a McDonald’s bathroom.  That tiny diamond spent 27 years with me.  It deserves a romanticized ending to its story.



Generation X (Seven Generations Strong)

(This post is part of a serial blog.  Please see previous posts.)

I have decided to spare you, dear reader, from Generations Five through Seven.  The reason is twofold:  one, I simply don’t know who most of them were.  There is only one branch where I’ve gotten back seven generations.  The second reason is that the further away the generations stretch from me, the less is known or can be surmised about them as people.  What were their life experiences?  Their joys and sorrows?  Their triumphs and tragedies?  All I have are names, dates, and places – – not very interesting for you or me.  And not very relevant to why I began this quest in the first place: to see if generational traumas left their marks on my DNA and are affecting my state of mental health.

As I’ve mentioned, there is a recurring theme throughout my ancestry: that of leaving or losing one’s home.  My ancestors left loved ones behind and never saw them again, or were the ones being left behind.  There is also a thread of abuse and neglect woven into the fabric of my ancestry – – on both paternal and maternal sides.

Would my ancestors wish to be defined by the traumas which I have described?  I’d like to think not.

Would my great-grandmother Elnora choose to be described as married to an adulterous, wife-beating son-of-a-bitch?  I choose to think of (and remember) her as an incredibly resilient and strong woman – – one who endured abuse but did not lie down and take it.  She stood up to her husband during a time when it was often foolish to do so.  In those days, when a woman lost her husband, she lost the roof over her head and her meal ticket (and so did her children).  Somehow Elnora gathered up the gumption and pressed onward against the injustices – – perhaps with no plan of outcome or how she was going to make it.  She believed in herself that she could do what it took to make things work out.  She divorced her abusive and neglectful husband, and she survived – – – to age 94, in fact.  She outlived both her children.  She was a fighter with perseverance and street smarts.  I am proud to be her great granddaughter.

Would my father wish to be defined as the poor little boy whose father deserted the family, caused them to lose their farm and who had to dig in garbage cans for scraps to eat?  No.  I choose to remember him as a strong man with a tender heart – – as a teen latching on to good male role models who taught him he was worth something, unlike his father.  He took up gymnastics and bodybuilding to strengthen his physical being.  His high school yearbook described him as “an upright lad, except when he is in the gym.”  He worked long, irregular hours to support his own family, lest they should ever find themselves in the poverty in which he grew up.  He was devoted to his wife, even in the most trying of circumstances.  He had cause, but he never left her.  He was loyal up until the end, even sharing a nursing home room.  I am proud to be his daughter.

Would my mother wish to be defined as the woman whose mother was a loony, and that she had followed faithfully in her footsteps?  No.  I choose to remember her as an insanely creative mind who went to great lengths (and personal sacrifice) for her loved ones. In a time when most women did not work outside the home, and who devoted all of their time to domestic pursuits, my mother set out to become a published children’s book author.  And she succeeded, winning accolades and awards both locally and nationally.  She’s been compared to Dr. Seuss.  Her mind ran rampant with ideas and she often couldn’t control the expression of them – – neglecting the house and meals in favor of her typewriter.  She was a collaborator, putting out puzzle and riddle books with her many writer friends, who paraded through our house at all times of day to be in her company.  She was fun and funny.  And fiercely devoted to her children, especially when they were experiencing trauma.  She literally gave her sanity over to her daughter, trying desperately to fix her.  Although it has taken me many years to get there, I am proud to call her my mom.

Which brings us to me: part of the enigma generation dubbed Generation X.  According to Wikipedia, “the ‘X’ refers to an unknown variable or to a desire not to be defined.”  I find this to be personally true.  I have a desire not to be labeled, not to be categorized, not to be put in a box.  Whereas I wouldn’t want to be solely defined by my traumas or by those of my ancestors, nor would I want to dismiss them.  They are the wind which prunes off the weak branches, leaving only the strong ones to continue growing. They are the grain of irritating sand necessary to make the beautiful, unique pearl.  They are the grindstone without which the diamond does not become polished.  They are the storms without which the flowers and the fruit wither and die.  They are a part of me, but they do not solely define me.  I choose to focus on the strength, resilience, and beauty that trauma creates.  Although it has taken me many years to get here, I am proud to be me.

Generation Four, Paternal (Seven Generations Strong)

(This post is part of a serial blog.  Please see previous post:  Generation Four, Maternal).

Pedigree pateral

Here is where my ancestral trail leads off into the thick underbrush, obscured by barriers of country, language, handwriting, and purposeful camouflage.

All I have on my paternal fourth generation are the names on this chart, the fact that they lived out their lives in Germany, and how many children they had.  According to an (unfortunately) undated letter from my late aunt, Henry and Louise had three children:  two girls, and then my grandfather William.  Since William abandoned his own wife and children when my father was still very young, he did not impart any family stories to him that he could remember.  His father’s life prior to immigrating was shrouded in mystery.  So ends the trail from my grandfather’s lineage.

Karl and Dorthea had 9 children (four boys and five girls), of whom my grandmother Charlotte was the fifth.  Her youngest sister’s name was Gretchen and her youngest brother’s name was Herbert, and they were still alive when my aunt wrote to me about them, probably from the 1990s.  

If the interview Charlotte Gaedike provided to the Sheboygan newspaper shortly after immigrating (see Generation Three, Paternal: William and Charlotte) was any indication of the cramped quarters and want for food and even soap that she experienced upon leaving her homeland, her parents likely did not enjoy a life of comfort – – but rather one of poverty, overcrowding, and want.  At least at that time.

Fortunately, Charlotte’s photo collection was saved by my father, and in turn passed on to me.  Included are photos taken prior to Charlotte’s leaving Germany in 1922, and also ones that were sent from Charlotte’s family after she immigrated, including several of her parents and presumably her siblings and their children.  

G4P Karl and Dorothea

Karl and Dorthea Gaedike

I did make attempts at trying to piece together more of my great grandparents’ lives through these photos.  My father could not identify most of the subjects in the photos, nor make heads or tails of the German script on the backs.  Though German was his first language, he never learned to read or write it.  I invited a German friend of a friend over for dinner one night to see if she could decipher the old script, but she could not.

