Sunday, June 16, 2013

Connections Through Time. . .

"The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even, by reason of strength, fourscore. . ."

So says the 90th Psalm, and fair enough, I suppose.  Although, I admit, being 57 just at the moment, and recalling having been 44 just the day before yesterday, the 13 years left between me and my threescore-and-ten seem pretty much like the-day-after-tomorrow.  And those 13 years are by no means guaranteed; my high school class will be holding its 40th anniversary class reunion this summer, and the number of my classmates who haven't lived to see it is distressingly large.  70 just doesn't seem nearly as old as it once did. . .

I was thinking about my dad recently, as I do from time to time, especially on Father's Day (and tomorrow would have been his 91st birthday), and it not yet being two years since he died.  I got to thinking about my ancestry more generally, and I had a thought that utterly fascinated me (but then, I get fascinated by weird stuff sometimes).  Virtually all of us have known our parents, and these days, most of us have known and had relationships with our grandparents.  So far, so good, right?  Now, turning it around to the other direction, many of us have children, and the vast majority of those of us with children have known and had relationships with them, although that is not quite as guaranteed as we might wish it to be.  And then again, if we are fortunate, we will also know and have relationships with our grandchildren, as well.  Some few of us will even be fortunate enough to have known a great-grandparent or two, and some few of us might be fortunate enough to know a few of our great-grandchildren.  But, on average, two generations in either direction seems pretty 'nominal'.

So, my dad having died just recently, I got to thinking about his grandfather.  Dad had certainly known his grandfather, who died in 1944, when Dad was in his early 20s (and, alas, twelve years before my own auspicious arrival).  My great-grandfather, Egbert (for whom I was very nearly named; narrow escape, right there) was born in 1866.  His grandfather, Jacob, died in 1875.  I don't know if they ever knew, or even met each other, since Egbert was born in Indiana and came to Michigan as a boy, whereas Jacob lived his entire life in upstate New York (not far from Cooperstown, in Otsego County).  But their lives overlapped by nine years, and they certainly could have met each other.  Jacob was born in 1812.

So Egbert spent 78 years living on the face of this earth.  Squarely inside the biblical brackets.  But between his grandfather, whom he at least might have known, and my dad, his grandson, whom he did know, the span of his life's connections is stretched to within a year of two full centuries.  And I'm sure, if I look at all of my dad's grandparents and their grandparents, somewhere in there, the two-century mark will have been surpassed.  Which is a heck of a lot more than threescore-and-ten, and, in a lot of ways, seems a truer representation of the significance of our lives on this earth. . .

And even besides biological/familial connections, I think of the elders - teachers, coaches, family friends, etc, etc - who enriched my formative years, and I am coming into my own set of young friends my kids' age, or even younger.  And I wonder how far into the past those relationships reach, and God only knows how far into the future.

Fascinating. . .

16 comments:

  1. Yes, it is... fascinating.

    But did ya have to mention that three score and ten?

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    1. Sorry, Skip. For you, fourscore. . .

      ;)

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  2. 70 just doesn't seem nearly as old as it once did.

    Especially when you're 68. ;-)

    The connections we're able to have today are fascinating. I'm thinking Egbert could have known Jacob had there been interstates and jets back then. We're blessed to live in these times.

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    1. See above to Skip re fourscore. . . ;)

      You make a good point. The sheer mobility of modern life is a HUGE departure from centuries past. As huge a phenomenon as the American Westward Migration in the 1800s had human costs that we don't often think of today. For my ancestors in Massachusetts, say, in the early 1800s, moving to Ohio pretty much meant kissing Mom & Dad good-bye for the rest of their lives. . .

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  3. i've many times thought about how far back we stretch and how far forward we continue in consciousness. perhaps odd but since both my mom's and dad's family have been in the same geographical area for 300+ years i've also stood over the graves of forefathers and foremothers for whom i only known names and stories and i have said, "it's nice to meet you."

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    1. Even the fact that I have known my own grandparents, most of whom were born in the 1890s, can seem pretty far-reaching. . .

      During the height of my genealogical hobby (which I hope to be able to resume in earnest someday soon), we would travel to ancestral places 'out east' to further the research. I recall the rush I got from standing at the graves of pre-Revolutionary multiple-great-grandparents in New York. . .

      During that time, we would occasionally drive past a 'random' cemetery on our way somewhere, and my kids would ask, "Are we gonna stop at this cemetery, Dad? Are any of our people buried there?"

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  4. With modern tech, the chances for those who come after us to 'know' is getting fairly good.

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  5. Wow, you're old! Like me .... Queenie and I have been working the fambly tree thing recently, trying to undo the mis-information that has crept in there. Got some fambly that can really spin some yarns, if you know what I mean.

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    1. Oh, I'm much older than you (even if you beat me to your first kid's wedding)

      Misinformation in your family tree? Scandalous!

      I've discovered a few, uh, secrets that folks might have preferred to remain undiscovered, meself. Not that it makes all that much difference to me, but some folks are funny about, uh, you know, stuff. . .

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    2. Yeah, you wouldn't believe who Mom claims we're related to. from Billy the Kid to Napoleon we're truly connected ... so she claims.

      And you ain't old, you're right-aged ;-)

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    3. Well, you were the one who said I was old in the first place. . . ;)

      I have an aunt who, every time we discover that we're descended from somebody named Ball, say, will always say, "I bet we're related to the canning jar people!" Well, maybe, but not close enough to ask for our share of the profits. . .

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    4. I LOVE Lucy!

      And my grandpa, and one of my aunts, were redheads, too!

      Hmmmmm. . .

      Actually, we are almost certainly related to George Washington, whose mother was Mary Ball. . .

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    5. We use your jars for maple syrup ....

      And watch your great aunt on re-runs every week.

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