Heirlooms

"2 : something of special value handed on from one generation to another " – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

in search of Greg Kinnear~

Greg Kinnear, Logansport native

I first appreciated Greg Kinnear‘s gorgeous face in his breakthrough role in the 1995 remake of the classic, Sabrina. He has that same timeless charm as my other Hollywood heart throbs like Dennis Quaid or Harrison Ford or *sigh* Colin Firth. Adorable, charming, handsome, those eyes, that smile — . Beautiful.

When I watch a movie, and it becomes a movie I really love, it is not unusual for me to find out more about the movie. The librarian in me loves to go to the Internet Movie DataBase and read the trivia and the goofs, quotes and facts. Sabrina is one of those movies I still enjoy. At some point in time, I found myself researching a Sabrina site which led me to Greg Kinnear’s page where I discovered this interesting little factoid: “Greg Kinnear was born on June 17, 1963, in Logansport, Indiana, USA”.

Hold the phone, Linus Larrabee! I was born in Logansport in 1963! Shoot—! We’re practically twins.

Alright now, Logansport is not a big city, people. It’s a small town and I usually describe it as a place where everyone knows everything about everybody. There are no real secrets in Logansport. But this was news to me! And so began my obsessive compulsive search for a friend, acquaintance, classmate or talking parrot – anyone who could remember Greg Kinnear’s supposed ties to our illustrious megalopolis. At my 25th class reunion, I remember walking around asking several of my classmates, “hey, do you remember Greg Kinnear ever being in any of our classes?” I was relentless. I circulated the reunion, hitting up every friend I could think of, paying special attention to hit every elementary school zone at that time – McKinley, Jefferson, Daniel Webster, Longfellow, Fairview. I even hit up those parochial school chumps from St. Bridget’s and St. Joe. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Not one person I knew had any memory of Greg Kinnear living in Logansport.

And that just burns my biscuits. It’s one thing to pad a resume but to ride on the coat tails of a small and humble city like Logansport just to advance your Hollywood career was un.for.givable. Soon after that reunion, I washed my hands of the Kinnear/ Logan connection and chalked it up to creative biographies of Hollywood agents.

So. If you have been following my blog at all, you probably already know where this is going.

Sometime between 1998 and 2000, I arrived at my grandma’s for one of my many Logan lunch visits. There were always two tables in Grandma’s kitchen. The first table was the “formal” table. It was always covered with a padded table cover and a lace tablecloth. In the center of that table, there was a cut glass candy dish that would spin and was always filled with M&Ms or tootsie rolls and maybe the latest floral offering from the most recent Mother’s Day, birthday, happy any-day. The newspaper might be there along with the daily mail. But on that particular day, sitting there on the corner of the lace covered table was a VHS copy of Sabrina. During the course of our visit, I noticed it there and asked grandma if she had seen it yet.

“No, I haven’t seen it yet but Donnie brought it over for me to watch.”

Cover of

Cover of Sabrina

I tell grandma that it’s a really cute movie, I love it and supposedly the actor in it is from Logansport.

“Yeah, I remember him,” she says as she turns to the sink and starts to get some dishes ready for the lunch crowd that is about to arrive.

It was one of those offhanded remarks that I almost missed because conversations in that kitchen could turn on a dime or get lost in the deafening volume of the small television in the corner.

But I didn’t miss it and I had to know more. “Grandma, you knew Greg Kinnear?!” and I rant for a minute or two about how I have been on a quest for this holy grail nugget for several years now.

Grandma explained that I would not remember Greg because his family did not live in Logansport for a long time before his father was sent somewhere overseas and that they probably lived out near Grissom Air Force Base, anyways. Then she told me that Greg would slide down the bannister at the B&B department store when grandma worked there in the shoe department. Greg’s grandparents apparently owned or managed one of the only real upscale department stores in Logansport at that time and little Greg spent some time visiting his grandparents, visiting the store, and enjoying the amusements of the grand staircase as any young boy would. She smiled at the remembrance of it and at the stunned expression on my face.

Grandma in 1945.

Grandma in 1945.

I don’t know why it had not occurred to me before- to ask my grandma if she knew Greg Kinnear as a Logan native. Because if anyone knew Logansport and its’ people, it would be my grandma. She lived in Logansport all of her life and loved her little town. Once again, I stood speechless in grandma’s kitchen.

I was amused and humbled that day. All this time, I was searching for someone who knew Greg Kinnear when all I really needed to do was spend my time getting to know my grandma more. My grandma wasn’t famous. She never won an Oscar or had a role in a Hollywood movie. No one ever asked her for her autograph.

But my grandma was a shining star in my life. Sometimes, I just neglected to look up.