One day my father and I took the box of photos to the apartment of the quite elderly Christina  – – Charlotte’s friend who accompanied my father to kindergarten and acted as his translator (and left dimes on the icebox on Saturdays so my father and his siblings could go to the movies).  We thought Charlotte might have shown Christina her photos, or shared them with her when they accompanied a letter from home.  If anything, it provided some quality time going through the photos together, and an opportunity for my father and Christina to reminisce.  And she was able to read a little bit of the script on the backs.

Among the collection was a photo postcard, postmarked 1917, addressed to my grandmother Charlotte at Friesenstrasse 51 in Magdeburg.  It shows a World War I military regiment, with an x above a man in the back row.  Was this a brother?

G4P Military Regiment

G4P Military Regiment back

Thanks to Google maps and satellite imagery, I was able to see what the building at Friestrasse 51 looks like today (well, back in 2012 when I researched it): businesses on the ground floor, likely with living quarters upstairs.

G4P Friesenstrasse 51

Could this be the same building pictured in the background of a darkened and faded family photo from 1921 of Charlotte’s brother Erich’s wedding?  Dorthea is seated to the right of the groom, and Karl is seated at the far right.

G4P Erich Gaedike wedding


Other than this information, I have no way of teasing out the tragedies or even the humdrum everyday life of Karl and Dorthea (although how could life be humdrum with nine children?!).  I don’t know when they were born, when they married, whether all their children managed to outlive them, or when they died.  And of their parents, Generation Five, there is nothing.  Except, perhaps, for a photo dated 1922 of an elderly woman holding a baby (Marga, a granddaughter of Karl and Dorthea).  The scripted writing on the back seems to include the word “mama” – – could this be a photo of Karl or Dorthea’s mother holding a great grandchild?  The woman is clearly too old to be Dorthea.

G4P Mama and Marga

G4P Mama and Marga back

Although most of Charlotte’s photos bring up more questions than answers, they do relay some important information:  the photo of a well-dressed Karl and Dorthea having tea or coffee in a cozy-looking kitchen with nice dishes implies that they did not lead a life of total or lasting poverty.

The fact that the family lived at Friesenstrasse 51 shows that they were not farmers, but lived in town.  Karl was likely a merchant of some type and they lived above the family business.

Of the photo of their son(?) as part of the World War I military regiment: what happened to him?  Did he survive the war intact?  Did he suffer shell shock like my grandfather William?  Did he ever come home?  Was he wounded?  Did more of their sons fight in the war?  I know these questions would have weighed heavily on Karl and Dorthea’s minds when he enlisted, whether or not the outcome was favorable or tragic.

And the photo of “Mama” with a great grandbaby?  If she was indeed my grandmother Charlotte’s grandmother, she must have lived to be quite elderly, a testament to her constitution, resilience, and strength – – which she likely passed down in her genes.

Charlotte’s photo collection is the last tangible connection I have to any of my ancestors.  I am so fortunate that she kept them, and my father saved them after her death, and that they have ended up in my hands.  

Generation Four, Maternal (Seven Generations Strong)

(This post is part of a serial blog.  See Generation Three, Paternal: William & Charlotte.)



Anna Koenig [my mother’s father’s mother] was born in 1872 in St. Nazianz (Manitowoc County), Wisconsin.  Of her childhood, I know nothing.  By 1890, however, at the age of 17, she is listed as being a servant in the household at 301 Benson Avenue in Evanston, Illinois.

Was her family very poor and could no longer afford to keep her?  Even if that were the case, surely there would have been plenty of domestic jobs available near her home or at least within the state of Wisconsin?  What would prompt a young girl to leave her family at such a tender age to seek menial employment in another state?  That was quite a journey in those days! Did she aspire to work for a wealthy family in a grand home, and those were scarce in that area during that time?  Or maybe she’d had a falling out with her family, or some scandal sent her far away?

These are questions to which I may never know the answers.  What I do know, however, is that in that same year, 1890, Edward Lugg was working as a coachman for a family at 714 Greenwood Blvd. in Evanston, Illinois.

Now, maybe I watch too much Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey, but I imagine my great grandfather Edward driving some member of his employer’s family to the home of my great grandmother Anna’s employer.  As would have been the custom, while the family members were visiting upstairs, the coachman would have been sent downstairs to the servant’s hall to entertain himself while he waited for his summons to drive his employer back home.  This is where I imagine he met Anna.

Would she have been swept off her feet by his Dorsetshire English accent and his rather recent arrival in America?  He had just immigrated in 1886, after all.  

What had prompted Edward to leave his homeland and family?  Was it poverty, and America promised a better way of life?  He is listed in the 1881 England census at age 20, living with his parents and five siblings, with an occupation of “farmer’s son.”  Had he tired of farm life in the intervening five years and become a coachman back in England for a wealthy family? Perhaps an American family visited the family he worked for and offered him a job across the pond?  There was no war going on in England or civil unrest in Dorsetshire at the time; what drove him to America?

Whatever their reasons, both Edward Lugg and Anna Koenig left their homes far behind and began a new life in Evanston, Illinois.  They married in 1900.   

G4M Koenig Lugg Wedding

Eleven years later, Edward was dead of pneumonia, leaving behind a young wife and their three young children.  In 1920, Anna is shown on the census as back living in Manitowoc County (Liberty Township).  Presumably she was receiving help with child rearing and living expenses from her family.

Anna never re-married.  Her granddaughter (my aunt Joan) remembers her:

My Dad’s Mother, Anna Lugg lived with her daughter Alice Schroeder and her husband and 6 children. They lived about one block away from my house, Grandma Lugg was chief cook and bottle washer for Aunt Alice’s family. She was always in the kitchen, baking bread, coffee cake or anything else, She always had an apron on. She was also an excellent  seamstress, and made matching dresses for my sister, Donna and I.

She made the best coleslaw and could cut the cabbage finer than angel hair. I can still see her with a big sharp knife cutting cabbage. It seemed as she did everything for them. She would come and cook for our family sometimes when my mom was in the hospital.

Anna and Art [my dad] would often speak German to each other, which irritated my Mother [Ruth Lugg] because she thought they were talking about her. Anna didn’t really approve of their marriage, because she was Catholic and Ruth was Lutheran. Art was ex-communicated because he agreed to let my mom [Ruth] raise us children as Lutherans.

One day when we went to see Grandma, we weren’t allowed to see her ever again. I believe she died soon after that.. She was 82 when she died.

