100 years of estrangement in a diagram(s)
Posted on March 8, 2016
I feel like an archaeologist. I’m digging up my family’s past and I have a responsibility to treat it carefully, like it might break, because this involves other people, not just me. I’m telling the story, but other people are part of it. They had their own points of view. All I can do is guess.
So when I sit down to chart what I know, in a diagram, I know that I’m not really telling the whole story. I’m only telling the parts of it I know for sure. It is not going to be accurate, necessarily, more like a hologram captured on an old film that got trashed.
Humans are good at recognizing patterns, they say. So I decided to test that theory out and see if there is a pattern to my family’s past estrangements, one that might shed some light on why this happened and why we are here, a chasm between the generations, in 2016. But I am disappointed in what I find. Though there is a lot of estrangement in my parent’s generation, before that I don’t see anything that unusual. There is one pattern that sticks out, though: the repeated loss of fathers since the 1860s. Fathers that die when their children are young. Fathers that abandon their families. That strikes me as odd. It’s as if those children were only able to be attracted to the children of other fatherless families and thus continue what they knew.
The other pattern – the reverse pattern, if you like – that I see is that these fatherless families were headed by the mothers that were left behind. They were the leaders and created the family culture that was handed down to me. My father was raised by these women. He never got over it.
Diagram I made for my NZ family,: ending with my parents:
Note: the hatched lines are broken relationships with no contact
The plain lines are relationships with contact.
This is just one part of the story, though; about my mother’s family, due to emigration and estrangement, I know nothing. This is mostly because of the lack of contact between my mother and her immediate family, but also because the rest of her family lived on the other side of the world. Emigration and distance, at least in the past, were an estrangment. It has always made me so sad to not have known any of them. There is a hole where they should be. Maybe I would have loved them.
Her family is in the diagram below, ending with her parents. Hatched line = no contact. Yeah, I really know nothing about these people.
There’s some events I left off my diagrams because they were getting too cluttered and difficult to read. There’s the 2 World Wars – I talked about the effect those had on my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, and the trauma that was handed down, here.
There’s the emigrations that have happened in every generation, including my own (I emigrated too).
But everything else is still a mystery.