"My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma"
These are the words of my great-great uncle, Ralph Holsclaw, written in a letter to my grandmother, Mary Holsclaw Andrews. Her father, Hubert Holsclaw, or "Herb", had just died, and he was writing to her about his death. But neither one of them had known him at the time of his death. Neither one of them had seen him for years before his death.
Hubert Holsclaw had walked out on my grandma and her mother, Helen, when my grandma was only seven years old. She was an only child. My grandma and her mother lived with Helen's parents from that time on, and her grandparents, Elmer and Lottie Oder, became very close to her. But to my knowledge, from the age of seven, my grandma never again saw her father, and I don't believe she ever spoke to him again either.
So in 1973, Ralph wrote a letter on a typewriter to my grandma Mary in response to one she had written to him, telling him there were many things she wished to know. We had never heard about this letter, and only discovered it in her house after she had died. Ralph begins the letter by harkening back to 1927, the year Hubert walked out. He left, relocated to Boston, remarried, and later moved to Miami, where years later, he divorced again. But he was a hard worker, and did, it seems, keep a few close friends, but it seems he had trouble with relationships, and as Ralph later notes, he had a pattern of rejecting the people who loved him. He never did mention a daughter to anyone he came in contact with. He died suddenly, without any warning, at the age of 75.
Ralph writes, "Seventeen elderly persons attended his funeral and signed the register. I met them all as they came in and asked if they had the time to wait after the service so that I could talk with them. We all met in the back of the chapel and each and every one of them expressed to me that they had never known a finer and gentler man. None had laid eyes upon him since he bowed out upon them without a goodbye. An elderly couple who, because of their infirmities, could not attend the service, had a friend drive them to the door of the chapel and asked that I come out and talk to them, which I did. All of their questioning eyes formed the one word - WHY. They and you and I will never know the answer. None of these friends had ever heard of the existence of a brother or a daughter except Mrs. Gasche and she had not heard about you. My brother and your father - a good man - an enigma. I am sure you have detected a pattern in your father's life, as I have - a rejection of the people who loved him....."
These are the times in genealogy when you wish you could have been a fly on the wall. When you wish you could have known Mrs. Gasche, or Ralph, or Ralph's daughter that he mentions, who apparently Hubert favored. But at the same time it gives me insight to my grandmother's childhood, and what pain this man must have caused her. But having only known him to the age of seven, she couldn't really tell me much about him when I asked, or...she didn't really want to. I couldn't tell. An enigma indeed. All of genealogy really is, isn't it?