G4M Anna Koenig Lugg


Elnora Schrader [my mother’s mother’s mother] was born in 1890 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  I actually knew her; she was alive until I was a teen, and we knew her as “Nanna.”  She lived in Milwaukee at that time, in an apartment, and had outlived both of her children.  Daughter Ruth died accidentally after being given a drug to which she was allergic [See Generation Three, Maternal:  Arthur & Ruth].  Son George was murdered while taking the day’s money from his gas station till to the bank.  I hope I never have to find out, but I understand outliving your children is one of life’s greater traumas.  She was one tough old broad, living well into her 90s and beating off inner city muggers with her cane.

G4M Nanna

I don’t know if Elnora passed a happy childhood, but by the time she married George Clish in 1910, her life had definitely taken a turn onto a hard road.  

G4M Schrader Clish wedding

George Clish (second from left) and Elnora Schrader (seated)

A little over three years and two children into the marriage, she filed for divorce.  The reasons for the divorce are cited in the Winnebago County case file #2656, Eleanor Clish vs. George Clish:

At the city of Sheboygan, where they resided immediately after their marriage, and in their home thereat, defendant at a time (the exact date of which she is unable to specify), when no one was present competent to testify thereto, choked, pounded, beat and kicked plaintiff, drawing blood and causing her intense suffering and pain;

that thereafter and at the city of Milwaukee, a few months before the birth of her older child which birth was on August 9th, 1911, defendant, when no one was present to testify thereto, in a furious temper, committed a wilful assault upon plaintiff and struck her repeatedly in the face and body, knocking her on the floor, and threw her on the bed whereby she was rendered sick, sore and lame and was ill for some time thereafter, and that at said time and place he called her a “whore” and a “sport” and other abusive names;

that thereafter and in the fall of 1912, at the city of New London, in the State of Wisconsin, defendant, while they were visiting his parents, assaulted plaintiff and struck her several times with a folded newspaper and ordered her out of the house and told her to go back to her parents in Sheboygan; that at another time in the year 1912, (the exact time of which she is unable to specify) at his mother’s home defendant, when no one was present competent to testify thereto, threw plaintiff on the bed and choked her almost to death, and struck and beat her;

that during the year 1913, defendant was employed in the barber shop of the Athearn Hotel in the city of Oshkosh, when plaintiff would come to the shop to go home with him he would come out on the street and at divers and sundry times during that year, has assaulted plaintiff on the street and struck her and choked her and whipped her and has called her such names as “son-of-a-bitch” and “whore” and “sport” and that these attacks took place, when no one was present competent to testify thereto;

that in the year 1913 in a house on Jefferson Avenue, in the city of Oshkosh, defendant became very angry with plaintiff while he was under the influence of liquor, pounded, beat and kicked her in a bedroom and threw her with great force on the bed, frightening her very badly and injuring her and when she protested and cried he renewed his attack and whipped and beat her, then and there calling her vile, indecent and vulgar names; that during the year 1914, he repeatedly perpetrated under like circumstances and conditions acts of the character hereinbefore set forth;

that thereafter and at his barber shop on the 28th day of January 1915, plaintiff caught defendant in the act of adultery with one Elsie Steifl and thereupon defendant attacked plaintiff and struck her and kicked her and grabbed her by a leg which he raised in the air, thereafter throwing her to the floor and wrenched and bruised and injured her.

For unknown reasons, Elnora dropped the suit, but re-filed for divorce four years later. At that time, she averred that:

Some five or six years ago, the defendant left the plaintiff for parts unknown and a warrant was sworn out and he was brought back from the state of Minnesota to the State of Wisconsin for trial, said trial was had in Municipal Court for the City of Oshkosh and Winnebago County, Wisconsin.  That said defendant plead guilty for the charge of non-support and desertion.  That he was placed upon parole and went back to live with the plaintiff and did live with the plaintiff for a short time when he again absconded in August 1917 and has not contributed any money with which the plaintiff might support herself and said minor children.

That she did not hear from him nor did he communicate with her nor did he contribute any money since August 1917 for the support of said plaintiff or their said children.

The defendant was arrested in April in Chicago upon a warrant sworn out in the Municipal Court and is now in the Winnebago County Jail awaiting trial for non-support.

While George awaited trial in jail, he wrote his wife an admonishing letter:

May 20, 1919

Mrs. Elenor Clish,

You shall perhaps think it queer for me to write you again.  But, I really cannot understand you. I do hope you are not under the impression that I could go back and live with you again as that would be impossible for me to do.  I am willing to do anything but that.  I agreed to pay $20.00 a month for the children’s support and pay for the divorce that you started, and I cannot see what else there is to do…as long as I am in this place you cannot receive anything as I am not working in here only lying around, and that sure does not help you any.  I wish you could see this as I or anyone else does.  You certainly ought to know that by this time that has been 10 weeks last Friday that I have been here…now I think that would be a lot better to have me at work then to have me here, don’t you think so.  I hope you will reason to this.  And please bring Ruth and Geo down so I can see them.  I also have some Navy clothes that you can make over for Geo if you care for them.  They are in pretty good shape.  Let me know what you think about this.  And for God’s sake get me out of this place.  I have been here long enough.  Geo

Less than a month later, the divorce was granted.  Elnora was awarded full custody of the children (Ruth, then 8, and George, then 5). George was ordered to pay her $20 a month for support.

Whether or not that happened, or whether George got himself into some other trouble, is unknown.  By the following year, the 1920 census listed him as a convict at the Wisconsin State Prison at Waupun.  By 1925 he was remarried but living at the Disabled Veteran’s Home in Milwaukee with a stomach ulcer, and by 1930 the census lists him and his second wife living in Colorado with a 7 year-old  daughter.

As for Elnora, she also remarried.  Her second husband, Ed Fenninger, adopted Ruth and George Jr.  So George Sr. must have given up all claim to them.

I have often speculated that the mental illness on my mother’s side of the family originated with George.  Based on the court records, he had a problem with alcohol, his temper, and controlling his impulses (anger and sex).  Could he have been suffering from manic depression?  Or, like my grandfather William Otto, was he shell-shocked from World War I?   According to his military records, he enlisted in the Navy as a Seaman in October of 1917, a year away from the end of the Great War.  Where did he sail?  Did he fight in battle?  What horrors did he see?

