Wow. Apparently I had a grandfather.

So I signed up to Facebook recently just to check out my brother’s softball team. I get a friend request almost immediately from my aunt.

Sure, why not. I’ll accept.

On her front page, one of the photos is an old photo portrait of a soldier. Korean War. He’s young (looks like 20 maybe?) but most importantly - he is the spitting image of my brother. The photo is labeled (by my aunt): “John Doe, my father, Korean War”

I call my mother immediately.

“Uh, mom? Who is John Doe?”

/mom tenses up immediately, voice breaking

“He was my father. He died when you were about six.”


She has never once spoken to me about him, other than veiled references like "don’t drink. Our family has problems with alcoholism (no current alcoholics.)

My dad has only ever obliquely referenced him, saying only “Your mom’s dad was an alcoholic. Don’t talk about it.”

I so want to ask and learn more. But just my basic question got my mom tearing up and getting emotional. So I backed off immediately.

But sweet jeez. Here’s the guy, the family resemblance is unmistakable, and he was alive (for a short time) when I was.

So many questions left to ask. I wonder if I’ll ever learn about him. I’m intensely curious, because I honestly spent most of my life thinking I simply didn’t have a grandfather on my mother’s side.

Wow. Just … wow.

Ask your aunt.

I agree with picunurse– ask your aunt.

She may or may not be willing to tell you a lot about her father. But the picture on the Facebook page is a good starting point to ask her if she minds sharing a bit more about him.

Wow, more info. Mom called me back.

Mom: “Do you remember taking a trip when you were four?”

Me: “Uh, vaguely. Was it to Illinois?”

Mom: “Yes. That was when you met your grandfather.”

Me: “What?” I had no idea who that guy was. (My very limited recollection - I remember a trip to Illinois with my parents where I met an old man (he must have been 54, which isn’t old now, but I remember him as being old and on oxygen) who told me never to smoke, because it would turn my lungs coal-black)

Mom: “Yes. That was your grandfather.”

Me: “Wow. Did we go to his funeral?”

Mom: “…”

The plot thickens.

I do believe you should press them for more information, as you have a right to know (for purposes of medical history if nothing else). But do not judge them for keeping him from you. I’ve seen way too many parents posting lately–here and on other boards–about how their parents were demented, fucked-up, horrible parents, and they made the right decision in keeping their parents away from their grandkids. I’m guessing something like this was the case, in your case.

Sounds like your mom is testing the waters on her own comfort about talking about this – give her space, she seems to be dealing with it. In the meantime, as someone suggested, ask your aunt if she’d mind talking to you.

Evidently you know your mother a lot better than I do, but I think if you press her too far too fast you may trigger “soap bar effect”, where she just shoots away and refuses to talk about the subject any more. Maybe you could ask her whether she’s ok with your asking your aunt about it; whatever information you get from your aunt may also be a good starting point for later conversations with your mother about it.