Thursday, February 28, 2013

Duly Chastised

I am tediously cutting and pasting obituaries for third cousins twice removed and those even more distantly connected to my family, into my RootsMagic. Why? I know why – I love the dig – the excavating out the facts and filling in the blanks and seeing a twig become a full grown tree.  And then I find those people way, way out there – “oh he married her! And here is her sister and her sister’s husband and his parents” – and pretty soon I am way into some distant tree. I love being in the forest.

But today I read the Armchair Genealogist’s blog, “Would YouRather Clean the Shower Tile Than Write Your Family History?”  by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack, who is the guest writer. Then I read her essay on her mother in “Switched at Midlife” in hippocampus magazine.  And I felt myself duly chastised.

Yes, I am guilty of not getting something put together before the person who asked for it died. Ouch. And now my parents have died. And I begin to think about all the people I’ve known – known well – in my life – people who have now passed on. Sometimes it seems I know more dead people than live people! Why am I not writing what I know?

What I know about these people dies with me if I don’t tell it. How many times have I asked a question – “Dad, tell me about your grandparents – your brother”?  How much better if he had written it down. I remember one time my dad told me about his spiritual journey. He wouldn't let me tape record our conversation. He told me he would write it down. I found the journal he started in. He wrote three sentences and then nothing more. I’m sure he just never got around to it. I have scraps of paper from both of my parents with lists of things – events – stories – they planned on writing down. Lists tucked carefully into the pages of an unused “my story” type journal.

Dad wanted to write about his cousins and his farming adventures.  Mom wanted to write about her one room school house experiences and about getting hurt on a barb wire fence – an experience that left a scar on her neck. But none of these stories ever made it beyond the notes. For the most part I have no idea what they are referring to.

So at what point can I say I've lived long enough to write about it? Am I old enough to write what I know? Why do I think, like they, that there will be time for that later? So, while it is not New Year’s, it looks like it could be outside. We are buried into a week-long snow storm here. Roads are closed, schools are closed – seems like a good day to make a resolution, a good day to begin.