Every family has its fuzzy bits of history that can't be explained.
Mine is no exception. My mother's mother was born fresh off the boat in Charlestown, the child of an Irish immigrant whose name was Eileen (like my mother) Finnegan. Or was it Houlihan? I couldn't tell you. My great-grandfather, who abandoned Eileen within months of finding she was pregnant, was a Greek immigrant whose name was Paul. My grandmother was given up for adoption, and lived like Cinderella with an idiot adopted brother. It's been said that Eileen had written to her daughter over the years after moving to the midwest, and that Ms. Hatch, my grandmother's caregiver, had burned the letters to shield her from what pain they might cause.
It's all a mystery to me - heard in snippets from my mother and aunts. I'm used to that grey area in my family's history.
On my father's side, the only remotely interesting story is that my great-grandmother was on this national watch list in Ireland because she was in love with a British soldier at an inopportune time, and was therefore a ticking time bomb of treason in the eyes of the Irish Republic.
At least, I thought so, until I tried to locate my father's father's military records. The only Army enlistment for James T. Mullen of Philadelphia was a man born in 1920, a private who was single and had no dependants.
I knew Me-Mom and Pop-Pop married before he enlisted because they were expecting Uncle Jimmy at the time. And Pop-Pop was Catholic to the letter. And I thought he was born in '21, but I'd have to check with Dad. And he was a sergeant, too - not that he was when he enlisted...
I called my dad.
"Dad, it's not that important, but when was Pop-Pop born?"
"Um...I don't know."
"Da-ad! You were born in '48, I know that, so when was Pop-Pop born?"
"Well, nobody really knows..."
What? I then explained the record I found in the National Archives.
"You know, that's probably him."
"But he wasn't single -"
"We, uh...we don't know that, actually..."
I think I just opened a big door that had been bolted for years. I am excited and confused.
But mostly excited.