When I was in fourth grade, I had one of those school projects where you had to write a profile of a family member by interviewing another family member. I chose to ask my dad about his dad, who had died seven years before I was born.
My dad, who was an appellate attorney and talented orator, spun a tale for me about a man who was on the design team for the first Corvette, loved a stiff martini, smuggled rifles in violin cases through Canada and had 10 heart attacks, the last one getting him.
The aspiring journalist in me, even at age 10, had a healthy dose of skepticism about his story, but I ran with it for the purpose of completing my project. Four years later, my dad died, and his mom not too long after him. The window into that side of my family closed, save for a few items my brother and I moved to my mom's basement for storage. I lost access to the memory banks that would have taught me about my paternal lineage and its role in the auto industry.