Friday, June 17, 2011

Anecdotes and Memories

My Aunt Ruth Castaldo lives by herself, still drives occassionally and is the keeper of all the family stories. The other day, my aunt and I visited my great aunt, who is 92 and has an incredible memory. She almost reminds me of the story of the man that couldn't forget. My Aunt Ruth's story is worthy of a journal entry unto itself, having served in Pacific in WWII. But what she talked about the other day was about others. About the "others" that none of us know about.

Ruth Castaldo was born Ruth Edna Fields June 15, 1918 in Boston, MA to George A. and Nellie Fields. Ruth was my grandfather's (Bill Fields) younger sister and like all the Fields that I've ever seen, they looked alike. Ruth married Pasquale Castaldo after the war and they had six children, one of whom, Therese Castaldo McMahon, I was able to meet the other day. Next time I visit Aunt Ruth, I want to ask her about her time in the Pacific. I know she has a number of pictures she took while there and I'd like to talk to her about it all.

However, this past Tuesday, Ruth told me some anecdotes that would have been lost with her. They aren't much in the way of stories, but they add to the family folklore.

Ruth had a cousin named Edgar P. Houde born in 1909 in Nashua, NH to Joseph and Clara Houde (nee Deschamps.) I don't have much information on Edgar, or any of my cousins, so I don't know if he married, had children or when he passed away. But Aunt Ruth said that he developed diabetes and had to have one of his legs amputated. Apparently his diabetes got worse and he had to have his other leg amputated as well. Still, this didn't stop Edgar. Edgar would walk around town on his stumps. No prostetics, no crutches, on his stumps. This must have been quite a site. To top it off, he would climp trees and fences to show off for the younger kids. With all the technology today with camera phones and videos, this would have been recorded within seconds and saved for posterity. Instead, we have to rely on the memory and the storytelling of our relatives to pass this down, following the true path of oral history.

Another story that my aunt told us, was about her cousin Marie Wallace (nee Deschamps.) My Aunt Ruth was very close with her aunts, uncles and cousins in Nashua, but after many years, she lost track of some of her cousins. One day about twenty or more years ago, she asked someone about her cousin Marie. She was told that Marie Wallace was still alive and living in Antrim, NH. This just happened to be the same town where Ruth's daughter lived. Being a small town, Ruth asked her daughter if she knew of Marie Wallace. Sure enough, Ruth's daughter was treating Marie Wallace in the local hospital (?) and said that Marie's son, George, came in quite often to visit. "Next time," Aunt Ruth said, "tell him you're cousins!"

In the grand scheme of our lives, these stories and memories don't mean much to us. We all have similar memories of interesting family characters and meetings of chance. But they take on greater significance when we realize that they are ever so close to being lost forever. These are stories that many of us hear over the dinner table all the time and think them insignificant to write them down, to record them. With this blog and recording these memories, they won't ever be gone and forgotten or tossed into the dustbin. My daughter may never know or care to know, about Edgar Houde and his ability to overcome great personal difficulties, but it's providing her with the opportunity to be able to read these stories if she wants to.