Category Archives: Ancestry

Dear Jimmy:

I have a surprise for you!

You’ve been gone many years. 2013 was two iterations of my life ago.

You left a legacy of which you weren’t aware.

You have beautiful grandchildren from a daughter you never knew of.

She found out today that you’re her father. That’s staggering news for anyone who wanted the simple truth and simplicity of an answer.

I’m sorry life took you so early. You’d be older and tired of the habits that deflected you from focusing on what makes you happy.

I can imagine you walking up to your daughter for the first time, seeing her children, your grandchildren. Especially if your smart and handsome son Noah were with you, each of you seeing a silhouette of yourselves in her face.

I’ve done the best I can to give your daughter some closure.

Your daughter will be able to separate what you call mistakes from the fact that you were in the world. She’s here because you were.

I’m humbled by the fact that science and DNA can unlock doors in a way that people couldn’t.

Knowing the past doesn’t change it. Judging it doesn’t color or discolor any of our previous chapters.

I didn’t find out my own dad had fathered a child until 26 years after his death. That I had another sister was a secret for 46 years. There’s no doubt that some of my family knew about her. They chose to rob us of the opportunity to know each other. I understand it even though I disagree. Age gives me the ability to dislike it but also to nod my head to some degree. Most of us are doing the best we can, and such decisions are complicated.

Jimmy, I know that your daughter would have brought you joy. She’s married and loved. She’s smart, kind, and the perfect complement to Noah, who is the embodiment of what you’d want your son to be.

Be proud wherever you are.

I sit in amazement at how life still surprises me, Jimmy.

I would give anything to have you here, even for an afternoon, to watch your eyes dance with joy meeting the daughter you never knew you had. To listen to your stupid, outrageous laugh.

For now, though, I’m still happy with this turn of events.

Maybe we will talk about it one day.

For now, know that you have a daughter who finally got a lot of answers. I’ve shared your pictures and stories with her. Her children can look at the family tree I’ve made and see through generations.

I used a picture of your daughter Brianna when she was 13. It was the month you died. It brings me to tears knowing you had such a sweet young daughter who was hidden.

With Love, X
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Lost In Time 2.0

I’m not planning on dying. I penciled it in for 2034.

I’m planning on living.

It makes some people skittish when they observe a loved one or friend “suddenly” giving things away. Don’t be alarmed unless you turn your head as you read this and see someone wearing a unitard behind you. Unitards are universally recognized as sinister, much like the side-eye you get when you’ve annoyed someone just a tad past their irritation point.

I’ve never given away as deeply as this time. That’s true.

From ‘the nail’ to the hand-written Ecclesiastes, a Xmas ornament from my dad’s death, Grandma’s thimble, Grandma’s sewing box, a few special coffee cups, a lot of my artwork (I use the word liberally there), all but basically three of my books, and a slew of other things that had immense sentimental value. There were several practical things that were also beautiful that I rehomed and surprised people with.

The unique nail I attempted to send to my sister still hasn’t surfaced. It may never materialize. It’s easy to feel upset about it, given that it was my most special possession. To remind myself, I think about all the people in the world every day who lose everything – or the people most valuable to them. A nail is insignificant in comparison to such loss and absence. Erika gave me a really old unique nail from her house in Pennsylvania, a weird nail whose story is unknown. There’s a comfort in that, too. It sparks my imagination. That nail has borne witness to many decades, been held by strange fingers, and somehow found its way to me.

When I was mailing my Grandma’s old sewing box, it struck me that my nephew’s daughter is the great-great-granddaughter of Grandma Nellie. That boggles my mind, even though I have a decade+ of ancestry and genealogy experience.

My last remaining aunt isn’t doing well. She took over the mantle of matriarch many years ago, whether she wanted it or not. I love imagining that when she was about five, that she knew a couple of people still living who were born around 1837. All those intervening people had lives, homes, families, and keepsakes. Almost all of them have vanished through the waves of all those decades. No one alive really has living memories of them any longer. They are footnotes, pictures (if we’re lucky), and placeholders in our family trees.