G4M Geo Clish Navy



(This post is part of a serial blog.  Please see previous post: GENERATION THREE, MATERNAL: ARTHUR & RUTH).

I am now embarking on unfamiliar territory, as both William Otto and Charlotte died before I was born.  I did not know them in my lifetime.  However, I have stories from my parents and public records to piece together their lives into the semblance of a story, fleshed out over a mere skeleton of dates and places.

Both William and Charlotte were born in Germany (then Prussia), immigrants to this country between the two world wars.  William was born in Halberstadt in 1896, although I suspect he (and possibly his family) moved to Magdeburg, the birthplace of Charlotte Helena Gaedike in 1899.

Germany 1899

William Otto was born to Henry Pape and Dorothea Erbe on November 10, 1896.  The Great War loomed just eight years on the horizon.  The family story was that he fought in World War I, in the German Army.  He would have been a ripe and prime 18 year old young man at the start of the war.  Kaiser Wilhelm II was on the throne, and Germany’s economy was booming.  Germany had set her sights on acquiring colonies in Africa and Europe, and aggressively expanding its dominion.  This had to be an exciting time to a young man to take up arms for his country.

As happens to almost every man who falls romantically in love with the notion of war, the honeymoon was short-lived. My grandfather was injured: stories vary on what happened.  One story tells of shrapnel embedded in his leg.  Another story tells of a wall falling on him.  Yet a third story tells of him being shot out of the torpedo chute of a submarine (it is hard to imagine what he would have been doing in a submarine as a member of the German Army).  Perhaps none of these stories are the whole truth; perhaps all of them are partly true.

WC Wm Injured

William Pape, front row, fourth from left, at a military hospital in 1918 at age 22

The truth is that the war left my grandfather a shell-shocked and broken man, as were evidenced by his violent flashbacks my father witnessed as a child.

In 1921, at the age of 24, William Otto embarked upon the ship Mongolia bound for New York.  He may have decided to come to America to escape his memories of the war, or to escape the debt-ridden, poverty-stricken, expensive nation Germany had become.  Likely it was both.  He had a sponsor in Sheboygan, Wisconsin (Edwin Puls) who vouched for him, guaranteeing a job would be waiting for him so he would not become a drain on American society.

WC Young Wm

William Pape, Age 24, before leaving Germany

It is unclear whether my grandfather at this point intended to send for my grandmother with the intention of making her his bride.  Family story says they were just friends from “the old country” and that she was just coming over for a visit, never making it back home.  Given the poverty in Germany at the time, and the price and length of a voyage, this seems unlikely.  It seems especially unlikely after reading the article from The Sheboygan Press-Telegram from October 11, 1922:

Bride-Elect From Germany Finds Sheboygan “Heaven” Compared to Old Country

Miss Charlotte Gaedike has arrived from Germany and will make Sheboygan her future home.  Miss Gaedike, accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Otto Maas when they returned recently from their European tour, but due to immigration regulations, Miss Gaedike was delayed at Ellis Island for a week.  She will be married to William Pape of this city in the near future.  Mr. Pape just recently came from Germany and has been in this country but a year.  While in Europe Mr. and Mrs. Maas visited with Mr. Pape’s parents and thus brought the young bride-to-be to this country.

Miss Gaedike possesses a very pleasing personality, friendly and entertaining.  She cannot speak any English, but converses in the most fluent perfect German.  She was employed as a telephone operator and mail clerk in the post office at Magdeburg near Berlin, where she and her parents, her four brothers and five sisters reside.

WC Phone Operator

Charlotte Gaedike (right) [from personal photo collection; not included in newspaper article]

The following is a substance of an interview obtained yesterday from Miss Gaedike by a member of the Press-Telegram staff, in her own language:

Every family obtains through its government a card or as it is called in German a “labensmittelschein.”  This card gives the mother or person who does the family cooking, the right to purchase additions, flour for each child.  When a child dies, or leaves the family in any way, the government has to be notified, the card for the child is annulled and the mother’s amount of flour and other food stuffs is cut.  So when Miss Gaedike left Germany, the food supply in her family was cut proportionally.

Auf Marken” is an expression frequently used in Germany. By this is meant that a family with numerous small children who need a quantity of milk daily, are privileged to purchase milk at a lower rate than others.  Due to the low value of the mark, the people are not in a position to purchase such real food stuffs as butter and meat.  Most of the meat markets are on the verge of bankruptcy.  One pound of butter costs 300 marks, and as this price is too enormous for the people to pay, they are obliged to resort to margarine and coco-fat, which is really unfit for eating purposes.  In order to relieve this, most of the people have marmalade, made from fruit which has rotted and could not be sold.  “It is indeed very sad,” Miss Gaedike said in her fluent German, “to see so many children undernourished; who are just forced to die away because of lack of real sustaining food.  There are not very many real healthy people left in Germany.”  This land used to be noted for its “pretzels” but as they cost 5 marks each, they do not find a ready market at this time.

In regard to the beautiful houses and large lawns and yards here, Miss Gaedike was very much elated.  She said that in Germany, where three or four families reside in one house, it is almost impossible for the children to have any fresh air whatsoever.  Due to lack of space to hang up washing and also to the enormous price of soap and washing powders, many of the German folk are often obliged to go without washing their clothes for weeks.  They take great care in keeping their clothes clean, as they know that they will have to work many days in order to have the privilege to buy a bar of soap.  

Because the mark has decreased to such an extent, a working man and woman can hardly make a living.  Many people are out of employment, and beggars are numerous.  Women and girls who toil daily in the factories and stores for a small sum of money are obliged to lead a licentious life in order to live.  This has brought the health and morals of the German women and girls to a low degree and there are hundreds upon hundreds of women and girls just dying day by day because of shattered health.  Many of these people who ought to be at a sanatorium, are obliged to die slowly because of the lack of funds to pay their expenses at an institution.

In regard to the doctor, he does not stand far back on the scene of expense.  Most of the people cannot afford a physician as he puts two items on his bill instead of one.  He charges 200 marks for the visit to the patient, and 100 marks for gasoline used on the way to the patient.

A German head of a family does not have the right to own more than three rooms in his own private home.  If a man has a house containing five rooms, he has to rent the other two or the law is after him.  Even if the family is large, the law must be obeyed, and the large family as well as a small family must live in a three-room house.  Often these rooms are such little dark rooms that sickness is inevitable and without the aid of a doctor, death claims its victims daily.

