The Music Machine

A few weeks ago, I made an amazing discovery, while helping my S.O. go through his mom’s belongings. Okay, technically, I didn’t ‘discover’ anything. Everyone knew it was there, except for me… I can’t even really say I found it, because, again- everyone knew it was there, collecting dust- except for me. Hmmm. At any rate, I was estatic over this piece of history.

It was an 8 track player and a box of 8 track tapes!

I don’t know about you, but for me, this was like finding evidence of an urban myth. I’d heard about these players, but never actually seen or touched one.

My giddiness quadrupled when I finally figured out how it worked and was able to hear a few measures of song.

Immediately, I knew I would write about this piece of ancient technology, but as this is a blog about traveling back in time to meet people, not find things, I had to wait for someoneto start talking.

I didn’t have to wait long before I kept getting images of someone dancing in a kitchen. She had a beautiful afro and a gorgeous, invigorating smile, yet I had no idea who she was.

When a cousin posted some pictures of her mom on social media, I knew I’d found my mystery afro-wearing kitchen dancer.

Allow me to introduce you all to my cousin, Joy Elizabeth Jackson, whom I’m absolutely positive was FABULOUS in life.

Joy was born in 1958 and sadly passed away in 2001, from a massive heart attack. She was 43 years old.

Unfortunately, I have no recollection of ever meeting her, though I am told she attended my dad’s funeral in 1997 and that she was extremely close to my Glory-Glory, who I am also partial to, so it stands to reason I would have met her at least once, but alas I’ve no memory of her. I wish I did, because she sounds like a character and very much like my dad. I’m sure I would have instantly loved and gravitated toward her.

Joy loved her music. Perhaps this is why she showed up dancing in a kitchen. When I talked to her daughter, she told me that she still had Joy’s 8 tracks and records, another sign that I had found the right ancestor for this story.

But apart from dancing and enjoying music, what else was there to tell the world about Joy? For starters, she loved being a mom and a grandmother… Her family was her heart in every sense of the word.

In fact, she loved her kids so much, that in her last year’s, she hid her problems with her heart from her children, so as not to worry them and she dealt with it quietly by herself. Her strength was a recognizable trait and she continues to this day to be remembered by it.

As I was trying to get to know Joy, I was constantly reminded of my father… Like him, Joy was always smiling and loved to play. She would often gather her children (and any others around) into the car (I picture her driving a station wagon, but there’s no evidence of this) and going for a drive to destination no where. This was also one of my dad’s favorite pastime. It is becoming easier and easier to understand why they would have been fond of each other.

Like most families of the time, Joy made sure her children understood Saturday morning chores. She also ensured her kids were in church. Values were an important part in raising her children and she imparted many wisdoms into her babies. Treating others how you want to be treated, without being a fool and remembering that everyone’s heart is different from yours, so as long as you do the right thing, your blessings will come are still living on in the form of her daughter and granddaughter.

Also evident in her offspring, is a hard work ethic. For most of her children’s lives, she worked in the dryer cleaning industry. Her children and grandchildren may not work in dry cleaning, but they do work and they follow Joy’s example- you can have whatever you like out of this life, you just have to work for it.

I know Joy lived a full life, even if it seems cut short to us. So, today, I think I will turn up my Temptations Christmas album and do some dancing in the kitchen- a salute to Joy and the special lady she was.

I’d love to hear from you! Have you made any interesting or remarkable finds? Did they remind you of someone in your tree? Who? Leave me a comment telling me all about it or them or both! As always, the like, share and follow buttons are your friends!!!

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The Last Pair of Shoes

Happy New Year! I hope you all have had a wonderful first few weeks of 2018. Holidays bring so much excitement into our home that it seems to take the first half of the new month to get adjusted and back into the swing of things.

Honestly, I would have happily taken another few days off, but I couldn’t.

For the last week, my uncle has been begging me to talk to him. Incessantly pestering me. Do you know how annoying that is? He showed up in my dreams. When I should have been concentrating or working on something else, he would pop in and disrupt whatever train had been chugging along.

The last straw was a few nights ago, when I found myself dreaming of him, once again. It was time to do some super sleuthing. Well, not that much, because how hard can it be to gather information on a 7 year old boy?

Apparently, getting to know a 7 year old boy, whom several of your immediate family members knew, is actually pretty difficult.

