Wednesday, January 03, 2007

My "Field of Dreams" Moment

Is this Heaven? No, its Iowa.

I expected many different things when I created this blog, however one thing I never expected was a visit from my father. But that's what happened.

My Dad, William S. Foley died in 1968, before I met my wife, before my brother was married, a long time ago. He was a very bright but troubled man. He had a lifelong fight with alcohol addiction. He was a skilled salesman who sold heating systems to many big construction projects in the Saint Louis area. He was not a good husband to my Mom. My brother and I knew he loved us but his troubles also became our problems.

He was born in Carbondale, Illinois in 1909. Went to Embalming School in Chicago, graduating in 1929. He returned to Carbondale, married Helen and they had a daughter Joanie. But that marriage ended in divorce while Joanie was still a little girl. I don't know the reasons for this but I can imagine them. Pop was not a good absentee father. He left the area and moved to Saint Louis. He did not keep up with his daughter Joanie at any time that I am aware. As any daughter would, she no doubt felt a loss, a rejection.

In time, Pop found a second wife, my Mom and they married during World War II. My brother and I were their only children as we came along later in life to them.

Joanie meanwhile, went on to a life of achievement. I knew of her and knew that she was a Professor of English at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. I knew that she married Reid Martin who went on to be Superintendent of Carbondale Schools. But that's all I knew. I may have heard more about her over the years but these were the salient details that I knew, until October 19. That's the day that my Dad visited.

He came in the person of an email from Joanie's daughter, Nancy Gonzenbach. Nancy had been referred to this blog and emailed me. Nancy is my niece, my Dad was her Grand Dad. She wanted to learn more about the family and introduced herself.

William died in 1968 and here I was, nearly 40 years later, looking at a piece of his unresolved life. It was an amazing moment and I can't thank Nancy enough for reaching out to me. I don't expect that I can make up for whatever has happened to Joanie and her family but I can explain some things about my Dad and his problems that led to their hurt.

In the spring, I plan to meet Nancy, her husband Bob and daughter Amy and perhaps her brothers, Michael and Tod (with one D) and Dad Reid as well. Joanie died from lung cancer in 2002. But I think she would be happy to see us meet, too.


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