Monday, July 28, 2008

TIes That Bind 2

The last couple of days have been truly weird. That’s the only word for it. My husband and I have both been recuperating from a particularly nasty summer cold. It’s is miserably hot outside, and yet when you’re sick the super chilled air inside feels wrong too. We basically decided to just give in to the job of getting over it, and did as little as possible. I never put a bra on for a couple of days…what a slothful indulgence.

Saturday, I kind of got a spurt of energy and decided to resume my never ending, but never successful, fight against clutter. As I sorted through the piles of books around the house, several titles on home organization included, I ran across an obviously unused copy of a little book I had given my mother when her first great-grandchild was born. You’ve probably seen these “fill in the blanks about your life” books for grandparents. To cut my mother some slack, I never got mine filled out either.

Then I discovered the envelope. On it was handwriting that was clearly my Mama and Daddy’s. It was a list of Daddy’s lineage. This gold mine of information led Walker and me to the site which he had begun several years ago, and the information that had survived one of many computer crashes.

Unlike my family, there was a lot of information going back many, many generations in Walker’s family. I think someone had done the research in order to get into the DAR. I had a bit of information about my mother’s side, but nothing other than my paternal grandparents names until Saturday. The little envelope opened a whole new world of information for me. As Walker and I sorted through census reports and discovered an obituary online for my great granddaddy Pat, I got more and more excited. Eventually, the search led me back to the 1400’s in England, although those relationships are pretty remote.

I remember only a couple of visits to Daddy Pat before he died when I was about eight years old. He was an elfish little man, wiry and bright eyed with only a cot in a one room shack with an outhouse, which definitely grossed this city child out. He had a fiddle that fascinated me, although I don’t remember any song he played. He was a coal miner, and most certainly died of black lung disease.

I learned this weekend that my grandparents, though dirt poor, knew how to read and write back several generations. I found out how many months Daddy Pat was laid off from the coal mine. I already knew from a cousin of mine that the reason he was laid off was his resistance to organized labor unions. As Cousin Joe told it, “They lak to starved to death!”

Like my granddaddy, I’m not much for organized anything. I’m sure that the right research might entitle me to membership in the DAR, but that’s definitely not my cup of tea. Actually, I prefer my tea iced, and in my own house.

I hope to flesh out my vague memories of my ancestors and hope my children and grandchildren will find them interesting, because I feel strongly that they influence who we are today. I hope that I persevere as successfully as those people who had only a fraction of the privileges I possess.


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