Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Unlived Destiny and Family Trees



 
 “Finally, I began to write about becoming an older woman and the trepidation it stirred. The small, telling "betrayals" of my body. The stalled, eerie stillness in my writing, accompanied by an ache for some unlived destiny. I wrote about the raw, unsettled feelings coursing through me, the need to divest and relocate, the urge to radically simplify and distill life into a new, unknown meaning.” 

Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother and Daughter Journey to the Sacred

As old as I am sometimes I just want my mother back in my life, if only for an hour.  She died in the early 1980s and I still think of her often, especially when I can’t spell word. When she was around, I would call her long-distance when my dyslexia was kicking in and she could always spell the word that had eluded me. Not bad for a woman whose education was limited by a young life filled with hardships and poverty. She lost her mother four days after her eleventh birthday and after that Mom was “farmed out” to a boarding house where she worked for room and board. In her late teens she left the boarding house and earned a living as a waitress in a diner until he met my dad in her mid-twenties. She learned how to work hard and make every penny she earned count. At her funeral I heard so many stories about how she’d secretly slip this person or that person some money when they were going through hard times and I’ve often wondered if my dad knew she was doing that with her grocery money. I think he did. One time I interviewed him for a book of family memories I was writing and he said the reason he was attracted to her when they first met was because she was the only girl in the neighborhood who had a job and she had just slipped a young boy some money and told him to buy a bag of potatoes for his family. Times were hard and the neighborhood kids never had enough to eat.

Back when I was in my teens, my mom started doing genealogy research on her family. She and a life-long friend would drive all over the state gathering information from court houses, going to cemeteries and visiting relatives they could locate. In the seventies I got in the act. Fast forward to this past winter when I got out all that long-ago research that sat in a dusty box in the basement and I went online to fill it all in with rich details and graphics. This week I finished building and editing a book on her family going back to 1530. It helped that she had a lot of famous people in her family and much of the research we couldn’t document in the ‘70s was now online. Placing an order to get the book printed came with mixed emotions. Mom would have loved seeing the final results of all our hard work but having the project finally finished closes one more connection I had with her. At the same time, I’m excited to be able to introduce my mom to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a way they’ve never known before. Her family were important players in the birth of our nation (and more) and they should know that. 

As I age, as I continue to write, I often wonder if I have an unlived destiny. Doing genealogy research where you can see the beginnings, middles and endings of so many lives that had an influence on your own makes you think about your own destiny in the grand scheme of things. If I had had children and grandchild I suspect I wouldn’t worry so much about fading into the darkness. I’d be remembered after I’m gone. And at least a few of life lessons I passed down would survive through the decades, maybe even the centuries…like with my mom’s family full of strong women who left their mark on the world. 

A few years ago I built and had printed a genealogy book on my dad’s family. I can’t do anymore and it’s time to pass the family historian torch on to the next person to get bit by the genealogy bug. Every generation seems to have one and I think I know which one it will be, as young as he is. Do you look at your children and grandchildren and think you can predict their personalities and odds for living a successful life? And do you predict what life lessons you taught them will get passed down and which ones will be taken away by time? Like me, do you ache to find an unlived destiny, or do you feel that you've fulfilled yours already? ©

14 comments:

  1. I fulfilled mine already. I've done exactly what I was meant to do. I did it well and I prospered. My family didn't cheer me on. They did what they did and I did what I did. I will say that my father told me how proud he was of me. My father wasn't one to hand out praise.

    I was never into genealogy. Never really cared where I came from, but where I was going. That's always been my focus. For some it's important to know where they came from. I applaud those that will do all that hard work.

    Have a terrific day. :)


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great, especially the part about your father told he was proud of you. If I remember correctly you were in police work so many they didn't cheer you on because they were afraid for you?

      People who were adopted often long to know about their family roots. I can't image now knowing. But I understand that not everyone cares. That's life.

      Delete
  2. As you know, I am deep into the recording aspect of my genealogy at this time. I like to know all about my ancestor's because I see traits that I have and also that my kids have. I guess I like to know where I've been. Just to think that I have the DNA of that great grandfather who came over on a ship when he was only 16. As i look back, I see how strong these people were, they had such spirit to take risks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the way I feel, too. Even though we've never met, my ancestors are "real" people to me.

      I'd even like to do the DNA testing that will your family back even farther. If I had kids, I would for sure.

      Delete
  3. Questions don't get much bigger than that - about destiny, fulfilled or unfulfilled. Sometimes, doesn't it feel like we are the sound of one hand clapping? At least it does to me. This living alone is like that. If I had had kids I don't think I would have been such a good influence of them, like your mother was on you. You were so fortunate to know your mom. It sounds like she was very effective in the small, well placed gestures of loving.

    The only unlived destiny I might wonder about is the one I dreamed about as a schoolgirl. Sometimes I wonder if confidence could have carried me farther.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A mother can be a force and have an influence in a child's life even if she was absent for most of the child's life. No one says all influence is positive.

