Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Aging and The Family Tree

            For some reason the idea of aging has never really bothered me. My mom says I’ve been forty since I was five, so maybe it will start to bother me then. Earlier today, however, I had an experience that really hit home.
            My dad’s mother came to visit this afternoon and brought some old family pictures that she wanted my mom to scan and make copies. Having the capability to see several generations of your family in a few photos immediately in front of you can really make you feel small. I had heard about a few of the people, but for the most part, I was looking at complete strangers.
            After seeing these pictures I went to my mother and discovered that she had pictures of her side of the family as well, and hers were significantly older than my paternal grandmother’s. In a matter of seconds I could literally trace the majority of my family tree since the invention of the photograph.
            So many of my relatives already gone, yet they were sitting right in front of me. It shook me to the core. As outdated as the people appeared, the pictures were in pristine condition.
Great Grandmother - 1927
            Hopefully later rather than sooner I will be in those photographs, or three-dimensional digital imagery, whatever people invent next. These pictures were a bridge through time, and somewhere down the road, a picture may be all that’s left of me as well. It’s an uncomfortable thought for anyone, but it’s not without its own silver lining. In the midst of all the turmoil life throws our way, we are increasingly capable of documenting ourselves, whether it’s through pictures, books, art, or the internet. My ancestors left me a 5x7, why don’t I do my part? Why don’t I search for that way to endure, to transcend time? Maybe it’s through writing, and maybe it’s not, but I will keep searching.
            Here’s to time, the single force humans may never overcome, but our efforts are filled with beauty.

Mother's Family
Father's Family

1 comment:

  1. From the age of about 18 until 30, when hormones are strong, emotions surge, and every issue is a crisis, ones mind is flooded with questions. Do I have a purpose in life? What should be my profession? What do I believe about . . . ? Is there a God, and if so, what are God's characteristics? Is there life after death? What is death? And so on ad infinitum.

    From 30 until about 50, one learns to live with the lack of satisfactory answers. Often occupational concerns, marital relationships, or parental duties crowd out the above questions. During this period one usually becomes more self-tolerant and objective about his own characteristics.

    After the age of 50, one sometimes returns to introspection and meditation, but with a calmer mind. Many of the above questions remain unanswered but this is O.K. By then, one has fulfilled his part in the genealogical scheme of things.