Note: This is a long, sometimes rambling post that is all my opinion. Hopefully, some of it actually makes sense.
I had a dream about my mom last night – seems I’m having more and more dreams about her lately. Sometimes they are good dreams. Sometimes they are nightmares. But when I wake up, the feeling is always the same. Like air suddenly can’t fill my lungs because a ton of bricks has fallen on my chest. The realization then hits that she isn’t just in the next room, probably reading a book or watching M.A.S.H on TV like she always did when her insomnia kept her awake. I wouldn’t be able to just wrap my blanket around my body and pick a spot in the living room to sit with her for a while. It always takes me a few minutes to push the feeling out of my mind and focus on the day.
Since my mom’s passing, I can’t seem to do genealogy without thinking about her. I can’t look at a pedigree chart and resist cringing when I see her death date there. I can’t discover something new without having a feeling of hollowness because she isn’t here for me to share the moment with. Mom was never really interested in genealogy or family history and was often unable to see things as objectively as I could, but she did humor me as much as she could tolerate when I did talk about genealogy. Her knowledge of history came in handy too and we could bounce ideas off of each other.
I’ve always known that my mom was my ancestor, but the word has always felt old and distant to me. When I searched for ancestors, it felt like I was searching for people in another time, far away from my own. I was searching for people I didn’t know and even though I’ve always felt a connection, a pull, a well of inspiration from these people who are my ancestors, I’ve never felt like they were close to me. Even when dealing with my own grandparents – my mom’s parents died when I was just a baby, my paternal grandmother got dementia just after I started taking my first steps and although she was alive, she was never herself after that, and my paternal grandfather seemed like this husky voiced old man who lived across the country and had a funny accent. While I wanted to learn more about these people, there was always a disconnect there. Sure, they had influenced who my parents were as individuals, but they still felt far away – like a story from a book. I knew that their influence, their choices, their actions had affected me – which more times than not made me proud, but they still felt far away.
To think of my mom as an ancestor just feels… strange. My mom is a huge influence in who I am as a person – of my very being. Because of her, I am a passionate, stubborn, often loud vocally person. I become easily obsessed with things I love. I am enthusiastic. I feel the need to understand how things work and why. I spread myself too thin sometimes. I can think on my feet, especially in emergencies. I plan out everything and I hate deviating from the plan. I’m a control freak and I hate surprises. I am this way because of my mom. Her life had a direct impact on me.
How could I possibly call her an ancestor? She isn’t distant or far away. She isn’t from a history book. But as the days and weeks and months pass, my mom starts to feel more distant and far away. A panic almost seems to set in as I realize how few pictures I have or how I should have written everything she said down. I almost feel in a rush to record her story – like if I don’t it will disappear and be lost forever.
Two years ago, before my mom was sick, before my mom was gone, I recorded my family history and genealogy because it was interesting. Because it helped me feel a sense of belonging. Because the stories gave me strength and inspiration. Because it was like a challenge or game of detective – how much could I uncover? What could I find? Could I decipher that document? It wasn’t a need but a want. If I didn’t find it, someone else would. Like the stories from my family’s past was a treasure chest waiting to be found – sure, I could dig it up, but if I didn’t, someone else would.
I was preserving my family history out of choice.
But now it genealogy and family history are needs for me. If I don’t record it… if I don’t protect it… if I don’t preserve it… then who will? I feel anxious to record the stories of my mom, of who she was, my memories of her – like I’ll somehow forget it all if I don’t.
Someday, I will have children and sometimes I fear they’ll view my mom as this far away, distant person. Like an ancestor. I can’t let that happen.
Thoughts? Did I make any sense whatsoever? Have your views and/or reasons for why you research ever changed?