Ancestry, of who I have come to rely on to pick up the sent, kept coming back to me empty-handed. I swear she just walked to the doors of her cavernous rooms, glanced around and then came back and said, “I didn’t see it.” I sent her back three or four times to double check and each time, it was the same, unapologetic response…

Family Search wasn’t much help, either, though it did return with a headstone picture. This would have been fantastic, if I hadn’t taken the picture.

Mom and Nana were of minimal help. When asked to tell me about him, both immediately began to describe for me his last months- the hospital stay, what he looked like at the time and his and their reactions to seeing him thusly.

 

Born on April 3, 1954, Edward Lothario Jackson was a happy boy. He loved running and playing outside, especially with his wagon. He probably played the most with my mom, because they were closest in age among all the children. He learned his recitations (poems Nana and Granddaddy selected for the children to memorize and then recite on request) fairly quickly and loved to recite those poems for anyone who would ask. Though he went to school very briefly- a single semester- he did very well and made good marks. He smiled a lot and was very loving. He was given the nick name (which is was only used by the family and surely would have faded away by the time he reached 10) of Turdy Boy- though no one could recall how he came to acquire such a name. Perhaps, as Nana suggested, it was because Lothario was so hard to pronounce or maybe they were teasing him because of his habit of thumb sucking.

According to mom, he resembled my brother a bit (an interesting tid-bit, because when he visited with me in my dreams, he had a cherub face-  mixture between my brother and the baby)

One morning, in March of 1961, he fell over as he got out of the bed. When Nana tried to help him stand up, he could not. He was taken to the only hospital in the area, Mary Washington, located in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There was only one pediatrician in the area and he called MCV, a bigger hospital, an hour south in Richmond. The consulting doctor came and the two concluded he was being affected by encephalitis or lead poisoning. It was suggested that he be transferred to the big hospital for treatment. This was not to be, as Nana and Granddaddy didn’t know anyone in Richmond, who they could stay with for the duration of his hospital stay. Instead, he went north to Children’s Hospital in Washington, DC.

Lothario's Shoes.jpg

These are Lothario’s last pair of shoes. Shoes, he would never outgrow and never wear again.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, doctors discovered he was afflicted by neither of the aforementioned illnesses. Little Lothario had a tumor on his brain. After two surgeries, doctors would know that his cancer would lead to a fast approaching death. There was no mass of cancer for them to operate on, as it had latched on and spread throughout his brain, like a spider web.

One week before the arrival of death, his brother and sisters, as well as other family members gathered in his hospital room to say good bye to a brother, son, nephew  and cousin. This is the traumatic memory that has stuck with his survivors… In sharing his story, I hope to erase this vision, which has cemented itself in the minds of those who remember him and replace it with the delightful boy he was.

I imagine his imminent death would be painful and stressful, as he would loose his faculties… First his speech and then his sight, it is unclear if he lost the ability to feel, but doctors assured Nana that he could hear them up until the end.

Having so little to share about him, I have to wonder why he has so persistently been at me to visit with him…

Lothario

 

A few months ago, just before my children’s father left this land of the living, my father came and visited with me. He didn’t speak, didn’t present a story or nugget of information- he just sat with me a moment in my dreams and then disappeared leaving two butterflies behind. When my father died, a group of butterflies flew up into the sky as they were bringing him out of the church… From that moment on, every sighting of a butterfly has brought with it a peaceful understanding and remembrance of him. And so, I knew deep within the recesses of my brain that my former husband would soon be taking his last breath…

Earlier this week, doctors said that there was nothing left they could do for a family member- who has a brain tumor, which from my understanding has spread out so much cannot be operated on or removed… Could little Lothario be coming to prepare me for yet another death?

No one knows and certainly, only God can determine the time when someone’s dash is at an end. I find comfort in knowing that sometime’s the stories the dead tell me help to make be better prepared to accept things happening today.

Have you ever had an experience where an ancestor’s story seemed to mimic a story of a living family member? Did it bring you comfort and/or peace or some other feeling? Leave me a comment and let me know. And you know, I’ll never turn down a like or a share- so be free with those, too!

There’s A Mystery Afoot

magnifying glass     Had to break out the magnifying glass on this one, folks! I recently decided to revisit my relatives in my Jackson/Hamn tree on Ancestry, because you kow, that’s what I do. Plus, the dead really have been quite silent these last few weeks.