    I don't know if I even believe in destiny. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  5. Both you and Judy have gotten me interested in my genealogy again! When I return to Maui, I'm going to invest in software to help. Recommendations? Since starting this notion of a family reunion, I have met one second cousin (with two small children) who is very active in pursuing genealogy. Even had family members do DNA tests! I can't wait to see how much more is available online since 15 years ago when I was researching. Thanks, Jean!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The best place to start is with your cousin who has been pursuing genealogy. Most people are more than happy to share their research and you will be shocked at how easy it is to google info now. I have zero software. I used familysearch.org and ancestry to search and build my trees and then print my results at mycanvas.com uploading from ancestry and my own photos and text adding family lore. Judy hates familysearch.org because its connected to the Church of the Latter Day Saints and supposedly they baptist every named entered onto a tree. That doesn't bother me. She uses a software on her own computer to build trees, so she'd be the better person to ask on that score.

      In the genealogy course I took, the teacher (a librarian by trade) brought up the fact that there is no way of knowing if data put on flash drives, DVDs and CDs etc will even be accessible 50, 100 years from now because tech stuff changes so fast which why the libraries still keep data on microfiche which just takes a simple machine with a light and magnifier to read. So if you want your work to survive but still feel better about having it all on software you own, you should concern uploading the info online as well. That way your descendants can find it in case your software copy doesn't survive. Family history is part of the LDS church so they will never, ever go offline and ancestry is a HUGE business and I doubt they will ever disappear either.

      Delete
  6. My mother has been gone for 42 years, and I miss her more now than ever, especially over the past couple of years. I focused on Dad so much and for so long. It seems that since he died, I think of her more. Mothers have long lasting influence over their children. When they're gone, we still hear their voices in our heads. I cannot tell you how often I've thought that I'd love to have her back even for an hour. I said that to H only a couple of days ago.

    How interesting that your ancestors were in America in its infancy. Where did they start out here?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The famous side of my mother's line came from Glastonbury England and her other side came from Northern Ireland which surprised me because her family only talked about the English side. LOL My dad's family on both sided came from northern Italy and I was only able to tracet them to the 1850's. My niece went to the town where our family came from in Italy and she saw all the graves of our ancestors. On the same trip she went to England, to the county were our line began and people kept telling her she looked just like others living there with the same surname. A portrait of an ancestry many generations removed is the spiting image of my mom.

      Delete
  7. Replies
    1. I'm glad I connect with people like you! Thanks.

      Delete
  8. This post is so poignant and really strikes a chord with me today. I'm feeling melancholy and tender about the "circle of life" lately. My older son just became a father and that little baby melts my heart and I wonder who she will be? My little brother lives 3000 miles away and is battling cancer -- I've already lost my older brother and parents. My youngest son is moving out (again) this weekend and I'll miss his every day laughter and bright presence -- I feel lonelier already. So many milestones mark the passage of time. I have no idea what my legacy will be, but whatever it is is likely to be short-lived. Or maybe just unattributed. It seems to me that within a couple of generations, the specifics of a person's life are lost or forgotten. Maybe the big stuff -- the values instilled -- are passed on in some manner. My mom did some geneology research later in her life. I have all her handwritten notes in notebooks in the attic. I haven't been interested in pursuing it, but maybe someday.... I miss my mom every single day. Nothing surprises me more than how much I miss her...I think it's because I finally understand her and what it felt like for her to be the age I am now. I can relate to her joys and fears, her love and her pain.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No wonder you're feeling melancholy with so many of life's milestones piling up at one time. This, too, share pass as they say but it is a hard part in a woman's life, I think.

      When my mom died I went through something similar as you are, I got very depressed, in fact about the circle of life and where i was in it. I decided to interview everyone in the family from the oldest to the youngest to record their views on a set of questions---everything from what's your oldest memory, hardest day of your life, best day of your life, favorite foods, books, favorite sayings, favorite holiday tradition, how did you met your spouse, what do you like most about your brother/wife/dad/mom, what would you like to say to someone living 100 years from now, etc., etc. Some of the kids under ten at the time who answered those questions (some on tape, some on paper) are now grandparents and they all still have those books I compiled from the questionnaires. I included family recipes, samples of handwriting, lots of fun things besides a family tree and photos. I believe then as I do now that if you give a copy of a book like that to everyone (12 in my case), at least a few will survive a century or more. That is not a bad legacy, if that's all I get.

      Unattributed legacies in a family are just as good as attributed ones, in my opinion. For example in my family my grandfather started a tradition on common in his time of treating his daughter and sons as equals in every way and I see that legacy has traveled down from him all they way down to great, great children. Small things like why you always cook a certain thing on certain holidays are legacies, too, and those stories are worth preserving. I wish I could teach a class on writing personal legacies and family history books. I'm such a strong believer in projects like that.

      Delete