After moving we stored things we couldn’t use in a shed until we could figure out what to do. One of those things was an antique Duncan Phyfe dining room table from my aunt Kate – my Grandmother’s sister. My aunt Kate had been married twice and couldn’t have children. Her first husband was a miner that passed away young. She had gone on to marry an older widower who had children. She was married to my Uncle Ralph by the time I was born, her first husband Freeman had been gone many years.
They lived in a beautiful house on Logan. I loved playing in that house. It’s now painted blue and has been turned into a hair salon, but at the time it was a two story Victorian with a wrap around porch, basement and several rooms upstairs too. The hair salon has enclosed the wrap around porch (I haven’t been inside to see what else they have done). The dining room was huge with two doors onto the porch, my aunt kept two matching desks across from each other as well as her quilting frame in that room in the section with the doors. There was even a fireplace with what I seem to remember had green marble on it. Their bedroom with a private bath was off of the dining room. The living room had a bay window and I remember a large photo of Niagara falls (It may have been another falls) over the fireplace. My uncle was an photographer in his free time and they would travel all over the United States. They had visited the entire 48 states (that’s how many there were at the time) and collect photos and post cards. The entry had a large stair way that led to the second floor.
I would always venture upstairs where there was a bedroom with a large walk in closet. I can remember a vanity that included a brush and mirror set that I can still see clearly, and a rounded mirror. Across the hall was a large two room ‘apartment’ type bedroom with a bath and a separate kitchen area. I was never sure why it was set up that way, but I suspect the hair place has it set up as a rental now.
I remember during my childhood getting to stay at her house. It was one of my favorite places! We would get dropped off there when my parents needed a babysitter. Most of my memories of the house involve the dining room and getting to explore the upstairs. Later my aunt sold the house as it became too much for her to take care of. She moved to a rental apartment by the park in the same town. I’m not sure what happened to most of her furniture, though at the time the dining room table went to some of my cousins. The cousin’s over-time put it in a shed where I was able to find it upon setting up our house about 30 years ago. We still have one of the matching desks here – my brother had gotten the other and I have no idea if he still has it. My aunt had taken such care of that table. I even have a few of the specially made covers she had made to take care of the top. My cousins had lost the leaves that could extend it, but my husband and I had made some that we used throughout the years. They were slightly warped and always added something unique to our meals. The table when stretched out seated over 12 people. The table has a lot of memories, which were brought up recently because people trying to get other things out of the shed broke the legs off the table without telling me. I just happened to find it while going in to put away a little more of my stuff. Another table would not be the same. It was that table!
My aunt went on to live with my grandmother and we are using my grandmother’s table in our current house. Because my aunt developing Alzheimer’s she later went into a nursing home and passed away there. She and my grandmother though were the two that got me my first computer (my father thought they were unnecessary and useless). It was a Commodore 64. My first paid job was an inventory system for a small company that was using a commodore 64 to manage things. It was in the middle of the 80s. I spent my senior year in high school on that computer with my cousin from Westville Chris McDowell and a few other kids from the area. It was one of the first times I felt like I fit in with a group and I had a great time. DACC had a bulletin board system, and we all left messages for each other at all hours of the day and night. I know my aunt and grandmother had no clue anything about the computer but they supported me.
My aunt also got me started with quilting. I still have an old hat box that has all the little pieces of fabric she gave that were scraps from pieces of things she was working on. My grandmother would piece quilts together and my aunt would quilt them. My grandmother would knit and my aunt would crochet. The two were frequently together. My grandmother had 9 brothers and sisters, but my aunt Kate and my Lena were the two that my grandmother was the closest to.
The bottom picture shows the table in use, though it’s covered by a table cloth. The chairs are old chairs that were much older than the table. My grandmother had recovered them. My grandmother is holding me and it also includes my Aunt Kate, Aunt Lena, Uncle Ervin, and My mom and dad.
