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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tribute to a lost grandfather

On this Memorial Day I can't help thinking about my biological maternal grandfather, William Ott Johnston, who died at the end of World War 1.

Because of a war I was never allowed to know him. My mother lost her father when she was 10. Due to family circumstances, beyond her control or my current understanding, she was not allowed to talk about her father after his death. She grew up to be a very negative adult. She passed her negativity on to my brother and myself, which went on to affect our adult lives and even those of our children.

Until 2008 I never even knew my grandfather's name. I took on an impossible mission of obtaining that information. The fact that everyone who could have helped me was deceased simply made my task harder, but I was determined. All I had was a 1921 photo of my grandmother and my mother at age 10, displaying a Gold Star banner.

After a series of steps beginning with I was able to send for my mother's birth certificate, which gave me the name I was seeking. There he was, William Ott Johnston, born of Scottish decent in  1886. From there I obtained my grandparents marriage certificate. He was 22 and she 17 when they married. I had one more fact that had stuck in my memory from a source I do not remember. On the night of his death his spirit revealed himself to my grandmother to say goodbye. The next day when the military visited her she told them she already knew he had died. He must have loved her very much to have gone to such lengths to ease her pain. Today I question if my ability to occasionally communicate with spirits in another realm was inherited from one or both of them. Could be.

I was not satisfied just knowing my grandfather's name I wanted to know more about him. Because I now had his military ID # I downloaded a form and sent for his records, realizing that I am his oldest living next of kin.. I at least wanted to know where he is buried. My search came to a sudden end when the form came back with the explanation- "most of the records between 1912 and 1959 were destroyed in a 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center". 

It still makes me very sad that because of war my connection with my maternal grandfather was lost to me forever.  Because of what happened to my mother as a child I wonder how many more children will be left without parents as the result of senseless wars for power.

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