One of the only ways I can appreciate this life is to share the things I hold most precious with other people. I wish I had millions of dollars to share. Some might pay off their houses, some might buy a new car, and some might even take that long-awaited trip to Poland. I hope my nephew appreciates my grandma’s sewing box. That box spans literal generations. I like to think I was just the custodian for it. Each time I took it out to sew, I couldn’t help but think of my Grandma patiently teaching me to thread a needle and do a stitch. Or of Grandpa telling her to stop harping on me about using a thimble. He was a tough man and knew I’d learn very quickly after a few sharp sticks with Grandma’s needles.

I know I’m different from most people. In many ways, I’m envious of people who have a treasure trove of things from their childhood. Birthday cards, letters, pictures, keepsakes, boxes and boxes of things they both love and dread. There is joy in looking through those things, no matter how nostalgic they might make you. People forget that I do very much appreciate the difference between having things for no reason and having them to revisit old moments and people. That some people still have those things has led to me reviving memories of my life that I didn’t recall. Sometimes, they opened new doors into my memories. I hope everyone with such a trove lets them breathe and takes them out from time to time.

Recently, Erika had to leave a mountain of her youth in her old house in Pennsylvania. A lot of it was taken from her without her consent during one of her cleanup trips. The people involved deserve some bad karma. One of the delights that emerged from it? The new owners of her childhood home have been sending her boxes and boxes of surprises left behind. They don’t have to do that. I’m sure they are fascinated by the range of things they’ve found. It’s been quite the treat to watch Erika opening boxes without knowing the depth and breadth of the things being returned to her. All could have been lost forever. Thanks to a good soul, she’s getting them back in waves and increments. It’s a bit of great karma to hopefully wash away the residue of the bad karma from before.

In my case, due to tornados, domestic violence, and burned-down houses, there was no way for me to have much from my childhood. Would I prefer to have a closet of such things? Yes! I don’t want anyone reading this to think differently. Almost all the pictures I have come from people sharing theirs. Just the privilege of sorting and reliving such things would be a cathartic experience for me. I’m a little jealous of everyone who has such an opportunity.

I love wild, colorful things. Not necessarily to possess them. It would be easy for me to fill my apartment with such things. To the rafters. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by beauty? The cliché response to this is that we are all surrounded by such beauty, both outside in the world around us, and inside the people we include in our intimate circles.

It’s still weird to me to be poor but yet still feel rich and lucky most of the time.

I’m still breathing, after all.

Take a moment and ensure that no unitard-wearing weirdo is in the room with you. Then, pause to think about whether all the things you own make you happy. If they do, you’re way ahead of the game. Likewise, if something you own and love would enrich someone else’s life, consider giving it away.

It’s all going somewhere.

Someday.

The picture is of two of my aunts. Because of the resolution, I couldn’t enhance it or color it as it deserved.

PS Since I can’t write a post like this without repeating my favorite mantra: if you have pictures of friends and loved ones, share them while you’re breathing. Pictures are the best thing in the world, comparable even to the sensation you get when you feel happy and satisfied.

Love, X
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You Want Personal? A Rusty Nail Is All I Need 2.0

Before reading this post, you should read the original post from 2014, at least on this website.:

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My favorite cousin and a friend conspired to make me this etch-a-sketch rendition of my grandparent’s porch. It was a beautiful and creative piece of work, one which I loved. Such personalized gifts are rare indeed in this life.

It was destroyed in a fit of anger. Not by me, of course. That I would dare to write about it might trigger a couple of people. It’s my tarnished truth to share.

The strange thing is this: I’m different than most people. A memory of a thing is just as precious as the ‘thing’ itself. The destruction of this beautiful gift only amplified the memory. That someone let anger gain so much control of them is unfortunate; they were possessed by the demon of a lesser god. I didn’t feel anger when I saw that someone had destroyed it. I felt only disappointment. It’s a reminder that anger is relative and that its justification is a sign of a larger problem. No matter what someone has done, it is very hard for me to imagine letting myself destroy something so personal and precious to spite another person. Or let someone else do so. Even if I deserved it or – or even if they do. Anger is the worst filter for reason. It justifies everything in its wake. It is one of the slippery slopes of life. I watched as my parents and a few other family members allowed that to consume them.

Regardless, the loss of this reminded me that everything is transitory. We don’t really own anything, no matter how many decades we clutch them close. It will also be lost, destroyed, or left behind when we depart this world.

All of it.