Things I remember on this table include birthday parties – throwing a surprise party for my husband with my grandmother there and finding out that 40 candles burn really really hot! The day that I walked out to find my middle son sitting in the middle of the table with pieces of broken leaded glass in his fingers where he had broken a wedding gifts top from my godmother. She had worked so hard to bring that gift to us, since airport security couldn’t xray through the leaded glass and it ended up involving unwrapping it and rewrapping it on the way to the wedding. There were a lot of family parties around that table. It was a drop leaf, so it folded up smaller and it also extended out to become large.
I’m not sure how the guys that broke the table bumped it given where it was sitting. They had to go out of their way to break the table, but my mother who didn’t really like my table to start with has said that she accepted their apology. I’m not completely sure if the table is even worth fixing as the legs will still be unstable after and they have placed it on the top which has probably scratched up the top. One of the cool things about the top was the finish that I could never figure out how it was accomplished. It was glossy, but it was an amazing finish!
On both sides of my family I’ve had women that were pretty amazing as role models. Some are still around and others are just in my family history, but had an effect on the formation of who I am. If you divide my family into my four grandparents, you will find that 75% have descended from ancestors that came to the United States before the Revolution.
That last 25% was my grandmother’s family that came over from Italy in the early 1900’s. My grandmother was the last of nine children with the first three being born in Italy and coming over with just my great grandmother to follow her husband as he came to the Clinton IN and Belgiumtown IL, joining a cousin and finding work in a coal mine. My great grandfather came over first leaving his wife to come on a ship with three very young girls over to the US. At that point the trip involved bringing everything you wanted to keep in a chest and staying in a small area for a long time with a lot of other people, in the bottom part of the ship. Then arriving at Ellis Island, where if you (and the kids) had managed to remain healthy, you were quarantined in dormitories until you were cleared to leave the island.
My family then went on to Clinton Indiana where one of the girls passed away. Over time they lost two girls out of all their children, one even having the same name as my grandmother. My great grandfather worked in a coal mine, and the boys went on to join him as they became old enough. My grandmother being the youngest was the only child that managed to go to high school. My great grandmother thought that she wasn’t as healthy as the others and would end up needing to work in some field that didn’t involve as intensive work… My grandmother at one point said she had wanted to be a nurse. The kids all pulled money together and grandma made it to high school. She borrowed books and studied as much as she could, going on to be a school teacher at the point when a college degree wasn’t necessary.
My great grandfather had passed away when my grandmother was only two from the flu of 1918. He was in the process of applying for citizenship at the time, so the paperwork didn’t get completed. I’m not sure when my aunt’s finished their paperwork, but my great grandmother didn’t apply until shortly before her death in the 60s. She lived simply in a small house in Belgiumtown Illinois, grew her own food, and cleaned houses for the coal miners in the area. Most of my aunts and uncles lived nearby – within just a few blocks.
When my mother’s father drowned while my mother was only about 3, my grandmother and mother moved in with my great grandmother. When my grandparents married my grandmother had to quit teaching since women teachers were not allowed to be married at that time. (It seems crazy now to think about the restrictions they faced!) My grandmother went on to do several things to keep my mother and herself fed and clothed until she met her second husband.
Even having never met my great grandmother I can say she was pretty amazing. Traveling to a new country with three young kids by herself, not knowing the language, then raising the kids including suffering the loss of two of her children – and then the loss of her husband, and keeping everyone fed and clothed is pretty amazing. Part of the time this occurred was during WWI and WWII when Italians weren’t high on the list of favorite people in the United States. I remember one day coming home to tell my grandmother a new joke someone had told me that involved Italians. I had no clue what the term Daigo meant, I’m not even sure the kid that told me the joke knew what it meant. But my grandmother knew! My grandmother could swear up a storm, but that was one word I learned not to ever repeat again. There were others, things kids called them in school, but that one was my first experience with what my grandmother faced growing up.
My grandmother when first married had lived in a little shack, using a drawer for my mother to sleep in. My grandfather worked a coal mine with his brothers – my grandmother’s brother built the shack if I remember right. I’ve written about the stories from when my grandmother met her second husband, and remarried. Like my great grandmother she originally avoided getting remarried.
There are so many things I learned from my grandmother, and so much more I could have learned from her. All my grandmother’s (and aunts) have served through time as strong role models.
