I have recently started following an interest of mine, geneology. I have always been interested in it, I guess as a military kid who felt like my roots were nonexistant, geneology provides a way of regaining a sense of place. Perhaps not to a location, but an understanding of where you come from. I imagine this is a strong drive to many, adopted children and just the plain curious alike. But I also find myself drawn to it for other reasons.
I find myself drawing comfort from adding names to branches. From finding women who have also lost children. I find myself getting angry when I 'discover' an infant or young child that the majority of 'trees' leave off- almost as if they are saying that the person only mattered if they produced children or lived at least past 10 or 15 years. It's sloppy and annoying.
When I add that child, I feel like I have reclaimed something from death.
I guess I believe that every child makes an imprint on a family. It changes the personality of the individuals, shapes actions and events. Even the void of a child continues to make a lasting impression on those around it- almost like you can tell the existance of black holes by the movent of objects around them. Like other extreme life events, it magnifies traits.
I added Perry to my tree. He is so small and brief, but what a large impact he has made on me. I want other future researchers to know he existed. Future Grandchildren to say "I remember him on my Grandmother's wall, and look- here he is. They never forgot him.". You can even add stories and pictures, something I will probably do for him. I'll be important perhaps because they came from me. Perhaps the casual people who don't care about children that didn't produce offspring will stop and pause when they see a picture attached and add him. I want to make him matter to them.
Family is such a very strange thing. Family gatherings are too. A counselor said that family gatherings are like sugar. Everything is usually painted pleasant. Unfortunately to get substance, to learn, to grow, to be able to progress you need food- the context of the reality, the acknowledgement of good and bad. For grieved parents to progress, they often need that acknowledgement. If you family isn't capable or lacks the skills, family gatherings are dangerous places. To a parent who has lost a child, it can be the equivalent of a gunrange to a veteran who saw hard combat.
The counselor explained that he believed that we were indeed affected by PTSD. And that in the future, we need to limit or avoid exposure, and provide a safe place and a safe way out to prevent regressing back. To be able to find our new normal (not cure- you can't bring Perry back to earth), we need to begin to control what we can and not allow others to set exposure levels for us. He seemed shocked that we even attempted a family gathering so soon and expressed concern that it might have been damaging.
Just as gatherings, family, and events, the individual people involved are complicated.
People are not all good and bad, we are degrees. There are things perhaps society remembers about a person, what years they served in the military, wealth, and accomplishments that are easily written down on paper. And then there is the other side that is not written down, but just as important. What legacy did they leave to their family? Did they care? Did they leave scars that affect to this day how their children's children react to others?
To understand the scars or negative events, sometimes you have to know the source. It gives you that ability to say this is why this person reacts in this way, and I am not letting the event change how I relate to my own spouse or child any more.
Even the things we don't like to talk about- miscarriages, infant deaths, inherited physical and mental diseases, have value. Sometimes the provide clues to not only what is wrong but how to prevent or treat it.
A person isn't defective if they have a 'bad' genetic trait, mental illness, physical illness, past negative event... We are all given slates with cracks in them. It is how you use the canvas you are dealt and whether you choose to face or ignore them that matters. Whether you allow the cracks to spread onto surfaces your children will write on... And if they do, inspite of all your efforts, sometimes sharing how you patched it on your own slate, or where it came from, is just as important. You don't always recognize them as cracks when they begin or spread, sometimes you only learn that with life experience. But you can give your children the power of knowledge, that may be that little extra piece that allows them to make a concious decision. That takes the power from attacker, the sting from death, and all of the the control from an illness or disease. It gives power to the descendants of victims to say that the abuse stops here. It lets you grow children that are more sensitive to others as a result of your experiences instead of damaged people.
As I look at the braches of my family trees, I am very aware that there are probably saints and murders, revolutionary war heroes and child abusers. Sometimes a person can be both. Perhaps the most remarkable figures do not have the most historical importance, perhaps they are a simple name that brought joy to their family or the person who had the strength to walk away from a history of abandonment and form a family that was well loved.
So how do I make future generations understand that about Perry?