Our lives are shaped by what happens before us, to us and through us – and, by our responses to these events. Burton Lee Roberts’ life would be no different. He would not escape. Opinionated and politically incorrect, chased by his own personal demons, keeper of secrets, he was a mystery. It’s left to me to backtrack the truth, unravel the tale and record the most complete explanation of his life. He was my father.
I loved him. I hated him. I learned him. I understood him (somewhat). I love him. And now I share him. I share his story with my children and grandchildren. I share his story with many other children who want to understand their own fathers, who long to make sense of their lives or at least, not to hate. Some of you want to understand. Like me, you struggle. Most of you never met my dad. Those of you who knew him knew little about his inner turmoil. In sharing his life, I share me, because our lives are inseparable. My responses to him shaped me. I doubt you can fully understand me without knowing him.
Our DNA trickles to us from thousands of sources. These millions of droplets collect and gush into our lives through only two — our mother and father. Eyes, hair, facial features, size, muscle structure, feet, fingers, etc. passed down to us by our parents, a mix of what was passed down to them. I sometimes debate with myself what is DNA and what is learned behavior. After all, I not only look like my dad but I have some of the same facial expressions, stand and walk like him. Like the father in the story of the prodigal who easily recognized his son’s gait from a considerable distance, if you knew my father, you can see him reflected in me.
My dad missed the reported murder of his grandfather but his father didn’t. Only three years old at the time, dad’s father, my grandfather, was said to have been in the room when the deed was done. My dad missed his grandfather’s murder (Was it really a murder?) but not the fallout. Dad’s father was raised without a father or mother. He never knew his grandfather. His adolescence was lived through The Great Depression. He experienced and participated in the mayhem of a world at war. He would be shaped by it all and so would we.
I got into genealogy because I love history and a good mystery. My family has both. Once I discovered so many tales to be told, so many lives to be restored, so many dots to be connected, I knew it was my responsibility to be the “teller of tales”, to backtrack the truth. But, where to begin? I’ve been very “hit and miss” so far in my blog, Backtracking the Common. My posts have been things that interested or challenged me. I work better with structure. I need a plan. I want something more sequential. My intent was to save dad’s story for last, less complicated, less painful that way, but I can’t. His story is only explained by his father’s story. His father’s story is explained by his father’s story, etc. So we’ll begin to unravel their collective stories, unlock some mysteries, and tell their tales. We begin with the life of Burton Lee Roberts and the murder, mystery and mayhem that shaped it – and me.