Anywho, there I was excited because there were a ton of NEW LEAVES!!! I love new leaves, they make it so easy for the dead to start coversations with me- or maybe, they make my ears more in tune to their chattering. Whatever the case may be, it is safe to say I was estatic and I happily began checking out the leaves, not even caring if anyone talked to me or not.

And wouldn’t you know it? Someone started talkig to me almost immediately! Roxanne Tyler flagged me down with her death cerificate. Roxy, as she was called while living, was born in 1859 to Gabriel and Martha Tyler and she is my third great aunt. The Tyler name may sound familiar to you because, they’ve been rather chatty this year ad her brother and nephew were featured earlier in He Was The Son of a Preacher Man…

This is all mundane information and I am sure you are wondering why I was calling the mystery squad, right? Well, here is the thing… She was 51 years old when she died in 1933.

Here’s a copy of her death certificate and a copy of the 1870 Census- I’ll wait while you do the math…

 

It didn’t add up for me either. At first, I was confused as how someone could just magically drop twenty-three years off with no one noticing- I mean if that’s the case, then I would like to be 25, please and thank you.

But that isn’t how life works, is it?

I started meticulously reviewing all of the information I had on Ms. Roxy, trying to identify the point in her life when she shaved all those years off. I figured this woud be done most easily in the census records, because they were notorious for errors or jotting down whatever they felt like… No such luck. Each subsequent census shows her age with only a slight variance in her age, ranging from a year to three year difference, but not the twenty plus, I was looking for. Not to mention that the final census she is found in, has her at seventy years old.

Her marriage record indicates she was twenty-three when she married Mr. James Morton on July 25, 1883. Here, her birth year is 1860. So, again, not enough of a difference to cause any alarm or concern.

This is about the time that Roxy stopped talking to me and I was really wishing the Mystery Squad would hurry up and answer the call I had put out.

While I was waiting, I began to ponder how a body would behave if it was twenty years older than what you were telling people it was… I mean mind over matter goes a long way, but is it really possible to convince a body to act and behave as a younger body- if you just convince your mind to believe it? Again, if that’s the case, then I believe with all my might that I am twenty-five… I wonder how long it will be before everything else falls into place? 😉

This was getting me absolutely no where and my brain was starting to hurt from all the work of thinking… I decided to take one more look at the death certificate. Naturally, Roxxy started whispering sweet nothings in my ear, again. I looked over and over the death certification looking for clues and I was continuously drawn to the informant; Ada Morton Mercer, aka, the daughter of Roxy Tyler Morton. How in he world does an adult child not know how old her parent is? This was difficult to fathom, because my own children, excepting the toddler, know how old I am and have known this information since they were in elementary school. Am I the lone parent that encourages her children to know things about her other than ‘I am called mom’? I hardly think I am.

Ada Mercer. Why did Roxy keep directing me to her? I could not figure it out. I guess Roxy was getting frustrated with me, because the next thing I know, she was seemingly screaming at me, “do the math dummy!” (Yeah, my dead people can be a bit harsh when you aren’t moving fast enough to their liking…)

I can imagine that Ada was very distraught over loosing her mother and may have even been a bit tired, exhausted or even depressed, which is why when the form asked for the age of the deceased, she listed her own age, 51, in response.

Yep. Roxy was getting me all worked up over her daughter. I haven’t had a chance to dig in and see what’s going on over there, but when I do, I will be sure to let you all know!

Have you come across a for or other document that contained wrong information? How did you go about finding the correct info? Once you found the right stuff, did you make any effort to get the wrong things changed? Why or why not? For me, I think I will just make a note on Roxanne in my tree and leave it at that. I don’t think it would be worth it to get the information changed anywhere else.

I can’t wait to hear about how the wrong info has affected you in your searching! And like always, please share, share, share! I’m not picky, so I won’t tur away your likes and comments, either!

Who’s Sitting at Your Table?

Well, we’ve wrapped up yet another Thanksgiving… 

 and   some of us may be already moving with warp speed into Christmas festivities. Admittedly, I will be joining the Christmas-ers in just a few short hours, but first, an important question- who has been lucky enough to have been given a seat at your table? 

Understand I don’t mean your literal table, though… I’m wanting to know about your table of life. How does someone get a prized spot, if you will, (who isn’t blood related) in your family?

Would you ever consider having non blood or genetically tied people in your tree? Why or why not?

I used to think my answer to that question was simply, “no” because those people do not have a place in the piece of history-documenting I’m doing, otherwise known as my family tree- no matter how special they were or are.

