Lesson Learned (November 19)


Multi-generational mountaineer families changing

For the sixth column generated by a rich and rewarding interview granted to Allia Shaver by Lou Hansford on July 4, 2022, the emphasis focuses on our mountaineer families. We have a proud heritage I learned treating our mountain state veterans—we have more intact families per capita veteran than any other state. That might change in the future as current school children come from blended families, with stepchildren from multiple marriages. However, looking at our heritage of strong, mountaineer families is worth examining. Lou’s interview with Allia gives plenty of fodder.

Lou worked 30 years in health care, including as office manager for Jake Huffman, MD, known for more baby deliveries than almost any doctor as well as savvy, serving years and years as the physician director to the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department. As an excellent manager, Lou helped Doc Huffman climb to the top of the mountain, serving as President of the West Virginia State Medical Association. Finally, Lou organized the switchboard operations for the new St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Listen in to the interview:

Lou (turning to Allia, who is conducting the interview):  You are a mountaineer, too. In the broadest way possible, your legacy is profound. The first Americans are the Indians. They lived on this great continent for hundreds of years before my ancestors came from Europe. Native Americans truly deserve credit for preserving our hunting and gathering culture that West Virginians so value.

Allia: Thank you for recognizing that I’m both a Mayan Indian and now an American Mayan Indian. I’m a full-blooded Mayan.

Lou: You’re a beautiful young lady.

Doc: She’s very smart, too. Her journalism skills grow with each interview.

Allia: Thank you. Miss Lou, multigenerational families living close together doesn’t happen in America anymore because the kids live someplace else, but you can teach us a lesson because you had your grandfather close by.

Lou: And that is the only one that I ever knew, my grandpa from my dad’s side. My grandma, I didn’t know. My grandma and grandpa from my mom’s side died before I was born. I was what they called a change-of-life baby. I came late in life and that is why there were 17 years and 23 days between my sister and me. I always said I was a shock to the community and I still am. I always say that, but very well loved.

Allia: Yes, it sounds like you were very well-loved by your mom and dad.

Lou: Yes I was. There was a period of time in school, this was past, I guess the Mt. Nebo School, it was when I was in junior high. I went through a phase of thinking everyone’s mom and dad were so much younger than my parents were that I went through a period of time that I thought I was adopted. I was very quiet at home for a while because I just was so mixed up in my head that I didn’t know how to approach anyone, so I went to my sister. After being what I thought was hurt and believe me she straightened me out. Audra said, “No, you are not adopted. You were born by your mom.”

I was a C-section baby. I was too ornery to come out–they had to come in and get me, Dr. Huffman and Dr. Paige. But anyway, Audra straightened me out and said then we’re having a family meeting and Audrey presented it to mom and dad that I had gone through several weeks of thinking I was adopted. And once that was straightened out, everything was straightened out in my heart.

Allia: That put your mind at ease.

Lou: It certainly did.

Allia: And your heart, too.

Lou: But even if I was adopted, adoption as you know, you’re adopted by people who even love you as much or even more than if you were born to parents.

Doc: Right, you are selected, special.

Lou: Yes, selected and you’re special, but I always thought I was born to my mom and dad. And I found out later that I was. But I did go through a period of thinking I was adopted.

Allia: I was actually kinda, I wouldn’t say embarrassed of my adoption, but I kind of felt like I had a little distance between me and my mom because someone had asked me what slave ship I had come on and I’m like, “What are you talking about?” It really hurt me and it kind of made me wonder why she adopted me, why me? We had a good talk about it and I felt better and I really didn’t let that comment get to me. But your story kind of reminded me of that situation I was in. I was kind of questioning why I was adopted. But I’m grateful now that she adopted me. She says I probably wouldn’t have survived a month or so there. So that’s my blessing.

Lou: So I guess I’m bringing up a few memories to you, but you brought up a lot of memories for me through this conversation this afternoon.

Doc: Yes, you are a great interviewee.

Lou: I’ve had a wonderful time with you, too

Allia: Yes.

Lou: Thanks.

Stay tuned for more of our interview in future columns…

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