Monday, June 28, 2010

Madness Monday: My Foster Care Frustration - Can Anyone Help?

I'm mad...   yes, frustrated and going mad!  

For some time I've been attempting to find out about the time that my father spent in foster care in Frederick County Maryland.   He was very young, but had vivid memories of starting school, knew what school he attended, and even somewhat remembered the last name of the family that he stayed with for 3-4 years. With these clues, we know the years to be from abt. 1942/3 - 1945/6.    My frustration comes from finding out why he was placed in foster care, and no one seems to have the records for him.    First I tried the offices of CPS where his family was living at the time (Washington D.C.), they kindly sent him a letter stating that they could find no records for him.     Then I tried to find out something from the offices in Frederick County where he was placed - very helpful folks, but because he was in care there, they had no records of why he was placed.     If children were placed in foster care, they often went off to the country to live with a family, in this case he and his brother Vernon were placed about 65 miles from home.  While he was still living, we went through the process of attempting to get his records and no one seemed to have them.   We are unsure of the circumstances around why he was removed, and at what exact age - this is the information he always wanted. 

So, to anyone who might read - any ideas?  Has anyone tried to get foster care records and how did they go about it?  What offices should I contact next?  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

I received an email this morning that another wonderful volunteer from Find A Grave uploaded this photo for one of my requests.  This is the headstone of my cousin Vernon Lewis Keener, Jr.

Thanks to all the Find A Grave volunteers out there!

Friday, June 18, 2010

The First Father's Day

If you've read my blog for a while you already know that I lost my Dad this past December.   Nothing can describe the pain I felt, and while I'm sure that it gets better, there are times that it gets worse.   People speak of the year of "firsts", meaning the first important dates without the loved one.  For us, the first of our "firsts" was Christmas, just 4 days after his passing.  While that was truly very difficult, it seems that we were so wrapped up in making plans and trying to get through the holiday that we didn't have time to dwell on it, although I realized afterwards that I had not one photograph of the days' events..   I guess my mind was elsewhere after all.

This week has seemed particularly hard for me, our "first" Father's Day without my father is upon us and Monday will be the six-month anniversary of his death.  I've been very emotional during the last few days, and the slightest thing brings him to mind..  today it was strawberries, so fragrant and reminiscent of summer...   as a child my parents would take us to a local orchard to pick them, I think more ended up in our tummies than in our basket, it's a vivid memory of Dad and caused me to break down right in the produce section of our store.   While I started the day a bit weepy, this brought me truly to tears and I barely got through checking out.

Tonight I got to thinking about other memories of him and trying to recall things of my childhood that stood out in my mind.  While I of course don't remember much before the age of five or so, I have a few very clear memories of what seem to be very early years.

When I was about four or five I can clearly remember going to a local school carnival while we were visiting family in Massachusetts.   While I don't actually recall much about the actual carnival, I do remember Dad leading me through some tall bushes to get in. The school was next door to my grandparents home, the bushes were probably just on the property line, but it felt like an adventure.   Dad would spend $100 on a carnival game to win me a $2 stuffed animal, by the time I was in my teens I had hundreds of them filling my room.   I still have a few, I wish I still had them all.

Another early memory of Dad was the building where he worked.  My Dad was a Maintenance Manager for a large builder.  We lived in a planned community, made up of several mini communities, all of which had their own maintenance department and swimming pool.   My Dad worked in an office at the bottom of a high-rise building in our neighborhood.   Whenever I was at the office with him I would sneak off and get a ride in the elevator.  Problem was that I didn't know how to return to his floor - I must've been pretty young at this point.  I would get off the elevator, take in the sights from that floor and then begin to cry and yell for him.  I can still hear his voice coming from the upcoming elevator "I'm coming Cindy".    He must've had to stop on every floor until he found me.

I could never mention memories of Dad and not mention the music.  My Dad was a wonderful musician.  He loved country music and could play any instrument that had strings, the harmonica and the piano or keyboard.   He had a studio of sorts in our basement where he recorded and on the weekends family and friends would get together and play music, sing and dance together till they couldn't sing anymore...  us kids would usually be long sleeping by then, but I can still remember falling  to sleep to the sounds of electric guitars, tambourines, and that drum machine that my brother and I loved to play with.   When Dad was playing I would stand by, waiting for his instruction on which song to pull out of his book next.   He had a black 3-ring binder full of song lyrics...   no music, just the lyrics.   He could play any song but didn't read music.  The sounds of his picking still course through my mind on occasion, and I find myself humming a tune that I've not heard for 20 years.

