Thursday, September 12, 2013

Looking Backward... And Forward

"You have to know where you've been in order to know where you're going."

I don't know who said those words, but I heard it a long time ago and it stuck with me all these years.

This post isn't going to be about RVing, but rather it's going to be about what RVing has enabled us to do.  Plus, I'm feeling rather pensive at the moment, and this is what's going on in my head today.

We are currently in rural Pennsylvania visiting my father for a couple of weeks.  He lives in the same house that I grew up in, so this is almost surreal to have all my kids milling about in this house.  Thirty years ago I would never have thought that I'd be sitting in my bedroom (which is now the computer room), typing up a blog post while listening to my six kids in the next bedroom (which was my sister's bedroom) playing Minecraft together on their smart phones.

When I was a girl living in this house, we spent many Sunday afternoons visiting with relatives, usually old ones.  Very old ones.  At the time, it was almost torturous to have to sit through that.  After all, old people are... strange!  They aren't "with it".  They live in the past.  They talk about people who've been dead for decades as if they are still alive. Their interior d├ęcor is like a blast from the past. To a child, this is bizarre and uncomfortable.

Yet, I am so thankful NOW to have had that chance to connect with the past, even if I didn't appreciate it at the time. I can connect the past with the present.  I can see that life is a continuum, and that the passing of one generation to the next is exactly how it's supposed to be.

I can remember being forced to visit with my great-grandparents when I was a girl.  They were in their upper 80's.  Great-grandpa had Alzheimer's disease, and he scared me.  But great-grandma's mind was sharp as a tack until the day she died.  My great-grandparents were born in the 1890's.  It was THEIR parents and grandparents - who would have been very much "alive" to them - who touched the history that I only read about in my textbooks in school, and which is practically ancient history to MY kids.

Anyway, last weekend I had the chance to take my children to the very same family reunion that I had the pleasure of attending every year as I was growing up.  Except, it was different this time. I remember the reunion being vibrant, with the "old generation" being only as old as my parents are now.  I remember attendance being around 75-100 people.  I remember lots and lots of kids my age to play with.   I remember the reunion being out in the rural Pennsylvania countryside, with a hand-pump well out front for water (which we kids loved playing with and getting each other wet!).

But this time it was different.  There were only about 30 people there besides my family.  There are only four people left of the old generation, as the rest have passed on to Glory.  My kids were the only kids there besides two little girls whom I couldn't even figure out how they were related to me.  As a matter of fact, the "family tree" is such a "family forest" now with such distant relations, I'm sure my kids could marry those two little girls!  And sadly, the country location is now surrounded by active Little League fields, and the hand-pumped well was modernized into an outdoor water fountain.

But I know where I've been.  I know about the past.  I know the old generation.  I remember them.  They are part of who I am.  And because of this, I know where I'm going.

It's the way it's meant to be.  My dad was saying that it won't be much longer until this family reunion will stop occurring, after more than a half-century of annual autumn get-togethers.  When the last of the "old generation" passes, there will be one last reunion, then no more.  Each branch will go on their own separate way.

It's sad in a way, but it's how it's meant to be.  Time is a continuum, and each day ticks away regardless of what happened the day before.  We are born, we grow up, and we die - but that's not the end of our story.  We die, but we continue in the children around us.  Our memories, our personhood, our experiences. They don't die with us.  They are passed on to the next generation.

Because they remember.

And time continues on.