State of the Union – the Hope of History

Lillie Mae Ford

My grandmother, Lillie Mae Ford died just shy of her 99th birthday

In his first State of the Union address, President Barack Obama evoked the country’s past to give hope for the future.  From the market crash on Black Tuesday to the beaten Civil Rights marchers on Bloody Sunday, the president cited these difficult markers in American history as a reminder that the country moved beyond them and even grew from them.  So too he believes will we  get beyond the two wars we’re fighting, the health care reform we’re debating, massive unemployment and Wall street reform we’re contending with.

Whether tracing our individual family tree or leading an entire nation, we all look to our past, personal or collected, as a touchstone.

I don’t know if the unemployed recent college grad finds solace in the fact that their great grandparents may have lost all their savings in the 1929 crash or their farms in the dust bowl that descended on a good portion of middle America yet still survived. But I’m often buoyed by the belief that I’ll live to be 100 because of the people I come from.

My paternal grandmother died just shy of 99. My maternal grandmother who is almost 94, still walks around without assistance and even joins my mom at the gym during her visits. My mother, who would kill me if I revealed her age, is sometimes mistaken as my sister (much to my chagrin). And of course there is Tempy Burton, my great -great grandmother who lived to be 104, born a slave, emancipated in the middle of her life, bearing 7 of her former master’s children. It’s good genes I guess, but not really proof of anything since there are random factors like drunk drivers and defective parachutes to consider (although I don’t plan on jumping from a plane anytime soon).  But it gives me a comfort to think my people were a durable bunch.  They persevered and so can I.

What ancestral trait do you hope you’ve inherited?



Filed under family history, geneology, Uncategorized

3 responses to “State of the Union – the Hope of History

  1. The traveling gene of the Indian diaspora! Double that with hubby’s Jewish diaspora gene. I wonder (and fret) about how little we’ll see of the kids once they’re done with schooling.

  2. Lani Elvins

    What a wonderful question to ponder. It seems the male relatives in the last four generations or so of both sides of my family had some of the more impressive achievements, as well as the more destructive madnesses.

    It is the women’s strength, perseverance, humor, and wisdom that I love to bask in and hope to live up to. They didn’t allow their challenges and heartbreaks to become the main story lines of their lives — I so admire that. I’ve come to believe, I just now realize, that the skeletons may have been shoved in the closet, not out of shame, but out of a liveliness that didn’t want them dominating the landscape. It was the fun and touching stories that were passed on.

    I am blessed to be able to say that the lurking darkness is past and this newest generation (our children) seem to be free of some of the gruesomeness that past generations endured without choice. The world is truly new, for those who will but notice.

    (Thanks, D, for opening this splendid door!)

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