Are We our Ancestors?

I believe when I first became conscious of being an individual human being, and of having a responsibility to become “something” to the world….something of consequence, I was very afraid. I was not even a teenager when I first had these thoughts. “What will I be?” “What will I do?”

I wasn’t obsessive about it, just concerned.

I dabbled around with music. I have played guitar and sang. I sang at schools and churches. I sang and played at functions, at skating rinks and at dances. But, I never became a “singer” for a living, or a writer. I tried, but I couldn’t quite get it done. I couldn’t drive the nail into the center of the board. I couldn’t quite close the deal. I wasn’t in the right place at the right time. Lord, I wish there had been a “Voice” or an “American Idol” show around in the seventies, or even the early eighties. I’d have sure tried to get on. I’m not sure if I would have gotten in, but I’d have tried.

I thought about sports too. Baseball mostly. I had some talent there, and just didn’t pursue it past my teenage years. I became enamored of golf, and although I never was nearly as “good” at that game as I had been at baseball, it suited my goofball nature better than baseball.

I thought about these things this morning while I was sitting on the couch, drinking a cup of coffee and looking over my “Ancestry.com” account. If you have ever dabbled with that site, I don’t have to explain what it’s all about. It’s a place where you can plug your name and some dates into a spreadsheet of sorts and from there you plunge headlong into your ancestral past. I’ve been playing with it for a long time now. I’ve traced ancestors from my Dad and Mom all the way back to nearly the Middle Ages. It’s amazing how the information has evolved over the years since I first started meddling with it. I have found everything from Civil war soldiers to ancestors who were on the Mayflower, to Kings of England. Most of my ancestors are more mundane, however. Farmers, mill workers, lumberjacks and jacks of all trades. I was working on some clues for one of my ancestors who was born in 1840 and died in 1907, when it hit me. That’s the same exact number of years I have been on this earth. Then the rush of time hit me hard in the face, like a tractor trailer going seventy five. The lifetime of that particular ancestor of mine is my lifetime. My years. My current number.

I wondered what their dreams were when they were 12, or 15 or 18. I wondered what their goals for their life had been. I wondered if they had achieved them. I cried in my coffee because all this time I have been looking at these ancestors, it has been from a cold, impersonal and technical way. It’s been purely from an informational standpoint, and never from a human relations one. They were not, and are not just a name and some numbers on a page. They were people. People who lived and died, loved and cried, built and tore down, sang and danced, worked and played. People who did everything I have done, and will do. Just in a different setting and a different format.

I wonder if someday there will be a man or a woman sitting around and looking at the research which I have done on this site and thinking: “What the hell was he thinking?”

I hope perhaps instead, that the memories I have tried to instill in those loved ones around me will be remembered, as my Grandma used to say, “until I pass out of memory” Once that happens, I’ll be just like my dear relative who lived 67 years, during the Civil War and much strife and pain in this country…..I’ll be just a name and a number on a page somewhere, or on a stone perhaps.

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