January 24, 2012

"Clemenz Wulliman" by Joe Grabill

The subject is the author's great-great grandfather, who sailed from Le Havre, France to New York City in 1852.

I’m 37, Catholic, married to a Swiss Mennonite, Liseli, 40. 

March 19—We board.

March 23—Many retch from seasickness. An infant dies.

April 3—Two days ago I gave brandy to a crewman who had been climbing rigging during a storm. He created a disturbance, talked gibberish about who gave him the brandy, and got flogged. I confess. The captain locks up my brandy.

April 4—Two children die, and we bury them at sea. We have 22 first cousins of Liseli’s on board, counting parents of the 3 who perished. Many females are named Elizabeth, including my wife, nicknamed Liseli, and daughter.

April 29—We dock. My brandy is unlocked. I tell people that I have eleven brothers and each has a sister. “You mean there are 12 girls and 12 boys in your family?” “No,” I say, “We’re a family with 12 boys and one girl, Elizabeth.”