Family Trees


No more “I love you’s”
The language is leaving me
No more “I love you’s”
The language is leaving me in silence
No more “I love you’s”
Changes are shifting outside the word.

Sung by Annie Lennox
Written by The Lover Speaks

I love this song.  I ask Alexa to play it over and over again on Echo.  It is the words themselves, as well as my cousin Annie’s beautiful voice, which captivate me.

Yes, my cousin Ann – actually my third cousin, once removed.  No, we haven’t met.  In my possession is a love poem written in 1856 by my 2nd-great grandfather James Chalmers; he is Annie’s 3rd-great grandfather.  I always thought it would be fabulous if she set the Scottish poem to music.  A trip to Aberdeenshire, Scotland is on my bucket list, but she doesn’t live there anymore.

From high school on I have been interested in my family history, which is Dutch and Scot mostly.  My 9th great-grandfather is the historical figure “Anthony the Turk.”  One of his daughters married my Dutch immigrant 8th great-grandfather in the 17th century in what is now New York City.  I’ve devoured family histories, scoured online resources and even had my DNA analyzed.  The conclusion is that I am the same as most of the world’s population – a mixture of expected and unexpected ethnicities.

Family lore is so interesting.  Over the generations, the tales change.  Some ancestors become larger than life; others simply disappear.  Illegitimacy exists in several of my family trees – fascinating to me in 2017 but surely sources of gossip in previous centuries.  There are other family “secrets” that simply exemplify the customs of the day, which in 2017 are shameful to me.  Both the family tales and the truths enrich my understanding of my ancestors’ lives.

Reality, which is perhaps only perception, is seen differently by each individual.  My mother seemed to only remember proud moments and accomplishments within her family.  My father was more fact-driven, but like the rest of us, preferred to talk about the positives.  I could ask them about the same experience and hear two totally different versions.  A sobering example of this is when I asked them about how they started smoking – my mother asserted that no one initially knew cigarettes were bad, while my father acknowledged that they were called “coffin sticks” even back when.  (This is so sad, as they both died of lung cancer.)

As time goes on, I tend to remember the highlights and the low lights of my parents, both gone.  My memories of my years with Rick remain fresh and accessible for now – I fear the time when the middle ground fades away – the day-to-day rhythm of our life together.


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