The above photo of my maternal grandfather arrived in the mail today. It came with a small sheaf of papers regarding his life. I don't feel happy to know about him, to be honest. I feel bothered. It's not like this person abandoned me. My mother was just six months old when her birth father saw her last. If anyone, it's my mother who should be a bit miffed, but she isn't. She's very glad to know who her birth father was and what he looked like. It made her feel good to learn where and how he lived. This wasn't always the case. Growing up, I'd occasionally ask her who or where she thought her birth father might be. She told me she never wanted to think about it. 'But why don't you want to know?' I wanted to know. Well, we sort of already knew. We knew his name & where he came from, but not much else. His surname was Butterworth. This was also my mother's surname until she was adopted at the age of 8. Butterworth seemed like the most English name you could come up with. I liked it.
'What if I find out he was an axe murderer'---she always specifically chose to say axe murderer---'or, worse yet, what if he had gone on to have a new family without me?'
Yes, yes, I'd say. But don't you want to know if there's a history of fill-in-the-blank illness that runs in the family? (To date my septuagenarian mother is healthy as a horse.) No, she didn't want to know, thanks very much.
She now knows probably as much as she'll ever know about the man and she's happy. I'm not. Silly, right? He lived to be 95, dying when my mom was 50. He knew where she was, for the most part, but never sought her out. I guess that's what's getting under my skin.
Thumbing through the paperwork, I found out that not only had Mr. Butterworth not gone on and become an axe murderer, but that he also didn't have anymore birth children. Relocating from San Francisco to NYC, he remarried two years after divorcing his first wife, my mom's birth mother, in 1947. His second wife pre-deceased him in the 1970s. During his prime, he'd seen the world as a merchant marine, having sailed to Africa, East Asia, South America and Europe.
My mother told me that she thinks I have his nose. Hers is sort of turned up a bit and fairly dainty. I'd like to think I have his jaw line, to be honest. My mom had the most lush head of thick brown hair when she was younger. I think she inherited his locks.
What really struck me about his story was that he, too, had been adopted at the same age as my mom had been. His mother had born him out-of-wedlock. She'd then met Butterworth 'Sr'. They wed & he adopted her son.
I think what might be bugging me most as I type this is to learn that we are really not Butterworths at all.