Four generations of strong women: The paternal-maternal side(s)

It has been said that men write history but women live it.

In my family, it’s also been the women who were the keepers of family history, the tellers of tales and stories. The saver of old photographs and documents.

Which is why I have this photograph of four generations of women who brought four different families into our lineage. Thank you, Aunt Linda, for saving it. Since they are gone, I have an obligation to tell their stories. Who are they? Continue reading

The Apple Falls Far from the Tree

Apples groundMy family name is Apple, but I am not related to anyone by that name.

Well, legally, yes. And by marriage. But genealogically no. So the old adage is definitely NOT true. At least not genetically.** Continue reading

Stories from next to the grave

img_0719In April, my grandmother died. She was my last grandparent.

In August, I was finally able to visit her grave. Anyone who is living overseas for an extended period of time (or permanently, as I probably am) will tell you how difficult it is to have a sense of closure at the death of a loved one. Particularly a close family member.

But as we were standing there, gazing down at the names of my great-grandparents (whom I had barely known) and my grandfather and grandmother (whom I had known very well from a young age), it wasn’t just a sense of closure I was seeking.

It was a sense of history. Of stories.

When the three cars of relatives arrived at the cemetary — myself, my wife, my two daughters; my parents and one younger brother and sister (I have eight siblings in total), one of my aunts and uncles (I have at least twenty…yes, it’s complicated…) an interesting thing happened.

We all started telling stories. Maybe it’s the Irish in us (Bushnell, Connally, O’Leary, and Dougherty, among others). But telling stories has always come naturally to people in my family, as natural as eating and breathing.

My uncle started it. Stories about my grandfather when he was in the Navy during World War II (he never left Florida).

My aunt followed. Stories about my grandfather when he was growing up. Stories about my grandmother when she was the same age as my cousin. (A recently discovered photograph showed her to be almost identical in appearance, too. Scary, that.)

My father continued (with a little prodding from me) with a story from when I was a child. (This is how I found out that the United Methodist Church-owned apartment building I had lived in as a young child had been and has been occupied by family members for at least four generations.)

When I mentioned my intention to write a book of non-fiction about my grandparents and their generation — I’m thinking of calling it “My Three Grandfather” — the stories came fast and furious.

Right next to my grandparents’ grave.

There we were, in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of a centuries-old cemetary overlooking the Hudson River Valley (near HVCC, as a matter of fact), telling stories about the dead, with the dead. With the living.

Stories aren’t just all that’s left. Stories are what we always had, and have, and will have.

Eat your heart out, Washington Irving.

1000 Isles

Some people have asked me on FB for some previews of Notes from the Nineties. It’s difficult to prepare excerpts from short stories (which are already short). So while I’m thinking of what’s appropriate as a teaser, here’s another poem from the volume. It appears right after the story “Boys Will be Boys” together with the poem “Grandmother.”

 

1000 Isles

 

Summers of my Upstate youth were spent

in the family station wagon, the six of us, or was it seven,

traveling to the great St. Lawrence

Seaway of a thousand islands.

 

The first time we stayed one night at Mosquito Heaven,

sleepless in a brown canvas tent,

and four nights on the biggest island—

half in the US,

half out.

 

I learned how to gut a fish, how to swim,

how to roll up a sleeping bag,

and where to buy fireworks—

I mean sparklers.

 

On my 12th birthday, I got a wallet,

put in a year’s allowance,

then when I forgot it in the campsite bathroom,

got advice in return the next morning—

“I told you so.”

 

Looking back, it makes sense

to me now

that I hate dressing.

Notes from the Nineties: Upstate is…where, exactly?


This is the fifth and final preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior. In the third part, I delved into the “true story” of The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale. The fourth and penultimate part, I talked 
about my brief experience with occultism and the wisdom of teeth that led to The Four Teeth of the Apocrypha.

DSC00484I’m from New York. No, not New York City. No, not Niagara Falls (the Canadian horseshoe looks better, anyhow). Yes, there is something in between. An awful lot of something, actually. In fact, the oldest and still largest state park in the US comprises most of Upstate New York.

Yes, I’m from the Adirondacks. But it’s more complicated. Continue reading

Notes from the Nineties: The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale

This is the third preview of my upcoming collection of short stories and poems, Notes from the Nineties. In the first part, I explained the background behind the first story and poem pair, Cois Fharriage and Ag an gCrosaire. In the second part, I took a look at some of my experiences in Japan that informed Asian Dreams and Training the Mountain Warrior.

Bunny-smalljpg

Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny, isn’t it?

The first story in the anthology takes place in Ireland; the last, in Japan. But I’m from Upstate New York (NOT White Plains and Yonkers; those are downstate for the rest of us), so many of the stories in the middle of the book take place there. Most such stories were originally written for my undergrad or graduate thesis, from ’93 to ’96 (hence, the name of the book, actually…).

“The Lost Bunny Shrine of Annandale” was not written back then. However, the events do take place in the mid-’90s, and the style (I hope) is similar to those stories.

The main event — finding a post dedicated to a bunny rabbit in the middle of the woods — actually occurred. The details are fuzzy (most of the night was…) and of course I’ve changed around the names of the conspirators, as well as combined two or three people into a single character with some exaggerated personality quirks. But there is, in reality, a bunny shrine in Annandale. And we did find it. Among other things. Continue reading