In Vino, Veritas by
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At Watkins Glen around 1970

Growing up, I knew that my early family history was odd. My last name was for some reason different from my father’s. I knew that my Mom had been married before, but all I was told was that he had run out on his family, disappeared, and that his name was “Ed”. Like Mom, he was of Norwegian descent. I didn’t like that I was saddled with his names as my middle and last*.

One day, in my late teens, at a family wedding, Mom was drinking as she usually was back then...

Although my younger brother was as blonde and blue-eyed as would be expected of a Norse kid, I, short and somewhat swarthy, bore a much stronger resemblance to my step-father and his southern Italian heritage. Later, when I learned a bit about Mendelian inheritance, I realized that that was highly unlikely.

My maternal grandfather always seemed to detest me for some reason. He frequently referred to me as “that little bastard” or “the little wop” when my Dad was not around, although after my Dad heard him call me a wop (or maybe it was dago) for the first time, he never said it again where I could hear it.

One day, in my late teens, at a family wedding, Mom was drinking as she usually was back then, and I was talking to Pete, one of my father’s sons by his first marriage. Mom comes up, looks at me, looks at Pete, and says “David, if you ever need a transplant, the Ventre side is your best bet.”

Turns out my Grandfather was merely being technically accurate.

*later that was legally rectified!

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: family, names, Mom, bastards
Characterizations: well written


  1. Dave, you mix in all the complexities of family, the funny with the painful. What a strange species we are. A bow and arms around you.

  2. Marian says:

    Your mom, with the help of alcohol, gave you a path to the truth, Dave. Genes don’t lie!

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wow, you’ve told us so much in such a short amount of time, Dave. Glad you got a name change to match your DNA.

  4. Suzy says:

    Well, she might have told you sooner, but at least she gave you that advice about a transplant when you were in your late teens.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Well, Dave, not exactly the “dear, sweet mom” advice that we might expect from this prompt. But, frankly, probably wise advice. And in complete character with your family — which was no more unusual than all of her never-usual families. And this makes for a delightfully wry andwell told little story. With a perfect title.

  6. Jim Willis says:

    Thanks, Dave, for reminding us all that families are not immune from the complexities of all relationships. You’re just kinda stuck with each other and figure out a way to deal with it, as you did. My family had plenty of secrets itself.

  7. Khati Hendry says:

    And did you ever actually get the full story, or were you just left to figure things out on your own? There are some interesting anomalies a generation back in my family that eventually came to light thanks to DNA sleuthing, but no one talked openly about those things back in the day.

    • Dave Ventre says:

      I cottoned onto the whole sordid story long before Mom admitted it. My grandfather was as close to pure bitter, hate-filled evil as I have ever met. Luckily my grandmother thought her grand-kids could do no wrong, regardless of the scandals behind my (mis)conception!

  8. Laurie Levy says:

    Painful but very sound advice. It must have been challenging for you growing up in your family.

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