My Grandfather Joe, circa 1985.
My Grandfather Joe, 1985

Revealing Our Roots and Soothing the Soul

Michelle Lindblom


The Roots We Spread

Abandonment has deep roots in my family history.

Premature deaths took the lives of several generations of my maternal grandparents and left young children without one or the other parent. The fierce sense of loss and sadness spread its roots like a cancer throughout my ancestry. Manifesting in misunderstood behaviors and denial of what those behaviors represented.

In 1895 at the age of five, my maternal great-grandfather (George) and his two brothers lost their mother. She was fifty-three. My great-great-grandfather remarried four years later. In 1900 their newly formed family set off on an adventure to the United States from southern Russia (Odesa, Ukraine region). Their destination, the central plains of North Dakota to claim their free land along with many Germans from Russia during the turn of the century.

My great-grandfather George went on to marry at twenty-three having three boys of his own (one of whom was my grandfather Joseph b. 1916). Tragedy struck when the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 took George at the age of twenty eight leaving his wife and three young sons behind. A heartbreaking repeat of the previous generation and what seems like a bizarre affliction in my lineage.

The course of six young boys forever changed along with the roots they spread throughout their lives and future families.

Paths Taken

The childhood experiences of loss and abandonment can manifest in a variety of potentially brutal behaviors. And in the case of my ancestry, that proverbial can would be kicked down the road for subsequent generations to deal with.

Thus generational trauma would dig in for the long haul.

Whenever I think about either of my grandfathers as young boys losing a parent, my heart aches. A strange but visceral connection that has been resurfacing since my mother passed away.

The paths my grandfather took were most likely a result of the tragic losses he, his father, and grandfather suffered so young. Longing to belong somewhere or with someone and never fully achieving it. My Grandfather Joe succumbed to the depths of alcoholism early and battled that demon for most of his life.