Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bud's story is similar to my grandfather's

After reading Bud, Not Buddy, I just wanted to stand up and applaud. Other than being an excellent story, it affected me so was because Bud's story is so similar to my grandfather's. Eerily similar. As I read the book, I kept telling myself that when I finished, I'd have to call my grandfather and have him recount some of the stories he used to tell us. Then I reached the end of the book and Christopher Paul Curtis, in his afterward, urged me to do just that. I don't remember my grandfather's story exactly, but it went something like this:

Just like Bud, my grandfather ran away from home as a young child. That was during the depression and he left behind several brothers and sisters and an alcoholic mother. With very few clues about his father, he stowed away on a train from Kansas City and ended up in Des Moines, Iowa. Coincidentally, one of the first black people that he met there knew his father's family and led him to them. They immediately took him in, but didn't know the whereabouts of his father.

My grandfather settled in Des Moines and lived his entire life there, never giving up on finding his father and eventually moved his mother and siblings to Des Moines. As an adult, he finally found his father. He was living in Kansas City. Turned out, just like Bud's new found family, he was financially well off. But he and his family rejected my grandfather thinking he was after their money, not knowing that my grandfather, though not rich, had made a good life for himself. After his father died and the family had squandered off much of the money, they finally opened up to having a relationship with him. I always thought it was weird when suddenly grandpa started referring to some lady as his mother, when I knew his mother and she had died a few years earlier.

My grandfather's father wasn't a band leader, but my uncle, my grandfather's son was — and still is. In fact, he was recently inducted into the Iowa Blues Hall of Fame.

That's kinda sketchy, but I'm blessed that my grandfather is still alive so I can get the story straight.


rindawriter said...

Oh, WHAT a story, Don! Your grandfather surely did have a loving heart. I'm amazed with just the bit of digging I've done on my own family tree how complicated and larger than life our own family stories can be! Thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

That is amazing! What a treasure to hear that story right from your grandfather. I loved the book Bud, Not Buddy too.