No eternal monuments can or ever will be erected because the Earth itself is limited by the laws of physics.

I still have the picture of the shadow box and etch-a-sketch.

Until recently, after a couple of near losses, I still had the rusty nail. It grew to become my most prized keepsake and possession.

Now, I have a picture of it.

I have passed it along to someone who might appreciate the depth of my giving it away. I placed it inside a collectible silver cigarette case, one which was salvaged and saved from the wreckage and the remains of another life. A cigarette case in itself has meaning to the person who is receiving the nail.

I did the same with my hand-transcribed copy of Ecclesiastes and a couple of other of my remaining treasures.

I don’t plan on departing soon. That itself is part of the lesson. I will one day, perhaps tomorrow. All the things that I find to be precious will be treasured no more. None of my precious things were valuable per se. Their worth only exists because I see it and experience it.

I’m passing along the rusty nail to my sister Marsha. She’s had a rough life. Even if she doesn’t treasure the nail and its anchor into my memory the same way that I did and do, I will release it into the world for it to find new appreciation or not.

I have this picture of the nail, one I will treasure. It’s not the nail. But the nail itself wasn’t the experience I shared when grandpa and my uncles put the porch swing up.

I hope she understands that it truly represents everything in myself that I find to be worthy.

Grandpa was an incredibly hard man when he was younger. I didn’t know him when he was full of piss and vinegar. And alcohol and violence.

It’s just a nail.

It will soon be in the hands of my sister Marsha.

I’m just a man.

But everything is so much more than the simple sum of us.

I don’t want to preach the idea of minimalism and appreciation for moments and people and fail to live it.

It’s all an illusion. Things are not us.

We need each other more than we will ever need a house filled with gadgets and keepsakes.

Love, X

P.S. My wife who died, Deanne, years ago while I was working one Saturday, she decided to clean. Though the nail was in a special box, she threw it away. I had to empty the dumpster for an entire apartment complex to find it. That too became part of the long story of “the nail.”

Arrogance Of Circumstances

It is true my apartment, absent my presence and decorations, has the ambiance of a Yugoslavian prison camp.

However, I don’t remember riches being a prerequisite
for great ideas. My grandma Nellie had very little education and never a lot of money. Yet some of the wisest words and kindest gestures of affection came from her and spoke to my heart and mind. It’s true she often threatened to box my jaws or get a switch after me. Unlike others in my life, she didn’t do so unless it was one of those rare occasions I wasn’t listening to her. It was an amazing example and juxtaposition to experience her brand of loving discipline in comparison to my mercurial and unpredictably violent parents. Grandma was always poor. But the place and home I hold dearest in my heart throughout my entire life was a shotgun house built with tar paper and tin roof.

To discount someone or insult them based on the condition of their living space is to negate any possibility of being open to learning from any source. To do so is to inadvertently reveal an understandable but also snobby attitude. I’m living proof that profound things can come from the dumbest person. Besides, if you don’t have someone like me to roll your eyes at, it is tantamount to being iron-deficient.

My place is better for my presence. Weirder, too. Improved, though, simply because I don’t believe that one’s current living situation is necessarily a reflection of their personality or character. It’s true I sometimes forget this and catch myself making presumptions about those who live in such places.

Any of us can lose everything at any moment. Or have to start over.

Given that I’m poor, it’s a good thing that I live so much in my own head.

Love, X

PS The picture wasn’t originally in color. It’s of my maternal grandparents. They aren’t happy in this picture. Though I don’t trust my memory, I believe it was taken at the house near White Cemetery, the one that preceded the happy place that I recall with love and fondness…
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Amaranthine Memories

This is a post in two parts. I didn’t know how to separate them…

She reached out to me in November, her heart dreading what I might tell her. Sheena and Deanne, my wife who died, were once inseparable comrades in friendship and a little mischief. The early 90s were their heyday. Both Sheena and Deanne were outgoing and beautiful young women.

They’d lost touch. I don’t remember that Deanne told me why other than she often told stories about her friends and the shenanigans and moments she lived before meeting me. As anyone knows, the first few months of getting to know someone is a sublime pleasure filled with stories and insights. We immerse ourselves into the unknown universe of someone else’s life as we get to know them. Deanne was almost ten years younger than me. Despite that, she had a lot of stories to tell and a large family to fill the spaces of her life. I already knew her brother Mark thanks to our jobs at Cargill.

