Why Do We Wait?

Bryce Lambley asks a question in their guest column Cedar tree symbolizes many things, for the Fremont Tribune (Fremont, Nebraska). The question they put forth is “Why do we wait so long to learn all we can about our parents and grandparents?”

From the article:

But I also wonder if my sorrow wasn’t partially of a guilty nature, wondering if we ever do enough for our ancestors after all they’ve done for us. It’s easy to take them for granted while they’re alive and we’re so busy keeping with our own ridiculously hectic schedules that time simply slips away.

Speaking of time slipping away, I was headed over to the folks last Wednesday as the end of deer season usually sees Dad and I teaming up in a last-ditch effort to fill our tags and so it was again. I went a little early to chat with Mom, and we both thought of questions we’d love to ask her mother if we only had the chance, queries she’d been unable to answer for about 13 years.

I again considered: “Why do we wait so long to learn all we can about our parents and grandparents?” But I think it’s almost universal that we do, and then some of us will spend many hours in the future working on genealogy details that could be answered today with a simple phone call or visit before it’s too late.

I’ve asked myself this question a lot over the last 20 years – there’s only so much information you can glean from census records, old photos, deeds, and even letters. I can look at a photo and tell you who it is, where they were born, what they did, but I can’t tell you why they were happy or sad in the photo, where they were at, what the occasion was.

I have a large amount of film that I’ve been scanning of my grandmother and grandfather, and in the middle of all of this film, there were several strips from around the 1950s that were in color. They were dressed up, and that’s about all I know. I don’t know if it was their house, I don’t know what the occasion or date was. Why were they dressed up and why did they happen to have a few color photos taken?

I’ve got a photo of my other grandfather when he was a young man standing next to a threshing/thrashing machine with a group of men. Were they my great-great uncles? The list goes on – I would bet that if we have one genealogy question that could have been answered by a phone call or letter 20 years ago, we have a 100.

It’s depressing I know, but maybe it’ll motivate some people to start asking questions before it’s too late.

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