It Gives One Pause and a Little Tug

Dear Will:

Earlier this month my father turned 83. My mother’s 80th birthday is in about 10 days. So imagine my excitement when they told me they had decided to take a trip to Turkey. Their plane left this morning.

My parents enjoy traveling, but Turkey was never really on their list. However, when my sister’s husband, who works for the military, found himself assigned to a military base there, my parents’ vacation priorities shifted. Flying to Turkey is the sort of thing that parents do, apparently, especially when there are a passel of grandkids involved. Even when you’re in your eighties.

As you well know, that bond between parent and child is a strong one, not typically muted by passing years. Consider, for instance, that my sister Susan was born over 40 years ago. She has long since “left the nest.” Meanwhile my parents are really beginning to show their age, having fought battles with cancer and strokes and even a couple of knee replacement surgeries. Given those facts, it’s not hard to construct a pretty good case against this trip. Believe me, I tried. But even though my father acknowledged that this trip probably wasn’t the best idea, they would not be dissuaded. Their course was set and their cause was clear: One of their babies—and that baby’s babies—couldn’t make it home for holidays (much less Sunday dinners), and they didn’t want to wait any longer to hug and hold each one of them and admire the refrigerator art of a my sister’s five children.

That tug of affection across generations is an eternal verity, a manifestation of the ineffable bond linking son to father to grandfather and on. Even before the days of Christ, Malachi spoke of the hearts of fathers turning to their children, and the hearts of children turning to their fathers. It is that selfsame spirit which leads the curious to embark on a passionate search for ancestors, the resulting family tree branching back into history a dozen generations or more. It’s an amazing phenomenon.

I’ve had all of this on my mind lately, and not just because my elderly parents are traveling half-way across the world when they might be better off sitting on the sofa and watching the NCAA Tournament (my Bruins are in the Final Four!) You see, just last week I received via email an electronic copy of my wife’s genealogy and discovered that someone, by some means, has traced her heritage back into the 1500s. That’s over 400 years worth of family foliage, a staggering amount of research and a humbling glimpse of one’s past. As I stared at the screen of my computer I was in awe:

Christopher Worrilow – Born, 1579, Haughton, Staffordshire, England; died in 1605 [so young!], a year or so after his son John was born. He and his wife Margery died on the same day.

Wouldn’t you love to know how they died, and who raised little John, and the answers to half a dozen other questions? I don’t even know where to begin such an inquiry, but I do know this: The Internet has now made it possible even for a hack like me to tinker with family history. (You should check out familysearch.org—wow!) At any rate, it does give one pause—and a little tug—as eternal forces compel us to try to pull together our families across continents and cultures and many generations.

PW

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