Friday, May 14, 2010

Parallel Universes

I know that I haven’t given this blog much attention as of late. I think it comes from a state of mental exhaustion and distraction . . . which is now lifting. Work is easing off a bit. Always when I’m gone for even a week, I will have “hell to pay” for the subsequent two or three weeks. That era of penitence is now about over.

But on a more positive side, I’ve also been distracted by two “universes” which seemed to intersect in a few spots.

Both of them are the fruits of my recent family reunion in Florida. The first one was being caught away from home without any reading material. Then, not implying any divine intervention, I watched a long program on the history channel about the French Revolution, which prompted me later that morning, to buy a copy of the original, unabridged version of A Tale of Two Cities.

I know most people would have this read by now (two weeks later) but having to work in a chapter a day between work and my endless exercise (so it seems) program I’m still not finished but I’m within 10 pages of the end.

But the other thing, which I think I’ve already mentioned, was seeing my sister’s attempts to find out about our family tree. Our family, starting with my own grandfather, had been somewhat of a mystery.

So I joined My first few days were frustrated by the same road blocks which my sister had found with her brick and mortar searching. Then I had a couple of breakthroughs. The grandfather (which we heard was an Apache Indian) . . . well, was not. The other grandfather (which we heard was a travelling gypsy from somewhere like Persia) wasn’t either. The former was from 50 miles away (small town in Virginia) and the latter from North Carolina.

That is a story in itself, how when I found the truth, may have quenched the bigger than life mythology and such quenching didn’t sit well with all family members.

But once I was on the trail, I became consumed. I can exhibit a little OCD at times. I read documents printed in the 1920s, then the 1880s, then the 1820s and the 1700s and ship passenger list from the 1600s. To make a long story short, I was quickly in Wales at the time of Dickens (who was in London). My great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather died in the tower of London about that time. I have no clue as to why . . . but it was interesting.

Then, a few more generations back, I had a relative who was killed in the taking of Jerusalem during one of the crusades.

Then the family leaps across the channel and were in France for the previous thousand years. Yes, I said “thousand.” You see (which I’m sure is true for about everyone) I found a royal line. Once in royalty, the documentations are abundant. I traced my father’s mother’s line to Charlemagne, the great king of the Franks and the Holy Roman Empire. But I’ve been swept away to see my own family’s line woven like one tiny thread of silver in a totally red quilt.

So it has been a great joy to read in intensive emotional depth a snap shot (say 30 years) of history . . . the time of the two cites, and at the same time take a surface run across fifteen hundred years of western history . . . but from a personal connection.

When I read of this knight fighting in Palestine, I am amazed to think that my DNA is connected to his. We each have the same maternal, mitochondrial DNA. I’m not saying this in a proud kind of way. Certainly the crusades were an enterprise in stupidity and vanity, but I am still amazed by this personal history in the same way that I feel something deep when I hold a dinosaur bone in my hand, or when I sat, drinking a Pepsi, on the Great Pyramid at Giza.

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