RoCkInG The Boat!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2003


Today is my paternal grandfather's 91st birthday, not bad considering that the women-folk in my family tend to outlive the men by a considerable margin. Still, it gives the rest of the Comtes something to aspire to, particularly since Grandpa has never been in the best of health, nor what one could call a terribly active person. He's always been a somewhat reclusive figure in our family (or at least in my perception of it), due to the fact that he's never struck me as the most sociable person, in direct contrast to my Grandmother Justine, whose Irish-Catholic heritage endowed her with a personality and joie-d'-vivre that puts people half her age to shame.

In the past 20 years or so, Grandpa has been on a long, gradual downhill slide, beginning with hip replacement surgury, which while giving him a temporary renewal of vigor, eventually created a circumstance (after his second set of replacements) whereby his joints were no longer able to handle the strain and he became semi-bed-ridden. As I recall Grandpa was always more comfortable in bed with a book than in a chair surrounded by lots of people, but that could be an entirely erroneous observation, seeing as it comes through the perspective of remembrances from 30 years or more ago. In any event, my contact with both my grandparents has been regretably sporadic in my adulthood, even though Portland isn't that far away. There does seem to be a tendency in the Comtes to scatter to the four winds once we leave the nest, so I guess even he wouldn't have been all that surprised by my not visiting more often. Still, I wish I could spend more time with both them and that whole side of my family -- they weren't perfect, but they were generally cohesive and at least my father's immediate family seems to have retained some semblance of close contact. And let's face facts here: at 91 he's lived a long life, and there just aren't that many more years left in him (although, I certainly WISH him many more -- but they have to be good ones).

I wish I knew more about the family history, but the inevitability of world events pretty much wiped out all trace of our lineage pre-WW I. My grandfather was always of the opinion that we were descended from legitimate royalty (the scuttlebutt was that we earned the name -- the French title for Count or Baron -- as a result of a peerage endowed to one of our ancestors by Napoleon I), but it could just have easily been derived from the region of France -- Franche-Comte -- that borders Alsace, Germany and Switzerland where our family lived for many generations, although supposedly, my great, great grandfather Henri came from Ypres in flemmish Belgium, which those of you up on your early 20th Century history will recall was a site of several major battles. Hence the city itself was practically obliterated, along with any trace of extant records that might have existed there. So, there's no documentation to prove anything one way or the other, and all we have left are the stories handed down to my grandfather. They're good stories, and for all I know they could very well be true, but my nature forces me to give them the measure of skepticism that all such unevidenced proclamations deserve. It would be nice to believe that somewhere down the road we Comtes held some position of stature in the world -- even if only briefly -- but, regardless of whether our origins are aristocratic or plebian, it doesn't diminish the fact that those of us on this side of the Comte Family at least share a great deal of pride in the name.

So, Happy Birthday Grandpa. May the day treat you well!

Posted byCOMTE on 4:44 PM

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