I recently read an article by someone about what she would tell her children if she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve actually lived through a few instances of both Alzheimer’s and dementia now and in the past. Both are pretty sucky diseases! I got the impression from the article (and I could be wrong) that the person writing it was talking about the disease that you see on television. The forgetful parent that is living in the past and is still mobile. For Alzheimer’s disease that was a stage we did see too. I won’t write much about it other than to say my impression was that the article was written to make caregivers feel guilty for thoughts they may be having. Thoughts that they already are probably having a hard time with. In reality, no two people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia are the same. When I say it’s a sucky disease I mean it becomes a disease like being locked inside your body with no way to communicate and no one has any idea if you are aware or not. Think awake coma…. In this case though there isn’t the television hope of they are going to wake up… the hope really is that they don’t suffer too much.
My Aunt Kate – Alzheimers
My Aunt Kate was my first experience with Alzheimer’s disease. We didn’t even have a clue what was going on at first. Growing up I loved spending time with her. She, my Aunt Lena Mack, and my grandmother had been the youngest girls in the family of nine kids in an immigrant family raised by my great grandmother. The lost their father in 1918 in the flu. My Aunt Kate had married a miner when she was young and then lost him early. She later met my Uncle Ralph who sold insurance and took photos – lots of phots, and developed them himself!
They lived in the coolest house. If I had been old enough when she sold that house in Danville Illinois, I would have bought it for sure! It is still there, but has been changed beyond belief. It’s beside DCFS and is now a hair place painted blue. It had a huge wrap around porch and at least 4 rooms upstairs. One of the rooms was a suite and my aunt and uncle never used that part of the house – except when we visited. One room had a huge walk in closet with a vanity also. I would go up and check out the vanity with the mirror and old style hair brush, ten wander around. My parents would drop us at my aunt and uncles when they wanted to go out and needed a babysitter…. My aunt always had a quilt set up in the dining room also. I loved her quilt frame and went on to have my husband create a similar one for me. My grandmother would piece quilts and my aunt would quilt them. She could finish the whole quilt in a month and her stitches were amazing.
Later she moved to a condo after selling. My grandmother sold her own house and moved nearby, and over time they moved in together. I remember though the first signs being in the apartment where my aunt started repeating the same stories over and over again. She had stories that we had heard a few times before, but it seemed those stories started coming up more often. Why she didn’t have any children was a popular one. At first though it was little things, nothing that we could really say for sure. Over time though it started to become obvious that memory as becoming a problem.
At this point I had left for college and was just seeing everyone on visits. On visits it still appeared my aunt was the same person but told the same stories a few too many times. My family had started to realize though. My grandmother and Aunt got a house together, alarms had to be put on the doors in case she wandered…. and my grandmother had to be the caregiver. But then my grandmother got sick… My grandmother found out she had breast cancer when my oldest was born. We had to debate live vaccines or dead vaccines at the time because of chemo… and rearrange baptisms so that she would be healthy enough to attend. The question though was, if the caregiver now needs care? So my aunt had to go to a facility.
My Aunt Kate at assisted living would call home asking to be picked up. She would try to escape, following people out. She also though would tell people stories about how she worked there and would run around making people’s beds for them. We would bring the kids to visit, and everyone loved them. As time went on her mind retreated and she started recognizing people as the younger version of people from her childhood. Visiting was good, she may have thought we were someone else, but it was good for her to interact.
Near the end though Alzheimer’s patient’s become violent. They are frustrated at the fact they can’t remember and they start to just fight back against everything and everyone. My mother dealt with that. Patients start losing their ability to do basic things. The toughest part is that their body in many parts is healthy, it’s only their mind that is suffering.
My Dad – Vascular Dementia
My dad on the other hand is suffering from vascular dementia. My father had been suffering from untreated high blood pressure for quite a while without realizing it. It apparently put little holes in parts of his brain. Additionally he had a motor cycle accident in his late teens that causes brain damage. The brain damage from the accident was so bad he wasn’t expected to live, but he had made it – and he recovered with just head aches. Now though the accident makes brain scans difficult.