Upon closer thought though, my answer seems to be changing… 

It started with the passing of Anthony… Throughout the entire process of his illness and death, we were received and treated as his family, even though I was just the ex wife and my youngest daughter was just my child… I was even more surprised to find that my youngest, as well as four other children, who shared an immensely close bond with him, were included and listed as his own in the obituary. (The sentence read something like, ‘he leaves behind several children by blood and love’…) Yet, there was no distinction between those four and his two natural born children.

This little tid bit may have enraged some, but I was warmed by the thought that my youngest child would be included with her older siblings, though I must say, I did take approximately two seconds to ponder the havoc this would wreak for future historians or genealogists. In the end, I determined that I didn’t much care, as there will be other records to tell the story and eventually, I will be able to include it as a side note in my own tree.

The changing of my thoughts were further solidified during yesterday’s dinner. As I looked around at the people who had gathered in my home, to celebrate a day of being thankful and among friends and family, I realized I wasn’t with just friends. These folks had become my family. (In the last two years, I’ve gained an unofficially adopted daughter, three brothers (in love), a nephew (in love), a spouse and more… Except, I’m not married and I might not ever be (that institution works for some and not others, which is where I will leave that conversation). 

Does having a piece of paper mean that these people get to be included in my tree, while not having a piece of paper means they should be excluded? I don’t think so. 

This morning, when I was considering who in my tree I would write about or what topic I might explore in this week’s time traveling adventure, I kept coming back to my present day family. I want history to know they existed; that they were more than close friends, boarders or other random people you may find on a census or in some worker’s notes.

 I wonder if this prompting to write about the present was pushed by someone from the past, who didn’t get to formally recognize their unique family? Hmmm. Maybe the dead have been talking to me more today than I realized…

What about you all? Where do you stand? Leave a comment letting me know and if this post made you have any kind of reaction, hit the ‘like’ button… And since we’re entering the season of giving, you should go ahead and give me a share as well! 

Until next time, my friends!

When Death Comes Knocking…

I have to apologize to those of you who have become accustomed to my snarky and somewhat sarcastic writing style, because this won’t be like that… I can’t even bring myself to apologize for not writing for so long, can’t bring myself to say things like life got in the way, because that isn’t what happened… Yes, my family and I were living life, but we were doing so much more than that… We were making memories with a loved one and we were preparing for death.

Nine months ago, my friend, the father of my children and at one time in life, my husband called me to tell me there were some concerns about an illness he just couldn’t seem to shake. There would be tests to evaluate these concerns further, but doctors were sure it was one of three things and they were all serious. I can’t remember if it was a few days or a few weeks, but the news came back- it was the most serious of all the possibilities: colon cancer. Less than one month later, we would be told that it was stage 4 and it was aggressive. (But truthfully, we didn’t need a doctor to tell us either of those things.)

Two months after finding out, we made the decision to tell the kids… I wish I had told him then, “thank you for trusting me with this”, but I didn’t. I just dutifully made sure all of the kids were gathered at his home at the appointed time. I will never forget that day…

By the time, graduations would roll around, two months later, you could see the horrible effects of cancer already taking its toll on him, but he soldiered on. He made a point to attend graduation ceremonies, watch another child in a horse show, and take two more children home with him for a weekend.

As a member of several online genealogy groups, I have often read or heard stories of people who have been unable to write the death date on someone’s profile on their respective trees. Of course I sympathized, however, I didn’t quite understand. To me it was just a date, just more information to add to a tree, more clues to a puzzle, if you will.

But then November fourth happened…

Folded-American-Flag

I didn’t immediately reach for my genealogy materials or look at my tree and I surely couldn’t write an end date. Eventually, I would try- and still be unable to complete this task… (I was finally able to do it last night, but it was hard and I went back several times and erased that info, because even though we’ve buried him, my brain screams that this isn’t the end.

Life and death happen. I think we, as family historians and genealogists and lovers of history, know and understand this, especially from the perspective of our collective jobs or hobbies, but it is a completely different road to travel when it is close to us; when it is personal.

I didn’t really have an outlet and I needed a release and so I wrote…

When Death Comes Knocking

When death comes knocking,

It is a slow progression

that makes you think and want to believe

that it isn’t real and it isn’t happening… right now

When death comes knocking,

It’s seeing a hospice letter posted on the fridge,

hung by magnets that should be hanging pictures made by exhuberant babies

and post cards from far away places

When death comes knocking,

It is wearing a winter hat on a warm breezy May day, because

you are always cold

and you’ve forgotten what it means to be warm

When death comes knocking,

It’s not being able to eat-

not even knowing what the desire to chew, swallow and repeat even is anymore.

