Saturday, September 30, 2023

Meanwhile, at the Pow Wow… Hiya!

This week, several of us from our senior center had the opportunity to attend the 44th Annual Pow Wow in Dorseyville Pa. (in Indian—I mean Indiana Township).  The day started cloudy but warm, but minutes after arriving the temperature fell 15 degrees and the rain moved in.

Luckily, one of the vendors there (a lovely woman from the Cheyenne tribe) hooked me up with this Indian serape blanket that kept me warm & dry.  It came with a note of authenticity, y’know!

I feel like a chooch that I didn’t take more photos other than the few below.  There were tents galore with Native American jewelry, blankets, bows & arrows, peace pipes, tomahawks, medicine pouches, leather goods… there was this camel leather tabletop teepee (with a fireproof base to burn sage) I must’ve picked up and set down 25 times.  I wish I’d bought it.

Strangely, the only food available at this indigenous shindig was fry bread, corn chili & buffalo burgers.  I was hoping to bring home some eats but other than some venison jerky (uh…no) there was no more to be found. 

I’m just glad we ate early, after the first break in the Indian dancing, the line for food stretched half a mile!

Speaking of dancing, I now have a slow drumbeat and ear-worm caught in my noggin:  HIYA!  Hiya hiya hiya….

Golden Age women—enter the circle and perform your dance!

Golden Age men—it is your turn to join the circle and dance!
Young warriors—gather in the circle, and dance!
Couples newly joined it is your turn to dance!  (I loved this young woman’s dress, her rows of hollow tubes played windsong)
All tribes enter the circle and dance!
And last, the fire keeper dances in the rain

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

My brother Steve, some astonishing truths and (hopefully) life goes on

Some things can be difficult to share, and this post ranks right up there.  Before I even started this, I thought it important to reach out to a couple people and get their blessing first.  I did, so here this is.

This all began a couple months ago when my brother Steve (right) asked our older brother Duke & myself if we might’ve fathered a child in the 1970s.  Say what?

Duke assured him he hadn’t, and while I kissed a girl or two back then, it hardly resulted in a baby.  What’s going on?

My brother Steve, 2017

It turned out that a woman named Ashley (aged 46, born in 1977) had recently submitted her DNA to 23andme and been notified she shared a 26% DNA match to my brother Steve.  How could that be?

According to DNA sites like 23andme and Ancestry.com, when someone matches 25% of your DNA, they’re an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or half-sibling.  Siblings with the same parents share 50% DNA.  That’s 25% DNA from each parent.

My sister Shawn asked if 23andme could’ve made a mistake, this woman was born & raised in the South.  It seemed hard to believe, but these DNA sites prided themselves on their accuracy and boasted success rates of 99.9998%.

Unfortunately, Ashley could provide little info besides her parents names and where they’re from, Louisiana and Texas.  Both her parents were deceased, her dad in 2012, her mom in 2014.  Steve and I began discussing the results provided to him, and we soon learned these two—my brother and Ashley—did share the same father.

We just didn’t know if it was her dad or ours.

Ashley’s dad Jack does bear a striking resemblance to my brother Steve

When I first discussed this with our sister Shawn, that Steve might have another dad, she got upset and had some pretty choice words for me.

I didn’t like what I was suggesting either, but our options were limited. 

The more we looked at things though, and came up with plausible scenarios, Shawn did come around. 

Our parents weren’t perfect, they were human like everyone else.  So what might’ve happened?

Sometime in 1965, our parents actually split up for a few months.  Mom was only 24 years old and had 3 kids—Duke, myself & Shawn.  One of my earliest memories is of Mom crying on the phone to our Grandma Morris, that she didn’t have enough food in the house to feed her kids. 

Around this time, Ashley’s dad (Jack H.) finished his stint in the Armed Forces, the same as our Dad’s brother (my Uncle Shane).  Were Uncle Shane & Ashley’s dad friends in the military?  Did Jack travel north from Louisiana to visit Shane and meet my mom who was on her own at the time?