Sheena said she’d seen Deanne once in April of 2001 when Sheena was giving birth to her daughter. Deanne worked at the hospital and surprised Sheena with an impromptu visit. Evidently, it was one filled with smiles and quick words. Sheena did not see her again. But she always wanted to and wondered where Deanne was in the world.

As so often happens when we get older, we think about the people who once touched us. Some of them drift away purposefully; others drift for other reasons. The truth is that some people have a room in our hearts even when we no longer see them. It’s one of life’s bittersweet lessons.

Sheena found an obituary for Deanne. I’d dutifully left a trail of her life and some of her stories on Ancestry and other places. People need to be remembered. Sheena told me that she cried reading it, knowing that her hopes of reconnecting were gone forever. I felt an immense pang of regret on her behalf. Deanne would have lovingly hugged Sheena had she had the chance. She loved a good grudge, but she loved connections more. One of Deanne’s foibles was how quickly she could get irritated. It was a blessing to her in some ways, too, though. As I grew to know her, her ire often made me laugh. She’d punch me in the arm and laugh, too, once the ridiculousness of the situation became apparent.

Sheena ultimately revealed that their friendship probably ruptured because she had told Deanne that we were not compatible. Deanne made up her mind about me very early on. I’m not sure I was consulted!

Sheena reached out to me on Ancestry, and I shared my entire picture collection with her, thousands of pictures – and every picture I owned of Deanne. She was able to sort through Deanne’s short life, as told in pictures. Later, I shared a few stories with her, ones some people have never read or heard.

More importantly, I gave Sheena peace. I let her know that she should feel happy that Deanne and I found each other and stayed together, even when it wasn’t easy. We all do and say things when we’re younger – and often continue the same when we’re older. And if she said the things she said to Deanne with an authentic heart, she should not be accountable for sharing her opinion or truth. That’s the risk of being genuine with other people.

The truth is that Deanne and I weren’t compatible at first glance. Or probably second glance. In that sense, Sheena was definitely not wrong. Deanne was an outgoing, buxom, active soul, almost ten years younger than me. I had no clue she was interested in me. Until she insisted I come over for a homemade meal. Believe me, I was not the one wearing the pants at the beginning of the relationship. Call me oblivious.

Sheena got to see Deanne’s life because I am committed to sharing every picture I own with anyone interested. I’m just the custodian. I love pictures, and I love knowing that people always come full circle with wanting to see every picture of someone they love or loved. Avoiding the soapbox, I will limit myself to saying that unappreciated or unseen pictures do no one any good.

I still feel a bit of remorse for both Deanne and Sheena. They could have reconnected. Had I been aware, I would have asked Deanne to look past any past words and find Sheena again. I did the same with Deanne’s dad. Deanne doubted she could forge a new beginning with him. Through the years, though, I encouraged her to try from a new foundation. And she did. I still count it as one of the best things I’ve ever accomplished. More so because she died so young.

I hope Sheena found a way to fill her life with new souls. She seems like the kind of person who deserves it. Her words to Deanne so many years ago would have been received differently had I known at the time.
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After Deanne died, I didn’t have a big interval of time before I met Dawn, my ex-wife. Whether you can understand or not, I made the choice to plow through life and not let myself get overwhelmed with the loss. When we first got together, I had her meet Deanne’s brother and his wife. I wanted them to know that me getting on with life didn’t negate Deanne. Quite the contrary. I had to make a choice, one that wasn’t really a choice at all. Things could have ended very badly for me. If you’ve lived a life with loss, you can imagine what some of those endings might look like for me. There’s no shame in acknowledging them.

It’s not a choice a lot of people might make. I make no apologies, though. Dawn and I were together when we were very young. She’d had an intervening marriage, one that fizzled and ground down into apathy. We were happy to find each other again.

Deanne never was between Dawn and me. At least not for me. She wasn’t a ghost, but she was a catalyst and reminder for me, something that people misunderstand. When life snatches your optimism through mortality, there are a lot of impossible feelings. This amplifies when you consider how capricious life can be; anyone or anything can disappear at any moment. Deanne deserved more years to continue her journey. She was substantially different from the time when we first met. And that was a great thing to witness. I try to remember to be grateful for the years I had with her. The song always ends, leaving us with a melody we can replay in our heads through memories.