One morning my father had a stroke, that was really the beginning of the end. The doctor found the high blood pressure and started treating it. My father’s family though has a history of strokes and my dad’s strokes didn’t stop them. My father has had trouble with clotting and each stroke the doctors wouldn’t realize what was going on until later. I remember a call where my mother called me and said that my father couldn’t move his hand anymore, had slurred his speech but the doctor over the phone said it couldn’t be a stroke and not to bring him in…. I don’t even have a medical degree and suspected stroke…. Two days later they decided it maybe was a stroke and put him in the hospital.
After a couple years of this, a doctor decided my father needed a heart valve replacement. My father was having issues with memory, slowly slipping. My mother was still able to leave him for short periods of time (though he once threw away their smoke detector when cooking in the microwave). My dad was doing a few odd things like he pushed a grain wagon in the pond by mistake, but he was puttering around the farm… still going out and interacting sometimes. I have a video of him sword fighting with fake swords with my youngest. We debated the surgery though….. without it according to the doctors, my father wouldn’t have much time left. Ultimately we left it up to my dad, who originally was saying no, but in the end said yes.
Ultimately the surgery was the final straw. Unknown to us at the time, surgery like this can cause a drastic decline in some older patients like this…. and my dad was one of those odds. He went through a personality change that was a little tough to deal with, his memory quickly decreased, and physically he never fully recovered. As he declined quickly he needed a walker, but couldn’t remember to use it. Not using a walker when you need it, leads to falls. So we were dealing with health issues, behavior changes, and other new issues and my dad wasn’t a small man.
Moving into memory care, because of the behavior changes, caused my dad to have issues with caregivers in the facilities. Men are much more rare in nursing homes. My father was sent to locked wards at first to adjust his meds for behavior, then the first facility took him and just dropped him at an ER and said they wouldn’t take him back. We were new to all this, dealing with documenting everything, but lost really. Luckily we found a facility in the Amish community (a couple hours away) that was willing to take my father. Due to the first facility my father had been blacklisted everywhere close. After a while my father was able to be moved closer and is now a lot closer… but now he’s no longer in a memory care unit.
Vascular Dementia really can mean that the memory only declines each time there is new brain damage, usually in our case from a stroke. My father’s body itself has failed him completely. He can’t walk, doesn’t use one hand, and is pretty much locked away. My father was always active. My dad was a farmer… He doesn’t normally speak unless you ask him a question, and then sometimes he just stares at you. We will continue to visit, but to me it looks like he’s being tortured. Kind of like the people on television given paralytic drugs and set in front of a tv to watch glimpses of their families lives with no hope of ever escaping.
What I want my Kids to Know
For me I want my kids (and how we decide things) to make decisions that they can live with. There is enough guilt no matter what you decide when dealing with these things. Don’t ever let anyone else make you feel guilty over any choice you make. Never second guess a decision you have made, you can’t back and change something you decided in the past – so just move forward and make future plans. I can say don’t feel guilty over anything you decide or do, but no matter what – if you have anything to do with the decision, you are going to feel some guilt over some parts of what happen.
When Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients reach the point where they no longer remember family and start becoming violent, or the point where they can longer answer questions and just stare, it’s hard to not feel like they are being tortured…. actually some even earlier will tell you that they are being held against their will. They will call at night and ask to be picked up, taken home.
I don’t include normally much about what my dad and mom are going through now. If anyone is going through Vascular Dementia and wants to talk privately though they are always welcome to contact me.
Last weekend I visited home. I thought it would be nice to drive through the town that Edward Corbly help create and take a couple pictures. The school I attended from K – 4, the post office/store where I would stop and get a candy bar when walking from school to the church, the church that I attended vacation bible school (not even my religion, but a lot of my family goes there, so I went each summer and even sang in the choir sometimes).
As I drove through town, I did see a town that is still really small. Population 200 according to one of the signs I’ve found. One of the homes has a sign that says “Drive like your kids live here” (love that)…. I took a few pictures quickly with my cell phone thinking I would come back. Driving through with my mother driving. This was in my mother’s car, a car that has driven through town many times in the past…
I won’t post the rest of the story as this apparently caused quite an uproar. I will say I drove through Belgiumtown with mom (outside Westville) and didn’t have anywhere near the reaction…. So my question or pondering really comes down to, what is the proper way to record memories and history. Downloading and using others pictures really should not be used for anything you will publish – even on a blog. For anything to be published you should take your own pictures. For historic records you must have permission to publish the pictures unless they are within certain constraints (not a lawyer, don’t know what they are).