Since my Mom didn't drive when I was young, Dad was the only driver in our family - another of my earliest memories is visiting the local gas station and always getting a Moon Pie and a Yoohoo drink (when Yoohoo was still in a little glass bottle, not a juice box).  Yes, I sat on the front seat of our big gold Pontiac with it's huge doors and vinyl interior...   I loved that car and Dad loved Moon Pies.

Once when I was about 8 Dad was helping me fly a kite behind our house.   The wind was great that day and the kite kept going up and up and up....  I had no idea that the string would come right off it's spool and the kite would actually fly away...   I also had no idea that my Dad could run that fast.   Yes, he caught it.  My Dad was my hero.

We had a few ponds in that neighborhood, they were right behind our house and in the winter Dad would always be the one to go check the ice to make sure it was safe. 

Being very knowledgeable in building, plumbing and all things in construction, Dad was a great builder of forts.  This was especially true when he and Mom purchased a new washer and dryer..   who knew that a couple of cardboard boxes could be assembled together to look like a castle and last for months in our basement?  My Dad could build anything and fix anything, and he did all his life.

I remember weekends at a campground, being a free spirit in the woods, playing and having a great time...  and long hours at the causeway fishing into the wee hours of the morning just because we could (and he couldn't help it :-)    Later there would be a boat and long sunny days on the water, and a stop at a local country store for a souvenir, some candy and a soda.   I had a wonderful childhood.  We spent most all summer weekends at that spot, which is where my Dad loved to be and where he and my Mom eventually bought a home.

My Dad taught me how to shoot.   Yes, guns; .22, .357, rifles, handguns..  you name it, he showed me how to shoot it.  While I've not even held a weapon in years, I began shooting at about the age of 10 and absolutely loved it.

When I was about 13 years old I tried to pierce my ears - yes, all by myself.   I thought Dad would pass out when I walked down the stairs with a needle in my earlobe, asking him if he could push it through the rest of the way - I just couldn't get a good grip.   Dad patiently led me to the powder room, helped me hold ice on and finished piercing it, then he did the other one.

In my late teens Dad took me to buy my first car (a pickup truck), took me to my first football game (Redskins) and every year we went together to the local mall for a Cinnabon, Mocha Latte and Christmas shopping day to find gifts for my Mom.    Dad absolutely loved Christmas and loved giving gifts, but he hated shopping...   the Cinnabons made it all worth while.  In the car we would listen to Charlotte Church belt out a tune and enjoyed our day together.  Looking back, I imagine that Christmas was hard for Mom, since I'm sure that Dad didn't do any of it without the Cinnabons.

18 years ago on Father's Day I told my Dad that I was expecting his first Grandchild. Last year I didn't make it down to see him on Father's Day, although something told me that I really should. Now, a year later I'm left with a bit of guilt over that, but his memory and his love surround me everyday and the memories of my childhood will always remain with me. My Dad was a great person. He was always fair and caring, liked to have fun, and certainly a pushover when it came to his kids.

During the last 15 years my memories of Dad include fishing, trips on the boat and the adventures at his home on the Bay.   My gosh how he loved that place.  He would take that boat out and fish all day and not catch one thing...  he didn't even care and would go out and do it all again the next day if he could find a willing passenger.   We would sit on the wall in front of their place until the wee hours of the morning, talking, fishing and just enjoying each others' company.   One night after all had gone inside, he and I were there together at about 2am.  Nothing much was biting and we were just enjoying the night when it started to rain.  After a few moments and drip drops I turned to him and said "Dad, it's raining", to which he said "It's just a passing shower"...   and there we sat, in the middle of the night in the rain..  just for the fish. 

Love you and miss you Dad, you're always in my heart.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

Another wonderful gift from a cousin found by blogging.   This showed up in my email box yesterday - just in time for Tombstone Tuesday. 

This stone is located in Preston Cemetery, in the town of Preston, Lancashire, England.  Following are the ancestors listed:
Catherine (McDermott) Bellew (my 3rd great grandmother);  b. 1837, d. April 7, 1898
James Bellew, son of Catherine;  b. 1869, d. Aug 1870
Mary Bellew, daughter of Patrick Bellew, granddaughter of Catherine;  b. 1897, d. Aug 13, 1898 
James Bellew, husband of Catherine (my 3rd great grandfather); b. 1834, d. Oct 15, 1905
Mary (Bellew) Sharples, daughter of Catherine and James (my 2nd great grand aunt)  b. abt 1866, d. Feb 25, 1939
George Sharples, husband of Mary Bellew Sharples, b. abt 1868 (I cannot make out the death date on this stone but it appears he was 72 or 77 years old so that would be abt. 1940-1945)