All we know is, Mom & Dad got back together, and in March 1966 Steve was born. 

Our mom was one of the most unselfish people on the planet, who lived and breathed and scrounged her whole life for her kids.  If she was alone and scared about the future, who knows what choices she made.  At the very least, Mom had something of her own that no one knew about, that she took to her grave.  I told my sister this is the scenario I’d like to think happened.

Another scenario was still possible though.  Ashley’s mother was an airline stewardess.  She was around 29 years old when she got pregnant for Ashley in 1976, was she still married to Ashley’s dad?  Was she on a flight to Pittsburgh and met our dad at some bar or club? 

Dad was 38 then, a musician who performed on the weekends.  He loved Mom, but did he have a one night stand?  

I told Shawn & Steve I’d submit my DNA to Ancestry.  I know besides mapping out your origins, it connects you to other relatives.  Ashley isn’t on Ancestry, but Steve is. 

If Ancestry said Steve was my half-sibling, the same mother but different dads, then Steve came from Ashley’s dad.

If Ancestry said Steve was my full sibling, that meant our dad fathered Ashley.

A recent photo of Ashley, who is a teacher and resides in Texas

The results are in.  According to Ancestry, my brother Steve is my half-brother.  We only share 24% DNA.  Twice the amount of a first cousin match, half the amount of a full sibling.

We have the same mother, but that’s all.  Our Aunt Terry (my dad’s sister) is on Ancestry, but only I share DNA with her.

This changes nothing, he’s still my brother.  But there are some new truths to adjust to here.

Shawn and I were talking and wondering if Mom knew.  I’m sure she suspected, but we’ll never know.  We’re sure Dad never knew, we can both recall him fawning over Steve when he was a baby.   

Shawn also brought up something interesting.  In Ashley’s dad’s obituary, it said he was a hunter and fisherman, an avid outdoorsman.  Growing up, our brother Steve was very much the same, unlike anyone else in our family.  We all wondered “where he got it”.   I think now we know.

(That’s not a joke; we’re both convinced that was ingrained in our brother’s DNA.)

Steve, thanks for letting me share your story here.  A personal blog may not be the appropriate venue for something like this, but this sort of news tends to get out quickly, and I wanted it heard honest and right. 

See you soon.

Friday, September 22, 2023

A ride on the Incline and the Grandview Saloon: Made it Ma! Top of the world!

The day before yesterday was a gorgeous day in Pittsburgh, and some of us from the center went on a little road trip to the Grandview Saloon on Mt. Washington for lunch.

Mount Washington sits high above the city’s skyline and it’s where some of the ‘burgh’s best (and most expensive restaurants) are located.  You can either take a long & windy drive up there, or ride the Duquesne Incline straight up a STEEP mountainside.

I’ve lived in the city 35 years, been to Mt. Washington probably 20 times, seen the Incline (from below) a thousand times easy, and this was my FIRST trip on it. 

Here we go!

Inside the Incline car on the way up the mountain—the car (and it’s hammered copper ceiling) is 146 years oldPearl, Margie & Colleen (Colleen coordinated the outing but insisted she wasn’t our chaperone, so live it up)

And there’s me, having a flat hair day
I took this picture out the rear of our car to capture the steepness of the hill, and caught my friend Janet & her Elton John glasses on the right
We made it to the top!  Here’s a pic of our group on the observation deck; Gary (the big guy on the right) just shouted “Isn’t this great Chuck?”  He insists on calling me Chuck.  I’m okay with it.The Incline’s Museum, which I later whined I needed to go back and get a souvenir; Colleen said “Douglas you have 10 minutes and not a second more!”
Inside the Grandview Saloon—hmm, it doesn’t LOOK like a saloon, but it sure had beautiful views of the city
The view outside our window; you can see people dining on the patio below
And finally, what I had for lunch—a Reuben platter.  I know it’s not pretty, I forgot to take the pic until I was halfway done :^)