I’ve had a hard time this month deciding the topic of my blog. First, because it’s autumn where I live, I thought something about the season might be in order. You know, insert a pumpkin recipe or how to make cinnamon applesauce. Maybe something about a trip to the apple orchard. This is my favorite time of the year and blogging about it would be a natural for me. But, I’ve blogged autumn in the past, so I bypassed that topic. Then, I thought about word choices…why we use the often-odd configuration of words we do. For example, I saw a sign offering horseback riding lessons. At first, it seemed innocent enough. But then my mind started whirling with things like why call it horseback riding? Seriously, does anybody ever ride the chest of a horse? Next thing I knew, I was in the mental middle of a Michael McIntyre-ish comedy routine. Could almost picture myself pacing back and forth across the stage with him.
Sadly, the real topic came to me at a family funeral. My father-in-law was buried just over a week ago, and the Despain family gathered from places near and far to pay tribute. It was a nice service done with full military accolades, and I’ll admit I got a little choked up at the rifle salute and the playing of Taps. The weather was perfect, the people in attendance all respectful. As funeral services go, this was a very nice one. But, it wasn’t the funeral that caught my interest. It was the family stories that came afterwards, in the wee hours, sitting at the kitchen table, and at breakfast, and other odd times when the family was gathered. The stories were funny and sad, and they captured the essence of a man no one there knew in his entirety. What struck me was that the stories were only circulated among the older members of the family. The younger ones didn’t care. They weren’t there. They didn’t listen. And, I think that’s typical. As generations pass, so do the things that maybe only a generation ago were important.
I think about my grandmothers. One was a suffragette. I’m proud of that fact. In a lot of ways, knowing what my grandmother did has defined me. But, I don’t know the stories of her marches. Don’t know what made her want to get involved, or why my grandfather would have allowed it. I don’t even know where she marched. And, that’s my loss. My other grandmother told me of the times she and her family would go on vacation in a covered wagon. They would be flanked by Native Americans as they were wandering outside the established United States in the early part of the 20th century, into one of the territories. And, my grandmother would sneak off and play with the Native American children who would come along to, what was essentially, escort, my grandmother’s family to a place where most people of the time didn’t dare go. I certainly know that story, but I don’t know why my grandmother’s family vacationed where they did, I have no idea what their covered wagon looked like, or why she knew and played with the children of the Natives sent out to flank them. Again, my loss.
Certainly, the old always gives way to the new. I understand that. But when I look at the photograph of my suffragette grandmother and see how much MacKenzie (who would be her great-great granddaughter) resembles her, I realize that my loss goes far beyond me. I can’t tell MacKenzie the stories of who her great-great grandmother was because, in a large sense I don’t know. I never took the time to ask.
And when I listened to the stories of my father-in-law, many of which were new to the majority of his six children, I wondered if anything of his life other than a few photos would be passed down, or whether those odd moments, when only the oldest of the family gathered around, would be the end of a legacy.
As a writer, I’m all for capturing those moments, writing them down – or, at least, the highlight of them. But I haven’t done that. Why? Because I never asked, and now the people I would have asked are gone, as is most of their legacy. Is a family legacy important? To the outside world—no. To the family—in some instances, yes. Overall, I don’t really know, but I hope it is. Because, for me, in another generation or two, I’d like to think that my family might sit around the kitchen table where someone would say, “Dianne…yes, I remember hearing about her. Wasn’t she the one who wrote some books?”
R.I.P. Richard Steele Despain. You are missed.
No books coming out this month, but look for me in January, when both REUNITED WITH HER ARMY DOC and HEALING HER BOSS’S HEART will be out!
As always, wishing you health & happiness. And maybe a little bit of family history.