I wonder how far back in time you should reach to get your family’s story or your personal story.
A good friend of mine some time ago remarked on his Facebook page about how he had encouraged his daughter to wear orange to school on St Patrick’s Day because his family were Irish Protestants, not Irish Catholic. Because he is a good friend, I somewhat regret replying publicly to this Mormon true believer,
“Uhm, if I know my history correctly your family were most likely Catholics in Ireland before they became Protestants and before that they were Celts and Druids and before that who knows what. So, how did you choose which de-conversion to honor?”
My answer was silence. But that sort of cafeteria genealogy confuses me.
My maternal grandmother was a bastard child born as a result of a liaison between my great-grandmother and her uncle (aunt’s husband), and I suppose I can go back far enough to find some “legitimate” incidences of procreation to hang my hat on, but I’m not sure that will change anything for me. Three generations back seem to be enough to make those stories nothing more than quaint and quirky.
What made me think of this idea of family history is that I just finished reading a book in which the central plot has several families discovering something about their ancestors that they didn’t really know…and it changed everything in their lives.
And I have to admit I enjoy watching the TV show Who Do You Think You Are? which weekly traces a celebrity’s genealogy to invariably reveal something remarkable about their family’s past that makes them remarkable people today.
It seems to be our merely KNOWING about these stories that impacts our lives; the events don’t impact us dramatically until they are revealed…and in some cases I think our progenitors would be screaming “Go Forward! Move beyond it. Grow!” rather than “Remember!”
Even reaching just one generation back I have pictures of an uncle serving in the Navy. He seems happy-go-lucky and gay. I never knew him because he died in his mid thirties in a car crash soon after I was born, but he never married. And in these pictures he’s always in the company of a local teen, Ernesto. They’re at the beach, in a photo studio with arms draped around one another. I so want to find out his story and I want him to be gay because I guess it will somehow legitimize my story? I’m not sure why but I think it would feel good to know for some reason. I imagine that it would make him happy to know I’m openly living the life he was unable to live at that period of time.
When I left Mormonism I thought it was ridiculous to be told to think about my ancestors and honor their faith… by sticking with it. They didn’t honor their ancestors by sticking with the religion of their fathers. No matter how far back you go there will have always been some other belief system, some other good fortune or some other turn of bad luck that cancels out the one you think is most important that came before it.
It seems that the only honest way to honor your past is to go back further to the first humans, or maybe all the way back to the first primates, the first mammals, the first vertebrates, the first cell. Anything other than that is just a random “pin the tail on the donkey” selection, unless it’s within my stated three generation limit. So, my question is how much of the life that I was handed should I be required to keep and “honor?” My religion? My social standing? My nationality? My likes and dislikes?
I’d like to think the one thing I could learn from them is their desire to move on, to make something better and to change for the good with new information and new possibilities.
Of course, our relatives’ lives at least as far back as our great-grandparents probably affected us physically, materially and measurably, but I still say that the best we can do for our forefathers is to move forward optimistically. I’ve honored my ancestor’s choice to follow truth more as I’ve exited Mormonism than I ever did by remaining in it.
Who’s my Daddy?
One of these guys methinks.