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of hands~

I always loved Grandpa’s hands. His hands were huge and strong. As a toddler, I could only grasp his hands by his pinky. He would offer his smallest finger to me as we would walk down the street to the store and when my little, short legs could no longer keep up with his long, tall frame, he would grab me under my tiny arms and swing me through the air, through dizzying heights, until I landed squarely on his broad shoulders.

The skin on his hands was calloused but smooth, from years of wear and work with the grease and oil of a trucker’s garage. I can recall his return home from long days of work in the garage, covered with grease and grime. He had this oil based gel that he used to dissolve the grease from his hands before using the bar soap. It was white and slimy and odorless to my recollection and sat of the edge of the bathroom sink in a pump bottle.

I only have one memory of grandpa raising his hand against me- spanking me after I piddled on the front porch stoop because I waited too long and could not make it to the potty in time. We still lived at 207 West Ottawa, of course, so I had to be under the age of 5.

As I pour through the old family photos, I came across this picture of  George and Robert Conn . These are my great-great uncles. I am struck by how much Frank Hand, grandpa’s cousin, resembled George. But, look at Robert’s hands. I never knew my great-great uncle Robert, but I recognized those hands.

George and Robert Conn

George and Robert Conn, my great-great uncles, brothers to Jesse M. Conn.

And all of my life, I knew grandpa’s hands would take care of me. When I talk abut him to others, describing the way he loved me and cared for me, his hands always come into focus in my mind’s eye.

My last memory of his strong, loving hands was when he was in the hospital the final time. The sheet that separated us from his roommate was drawn closed and grandpa and I were talking, visiting, and I was gleaning some tales. Grandma and Shirley had gone to get some supper, rest a bit and would return later that evening with some socks because grandpa’s feet were cold due to his poor circulation. While we visited, I tried my best to warm his feet by adding more blankets and snugging them tight, rubbing his legs a bit to stimulate some circulation in his extremities. He continued telling me stories and I moved to his side and held his hand in mine. He called me “sis”.

His stories wound and wove, through his memories, all about family and road trips, and road trips to visit family, new babies, and food. His stories were laced together with the common thread of care and love. After a while, he stopped talking for a moment.

Grandpa was never quiet for long so I seized the opportunity. I told him I always loved his hands because I always knew they were there for me, always taking care of me. He told me he wished he could still take care of me. I told him that it was alright. It was time for me to care for him. And we fell silent for a moment.

His roommate, whose face I had never seen, called out to me. He told me he had a spare pair of hospital socks, “Take them. Please.”

I thanked him and took the socks, and put them on grandpa’s feet, warming them with my hands as I dressed them. And I returned to his side, and held his hand in mine. I loved this man, this giant, this father-figure deeply and I knew he was never going to return home from this hospital stay.

I returned to my home in Chicago that evening, knowing I had seen my grandpa for the last time. The next day, grandpa was moved into the hospice ward. And when he died a few nights later, I felt it. I just felt time pause, for just a moment, and there was this tug in my heart and I knew he was gone. I was grateful for a stranger’s socks, so that I could care for my grandpa. And I was grateful for that moment I had to tell him how much I loved him and his hands and the way he always cared for me.

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9/11/2001~

It has been twelve years since terrorists attacked America. That was an awful day for Americans. For an entire generation, we thought we were the greatest nation on the planet. Suddenly, we were no longer untouchable. Suddenly, swiftly, we were understood just how vulnerable we really were.

Grandma already knew that. She had already lived through two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq & Kuwait. She watched as brothers, nephews, grandsons and neighbors went into war zones and prayed and watched and waited.

So, when terrorists attacked the U.S. on 9/11, she understood the ripple effect of such an attack. She had seen this sort of thing before- too many times, in fact.

My mom and my aunts and uncles spent much of 9/11 with my grandma in the hospital emergency room, waiting for test results that were inconclusive. After several anxious hours, watching the endless news reports on television in the hospital waiting rooms, they were all sent home.

Grandma died early the next morning. Natural causes.

At a time when our nation was in a state of shock and mourning, our family was gathered together in love for our mother, our grandma, our aunt, our friend. And I think this was her last gift to us all, really. Grandma knew we needed each other at that time. She knew that the only thing that could see us through times like those, times like these, times like every day, was the love of family.

Evelyn, Jesse Conn, Gene, Dick, Don Norma, Shirley, Nancy 1945

Evelyn, Jesse Conn, Gene,
Dick, Don
Norma, Shirley, Nancy
1945

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Thunderbolts and subtle truths~

Ah-ha moments, those moments of enlightenment when circumstances, events, or life come into such clear, high-def focus, leaping off of one’s rational, theoretical page and into one’s emotional, passionate heart. In my 50 years, I have experienced them often, more in the last 20 years, as I have moved beyond self-absorption and into parental love, when I have responded more with giving love and less on taking and hoarding love. Sometimes those moments hit me like a thunderbolt. Sometimes they hit me more subtly, gradually, taking their time to reveal their truths.

