We all wonder why things happened in the past – what made people, especially OUR people the way they are. We seldom find out because the secrets die with them. If we do uncover them, or someone shares them, it can pack a big emotional punch. That’s how I responded to Doug Jacquier’s Story Chat this month. “Brooching the Subject.”
This short story is about a HUGE secret, a burden that a mother shared with her daughter near the end of her life. It was taboo, criminal even. Yet she told her daughter the hard truth.
Has that ever happened to you?
I shared my true story on the same page as Doug’s story, and I should not have done that. Like the protagonist, our family had at least one secret. Bad things happen in the past. They affect us. Our lives would be vastly different if the past had taken another course. We can’t go back and alter them. They are concrete no matter how we judge them in the future and wish things might have been different.
I should have shared this story in another post and let Doug’s story stand on its own. However, because of my social studies background, I felt like I had to protect it from judgment. Your judgments. But instead, I colored it with my judgment. That was wrong of me. You will judge the story. It’s part of being human. It’s what makes good fiction great.
In my opinion, Doug has an amazing work of fiction that can hit you right in the belly.
We don’t know how the daughter reacted to the story. We fill it in with our own reactions, and this was mine.
True Story from My Ancestry
When I was an older adult, my mother told me that my great-grandfather had been sterilized by the state of Indiana in the early 1900s (after my grandma was born, fortunately for me.) It shocked me, even more, when she said, “I don’t think your grandmother (her mother) ever knew about it.”
Governor Hanly approved the first eugenics law on March 9, 1907, which made sterilization mandatory for criminals, idiots, rapists, and imbeciles in state custody.Laws of Indiana, 1907, pp. 377-78 (B050823)
My great-grandfather was a bootlegger, a common criminal, and a total embarrassment to my grandmother. She went to live with her best friend to finish high school in the small town of Crawfordsville where she grew up when her mother moved to Indianapolis to be closer to Great -Grandpa while he was in prison.
My great-grandfather died when I was nine, and great-grandma lived to be a month from 90 until I was 26. I knew them well – except for this major secret. Why my grandmother was an only child.
American eugenics refers inter alia to compulsory sterilization laws adopted by over 30 states that led to more than 60,000 sterilizations of disabled individuals. Many of these individuals were sterilized because of a disability: they were mentally disabled or ill, or belonged to socially disadvantaged groups living on the margins of society. American eugenic laws and practices implemented in the first decades of the twentieth century influenced the much larger National Socialist compulsory sterilization program, which between 1934 and 1945 led to approximately 350,000 compulsory sterilizations and was a stepping stone to the Holocaust.https://www.uvm.edu/~lkaelber/eugenics/
Indiana did not completely repeal this law until 1974. That’s just a brief background of the mindset of the leaders in my home state from just after my grandmother was born until after I was an adult and had moved away from Indiana.
Now it’s your turn
I invite you to read or reread Doug’s story and think about how you might tell your children YOUR secrets. Or will you think twice about telling them now?
To read more of Doug’s stories visit his website.