At the risk of repeating myself, one of my biggest mistakes in life has been to occasionally forget the lesson that Deanne’s death dealt me: life is for the living, obstacles will always punch, and love is never wasted, no matter how it ends.

It’s true I shared fewer stories about Deanne than I should have. I did make the mistake of not writing all the stories of adventure and mischief I had with Deanne. And also some about our hard times. We definitely had them. As Dawn and I disintegrated, she seemed to switch the narrative on me about how it was with Deanne. Whether that’s true or not is in the eye of the beholder. I made a choice – as did she. I’d make the same choice again because a choice to live and love is a positive choice; fearing another loss and avoiding taking the risk is a negative choice.

Someone reminded me this morning not to veer. Since she’s a disguised writer, I’m obligated to heed her warning.

Every love is forged with expansiveness and optimism. That we can’t navigate the treachery of daily living and one another’s messes isn’t a knock to love or vulnerability, though. The problem lies within us. Familiarity breeds contempt. We assign motive to actions or words, usually based on our faulty filters. It’s hilariously evident that most of us want the same things.

When love has drawn its last breath, it is easy to focus on the things that were wrong.

When a person draws their last breath, all the doors are shut forever.

Whether you are 31 or 71, the door is always about to shut. We just don’t see it coming. That helps us to forget how precarious our lives are. That same forgetfulness affords us the ability to live our daily lives but it also has the reciprocal defect of failing to focus on what lights us up.

For Sheena, for Deanne, and for anyone who no longer walks the Earth, we can do our best by choosing optimism over despair, deliberate risk over comfort, and for being ourselves, even as the world madly surprises us.

Deanne would tell us that all these years she’s been gone that she would hope we were squeezing the absolute hell out of whatever life has to offer – and shame on us if we aren’t.

She would have loved to be alive and make a lot of mistakes. We should be too. She’d be the first to call me out for being an idiot. And she’d mean it.

Love, X
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Coincidental Joy

There are days when coincidences flood my life. Because we are thinking animals, it’s easy to find a nexus and connections where there are none. Other days, the barrage is so consistent and overwhelming that I feel like I’m the titular character in a Richard Bach novel. I stop and pet a dog and look up to see that owner bundled in warm clothing is someone I once knew. That a new neighbor gives me a stack of t-shirts and one of them is a green Spongebob-inspired one. (That’s a more complicated story.) A stranger writes me on Ancestry to tell me that they read about one of their ancestors on my blog. A DM of words to tell me that something I wrote five years about my personal history gave them hope that anything can become a story and not a constant reminder of pain. Another to tell me they’d read about 400 of my blog posts and told me he didn’t realize that he could just write about anything he wanted to. Or that he could be honest about the things he was not proud of, a couple of which he shared with me. I got a quick peek at what my life would look like in a year. A succession of hugs, causing laughter and a little bit of merriment. Some hugs are built from scratch and others feel like comfort. I won’t detail all the coincidences, but it was a minor crescendo as the day progressed.

I hear the mockingbird, too, in my head. When I wrote this line, A small bird flew up to my feeder, singing as he ate absurdly large suet balls. My window blinds are open, of course, so that I can watch the world whiz by with ridiculous speed out on Gregg. My feeder is less than five feet away from me, directly in my line of sight. My cat Güino is laying on the extra-wide windowsill I installed, even though the air is chilly through the window. I hear him chirp in response to the small bird, though he doesn’t jump to nuzzle and nose at the window as I expect.

I went for a haircut today, too. I sat and joked with the duo of older barbers. I’m guessing they are unaccustomed to rapid-fire humor. Instead of telling my barber how to cut my hair, I asked him to cut mine as if he were doing “The Ugly Bruce Willis special.” I waited. “How the Jason Statham one where he looks like he lost his mind. Can you do that?” And then I relented and told him that my haircut was the easiest in the world. “#1 attachment and do the rest any damned way you’d like.” He laughed. “Well, I guess you’re right. That is the easiest.” When he was done, he started to hand me a mirror to examine the cut. “Are you kidding? Where’s your self-confidence?” He laughed again. “My Grandpa told me that you should never paint a burned house. Whatever happened here, it’s on me.”

