Thursday, July 20, 2017

Time is Not a Palindrome

We are just off a string of palindromic dates, which is definitely one of the unexpected delights of living at the turn of the century. The turn of the century? Wow. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that that time is this time.

Forgive the banality of my observation, but time is a funny construct. I have found myself writing and thinking about it much of the, time, actually. My last two blog posts were unrelated but for their examinations of time and its passing, which I did not address consciously; those trite observations just happened to be the intellectual highlights of a couple of slow steamy days in July.

Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of the times that inspires such meditation on time, or perhaps it’s my age that draws me to the ages. Certainly rubbing away my wrinkles every morning with a product literally called Regenerist is symbolic if not sub-consciously thought-provoking.

Maybe living with an older person who casually dismisses pleasures of the past with such phrases as that ship has sailed and those days are gone is what sparks my scrutiny. I suppose it could be the time I have spent researching my family tree this summer that has led to a greater contemplation, but somehow I feel that such research is more an effect than a cause.

I confess that I do get lost in the generations, though, and all the lives that led to mine. Four grandparents, eight greats, sixteen great-greats, 32 three times greats-- sixty souls and two and a half centuries, and me a dead-end on that ever-branching highway of humanity.

Oh, but it turns out that I am in good company in my genetic cul-du-sac. Other childless folks throughout history include George Washington, Harriet Tubman, Queen Elizabeth I, Nikola Tesla, and Betty White. I’m sure they were all wonderful aunts and uncles, as I like to think I am too. Well, maybe not Elizabeth. She had the habit of executing her relations.

That was a long time ago, of course, but I have recently been a witness to the cold complications of cutting off your kin. My elderly cousin is living with us now because she has been so forsaken. Their story is double-edged, as always, but none of the players can see their side of that blade. There’s a lot of blood, but very few tears.

This is the week of the year when it seems like almost every kid I know has a birthday. Two on the 12th, one on the 13th, two on the 16th, and one each on the 17th and 19th. It used to be our dog’s birthday, too, but 13 x 7 was the end of that happy equation.

There are so many mysteries when researching your ancestry, and some regret that you didn’t ask the right questions when you had the time and opportunity. Now you are at the mercy of vital record-keepers, newspaper-digitalizers, and hucksters peddling suspect intelligence for a monthly fee.

What surprises me most about my family tree is that no one seems to know my grandmother’s birthday. Her children are all gone, but none of the remaining 22 cousins know the date. We do know it was sometime in 1902. I hope it was in February, preferably between the 10th and the 19th.

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