When we do genealogy and write family stories, we transform as we understand the past. My Dad is My Hero and a Star in My Family Tree.
I concluded the FREE webinar for the South California Genealogical Society on January 9th, which invites us all to write about the Stars in Our Family Tree. I hope you find this story inspiring.
(For a link to the webinar, scroll to the bottom.)
My Hero Lived Just Down the Hall
Little did I know the man who teased me about playing the flute and expressed his disappointment when I scored below 95% on my exams was a hero in my home.
Robert Paul Gesizler, Jr (b. 25 Jul 1946 in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio) was the son of an alcoholic, the son of an alcoholic, the son of an alcoholic. As a teenager in the 60s, Bobby spent many hours with his cousin Harry Wasson or his other Geiszler cousins. His mother and father both worked outside of the home, and he was an only child with a lot of free time.
After graduating high school at the bottom of his class, Robert was admitted to Ohio State University thanks to his physics professor grandpa, Robert Victor Zumstein. Unfortunately, Bobby flunked out after one semester because he spent more time partying than studying.
Robert held odd jobs and was a roadie for the rock band called The Rebounds, who toured the Ohio music circuit. Bobby was caught up in the era of hippies, making love and not war, and Vietnam War protests. He never joined in the protests as he had attempted to serve in the military during this conflict but was rejected due to his poor hearing. Meanwhile, his close friend and his cousin Harry were serving in combat.
When Robert married Penny Virginia Brown on 16 September 1967 in Columbus, Ohio, he didn’t make friends with his youngest sister-in-law. She remembered him as a mean drunk and avoided him as much as possible. His family tradition of alcoholism and his partying ways were negatively affecting his relationships.
In 1975, Robert was issued a challenge to change his life. Stop drinking alcohol of any kind. Because of his faith and love for his family, he drank his last drop and never picked up beer, wine, or spirits again. He broke the cycle of generational alcoholism without any support meetings or counseling. Bob’s abstinence changed him from the ogre in his sister-in-law’s eyes to a man she didn’t mind being around. He wasn’t perfect, but he had transformed.
As a teenager, I didn’t know much of my father’s history and the dragon he had slain. In my eyes, he was a workaholic with a short temper that he blamed on his German roots and Republicans. My dad was often emotionally distant, and I resented it. And yet, there were moments of greatest with him that were overshadowed by his shortcomings. Little did I know that former alcoholics often struggle to handle these shortcomings if they don’t have a trained support system to finish their transformation.
The truth of my father’s victory over alcoholism came to light only after his death. As a married mother of three young children, someone finally told me his story. As I discovered his past, words from the Reba McIntyre song, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew [Lived Just Down the Hall]” flooded my mind. No truer lyrics were ever penned. My hero is my daddy, and I wish I could tell him so.
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How Vulnerable Will You Be In Your Family History?
Not every story submitted to The Stars in Your Family Tree book that the Southern California Genealogical Society will publish in June 2021 has to be inspiring or charming. Sometimes, they talk about darkness and vulnerability. Will you share a story such as the one above with SCGS? To learn more about The Stars in Your Family Tree book submission requirements, read this previous blog post.
Watch this FREE previously recorded webinar entitled "Writing About The Stars in Your Family With Ease" to learn how to write one of the following story styles.
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Additional Family History Writing Articles
For more help with writing your family stories, read the following articles:
For even more writing tips and techniques, be sure to check out the new videos released soon on our Facebook group.