As I left, I asked them where the special bottles of spray were. The older of the two said, “What spray are you talking about.” I smiled. “The one that really good-looking men use to keep the women at bay.” They paused and then cackled. “Oh, it’s not for me. It’s a gift for a friend!”

During my errands, I encountered a few more coincidences. At Peace at Home Shelter Thrift Store, at Harps, and even on the drive home. I felt like a special filter had been placed on my brain.

The brooch is one of several I made for my sister. I have a small collection of both meaningful ones – and lunacy-inspired ones, too.

I chose joy today, even though I had a couple of moments that were like running on a treadmill, blindfolded, and in reverse. But I felt myself insisting on pushing aside the indifference and negativity from the world.

Even as I write this, I know I’m going to have a couple of more coincidences happen. I can feel their scratches at the door of my life.

Love, X
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Bobby Dean

He’s been gone 28 years today. He died at 3:33 in the morning. I was awake at that time this morning and took my first drink of coffee as I watched the minute click over. Nothing noteworthy happened unless you factor in the gratitude that I felt for still being here.

He violently tried to mold me into the man he thought he was. In doing so, he achieved the opposite result. And I’m grateful. His legacy is one of addiction, fists, and one of the wildest senses of humor I’ve ever experienced. He was in prison in Pendleton, Indiana, when he was in his 20s, and accumulated countless DUIs, fights, arrests, and violent confrontations. He also found his humanity from time to time and helped other people. I remind myself of those times as often as I can because they were just as much a part of him as the times he lashed out.

I think back to his funeral, with Jimmy and Mike sitting near me. Both of them are gone now. Both of them, unfortunately, absorbed much of the Terry inclination for self-destruction. Though I couldn’t apply the realization properly, I recognized at a young age that I was susceptible to much of the same sort of demons that possessed so many of my family. I learned to dance around them.

I was Bobby Dean’s accidental namesake. Not too many years before he died, I killed off that part of me, both in name and spirit.

It probably saved my life. Walking around with the people close to me calling me X was a constant reminder that I could choose my own way. While I have stumbled with the best of them, I’ve managed to keep my sanity all these years.

But through the arc of time, I still feel stirrings of Bobby Dean inside of me. Some of that is hard steel. Some of it is limitless humor. He taught me to take hard, unexpected punches and to swallow the blood, even if I did so through tears. At 54, things look entirely different to me. I don’t judge him as harshly as I once did. Being human has taught me that although I will never eclipse the stupidity and violence of some of my dad’s actions, I have that part of Bobby Dean inside of me. It is strangely comforting, even as I strive to be his opposite.

Were he alive, I would love to sit and have a coffee with him while he smoked a camel. And to talk to him about the sister I didn’t know I had. As reprehensible as the behavior was that led to her creation, it’s hard to fault the universe for the result. She’s a kind human being and proof that Bobby Dean could contribute to the creation of a stellar human being. If we met again, I don’t know whether we would hug or trade punches. Or both. But I do know that I would be overwhelmed. I can now see him as a person apart from being my dad. There was so much I could have learned from him; he was a mechanic, electrician, tiler, carpenter, painter, welder, gunsmith, outdoorsman, and farmer. If only he had acquired the skills to be loving, his life would have been ideal.

He, of course, hasn’t changed. He made his choices and left his footprints. He had his chance and walked the Earth. My understanding of him has changed. He would laugh at me and tell me to put my boots on and go out and get the punch in the face. He would also call me his favorite curse word: _ _ _ _ s u c k e r. Then offer me one of those horrible peppermint Brach candies that he loved.

Out of all the lessons I learned from him, one he didn’t even know he was teaching, is that we all need people and love. To find a way to get past what we’ve done and who we think we are. If we’re alive, we can use the steel and even the heartache to turn away from the things that make us lesser.

To Bobby Dean. Dad. Troubled human being.

Love, X
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P.S. Below are more pictures, some of which I amateurishly colorized. All of the images used in this post were originally in black and white.

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Dad in 1963. He was about 19.

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Dad standing on a horse, of course.

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Dad with Goldie, somewhere around 1974-75. He was 31, which blows my mind to consider.

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My sister Marsha, brother Mike, me. Seeing it in color changes everything.

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Me as a toddler. The picture looks strikingly different in color!

