The beginning of June was supposed to be a road trip starting in Oklahoma City and ending in Springfield, Missouri with my grandfather and father. We were going to revisit my grandfather’s childhood in Oklahoma and meet relatives for the first time. However, my grandfather’s health declined and a massive tornado ripped through Oklahoma City. As a result, flew down to Tucson to visit and investigate family roots with my last living grandparent at the age of 85.
In Alicha, Oklahoma, my grandfather Tom Balisle was born in a logging town that no longer exists. According to him: “…no hospitals and only half assed doctors would help deliver babies.” He was the third child out of 6 children in a poor family. At age 14, he witnessed from a school bus his brother John trying to save a young boy that had fallen through ice over a small creek. Unfortunately, his brother fell in also. It took my grandfather 40 minutes desperately trying to rescue them. It was too late and his brother died at the young age of 12.
David Balisle was my grandfather’s father, a French and Irish man, who originated from Nova Scotia. He moved to West Virginia then to Kentucky when the Civil War broke out. David left the army after getting shot in the hip. He got some land and created a homestead in Oden, Arkansas. The bullet was never taken out of his hip and it ultimately killed him 10 years later. He was eventually buried in the National Cemetery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
My grandfather’s mother, Nora Mae Nash, was half Choctaw (Native American). Nora’s father died when she was 1 1/2 years old and her mother passed when she was only 11 years old. As a result, she went to live with her Aunt who treated her like a servant making up beds, doing laundry, and cleaning the house. Nora moved out when she was 19 to get married to my grandfather’s father when he got back from World War I.
Nora Mae Nash had a great big garden of veggies and left the door open for the neighbors to get food at their convenience. She was a loving mother who also took care of chickens, hogs, and cows. Nora made good fried chicken from scratch by wringing the neck, plucking it, and frying it. Being a vegetarian, have to respect the fact she raised the meat she prepared.
Overall, it was wonderful to discover some of the missing pieces of my family history. Spending the time with my grandfather and father came to the realization how much we’re alike- quirks and all. We talk and grumble to ourselves unknowingly, forgetful to the placement of objects, love watching CNN, MSNBC, and baseball, hate bad drivers, love sweets, and homemade food.
The road trip that was supposed to happen most likely won’t occur in this lifetime. The voyage would have been transformative. However, getting to know my grandfather and father better and building positive memories was priceless. Wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.