Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Story of a Salting

My mother was very proud of her ancestry, although at times her stories of her relatives that went before got somewhat muddled. Many of her stories were simply dismissed by most of us children, especially when they told of close familial connections to Hollywood directors and royalty.

With a little amateur research on the internet, I came upon some startling information that supports my mother's contention that she was related to a Hollywood director. But more interesting and somewhat disturbing was the one line sentence I found next to the name of one of her uncles, a man who married late in life. It said simply that he was "salted to death" by his wife.

I found it strange that I had never heard this before from my mother, for mysteries and conspiracies were among her favorite pastimes. In her family it seemed that wives were always somewhat suspect, since they weren't part of the family but rather married into it. Second wives were even more suspect - even if the fellow was dirt poor, it was always assumed that second wives were gold diggers.

And yes, this was poor Great-Uncle M's second wife, the first having died and left him a widower. So it is inevitable that the family whispers would be breathed in quiet corners and behind backs. But I am left with one great question: how was this salting accomplished?

There aren't many instances of "death by salt" to be found upon a Google search, although there seems to be a rock band by that name. There's a biblical death by salt, as Lot's wife became a pillar of it, but I doubt that even a second wife had the power to call down fire and brimstone. Finally, we are left with salt poisoning, which by the estimates I found would require the average man to ingest about 12 ounces of salt at one time. Surely, this would be a crime of some magnitude and the tale of it would not have been so easily forgotten.

The most likely explanation is that others in the family cared little for her cooking and found it salty, or that Great Uncle M had some medical condition that was sensitive to salt intake. In any case, it was likely felt that Wife B fed him too much salt, therefore hastening his demise. Since the dates indicate he married her shortly after his first wife's death and lived on for another 16 years, Wife B must have been a very patient woman.

Unfortunately, my mother passed on before I ever thought to look up genealogy online and I can never confirm for her that some of her information was spot-on, nor can I glean more of what she knew of her Uncle M's life, marriages and death.

But I do know one thing, even if a death certificate for Uncle M were produced and it was found that he died of natural causes, it would not quell any rumors nor sway any family opinions. Worse, the family stories would lose their mystery and element of dark conspiracy. And if they were about anything at all, my mother's family were about entertainment.

Although I find the facts fascinating and engrossing, I think I would prefer to hear my mother's stories. There was never anything better than a family gathering, to sit amongst the siblings as they exchanged knowing looks and spoke in hushed tones about this one who was done wrong by that one, and about the wife who worked her husband to his death. It's the only way to find the nuts scattered amongst the branches of a family tree. Genealogy is a fine thing, but that - well, that's family history!

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