From An Old Soul, With Love

Among the things I once did a LONG time ago was to find and gift used vintage holiday cards. Not only is the artwork a surprise and delight, but it brings me nostalgia for times I never knew.

This Xmas card is postmarked on Dec. 21, 1909.

Now, years later, I love using my genealogy ability to find either the receiver or sender and look back at their life. If I wanted, I could find one of the descendants of William Early. William, to whom the postcard was sent. I could unravel the entire biography for the sender, Bessie McGivern of Galesburg, Illinois. She aged into a beautiful woman. I found several pictures of her.

I don’t know the sender’s and receiver’s connection.

But I love that I COULD find out if I wanted – to crack open a spider’s web of connections throughout history, time, and geography.

So, when I see used vintage cards, I don’t see relics or dusty, useless reminders.

When I give them, I’m giving something of myself; the admiration of life shared. You might not know it by looking at me, but I feel a kinship to some of the old ways. Of writing, of postcards, of delayed communication. If you get one from me, I’m also reminding you that life is fleeting and that one day our lives will be footnotes, memories, and details.

I see art.

I see life.

I see footprints of those who preceded us, much in the same way we’ll precede those who follow.

Time. Love. Connection.

Love, X
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P.S. *You’ll note that back then, “Xmas” was completely acceptable, before disinformation spread to lessen its beauty.

I Brought A Knife To a Gunfight

The picture is one I struggled to colorize. The girl behind the first row of boys is my mom Carolyn. This photo looks amazingly different with color. She looks amazingly different too; no matter what happened to her later in life, you can see for that moment through her smile and radiant eyes that she was happy.

I wrote something a couple of weeks ago that someone posted anonymously. They asked me to write something personal about life. Instead, my piece was about the tendency to let time gauze over the harsh parts of our stories. While I have no children, I was allegedly once one myself and I learned all the wrong lessons. Most of them didn’t translate into adult behavior or mechanisms to a good life. Earlier this week, I was telling a friend about my chance to skip my senior year of high school and attend John Brown University. It was difficult to attempt to explain that such an opportunity was an impossibility, given my homelife.

While all my missteps and stupidities are mine to own, I do find myself understanding my parents a little more now that I’ve stumbled in lesser ways than they did. It’s harder to be quite so judgmental after recognizing that intentions and actions often don’t coincide. I was no match for them; they were both immature adults pantomiming their lives. That’s not an accusation; it’s a realization.

That my mom had it in her to be as vibrantly happy as she was in the picture softens my criticism of her as a person.

“I brought a _ to a ___fight” was the encapsulation of my childhood in that piece of writing.

Love, X

Much Ado

The picture is of me in 1985 at graduation. My Uncle Buck was so proud of me. As reticent as he generally was, he somehow managed to tell me that he was glad to be there to see me finish high school, something neither of my parents did. Mom got her GED when she was much, much older. She worked for Brinkley schools and somehow motivated herself to do it.

I have a FitBit now, another thing in a long series of things I thought I wouldn’t find interesting. I was wrong! The biometrics and mindfulness parts of what it provides are astonishing. This is something I obviously should have had back when I had to try to learn how to sleep again. The app doesn’t appreciate the fact that 6 hours is a great benchmark for me for sleep, or that I need an 18-hour notification window. I am fascinated by sitting in silence and breathing, watching my heart rate fall twenty-five beats per minute.

In the last couple of days, Ancestry provided me with yet another reminder of how tenuous life is. A friend of my dead wife Deanne had searched for her to reconnect. They were friends for several years back in the nineties. They lost touch. The friend, as so often happens, sought to reconnect with Deanne now that she’s older and appreciates the value of friends, especially ones who went through things together. She was heartbroken to discover that Deanne had died in 2007. I shared my 10,000 pictures of Deanne’s life with her through my OneDrive account. I’m sure there will be a lot of memories floating in her heart when she dives in. It’s one of the reasons I’ve kept my Ancestry account active. I’ve become the curator and biographer for so many friends and loved ones. I take the time to share the meaningful pictures there and document their lives. It is the least I can do to leave such memories for others to enjoy for as long as the internet survives. And the pictures? What sweet treasures, ones we often fail to appreciate and give them air to breathe and be seen.

Love, X
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