For a gift beyond measure

At a Lutheran church on the far south side of Chicago at 11 o’clock this morning, she will be eulogized by those who knew her best.

And by those who loved her best.

And by those who — like The Legal Genealogist — owe her a deep debt of gratitude for what she has done for us.

funeral flowersI will not be there this morning in that church.

I would be out of place.

Because despite the deep debt of gratitude I owe Eloys Anderson Geissler — despite being tied to her in an intimate way for half a century now — she was someone I never met.

Someone I never spoke to.

Oh, we were in the same place at the same time a couple of times.

At the marriage of her granddaughter.

At the funeral of her great grandson.

I knew who she was, of course. But she didn’t know who I was. So we never exchanged a word.

And I regret that, this morning.

She certainly is someone I wish I could have spoken to.

To tell her how grateful I was and am and will always be for what she did for me and my family.

To tell her how much we treasure the gift she gave us.

To tell her how deeply we love her son.

Her son.

My brother.

Eloys Anderson was the daughter of a Chicago police officer and just short of her 23rd birthday when she married my father there in the Windy City in the summer of 1943. The marriage produced one child — a son — and then fell apart. It wasn’t pretty. I know. I’ve seen the divorce papers.

My father moved away from Chicago. He met and married my mother. They went back to Illinois once to visit family, and my father never tried to see his son again after that trip. My parents went on to have a whole platoon of kids, and not a single word was ever said about this other child.

Eloys’ son. My brother.

I’ve told the story of finding Evan before in these pages. How, when I was about 10, I found two photos hidden in the attic of my parents’ home. One was a picture of my brother. The other a picture of my father in a tuxedo and a woman in a wedding gown. A blonde woman who clearly was not my dark-haired dark-eyed mother.

That earlier post tells of how I chased down the son of that blonde woman, but how I didn’t remember even wondering much about the blonde woman who wasn’t my mother.

That blonde woman who died this week at the age of 97.

Who is being eulogized this morning in Chicago.

Who I was never introduced to, never formally met, never spoke to.

Oh, it was the right thing to do, to keep the two sides of my brother’s life separate. We all did so out of concern that it would reopen the deep wounds of the bitter life she had had with my father. And that it might hurt her unnecessarily to think that her son had welcomed into his life the children of the man who had been so cruel to her.

But I find myself this morning wishing that once… just once… I had been able to speak to Eloys Anderson Geissler.

To tell her I know how tough her life was with my father.

To tell her that she had our deep and abiding appreciation for the life she made for herself and her only child.

To tell her how thankful we are that she raised a son who could welcome into his heart and his life the children of a man who was his father in name only.

And to tell her how very grateful we are for the gift she gave me and my siblings.

That gift beyond measure: our oldest brother.

Rest in peace, Eloys Anderson Geissler.

Thank you.

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