Tonight, for the first time, I wandered through the 1940 Census on Ancestry.com to find my dad and mom among the many names and addresses listed in North Tonawanda, NY, and Santa Clara, CA, respectively. There they were, 19 and 17 years old.
I felt a great sadness wash over me as I realized that the day my grandparents answered the interviewers’ questions, no one knew what was ahead. As I read their names, I knew what came next for each one on the list. Before the next census, my father would enter the military, beginning his career as a pharmacist. My mother would only have two more years with her mother before Nana died of cancer. Their lives would change dramatically.
There was a little part of me that wanted to whisper, “Listen to your parents, Mom and Dad. Learn from them as much as you can. Love them as though tomorrow wouldn’t come.” That is, of course, impossible. They had to learn from their lives the same way we all do. There is nothing I can do to help them see what they would miss. Even with my own children and grandchildren, there is so little I can do to forewarn them about the little things… perhaps even the big things… they will miss if they don’t pay close attention.
Each time I go to the well of familial information, I come out with another layer of ignorance washed away. I am changed. Today is no different. I look back, as I try to do less these days, and lament those lost moments; moments I don’t even know were lost. My heart is heavy as I remember them. 99% of my direct lineage are gone now. I see names dating back into the 1800s, 1700s, 1600s, and beyond. Names who never imagined me. Faces I will never see. Yet, they are my people. All of them. They contributed to my life in ways they could not imagine as they went through their days. They could not have possibly known me; yet, I am blessed to see them, at least a little part of them, in my genealogical journey. So, for that, I am deeply and eternally grateful.