"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. . .