When death comes knocking,

It is a ‘fuck cancer’ shirt on chemo day,

echoed by a rallying cry from friends and family to kick cancer’s ass

When death comes knocking,

it is a phone call at 2:30 in the morning,

a sucker punch to the gut- taking all the breath from your body

and a howl of grief mixd with an unproportionate amount of hurt

When death comes knocking,

it is your son crying big fat ugly tears,

as he sees you for the last time

and begins to understand what everyone meant when they said,

“he won’t look the same”

When death comes knocking,

it’s children standing before a crowd, reading letters of love

and grandmothers breakingdown

the baby looking at you; trying to get to you and wake you up

When death comes knocking,

it is emotions you don’t quite know what to do with

and attitudes you aren’t sure how to relinquish

Whewn death comes knocking,

it is not a peaceful walk into the sunset;

it is good Christian girls questioning, WHY GOD???

When death comes knocking,

it is a resounding FUCK YOU CANCER!

 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for allowing me to use this blog as an outlet fro releasing and dealing with my grief. I appreciate these things greatly. Often times, grief is lessened and made easier to cope with, when others share stories or advice… Other than things like, ‘life goes on’, ‘just take it one day at a time’ or some other equally offensive and useless words to my logical thinking self, what have you all done to get over/past/through personal grief?

The Dash

Generally, I find one interesting story to share with you that correlates with one or sometimes two or a few people from my tree. That’s what I do, right? I tell the stories of the dead. This adventure will veer from the path of tradition I have created, if only slightly…

Earlier this week, Monday, April 10- to be exact, John Thomas celebrated his 70th birthday. Or he would have, if death had not intervened on April 30, 1993. 

In any event, I would like to tell his story today. I guess therein lies the problem… John isn’t just someone on my tree, who I researched and am now telling you about; He was my dad. 

My dad and I in the early 1980s

So. Instead of trying to pick one story to entertain you as you take a brief break in your day, I am going to tell you about the dash.

Growing up, he was called Johnny. Spend an afternoon with his cousins and you will know that Johnny was a joker, who loved to have fun. 

Some of Johnny’s many cousins…

One memorable story, I am often told is when Johnny would pull all the kids around in a blanket throughout the house. I know this was great fun,because he continued this tradition with his children- even pulling us down the stairs! I remember screaming along with my sister and brother as my dad yanked us through the hallways of our house. It’s great fun and if you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend you do it right away!

At some point, this fellow met my mom (a pretty wonderful lady) and they decided to get married- lucky for me and my kids and Johnny became Mr. J. 

Johnny and Valerie circa 1980 something 

Mr. J was a neighborhood favorite. Kids coming to the door to see if Mr. J could come out and play was just as likely to occur as them coming to see if I or my sibblings could come out to play. During the summer months, he could often be seen throwing kids into the backyard pool. 

If you were lucky, you caught him eating watermelon or crabs- because he was always willing to share that deliciousness with you. 

Summer evenings were reserved for trips to Carl’s Ice Cream (you may recall me telling you that this is a mandatory bucket list item) with friends and days were packed car rides to Kings Dominion- whatever it was, it was always fun with Mr. J.

When the rains came and the weather was bad, Mr. J could be found playing an involved and seemingly unending game of Monopoly (probably where my healthy affection for board games stems from) or Tetris on Nintendo (where my sister’s video addiction probably began)

Sundays after church, Johnny would claim the most comfortable spot on Nana’s floor, where he would either be cheering on his beloved Redskins (nothing I could do about that- much as I tried), playing Gin Rummy with Grandaddy and my Uncle Bruce or sleeping- especially if he had just finished eating Nana’s good home cookin’!

As you can see, a lot happened in the dash. More than is written here and that I will ever remember. Which is why I do what I do- to celebrate everything that happened between the numbers on either end of the dash.

As much as I enjoy talking to the dead- I encourage you to spend some time with the living and create some memories that others will enjoy celebrating some day. 

I love it when you click the like button and share, share, share! Don’t forget to leave a comment and tell me what you’re doing with your dash! I can’t wait to hear all about the memories you’re making and the fun you’re having while you’re doing it!