Not only did my grandfather, “Gran” (William Ricketts Smith), lead an interesting life, he was someone I felt very close to and still hold dear. I’m so grateful he left behind a record of his life, even a relatively short one, in his own words. What a treasure it is. Because he took the time to write it, the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren and so on will all have a chance to get to know him.
The same with Grandma Keen (Alice Muriel Johnson) – just that one brief sketch of her family history and her childhood, really helped me get a handle not only on her family’s comings and goings, but on her spirit and personality. I know from talking to older cousins that her life, and her parents’ lives, were very hard, and full of heartbreak. To read her take on it – “What an adventure!” – points out the sweetness and optimism inherent in her nature.
By contrast, here’s what I know about Gran’s grandfather, William Raymond Fox:
1) He was an undertaker.
2) Every morning at 9:00, he had an appointment… with his outhouse.
Gran once told me (I don’t know why on earth this was our topic for discussion, but there you go) that Grandpa Fox was so regular, you could set your watch by him. If anyone asked him to meet somewhere at 9:00 AM, he would even tell them, “I can’t.” I’m pretty sure Gran also said that Grandpa Fox would tell the person why.
Unfortunately Grandpa Fox left no other record of his life, and everyone who knew him is gone also. Well, maybe Neenaw (my grandmother) knew him, but obviously not as well as Gran did. Consequently, those two facts – aside from his birth, marriage, and death information – are all I can pass on to future generations, and all I’ll ever know about Grandpa Fox until I see him when I die. I would really like to have more to say to him than, “So what was it like, being an undertaker?” and “Wow, so… 9:00 every morning, huh?”
That’s why I do this: I want some say over how people remember me. I’m interested in preserving not only my family history, but also the life stories of the people I knew and loved, whom future generations will not have the chance to know in this lifetime. It’s important to me that my descendants know a little more about me and my ancestors than our occupations and (ahem) personal habits.
Otherwise, Heaven is going to be kind of awkward.