Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Grandfather’s Legacy ... And then, one day, it’s too late!

I have begun to collect various bits of Dad’s repertoire of old songs, poems and recitations, as I search to remember those most beloved stories, etc., and wish now that I had recollections of more. It is an ongoing task. I have researched the internet to find words to finish or correct those phrases leading to a fuller reminder of what had been sung, or recited down through the years. These pieces were a testament of my Dad’s love for the dramatic, the local flavor, the enduring reminders of past times. I will pass them on in hopes that when I too am gone, that perhaps the heart of a small child, in an adult’s body, will ask… “Do you remember when Grandpa….???”

It has become harder to relate and retell the stores of one’s childhood, of those moments when time was not a commodity to be spent like pennies for a bag of candy. It seemed like time back then was relevant and the oral history of places, people and events was a factor that brought family and community together. As you can see I am technologically well founded, I can handle a keyboard and even maintain a computer to a reasonable standard; but I also recognize, perhaps due to my age, that today’s younger generation is far more interested in superficial conversation (texting), drama and trivia, than the context of who they are, based on how they got here.

What am I saying? That sounds just like every “generational descriptive” ever used for “coming generations”, by those who are now evaluating and rehearsing, while being nostalgic about their own past.Now there's a mouth full! Perhaps there aren’t too many of us who truly appreciated the moments back in the day, when the older folks sat around and told stories, quoted the facts told them about how it all got started and finally done. Most leave it up to the historical societies and the genealogical societies along with museums and archives to keep a sacred trust for generations to come; those relics of past history. But what of the sacred custody of specific family history; who becomes the keeper of that trust?

Each generation reflects upon both ends of the spectrum that is evident, now before them. Some will, like me, see the value of both the rehearsal and recording of family traditions, tales and observations that put context to photos or videos that become archival material. Others will see only the value of that which is present. History for them is just seen as a precursor to what is taking place now and only significance as being foundational to the current state of life and times. Those perceived foundations are much like the ones found under the homes they live in; they are considered only when there is a sag in the structure. Today, as in any generation of youth, past is secondary to today’s issues... or it may be even further down the line and seen as irrelevant. While there is some concern for the gene pool, as it relates to health issues, business has found new commerce in following trends in gene pools lending relevance to identifying ethnic groups and geographic areas. The merchandizing of this information, while it may shed some light on one’s ancestry, it may not lead many to discover the traditions and stories surrounding perhaps the core of who their parents and grandparents were. It may sound like sour grapes, it is but a sign of the times, in which following generations find relevance in the issues that they face each day, and not so much weight in the formational structures/traditions around which the family was fashioned.

The problem often arises for those who do collect the data, the information including pictures and stories; what do we do with all the stuff? In my case I contacted a local genealogist/archivist and asked about the protocols, and happily in my case, I was told that our local genealogical society would be interested. The final decision will be based on the availability of someone in the family who may want to take over the work that has been enlarged, after it was passed on to me by my parents. While the collection of information can be tedious, the benefits surrounding that compilation often lends itself to such a bounty of heartwarming reminders that life for our family was not just daily routine of survival. Life then, just like life today, was a series of building blocks intertwined with love, laughter, and sometimes tears. These blocks helped make traditions, as well as the many facets of family history, recorded in the letters, notes, reflections, poetry and documents that become part of the embodiment of the family record.

Someone once told me that they were afraid to look at family history or genealogy, as it might show something that would embarrass them or their family. I never once feared that. I loved hearing the stories, listening to the interesting tidbits that my grandparents, aunts and uncles shared and being reminded that their past was something that I might never experience, but through their stories.

If you are seeking family informaiton and want to look at the history of your ancestors, you have to be ready for an exercise in frustration, if you have no previous information on which to build an accurate and meaningful account. But don't lose hope! Contact family members, find avenues to lost contacts from within the family branches. It is amazing what others have kept or archived, that might give you new insights into who your ancestors were and how they happen to end up where they did. A trip down history's lane can be a challenge but well worth the effort. Start by remembering what you can about those who surrounded you in your childhood and go from there.

I pray that as you search your past you will remember that God has richly blessed you, even though you may have gone through life thus far just skipping through the days, months and years not really keeping record of life's events. One day someone may ask: Grandpa (or Grandma)... "What was it like when you were little and where did your parents come from?" I hope to be ready with lots of answers.... and I am hoping someone will care enough to ask!