#16: Family Tree Trivia

The Challenge: Call or meet with someone in your family and ask them a question you are curious about regarding your family’s history.

ramen.jpgMy original plan was to call my oldest sister who lives in TX. I soon found out that she has been blessed by a visit from the flu bug and was in bed. Plan B worked just fine, as my original questions involved my brother-in-law also. So this gave me the chance to pick his brain a bit, which I don’t often have the opportunity to do. He and my sister have been married for over ten years and in their early days they lived on Ramen noodles in their small apartment, as they tried to build Gene’s business. Jason and I really look up to their accomplishments and appreciate the sacrifices they made early on to help to get them where they are today. (There is no such thing as an overnight success.) I asked him to tell me about the biggest challenges they had in those early days and what helped them get through it all. He told me some things that I hadn’t heard before. Knowing that Jason and I are still in our “early days” it was inspiring to hear what got them through it. I think sometimes pride gets in our way of asking others about their struggles and successes. We feel like we have to pretend we already have it all figured out. This challenge reminded me that there is so much I can learn from those around me. My brother-in-law’s golden nugget advice was to stay focused and enjoy the little things!
My Dad’s letter from Challenge #12 inspired me on this one. (Yes, for those of you wondering, football free throw shooting Walt is indeed my father.) He wrote about his dad, my grandfather, and it occurred to me just how little I know about him. In fact, the first time I ever saw a picture of him was quite recently. His name was Walter, and he passed away when he was about 50; my dad was still pretty young.

hammer.jpgSo I got on the phone to my dad to see if I could dig up some more information about the one grandparent I never got a chance to know.

He grew up in LaSalle, Illinois on a farm, and spent some time as a factory worker and butcher before he settled in as a carpenter. According to my dad, family was the thing he cared about the most, and he loved spending time with friends and family. Apparently, he was a mighty fine euchre player and an excellent off-shore fisherman. My dad remembered him as a very social guy and recalled a funeral home employee saying, “Biggest wake I’ve ever seen for a lay person.” That really impressed my dad, and he estimated that he must have been a pretty good guy.

That point was driven home when I called my Great Aunt Rose in a quest to find out just how my grandma and grandpa met. My dad figured that she might be the only person alive who knew the answer to that one. Unfortunately, she didn’t either, but she couldn’t say enough good things about my Grandpa Kotecki. He thought the world of my grandma, Aunt Rose said. There was a lot of love between them. She did remark that Virginia wore the pants in the family 😉

“If it weren’t for him, I wouldn’t have such a nice kitchen. We didn’t have the means for it, but he remodeled the whole thing. He gave us free labor.” She said that my grandpa was a good hearted handy man, always doing favors for so many people. “He’d never charge them, either,” she said. “He was so generous, he was always helping out somebody.”

Looks like the mystery of how he and my grandma met will remain so, but as to why there was such a good turnout at his wake, that’s pretty obvious.

Dark Room Confessionals:
Bonus Video: Kim | Jason


vote.gifSo, who was most creative with today’s challenge? Who went beyond the comfort zone and put the biggest hammer on Adultitis? Who did a better job of capturing the spirit of childhood, Kim or Jason? Cast Your Vote!

Tomorrow’s Challenge: Audio Sneak Peek

10 thoughts on “#16: Family Tree Trivia

  1. I recently found out where my parents met….we were talking about my K&J “challenges” for each day, and I mentioned my (and Jason’s) desire to visit the “Cereality” cereal bar on Wacker St. in downtown Chicago….turns out my parents both worked in that very building, on S. Wacker and Jackson, and that’s where they first met! Now it’ll be even more fun when I finally go there!


  2. Last Sunday, I had the distinct pleasure of hearing Jason speak and he gave me just the idea for today. When asked “what did you want to be when you grew up?” I am at a complete loss. I really don’t remember. So, I decided to ask my mom and she couldn’t think of anything either. Hmmmm, is this bad that I seemed to have NO aspirations when I was young? Interesting at the very least. I decided to also ask her what SHE wanted to be when she grew up. Funny thing -the mother of eight children wanted to be a nun!

  3. We called Doug’s dad to get the scoop on Doug as a little tyke. His dad mentioned that Doug was always smiling and was a cute kid. He also said that his birth was uneventful which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  4. At age 52 it’s hard to find family members to talk to that can talk about the old days especially when you are the youngest in the family. I talked to my 2 older brothers, Marion and Michael about how our parents met and they were clueless. I was asked this same question by Jason and I had to admit I didn’t know either. It took my wife to tell us how the Kotecki boys came to be. Linda said I believe your mom told me they met when your mom worked at the feed store and your dad used to stop by. When pressed about this possibility all boys agreed that this was fact and true.
    I talked to my brother Mike about what life was like in the Kotecki home when he was growing up. He said that dad was always trying to please mom(Virginia). He took us fishing and out to the farm. He also said that since both mom and dad could speak Polish, it was not uncommon for them to speak in Polish when they didn’t want little ears to hear what they were saying. Maybe they were talking about the neighbors or talking about “private” stuff!

  5. I talked to my mom tonight and asked her about some things my uncles (her brothers) used to do when they were my brother’s age (early 20’s). It was interesting talking to her a bit about how “times have changed” in regards to the trouble my uncles would get into. She told me how just the threat of their dad (my grandpa) finding out about them getting into any trouble was enough to keep them from going to far or messing up repeatedly. I remember not wanting my folks to be disappointed in me and that was a big deterrent for getting into trouble. Some things don’t change!

  6. UPDATE!:
    I got a message from my Great Aunt Rose’s daughter, filling me in on more details about my grandma and grandpa. Here goes:

    “Apparently, your grandmother worked at a feed store and your grandfather used to deliver sacks of flour or grain (maybe 25 or 50 lbs each) or some type of supplies to that store. Mom said that was how they met. This was a surprise to me because I only knew my Uncle Walter as a first-rate carpenter. Mom said he got a job working for a man named Ricky (Ricci?–not sure of the spelling) who was a carpenter. Your grandfather was very handy and learned quickly and that was how he learned his trade. She described him as a self-made man. He helped my folks with building the kitchen and with lots of other favors and he just did it gratis.
    My impressions? I don’t remember having a lot of conversations with your grandfather but I always thought he was a great guy who had the heartiest of laughs. Your grandmother was very proud of all of his handiwork and delighted in showing me all the cabinetry, closets or whatever he built. I thought your grandmother had the prettiest singing voice and she played the piano and later the organ. She was a great seamstress and was no doubt the one who sewed the Santa costume that your grandfather wore when he came to our house on Christmas Eve. She once made herself a little red riding hood costume that she let me borrow one year. She used to do tatting (does anyone do that anymore?) and then there were her paintings. I always thought that your side of the family was blessed wtih so many artistic abilities.”

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  8. For this challenge, I asked my mom & dad to tell me a story. My mom told me a story about when her & my dad were dating. They used to go to dances all the time – that’s how they met. (Ah, the good ol’ days – when they actually had public dances!) One night, they were going to a dance, but there was an awful lot of snow on the ground & my dad went to pick up my mom who lived fairly far out in the country. My grandpa said to my dad as they were walking out (I don’t think they had been dating too long at this point), grab the scoop shovel beside the barn, you might need it tonight. So, they left & it wasn’t too bad near my mom’s house, but as they got closer to the dance, the roads were pretty well covered. So, dad ended up shoveling snow for quite awhile so they could get to the dance. Thought that was kinda a funny story! hadn’t heard that one before. 🙂

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