When asked what she thought of America and this city, Miss Gaedike exclaimed that here it was “Heaven and Golden.” She said that she couldn’t understand how people couldn’t be contented when they had their own homes and friends and such wonderful surroundings.  This is truly a land of promise for the immigrant, she said, and she would never go back to live in Germany “that land of sorrow.”  People in this country cannot realize how great the sorrow really is in the old country.

Miss Gaedike, who is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Gaedike of Magdeburg, has no other relatives in this country.  She is a very pleasing young woman and has already made a host of friends who welcome her to this city.


I include this article, transcribed in its entirety, not only to prove the unlikelihood that my grandmother arrived here without knowledge that she was my grandfather’s intended bride, but also to demonstrate why so many German people immigrated to America during this time.  

Little did my grandparents know that less than ten years after leaving poverty-stricken Germany, the Great Depression would hit America and extreme poverty would find them again.  Then, in addition to having given up their homeland, their language, their culture and their families, they also gave up recently-regained material comforts.  They must have felt like God was playing a very cruel joke on them indeed.

William Otto Pape and Charlotte Gaedike were married on October 14, 1922.  I suspect my grandfather’s temper and shell-shocked condition did not take long to rear its ugly head to my grandmother.  A notice appeared four months later in The Sheboygan Press-Telegram:

NOTICE!  My wife, Charlotte, having left me without reason, I will not be responsible for any debts contracted by her.  WILLIAM PAPE

Evidently, she came back.  My father, William August, was born in August of that year.  The following year, the newspaper reported on the fact that the Papes entertained a “company of friends” on Sunday afternoon to celebrate “Mrs. Pape’s birthday anniversary.”  They are mentioned other times in the paper as having attended parties at the homes of others.  My grandfather’s inability to control anger also appeared in the paper in 1929 with the headline: Slaps Girl on the Nose; Pays $5 and Costs:

William Pape was brought before Justice George Goodell this morning and pleading guilty to the charge of assault and battery was fined $5 and costs, amounting in all to $13.82.

Pape is employed at a local factory and, according to his own admission, lost his temper and slapped a girl who is employed at the same factory when, he said, she forcibly pushed him.  Later he felt sorry and apologized to the girl, but this did not appease her wounded feelings, nor make amends for a soiled handkerchief, which became saturated with blood from her nose, as the result of the slap by Pape.  Therefore, she had a warrant issued for the young man’s arrest.  

The physically violent nature of my grandfather was attested by my father, in his recounting of tales of being beaten (see Generation Two, Paternal: William). Here you can also read about his repeated abandonment of the family.

WC Charlotte and kids

Charlotte with children.  Left to right: Charlie, Doris, and William (my father)

My father never knew what happened to his father after he left for the last time and never came back.  I was incredulous.

“He could still be alive!” I would say to him.  “You could have brothers and sisters you don’t even know about!”

“Ach!” my father would say.  “He died of a heart attack in Beaumont, California in 1953.”

I never thought to ask him how he came by that knowledge until after my father had passed away.  I asked my mother.  Had someone called the house?  Who?  Who had known about his family in Sheboygan?  She didn’t remember how they received the news.

I sent away for my grandfather’s death certificate from California.  It reports he was married at the time of his death.  However, his wife’s name is not listed as Charlotte, but Lybroda (Librada) Pape!  

Who was this woman???  I sent away for her death certificate, too.  Her maiden name was Roque Robles, and her birthplace was Mexico.  I have records that my grandfather crossed the border from Mexico into Laredo, Texas in 1942; did he bring a Mexican bride with him?  Did she know about his other family in Sheboygan, Wisconsin?  It appears that my grandfather was a bigamist!

As for my grandmother, Charlotte, I know very little.  She was never caught outside the house without a hat, she had a thick German accent and proclaimed many things “ma-GEEK” (magic), she read tarot cards that she kept on a shelf that I have in my house to this day, and died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.  My father said how she always talked about returning to Germany one day, but she never did.  Once she set sail for New York in 1921, she never saw any of her family or friends again.

WC Charlotte

Once again, the theme of losing one’s home comes to light in my ancestral history.  To voluntarily leave your homeland to escape poverty – – to seek a better life halfway around the world – – only to have poverty find you again must be one of the most disheartening feeling in life.  

I have never known poverty to the extent that my father described it in his childhood, nor to the extent that my grandmother described it in Germany when she left.  Yet the fear of it lurks in every corner: what if something happens to me or to my husband and we can’t work?  What happens if we become sick?  What happens if we become injured?  What happens if our economy gets as bad as what it was in post World War I Germany, and a pound of butter or a bar of soap is simply more than could be afforded?  Would we leave this country, our families and friends, our language, our traditions and culture, in search of a better life elsewhere?

Do these fears and anxieties I suffer stem from the life experiences of my ancestors, and not my own?



(This post is part of a serial blog.  Please see previous post: Generation Two, Paternal: William.)  

My grandfather Arthur was the only grandparent still living when I was born (aside from my great-grandmother Elnora, Ruth’s mother).  He died when I was seven years old, so I do have some memories of him.  He lived with us one summer, and according to my mother he used to make the rounds living for a few months with each of his three children.  Then he would spend the winters down in Texas, from where he would send us each Christmas a gigantic box of the bestest, most sweetest, biggest oranges I have ever seen or tasted.

Arthur was born in Evanston, Illinois.  His father Edward was pure-bred English and had recently immigrated to the Chicago area.  His mother Anna was hard-working German stock from Manitowoc County, Wisconsin (you will read more about them in Generation Four, Maternal: Edward & Anna and George & Elnora).  Not much is known about his early life in Evanston.  I do have a photo of him as an altar boy, but this could have been taken after they had left Illinois.  

3. Art Altar Boy

Arthur Lugg (left)

In 1911, when my grandfather was only three years old, his father died of pneumonia.  The next census lists the family (Mother Anna, and children Arthur, Edwin, and Alma) as living in Liberty Township, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.  I can only speculate that newly-widowed with three young children to support, my great-grandmother Anna had few choices except to move back to her hometown where she could receive help raising her children.

