Wednesday, May 07, 2008

A few random things about my family

I have a bunch of stuff that I both want to write, and don't want to write; because I'm EXTREMELY aggravated, irritated, perhaps even pissed off.

So, instead, I'm just going to do the blog equivalent of randomly blurting things out.

I look just like my dad, only taller. I'm 6'2", but my father is only 5'6", and my mother is only 5'3". My brother is 5'9", and looks just like my maternal grandfather.

I've got very thick, very wavy, dark reddish brown hair on my head and chest; but my beard, moustache (in fact everything below my sideburns and the back of my neck, including my body hair) grow in quite red. My father has nearly black, very thick and curly hair; my mother has very straight, fine, strawberry blonde hair; I seem to have split the difference.

Funnily enough, the men on my mother side tend to go thin but not bald; on my fathers they go grey or white, but don't lose their hair. My brother started thinning when he was about 17, but my hair is actually getting thicker as I get older.

I am related to Herman Melville, Robert Emmet, and Feach MacHugh O'Byrne (the Byrne clan is huge, so a lot of the folks who spell their names that way are at least distantly related. My family goes back directly lineally).

I'm officially Christopher Byrne the fourth. We were all raised in the catholic church, and as was historically the custom; we all took middle names at confirmation, rather than being given them at birth. The feast day for the saint whose name I took at confirmation is the day after my birthday in the eastern church. The feast day of the saint my father took as his name, is the day BEFORE his birthday.

My father is a convicted felon, and has spent approximately half my life in prison. Because he and I share the same name, and have at times shared the same city and county of residence, there has sometimes been ID confusion. Up until recently, most computer systems only entered suffixes up to the third, and often ignored suffixes completely. As a result, I have recieved bills that were his; had tax liens been placed on me that were his; and been arrested on his arrest warrants (among other difficulties).

My father is also a highly decorated viet nam vet; and a master stonemason, with a masters degree in construction management. Currently, he is the general manager of, and partner in, a highly successful architectural, landscape, interior, and artistic stonework company.

As far as I know, he is no longer a criminal; having finally realized that the is too old for that kind of crap anymore. Otherwise though, he hasn't changed his basic personality at all. He's mellowed some, but he's still the rough guy he's always been.

Neither my mother, nor my father, have ever, as an adult, had a "normal" office or corporate job. They have both always either worked for themselves, or been a part of an entrepreneurial enterprise... to varying degrees of success.

My paternal grandfather was a railway engineman for the Irish national railroad Iarnrod Eireann, and his wife worked the Irish postal service. When they moved to America in the mid 60s, they both worked for the post office.

My maternal grandfather was eventually a lawyer, and a politician; but he worked his way through high school, then college (Brandeis), graduate school (masters in education from Boston University), and finally law school (juris doctorate from Suffolk university).

First he worked in a drug store, and a hardware store; then he was in the Army and served in the Korean war (he received a purple heart and a bronze star, but would never under any circumstances talk about the war). When he got back, he was a night road crew supervisor on the first expressway through the center of Boston, then he became a parole enforcement officer (again, working nights, checking up on convicts parole and probation compliance), then once he got his masters he became a high school teacher.

All this was while he was going through school, and supporting a growing family (thankfully, he had the GI bill money to help with his education). By the time he passed the bar in 1963, he had 7 kids, and the 8th was on the way.

His older sister was similarly accomplished. She eventually earned a doctorate in history, and a doctorate in middle eastern languages. She worked for the CIA, where she met her husband (who also had multiple doctorates in history and political science); and then they both worked in the state department, unsurprisingly in the middle east in both cases. After they retired, they became college professors at U. Mass Amherst; her husband retiring as dean of his department.

My maternal grandfathers mother was born in either 1894 or 1896 (there are a couple documents which disagree) and had been married before WW1. All of the rest is assembled from only semi-reliable sources; because she would rarely talk about it, and there are few records.

We believe she had a family of four children in Ireland, that had all died in the great flu epidemic while her husband was fighting in the war. After her first husband died in the Irish war for independence, she moved to Boston in 1923 or 1924 where she met her second husband, and started another family; having two children (my grandfather, and his sister). She lived until 1998, two years after my grandfather died.

Oh and random odd fact: my grandfather knew Leonard Nimoy growing up (most people don't know he's from Boston); though my grandfather was from Charlestown, and Nimoy was I believe from Jamaica Plain.

My maternal grandmother was a novice in a catholic order (yes, she was becoming a nun) when she met my grandfather. She had one kid per year from the year after they were married, until my youngest uncle David (he was 13 when I was born. They had 9 kids, but one died at birth). After David went to grade school, my grandmother went to work as a secretary at John Hancock in Boston. She retired after 20 years in 1987, the senior secretary in the region, to the most senior VP in the region (that used to be kind of a big deal. Things don't exactly work that way any more).

Both my parents are 1 of 8 siblings (and oddly, three of my four grandparents are or were 1 of 14); and I have over 50 first cousins, and over 100 second cousins.

Both sets of my grandparents were married 42 years, before both of my grandfathers died (both my grandmothers are still alive, at 73 and 78 respectively). My mother married twice, and divorced twice. My father married 4 times, and divorced three times. Every one of my aunts and uncles who has been married, has been divorced or separated at least once. Including my mother and father, seven of them have been divorced at least twice.

I have no recollection of ever meeting my paternal grandfather. My father, and his father, hated each other passionately. When my father was 14, his father kicked him out of the house, and he lived on the street for two years until he could lie his way into the army. He was not a U.S. citizen at the time, and earned his citizenship through his service; eventually serving a total of 9 years (through most of Viet Nam) before receiving a medical discharge. After returning from the war, he would not be in the same room with his father until I was born, and then rarely afterwards.

My parents split when I was 18 months old, and I didn't see anyone from that side of the family except my father from then, until I was 2o. In fact, I didn't see my father from my fifth birthday, until Christmas when I was 20. To be fair, more than half that time he was in prison; and while my maternal grandfather was alive he did his level best to make sure we didn't have contact. My father contacted me a few months after my grandfather passed on.

Next up, a few random things about me.