I definitely enjoyed the following article, Letter of Recommendation, written by David Rees, that was published in the New York Times Magazine recently. He identified with his grandmother, who he never knew, based on reading excerpts from her diary. I have experienced similar emotions after reading the diary of a 2 x great aunt of my husband. I think the major message here is that the more things change the more they stay the same. Although technology and societal changes continue to occur, people really don't. Rees' read a diary written about 100 years ago and I read a diary that was written 130 years ago - both individuals had experiences and reactions that were basic to humanity today.
Rees’ article saddened me as he had no connection with his ancestors before coming across the manuscript. I have a very small family, too, but the connection with my past was strong. In hindsight, I guess I can attribute that to my grandmother, Mary Koss, who as the family matriarch, insured that the extended family kept in touch. After her passing, the family contact ended. I had to stop and calculate the following number, which shows how long it’s been since the family got together – I have 10 maternal cousins and 5 great cousins of which 2 are deceased. Since my grandmother's death, I have only seen 1 cousin in person and that was 5 years ago when I initiated the visit. I have emailed with one of the great cousins but it ended rather abruptly as our theories of how the family name was changed don’t agree. One simple little letter – an added “s” – at the end of the name created a gulf. Silly? Definitely. It would have made my grandmother distressed.
For the majority of my cousins, though, we had no disagreements. There was no wars, famines or other adverse situations that arose to part us. Rather, we just led our lives in different places and with different circumstances, and along with the passage of time, we became disconnected. I know my family is not alone.
This month, my grandmother would have celebrated her 116th birthday. As I get ready to head out on a research trip combined with a business trip I'm thinking I'll try to make an attempt at reconnecting when I return. I know it's time.