Friday, May 18, 2012

Family time in California

My weeklong trip to California with my sister Alyx was so good! After three days visiting our old friend Elinor, we went to Inglewood (near Los Angeles) for a first-time-ever visit to the graves of our mother's parents, Ethel and Myron McNeal.





After a daylong computer search and two trips to the Los Angeles County archives in Norwalk, we discovered the location of the grave of our mother's grandmother Alma McNeal, and visited her in Monrovia (also near Los Angeles). For the Monrovia visit, we bought three roses: one for our mother and one for each of us.


Mom was very close to her grandmother Alma but never visited her grave. She said, "She isn't there." Mom was very afraid of topics around death, maybe because her dad, Myron, died when she was nine and her mother, Ethel, died when she was 18. I can't recall ever attending a funeral when I was a child. And as an adult, I didn't learn about the deaths of my grandmother, my uncle or my aunt until several weeks later. It just wasn't a topic for discussion in our family.

I've done enough genealogy to have an idea of some of the circumstances of my family. When we were standing by our grandparents' graves in Inglewood Park Cemetery, I told Alyx the story of how our grandmother's mother died when our grandmother was three weeks old, and how by the time she was four she was living with her older sister Irene and Irene's husband Ned. I hadn't realized until last week that she was buried, beside her husband, in the same plot as Irene and Ned. I wonder if my grandmother was dependent on her sister all her life.

And our great grandmother Alma, divorced from her husband, is buried next to her sister and brother-in-law, who had moved from Colorado to California in 1909. After her divorce in the 1920s, I suspect she moved to California as well, to be near family.

The best part of the trip, though, was the time I spent with Alyx. This was our first time traveling together without our mother or our husbands. We stayed with two sets of friends (in Santa Barbara and Lake Arrowhead) and in two hotels (in Whittier and Ontario). We had a grand time - from the splurge to upgrade our rental car from the midsize sedan I booked to the Cadillac SUV we ended up with, to the early morning airport dropoff on Wednesday, when I came home, we talked and laughed and ate and talked and pondered and ate and teased and talked and geocached and grave visited and watched TV and ate. We had a few mild squabbles but we talked through every single one of them.

Not bad for two women who never had much of a personal relationship until our mother died in 2008.

This is my sister Alyx. After half a lifetime in California working as a marketer in the healthcare industry, she moved to Alaska three years ago. At age 56, she's just finished her first year of nursing school at the University of Alaska in Anchorage.


Here's to you, Sister! And thanks for the California memories.

18 comments:

Retired English Teacher said...

It sounds like the time with your sis was great. I love that you had this special sister time together. It is neat to build family relationships by learning about those who have gone before us. I find it is very important to keep those family stories alive.

MerCyn said...

The visit to the graves, the genealogy search, the long visit with your sister - what a wonderful time. So glad you two could bond and enjoy each other.

DJan said...

It sounds like it was a wonderful time. I love to spend time with my sister, and we talk for six or seven hours every week on video chat. It's almost like being there, and this visit with your sister sounds like it was a new beginning in many ways. it was fun to hear about it.

Linda Reeder said...

I like this post very much. Even though I know none of the people you are talking about, I do know the feeling of learning about and connecting with those who came before us. And I also know that the loss of a mother can strengthen the bond between sisters.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

It's wonderful that you and Alyx could spend time together and develop strong new bonds. Hooray for making the time and the effort to do this. The rewards are huge.

Simone said...

That is the coolest thing...to be able to go and visit the gravesites of your relatives. My twin sis lives in Ontario. I miss California only because she is there. I admire your sis for living out her dream and becoming a nurse.

Perpetua said...

What a simply splendid trip, Linda - family history exploration and family time with your sister. Well done to her for starting a new career at 55. I did the same and it was great!

Janette said...

Good to know that someone else went to nursing school in her 50's. I am seriously considering it!

Sounds like a wonderful trip.

Ms Sparrow said...

What a nice post. So glad you had a good time with your sister.

Arkansas Patti said...

I know when my sisters and I get together, it is so much more fun than when all the family is involved. We revert back to youngsters.
How sad that you grandparents died so young. You had no chance to know them.

Lynilu said...

My sister passed away in the fall of 2010. In May of that year, I took her on a road trip to see another sibling after bringing her to my house for a visit. I'm so glad I did that. We had other road trips in the planning, but you never know what might happen down the road. :')

rosaria williams said...

Glad you caught up with your dead relatives. I'm surprised that you found the graves.

Sandi said...

What a great adventure with your sister! I'm so glad you had fun and enjoyed one another so much. Who else can you go grave searching with than a close relative who actually cares if you find the grave stones! My husband wouldn't be all that excited about the trip, but my sister would.

You've given me a great idea! I think my sister and I need to take a road trip!

#1Nana said...

I always wanted a sister. You are lucky to have developed a good relationship with her. It's funny to think about having a good time visiting graves!

Olga said...

How nice to have that time with your sister...and the stories. This was such an interesting post!

Tracy said...

WOW Linda, isn't geneaology fascinating? What treausres you were unable to uncover for your family! I want to send congrats to your sister for forging ahead with a degree in nursing! :)

Friko said...

What a happy time you had in spite of the 'grave' undercurrent. I wish I had a sister to be friends with.

Cherish each other.

Suzanne and Malcolm said...

Hi Linda,
I'd like to know more about your past relationship with your sister. My sister- 6 years my junior and I have never truly bonded, but this past year during our mother's illness I saw potential.

Was it an age difference thing, geography thing, etc. that kept you from having a personal relationship?

I admire your interest in family history and ancestry. Thanks for sharing.