Monday, February 10, 2014

My Grandma Norma...

I recently read this article in the Huffington Post that suggested that children are most likely to look like their paternal grandmother. It spotlighted an artist, Ulric Collette, who had done a series of rather uncanny photos after a geneticist told him children will look most like their grandmothers. The photo of his mother and daughter is remarkable.

But, beyond just being interesting, it got me thinking about the likelihood that I looked like my father's mother, whom I never had the chance to meet as she died in 1968, ten years before I was born. She was only one month from turning 50 when she died of breast cancer that metastasized to her brain. My father was only just 15 years old.

I was reminded that this last summer, while I was in California visiting family, I had the opportunity to take some scans of pictures I had never even seen before.  My Aunt Pam, my dad's only sister, moved this last summer from a house she had been living in for the better part of my childhood. In the process she came across a box of old photos, many of them of my grandmother. Up until this, I had only seen just one picture of her and she was quite a bit older than these. The pictures were brought to my folks place, where I made sure to get scans of all of them.

Beautiful, wasn't she?

I don't know when either photo were taken. The second image, the one labeled "Norma," was taken in Illinois, so it had to be sometime before 1955 or so because that's when they moved to California--though I'd say it was much earlier. I scanned a lot of others, but these two are my favorites. I love everything about them.

Earlier this year, then, when I came across the article about looking like your grandmother, I started looking for information about her and thanks to I was able to find quite a lot. Her name was Norma Mae Krippendorf (Rhodes) and her birthday was February 18, 1918. She was born in Illinois, but her parents were from Germany (father) and Prussia (mother)--which was, by 1918, a part of Germany (they confederated as German states in 1871). I also learned that she had several siblings, whom I'm pretty sure I've never met, and that her father, William, lived until 1986 when he died at 102 years old. Her mother only lived to be 31 years old.

She and my grandfather were both born in February and, interestingly, both died within a month of their birthdays (my grandpa died in early February 1999). The same was true of my mom's mother who died the same month she was born, in August.

I don't know that we look alike, exactly, but I'm happy I took the opportunity to learn more about her. I'm grateful for having read the article that encouraged my curiosity. More than anything, though, I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to make copies of those pictures, since they're now all I have of a woman I never had the opportunity to know.