Tuesday, September 02, 2008

A piece of history

A story I read in Chicken Soup for the College Soul has stayed with me over the years, and has been coming to mind fairly often in recent times.

A college professor asks his class how many of them knew/know their grandparents. Almost the entire class raised their hands. On being asked how many know anything about their great-grandparents, about half raised their hands. On being asked how many know anything about their great-great-grandparents, barely one or two raised their hands. The prof's point was about making something of your life; to leave a mark that will make people remember you when you're gone.

When I think of this story, I don't think about making your mark in life or anything like that. I think about my parents, and their parents, and all our ancestors before them. My life, my family, my friends... all the memories I share with them are so precious to me. Do you realise no one will ever know about them a hundred years down the lane?

My father occasionally tells me stories from his childhood; Mamma used to tell me about hers when I was a kid. When I hear them, I always feel like I'm hearing about some stranger I've never met.

One of my biggest regrets is I never got to meet my maternal grandfather; by all accounts, he was a wonderful person. I recently discovered my ancestors on my father's side of the family were village priests somewhere in Bengal, and that a distant branch of the family is still there.

There are so many aspects to our family, so many anecdotes, so many pieces of history that we never hear about, never get to know. What a pity.

3 comments:

ZiggyStrauss said...

'course they won't be remembered. But pfft, who knows if the planet even exists a hundred years down the road. You may think its because I dislike children, but no matter how paedophobic I am, I wouldn't even subject a child to life on this doomed planet.

a traveller... said...

The positivity and optimism you radiate is what I love best about you.

Fintan said...

I don't mind that very much. I don't see myself as being the little old Granddad who regales his grandchildren with stories from when he was little, so it\d probably be my own fault anyway.

And Ziggy... I never know what to think about this 'I wouldn't subject a child to life on this planet' bit. Sure it sucks to some extent but I know that I'd be pretty annoyed if my parents had thought the same thing and I wasn't here. :p