Normally, we go through our lives knowing important dates, without giving them much thought. There are those of us, however, who find out later in life a startling date that gives one pause. I had just such an instance recently while talking to my dad's only surviving sister, Jane. Aunt Jane's memory is remarkable for a woman who is going on 86. She gave birth to 16 children, 4 of whom died as infants or toddlers, but who lived long enough to break her heart. She also had three miscarriages, that she is aware of. She said there might be more, but she was pretty busy just trying to keep up with 12 children who did live - and get this - three of them still live with her, one of them with several children and grandchildren of her own. I also suspect she was busy hiding from her husband, Andrew.
We have an interesting relationship, she and I. Those children of hers are my double cousins. We share the exact same bloodline. DNA experts would go crazy. She is my dad's younger sister and was married to my mother's older brother. Just for the record, my father had 8 brothers and sisters, and 3 half brothers; my mother had 10 brothers and sisters and one half brother; my step-mother had 12 brothers and sisters, and my wife has nine brothers and sisters. I have more relatives than a Utah polygamist. And I was raised as an only child. Go figure.
While I was talking to my Aunt Jane - it was her birthday and I know she doesn't have many left, so I wanted to be sure to wish her well - she gave me the date I had never known. She has a remarkable talent for remembering birthdays, and knows the birthdays of all her siblings, and their children. No small feat, since there are over one hundred of them - children, that is. She could even tell me the birthday of my children. Anyway, I asked her if she knew the birthday of my mother and she said yes, and told me what it was.
Just to confuse you even further, the week after my mother and father got married, my father's father, a divorced man, married my mother's mother, a widow. Yep, I'm my own cousin. (My parents are step-brother and sister - my dad's step-sister's child is my step cousin, me.)
I never knew my mother's birthday because she died when I was 15 months old. She died a week before her second son died, from complications of Toxemia. Eclampsia, if you will. They didn't know much about it in those days, and she couldn't pull through it; neither did my brother, Richard. My father remarried about 15 months or so after her death, to a woman he had known for only two weeks and stayed married until she died in 1991. Her name was Pearl, but everyone called her Peggie, because her mother was named Pearl. She had 11 brothers and sisters. Like I said, I got relatives coming out of the woodwork.
My dad NEVER mentioned my mother, and when we would visit relatives, woe be unto the one who mentioned my mother in either my or Peggie's presence. That all changed when I got older, as my step-mother estranged herself from many of my dad's brothers and sisters, so they would "fill" me in on what my "real" mother was like. I grew up knowing about my mother, but nothing about her life at all. And then, last month or so, my Aunt Jane dropped the bomb. My mother's birthday is October 17th, 1927. She was married in September of 1941; gave birth to me in June, 1942; gave birth to my brother in September, 1943 and died a few days later. Here, I've done the math for you. Married at 13 years, 11 months, first child 14 years 8 months (yeah, I was full term), second child, 15 years 10 months; and took her last breath before her 16th birthday.
They did things differently in those days. Today, I doubt if it's legal anywhere in the US, well, maybe Utah, but that's a whole different can of worms. Interestingly enough, when my father had his stroke and his memory was fading, he couldn't remember my name or who I was, for the most part. I asked him one day if he had any children and he said, "Yes, a son who's name I can't remember and a son named Richard Marlin." I then asked him how many times he was married and he got angry and said loudly, "I only had one wife, Lula Marie, the love of my life." And that was the end of that conversation. I asked him once while he was in his 80's if he remembered her face. He nodded and said he could see it as if she was sitting across from him. I then told him, "You know, you'll always remember her as young and beautiful. Isn't that a good thought?" He looked startled when he thought about it and said, "I never thought of it that way. Thank you, son." That's something I got to set straight for my dad. Nice.