Losing your father and being uprooted at a young age has got to be very traumatic. One of my classmates lost her father to a heart attack in second grade – – the same year I lost my grandfather, and the same year my best friend lost her grandmother.  That was perhaps the first realization that death can swiftly swoop up the ones you love with no warning and upend your world. It was one of the many fears I harbored when I was that age. But how do you explain to a three year old that one day Daddy is here, and the next he is not, and he’s never coming back?

When I was eleven, the mere notion of leaving my house, much less my neighborhood, my school, my classmates and friends…well, it was just unspeakable.  Even though I did speak it.  I declared out loud to my parents that if they ever decided they were moving, I was not going with them.  Where I thought I would stay, who would support me, and what prompted this bold declaration of independence I do not recall.   My parents were as set in that house as a wasp in a beer trap; I needn’t have feared we were ever going anywhere.

But leave everyone and everything he had known is what my grandfather and his siblings did.  I know nothing of his young life in Manitowoc County.  I don’t know how he met and married my grandmother Ruth or how they ended up in Sheboygan.  He must have been quite the entrepreneur, however, because at one time he owned a bowling alley and also had a business selling frozen pizzas (which must have been a new thing in those days…he could have been the original Schwan’s man!).  In fact, the chest freezer that resided in our basement and housed products from the Hostess outlet (and once, a dead bat) used to be his from his frozen pizza selling days.

As far as wars go, Arthur lucked out.  He was seven years old when World War I broke out, and pushing 40 when World War II was going on.  He was too young to fight in the first one and too old for the second one.  At least no war trauma has been passed down from him.

Being married to manic-depressive Ruth must have been like a war zone, however.  How did he manage as her moods swung up and down like a crazy carnival ride?  Did he feel like she was friendly one day and the enemy the next?  They wed in 1928; I do not know if Ruth exhibited signs of the manic-depression then, or whether the onset was later.

The only story I have heard of Arthur’s feelings toward his wife’s disease (of which he would probably be mortified to learn is the one being passed down) is what he told my father: when my grandmother was manic, he got worn down with all the sex she wanted.  He just couldn’t keep up.

3. Ruth Art

He never talked to me about his wife or his life prior to living with us.  When Ruth died at the age of 51, unexpectedly and wrongfully, was he devastated?  Or was there a part of him that was relieved?  

I treasure the memories I do have of him, mostly of us sitting out in the back yard in the summertime in lawn chairs.  This was the summer of “the creature” – – something I saw several times in our backyard when I was sitting with him that had crawled away right before he had time to look.  When I tried to describe it to him, he told me there was no such thing – – that it sounded like some sort of prehistoric turtle dinosaur.  It looked like a brown turtle, but its shell was flat and had spikes all over it.  And it crawled faster than a turtle.  I saw it more than once that summer but possibly not more than twice.  When I tried to look up what it was years later I came to the conclusion that my grandfather had been right, that there was no such creature, that I must have imagined it.

3. Art Pape girls

Standing:  Jan (left), Diane (right).  Seated:  Arthur Lugg with me on his lap

One thing I can and do imagine is how my grandmother’s disease must have devastated my grandfather.  When did it begin to get so bad?  How did he cope?  What help did he try to get for her?  What did friends and family think and how did they react?  Had he ever wished he would have married someone else?

Arthur Lugg died in his living room chair in his apartment in Texas the winter I was seven years old.  The cause of death was determined to be choking, and I’d like to think that it was something really good that killed him – – like one of those Texas Christmas oranges.  But we will never know.

What I know of Ruth’s childhood comes from public records, not family stories.  She was born in 1912 to Elnora Schrader and George Clish.  She had one sibling: George Jr.  When she was seven years old, in 1919, her parents divorced.  You may have heard that divorce is a more recent phenomena and that in those days people didn’t do it; that they just stuck things out, “‘Til death do us part.”  That may have been true in many cases, but not in the case of the abuse my great grandmother Elnora suffered at her husband’s hands, and the repeated desertions and indignities.  The physical and verbal abuse that occurred when he came around was likely was not hidden from little Ruth’s eyes and ears.

Like her future husband, Arthur, Ruth too was taken to live with her grandparents after the male head of the family was out of the picture.  She had been born in Oshkosh, presumably had school chums and neighborhood friends, but had to leave all that to come live at her grandmother’s in Sheboygan so that her mother could make ends meet for her two fatherless children (she was supposed to receive alimony, but you’ll read more about that in Generation Four, Maternal: Edward & Anna and George & Elnora).  Presumably her mother Elnora found love again when she re-married Edgar Fenninger, who adopted her.

After her marriage to Arthur, I have the family stories surrounding her disease (see Generation Two, Maternal: Donna).  From my sister who is 15 years older than I am and who knew Grandma Ruth, I have stories from when she was well.  I know that she was an avid gardener who grew beautiful roses.  I know she was a busy Avon lady who never wanted to miss a call, so had a ridiculously long phone cord that stretched out into her garden.  I know that she had a beautiful singing voice, and when she exercised it her neighbors would open their windows so they could hear her.  I know that she was the life of any party – – when she was well.

3. Art Ruth party

Ruth (far left) and Arthur (far right).  This might have been my parents’ wedding reception.

On March 3rd, 1964, while a patient at Winnebago State Hospital (formerly Northern Hospital for the Insane), my grandmother Ruth was given a drug to which she was allergic: Tofranil, a tricyclic antidepressant.  She died as a result.  She was not quite 52 years old.  My grandfather sued the doctor who administered it, but for unknown reasons the suit was dismissed.

The parallels between my grandmother Ruth’s life and my sister Jan’s life are eerily similar.  My sister also died while institutionalized for her severe bipolar disorder, although she made it to age 57.

The parallels between Ruth & Arthur’s childhoods and my father’s childhoods are also similar:  all suffered losses of their fathers at an early age, and subsequently their homes.  It is beginning to seem more and more likely that the anxiety I suffered surrounding being away from home as a child, though baseless in my lifetime, could have been caused by the previous generations.


(This post is part of a serial blog.  Please see previous post – Generation Two, Maternal: Donna).

My dad was a big baby, in purely the literal sense of the term.  He was over 10 pounds at birth, probably overdue by at least a week or two.  I think he was stalling entering this life, trying to put off for as long as possible the turmoil that awaited him.

William Pape, Jr., as he was assumed to be, was actually not.  His father’s full name was William Otto Pape, and my father’s full name was William August Pape, presumably after the month in which he was born.  Nor did my father take after his father in any trait of personality as far as I can surmise (I never met my grandfather).  Nor did he take much after his mother, either (again, as far as I can surmise, as I never met her either).  

