Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Wilson heart

'Have a heart' is the brand of the squirrel trap in my back yard. (This will have to be explained in another post). It is usually said to elicit compassion or to say someone has it.

In my grandmother's family it is the mark of the grim reaper. A curse from some Indian medicine man after the Wilson's moved onto Indian lands in Alabama in the 1830s? Who knows how it started.

Through several generations of folks who died young or from heart problems the Wilson family now has the tag of the Wilson heart, one that doesn't last, it wears out early, a heart that won't get you to age sixty.

My great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson died in 1933 at age 58. In his family four of the five sons died young, so the curse got some feet. But actually they all died violent deaths unrelated to the heart. Tractor falling on one, drowning, boat explosion, auto accident. My grandmother Edith lived to be 86 and her brother Walt lived to be 78 , but maybe they were just lucky.

Moses Wilson, the family patriarch who was born in North Carolina, moved into Alabama as the Indians were being displaced and then came to Florida after the civil war, lived to be at least 75. Of his 25 children some died early, but I don't know if it was the Wilson heart or just the short life expectancy of the times. His son, Edward Daniel Wilson died at age 58 in Oneco, Florida. Daughter Caroline Wilson Slaughter died at age 45 in Dade City, Florida and her sister Nancy Catherine Wilson Tait was only 25 when she died nearby. Several cousins have died of heart problems, Gilbert Leroy Wilson of Myakka died at age 62 and his daughter, Hilda Aileen Wilson Brainerd was barely 60 when she died during open heart surgery in Tampa.

In my mom's immediate family, six of the seven kids have some kind of heart problems. A couple of them were diagnosed just recently so the curse must be back.

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