We can't choose the family into which we're born. There have times when I wished I belonged to some other family, but that's mostly just blowing off steam. When I look at how many of my friends have families whose dysfunction runs deep, I consider myself blessed to have the family I have.
I grew up in a family with unbalanced relationships. Both my grandmothers strongly preferred to spend time with their families, not with my grandfathers' relatives. Growing up, I knew some of my grandmothers' nieces and nephews who lived fifty or seventy-five miles away better than I knew my cousins across town. There are always reasons for this, of course. One of my great-uncles was gay, living his entire life in the closet. Another was (as far as I can determine) murdered. It's not particularly surprising that I have now reached the age when I hunger and thirst for information about the portions of my family I don't know well.
My father's father died in 1932. Because he and my grandmother lived in Florida then, while most of his family lived around Columbus, Georgia, almost the first chance I had to know any of his close kin was in 1969, when my family got an invitation to the wedding of one of Uncle Jim's granddaughters. Therein lies the beginning of a tale.
"Uncle Jim" was James S. Gordy (1888-1974), younger brother of my grandfather. He was in the real estate business and was quite successful. At the only meeting we had, I noted how his temperament mirrored those of my father and uncle. Dad said "Uncle Jim kissed the Blarney Stone three times." When he died five years later, my grandmother's reaction might be summarized as "good riddance." She didn't like her husband's father or brothers, whom she believed had swindled him out of an inheritance. So I've had that image of him ever since then.
This week, for no good reason, I decided to do a search for more information. What triggered this was the memory that my mother-in-law once asked me, during a phone conversation, if I had any relatives named "Jim Gordy." When I told her I did, she said she'd seen an episode of "Unsolved Mysteries" in which a man who called himself "Jim Gordy" began appearing to a little girl in Ellerslie, Georgia in 1989. When her parents got worried about this "imaginary friend," they asked their neighbors if anyone knew "Jim Gordy." They were stunned when a neighbor put them in touch with the family that had lived in the house next door. The house had for some years been the residence of Uncle Jim and Aunt Frances. Hearing this was worrisome enough that they launched an investigation. In the end, the little girl picked out a photo of Uncle Jim from twenty or so photos of men who lived or had lived nearby. Uncle Jim had been dead over fifteen years by this time.
There's a lot more to this story, some of which seems to defy credulity. The little girl's perception of "Uncle Jim" was as a benevolent protector. By contrast, she had had encounters with other spirits that were distinctly threatening. Perhaps parapsychologists can come up with an explanation for this; I can't. I'm doing more research, hoping I can uncover the particulars of this haunted relationship.
There's another unsolved mystery about my family, but it'll have to wait. Supposedly, Berry Gordy (of Motown Records fame) is also a cousin by the wrong side of the blanket. Who knew?