Both his parents had recently emigrated from Germany, separately, then married and settled on a small farm on the outskirts of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  Nine months later, on August 26, 1923 my father reluctantly emerged into the chaos of life.  German was his first language.  When he began kindergarten, a friend of the family accompanied him and acted as his translator.  By this time, a brother and a sister had joined the family.  The Great Depression had also begun.

X_Bill Doris Charly Pape as Kids

Each of my father’s parents was as stubborn as the other.  My father remembers that whenever they were together under the same roof there was nothing but bickering and arguing and physical violence.

William Otto was shell-shocked, as was the term at the time.  Now they would say he had post-traumatic stress disorder.  He was also jealous, argumentative, wanted no friends, and had a short fuse.  We will learn more about him in Generation Three, Paternal: William and Charlotte.  But to understand my father’s childhood, you have to know these facts.

My grandfather would have flashbacks and/or get so angry about something, that at dinner once he took an entire pot of boiling potatoes and threw them against the wall.  He also threw his wife against the wall.  And he threw the three children against the wall.  He threw chairs and furniture around until they visibly busted apart.  The busting apart that the people in the household endured  was mostly on the inside where it could not be easily seen.

He got so angry at the whole miserable lot of his family and his life that he just up and took off.  No one had any idea where he went.  He stayed away for months, but eventually turned up again.  This was when my dad was about ten years old.  

During this time, his mother’s sewing machine was in his younger sister’s room, in front of the window.  His mother was in there sewing one evening, and it was dusk outside.  Being out in the country with no one around for acres and acres, the shades had not been drawn.  My father was in the living room reading a Zane Gray novel when he noticed the sewing machine had stopped suddenly, followed by a long period of silence.  He got up to investigate, only to discover his mother sitting absolutely frozen in front of the idle machine.

He shook her.

“Ma!  What’s wrong?” he asked.

She looked at him, bewildered and perhaps frightened, and said, “Sonny, there was a man looking at me!”

My dad ran outside and checked around the open areas of the farm, but he saw no one.  He suspects it could have been Max Behringer, whom his parents had met at a dance and who had taken a shine to my grandmother, who was quite pretty in her youth.  Max was married, but according to my father his wife was big and heavy and looked more like a man than a woman.

When his father returned to the family, the fighting and violence was worse than ever; the marriage was clearly in shambles. Could they have been fighting about the fact that Max Behringer was riding his bicycle over to the farm during the day while my grandfather was at work?  Could it have been about the social worker who repeatedly came to the property that my grandmother refused to let in the house?

The social worker must have seen enough to conclude that this environment was neither suitable nor safe for three children.  One day the sheriff arrived at the door and all three of the children were taken.  They were driven into town and installed in the inauspicious House of the Friendless (yes, it really was called that!), where they would remain for the next several months.

Next they went to live at the home of some friends of their father, Edwin and Olga Puls.  Their father was also living there at the time.  He’d left their mother again, but at least this time they knew where he was.  My father said it was so miserable living with the Pulses and his father – – maybe it was even worse than living at The House of the Friendless.  He got blamed for everything the Puls’ children did, and he was hollered at and whipped for things he had no idea about.

His only escape was to the baseball diamond behind the house.  This is where the Sheboygan Indians team practiced.  They would let my dad field balls for them, and other little things (as he was much younger than these big boys).  His mother knew he did this and one day appeared at the diamond with a friend.  My father ran away with her, back to the farm.

It wasn’t long before the sheriff showed up again.  But for some reason he wasn’t made to go back to the Puls’. He does remember having to go to court.  It was the Pulses that tried to coach my father testifying against his mother, saying she was an unfit mother with no means of supporting three children.  He did appear in court, but he didn’t testify.  His dad was mad at him for that; who knows what violence my father suffered at his hands as a result.  But he didn’t have to leave his mother or the farm.

Eventually, his father and his brother and sister also returned to the farm.  At one point there were seventeen people living there, in the little two-bedroom farmhouse with a full attic. During the Depression, when jobs and money were so scarce, a farm was the best place to survive. They grew all their own vegetables, which they stored in sand-layered crates in the basement, and had food all winter.  The basement walls were lined with wooden racks on which they stored hundreds of eggs from their chickens, which they also sold.  They also had geese, ducks, rabbits, and goats. My father never remembers his parents ever visiting a grocery store – – except for one time.  He was sick, and really wanted some graham crackers.  So his mother walked through a snowstorm to the neighborhood grocery to get him some.

Perhaps my father was sick that time due to his harsh walk to Pigeon River School and back.  No, it wasn’t ten miles, uphill both ways.  My father reports it was about a four mile walk through the fields.  In the wintertime, this could mean snow up to his hips.  He often arrived at school with his pants soaking wet from his snowy trek.  He was always sent down to the basement of the schoolhouse, to the boiler room, to dry out.  He often joked that he spent more time in the boiler room than he did in the classroom!  He wasn’t alone down there, though; he remembers having the company of at least a half dozen other kids in the same plight.  The teacher would give them their assignments, and they would just work in the basement instead of at their desks upstairs.  

The janitor would come in and out and always ask, “You dry yet?”  Nope.  They would be down there all morning.  “Why don’t your parents send you with an extra set of clothes?  Then you could just come and change down here instead of having to sit down here all morning.”

An extra set of clothes during the Depression?  Most people didn’t have one.  My father only owned one pair of pants all through high school.  They were corduroys, and they got washed once a week on Saturdays (the one day of the week when they also got a bath, if they were lucky).  He reports, “The material got so thin in the crotch that my jewels were hanging out.” He remembers girls wearing the same dresses every day, too; so at least he wasn’t alone.  Poverty is not quite as miserable when everyone is in the same listing, half-sinking boat.

When my father was around twelve years old, his father left the family for good and was never seen again.  No one knew where he went.

The work of being “the man of the house” and doing many of the chores (caring for all the chickens, ducks, rabbits, etc). fell to my father.   I imagine his brother, who was not quite two years younger than him, could not help much.  He had muscular dystrophy, and I surmise by this time the symptoms would have presented and he would have been deteriorating.  There is a photo of him in a wheelchair as a young teen at Camp Wawbeek in Wisconsin Dells for kids with disabilities.  (How it was afforded to send him I will never know.  I can only guess he had a benefactor.  Perhaps it was my grandmother’s good friend, neighbor, and kindergarten translator, Christina – – who also left a dime on the refrigerator almost every Saturday so the kids could go to the movies.)

