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!

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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!