While in Logansport this summer, my parents had a church function that required their attention. While they attended to those responsibilities, I took the opportunity to visit some local cemeteries in the interest of genealogy research. I remember once in high school, I had spent an afternoon with my grandma and grandpa, visiting the graves of deceased relatives and putting flowers on the graves of our Hoosier ancestors. This was a regular ritual honoring that grandma performed. She visited the graves of her beloved family: Hazel, Merl, Milda, Alfred, Sarah and baby Patty. I am sure there were others, too, but these family members comprised her most frequent visits. I remember going to two or three different cemeteries. Mount Hope Cemetery is located in the heart of Logansport. Crooked Creek Cemetery is located out in the countryside near Royal Center, where grandpa Conn’s people had their deep roots, just 20 minutes outside of Logansport. Many family names are also located in the Royal Centre and Kistler cemeteries.

In baby Patty’s obituary, it is stated that burial was to take place at Mount Hope. But I had this vague, unsettled hunch about that. I could swear she had been buried in a small church cemetery in the Hoosier countryside. After a little digging online, I found two entries for Patricia Ann Conn’s gravesite on find-a-grave.com. One was for Mount Hope Cemetery in Logan, the other was for Crooked Creek. I fact checked this with my mom and she confirmed what I believed to be true- baby Patty was laid to rest at Crooked Creek. She explained to me that they had planned to bury Patty at Mount Hope but they had to purchase the plot. Before the burial could take place, Uncle Harvey Spencer notified them that there was a place available in a family plot at Crooked Creek cemetery. My mom told me that Uncle Harvey even built her tiny casket.

Last winter I upgraded my stupid phone to get myself a smart phone. I suffer from a severe lack of direction, both literal and sometimes emotional. But armed with my smart phone GPS, I set out on my mission to find baby Patty for myself. As I drove through the country highways and small country roads, I thought about the farms in this area. Grandpa was born near here. Can I find that farm still? My ancestors, Conn, Spencer, Kennell, and Cogley, rooted themselves on this land several generations ago but where did they come from before that? And how many times did grandma and grandpa make this trip to visit this grave? My memories of grandma are so grounded in her gracious love for her family. She had a present under her tree for everyone, a card with a small monetary gift on every birthday, and family bragging rights on every kitchen visit. These were my thoughts as I drove those roads.

It was a beautiful summer day. Mapquest led me easily to Crooked Creek Church Cemetery but I never would have found it on my own. Crooked Creek is a small cemetery so it did not take me long to find the family graves. Throughout the cemetery, I saw names I recognized but their connection to me was yet uncertain. Rekindled in my heart is the desire to know. Where have I come from? What stories remain unheard, untold? And then I saw it. I saw Patty’s gravestone.

located at Crooked Creek Cemetery, Royal Center, Indiana

located at Crooked Creek Cemetery, Royal Center, Indiana

I stood there for a moment, struck a bit numb. Patty’s name on her tombstone is not spelled correctly. Do you see it now? I did not actually notice it at first but it hit me within a few seconds. And then my memories flooded back. Cards, checks, envelopes, notes, even books – repeatedly throughout my life, grandma mis-spelled my name. I remember as a youth thinking that it was odd, cute, almost ridiculous that my grandma did not know how to spell my name. Was she just in a hurry? Or was it simply one of her challenging words? I have words that I constantly have to write or type slowly, ones I repeatedly mis-spell: d-e-F-I-N-I-T-E-l-y, r-e-c-E-i-v-e, e-t-c-E-T-E-R-A.

I have not been able to find a birth certificate for Patty, to determine how it is spelled on that official document, perhaps because one did not exist as she was likely born at home in 1936, perhaps because her untimely death at just 7 months old finalized the need to ever file for an official birth certificate. Her obituary spells it P-a-t-r-i-C-I-A but was that an editorial correction? Or, was P-a-t-r-i-C-A really grandma’s preferred spelling? All of these thoughts and emotions flooded my heart in a matter of seconds, covering years, decades.

Now I stood at this site, shamed and humbled, pained and touched, enlightened and ignorant. How many times did my grandparents visit this place, this pain? How many tears were shed here? How long does it take for that kind of pain to heal? Sometimes, the more I search, the more questions I carry away with me.

Thunderbolts and subtle truths. Some answers, more questions. But this I know is truth, and it is a truth I learned from my grands: Love. Love. Love.

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