There are SO many things from history that I wish had been recorded, both people and places! Many were before pictures were easy to take like they are now, but pictures are such a great way to bring back memories and record history – I try to take them when I can. I even try to throw in video once in a while. When going on trips I try to include people in the pictures also. There are many family members that I miss immensely and seeing them in places at certain times brings it all back.
So what’s appropriate? Do you feel that pictures of your house by former residents are inappropriate? Pictures of public places? What about in a small town? And what about if it’s a house that was a public building in the past? – It’s gone now, but friends lived in the one room schoolhouse that my father went to school in. To top it off the larger school (Fithian Grade School) that I went to school in was being converted to a home the last time I heard anything about it…. So pictures?
Keep in mind what I’m talking about involves standing or being in a car and taking pictures from a public location. Pictures that are all of things that can be seen from a public place. I’m not talking about taking a drone and flying up to take a picture in a second floor window… that would be creeeeeepyyyyyy!
Some tips that I try to stick to:
If anyone asks, speak to them and explain what you are doing – they may have stories.
If you share the pictures, be respectful. Remember it may have been your location once, but someone else cares about it now…. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong
Try to avoid getting people in pictures of private locations if you going to use the pictures later.
Don’t trespass on private property (get permission)
There will always be some people that are overzealous about privacy and may not understand your desire to document your history. Additionally some areas may have turned into the ‘bad’ area of town. Be vigilant.
Join the local history groups for your home towns. I was able to post and ask questions to find out some great information. Additionally I met some great people that knew my grandmother, mother, and great grandmother – and even family I hadn’t met before!
I have to admit I wasn’t the one that posted the picture that got the negative comments, but I did take it and I did send it to a friend that had asked for it. It took a while because I came in late to the game to even figure out which picture had caused trouble… When I found out, it turned out it was a picture I had taken of a foundation for me to research later what had been at that location. I’ve been looking for the train depot in town and a foundation seemed like something to look into….
For taking pictures I have my cell phone and I have a nice Cannon camera. I usually will take any quick pics with my phone and anything that I want to keep for good I take with my good Cannon camera. I have a Wifi connector for my camera making it easy to transfer the pictures and an eyefi card also.
Church of Later Day Saints is a great source of records for Italy. You can set up to order records and go in to view them during their open hours. To order some records there is a small fee, but it’s amazing the amount of information you can find.
Pictured is the baptismal record for my Great Grandfather. He passed away in 1918 from the flu when my grandmother was only 3 – so she had no memory of him. I can try to translate, but my Italy is non-existent.
I am not able to translate this given that I don’t know Italian. I can make out some information and pick out things that I think it says. Things like that his father is Bernardo Moretto and that it lists godmother and godfather – dates, and that it was in Costallamente.
Stories I remember hearing were that my great grandfather was a small (short) man compared to my great grandmother. He came to the US to Clinton IN a little before my great grandmother and worked in the mines.
He was in the process of applying for citizenship in the US when he died. We don’t know very much information about him or his family. My grandmother’s oldest sibling was a teenager when he passed away, so they may have had more memories of him. Interestedly there are also records showing that my grandmother’s oldest sister Frances was born before my great grandparents got married. Frances came to the US with my great grandmother and two sisters – Mary and Maggie. She passed away in Clinton IN a few years after coming to the US.
I’m not sure what the atmosphere was like for an unwed mother in Italy in the early 1900s, but I assume it can’t have been ideal. I will probably never find out the full story of what happened, but it’s interesting to think of all the possibilities that could exist. My great grandmother was an amazing and strong woman. After coming to the US and having 9 children she lost her husband (while my grandmother – the youngest) was only a couple years old. She then raised the children and supported her family by cleaning houses even through the depression. In a country where they originally didn’t speak the language and had no family to lean on, she lost two children before losing her husband.