X_Charlie Pape at Camp Wawbeek_1946

At any rate, in addition to having to take over many of the household chores, my father was also a caregiver for his brother.  My father talked about having to carry him places, and even having to shave him when his beard came in.  He probably would have done these chores gladly, had he known that soon they would lose everything.

Area farmers came in and took all the chickens, ducks, goats, and rabbits.  The bank foreclosed on the farm and it went up for auction.  With no means of support, the Pape family was now at the mercy of what was then called The Relief Department.  They were moved into the city of Sheboygan into rental properties – – different ones every few months, depending on the cheapest rent that could be obtained.  The children were shuffled from school to school.  It seemed like they would almost up to speed on what was going on in the classroom when they were yanked out and sent somewhere else.

Maybe this is why my grandmother always called my father a dummkopf.  But he was far from it; he admitted to me later in life that he just acted that way so people wouldn’t expect much from him.  I think he earned that right, with all that was expected of him so early in his life.

On December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was attacked, leading to the United States entering World War II, my father was 18 years old. He saw the war as an escape from his home front responsibilities.  The thought of marching on a battlefield or a beach somewhere and being shot at didn’t even frighten him.  He didn’t recall ever really being afraid of anything growing up.

So, soon after he graduated from high school in June of 1942, he told his mother he was catching a bus to Milwaukee to enlist in the Marine Corps.  She didn’t believe him.  When she got up one morning and he was gone (and didn’t return), she still didn’t believe him.  She had the police out looking for him!

They didn’t find him, of course.  He really had enlisted.  He said the years in “The Corps” were the best of his life.  For once, he wasn’t responsible for everyone and everything.  The only person he had to get ready in the morning was himself, and he was often one of the first ones up before reveille.  Out of his $50/month pay, he sent all but $5 home to his mother.  He served as a cook in the Southwest Pacific area, the Philippines, and during the consolidation of the Solomon Islands.

X_Bill Pape_Marine Uniform_1943-46

I have two favorite stories from his years in “The Corps.”

The first is rather spiritual, or supernatural.  My father was in his tent, writing a letter, when he heard a voice frantically calling, “Bill! Bill! Bill!”  He ran out of the tent to see what was wrong, but there was nobody around.  While he stood there, a tree fell right on his tent!  Had he been inside, he would have been killed.

The second involves the conditions surrounding his promotion from Private to Corporal.  An officer’s wife was throwing a fancy party for officers one night.  Shortly before the military official guests were scheduled to arrive, she burst into the mess hall in a panic.  It seems she had burnt the gravy for whatever dish she was making, and she begged my father to give her a batch of his giblet gravy.  He obliged, of course.  The next day he was suddenly and mysteriously promoted.  If the proof is in the pudding, the promotion must be in the gravy.

After my father was honorably discharged from the Marines after the end of the war in 1946, he returned to Sheboygan and began the work-a-day life.  When he was 25, he was hired to drive bus for the city.  Upon arriving home after his first day on the job, he discovered his brother had died.  I think it was from pneumonia, which his muscular dystrophy did not allow him to fight off.

In June of 1951, at the age of 27, he and my mother got married.  The traumas my mother suffered in Generation Two, Maternal: Donna were shared ones with my father.  

X_Wedding_Bill and Donna Pape

It seems his life came full circle regarding caregiving and keeping house.  I felt particularly sorry for my father during those years after my mother took to the couch.  He had to do everything; he did the grocery shopping, he fixed the meals, he paid the bills, he fetched her whatever she wanted, he did all the outside work, he ran all the errands.  Alone.  Always alone.  He longed for companionship, and he longed to get out of the house – – to go on a bus trip to one of the many fascinating sites in the state, or even just for a simple walk around the neighborhood.  He had friends, but he never wanted to leave my mother for very long.  He was devoted to her, albeit it somewhat resentfully.

Eventually his body and mind slowly gave out.  He frequently complained of being so tired, and that every place in his body hurt (“even my hair hurts!”).  When he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer, the reason for this became clear.  He also got a bit senile and started having auditory and visual hallucinations, as well as memory problems.  The hallucinations were so real he even called the police a couple of times, because people were coming right into his house and taking things!

It wasn’t the cancer that got him in the end, though.  Like his brother, he died of pneumonia; more specifically, he contracted a MRSA infection in his lungs (see Cheesy Smile).  This was after less than a year of living unhappily in a nursing home.  As the doctor who attended him when we made the decision to unhook him from the ventilator and to cease dialysis said, “Pneumonia can be an old man’s best friend.”  He died on April 7, 2007 at the age of 83.  

Relating all this has made me wonder for the first time about the true cause of the terrible anxiety I had as a child surrounding being away from home.  It started in nursery school when I was four; when my mom dropped me off and left, I did not cry for a bit and then get engrossed in the fun activities with the other children.  I cried the whole time.  What a disruption I must have been!  I had a hard time starting kindergarten as well, sometimes being so anxious as to say I was sick in order to be able to stay home.  Sleeping over at a friend’s house invariably led to having to go home in the middle of the night.  I was terrified to go to 6th grade camp for 3 nights, but at least I made it one whole night before I had to come home.

I always believed I suffered from mother separation anxiety.  I thought it may have stemmed from my mom being away at the hospital for bladder surgery when I was a baby (see Once Upon a Bedroom, Parts Two and Three).  However, after reflecting upon this just now, I realize it wasn’t specifically my mother I was anxious about being separated from (although that was certainly part of it).  It was home.  I didn’t want to be away from home.  Upon relating my father’s story, I realize a lot of his childhood trauma centered around losing his home and being shunted from place to place.  Perhaps it was this trauma that imprinted upon my DNA and caused the somewhat agoraphobic gene to switch on in me?

I am happy to report that I no longer suffer from anxiety related to being away from home, although I do not crave to move as often as some people seem to.  This is only the fifth place I’ve ever lived, and we’ve been in this house since December of 1997.  I’ve now lived in this house almost as long as I lived in the house in which I grew up.

What other answers to the puzzle await in the pieces of stories from the next generations back?