Of Genealogy & Graveyards: Talking About The First Person I *Met* Online

Every fall I think of this story. It happened 20+ years ago, and while it seems quaint and only slightly spooky now, I’ll admit that in the moment it gave me pause. 

LONG BEFORE THERE WERE BLOGS, the first person I *met* online was Darlie Ann.

I was doing genealogical research in the time before Ancestry.com.  Back then to find someone with knowledge about your ancestors you needed to leave inquiries on message boards that were on cemetery websites or historical society websites or county genealogical websites.

It was hit or miss.

On one of those boards I left an inquiry about my great uncle, trying to see if anyone knew anything about his early days as a lawyer in a small Ohio town that is north of where I lived then.

Darlie Ann, who lived in Texas, saw my inquiry and contacted me via email to say that her father had been my great uncle’s law partner– and that she had a few sheets of stationery from their law practice.

We communicated back and forth via email, and she offered to send me a sheet of the stationery to add to my file.  I reciprocated by sending her a copy of a group family reunion photo that showed my uncle as an older man.

• • •

DARLIE ANN AND I STAYED IN TOUCH FOR YEARS, like penpals, writing about our lives, exchanging Christmas cards, updating each other about any genealogical research we did.

In fact, in one email Darlie Ann mentioned that recently she’d been to Ohio visiting our small town and had gone to the cemetery where my parents are buried.  She’d taken the opportunity to find their graves, snapped 2 photos of their tombstones, and sent them to me.

So that I’d have the photos for my records.

• • •

CHRISTMAS ROLLED AROUND THAT YEAR, but I didn’t get a card from Darlie Ann.  It seemed odd, but she was older, born around the time my mother was, so perhaps she forgot me?

In the following months I emailed her a few times but got no reply.  I wasn’t entirely surprised because I knew she was selling her house and moving into an apartment.  I figured she was busy.

Welp, one beautiful fall day I opened my desk drawer and saw Darlie Ann’s photos of my parents’ tombstones.  I hadn’t been to the cemetery in years, and it kind of tugged at me that I should go visit.  So I decided that the next day I’d take a mental health day and drive 3 hours each way to go visit them.

And I did.

• • •

I GOT TO THE CEMETERY and parked my car by the oak tree that I use as a guidepost for getting to my parents’ graves in this older part of the cemetery.  But when I walked across the grass to where I thought they were buried I realized I’d parked about an acre north of where they were.

Wrong oak tree.

So I started to walk south casually glancing at the tombstones as I went.  Almost immediately I found myself looking at a new grave with a shiny new tombstone.

This was unusual in this older part of the cemetery.  These lots had been owned, and filled, by families from generations back.  But what was most fascinating about this discovery, and slightly unnerving, was the name I saw on the new tombstone.

Whose grave was I visiting on this glorious autumn day?  It was Darlie Ann, my first internet friend, who’d died a few weeks before and had come back home to be buried in this cemetery in the small town of her birth.

Now how trippy is that?

Comment Confidential: The Perks And Pitfalls Of Reaching Out To Newfound Bloggers

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I feel the need to confide.

One change brought about by the Covid-19 Pandemic is that some bloggers, often longtime bloggers, have stopped posting. As a result many of my bloggy friends, ones who were here and I was there all the time, aren’t around anymore.

I miss them but understand why they’ve moved on and I realize that my blogging community is different, a bit emptier, without them in it.

Thus a couple of months ago, as I was sitting here at home still, I decided to be more extroverted and started reaching out to bloggers who were new to me. I felt that as a longtime blogger I could be proactive about creating bloggy friendships, especially with newfound bloggers.

These newfound bloggers came my way: 1) by leaving comments/likes on my blog; 2) when I saw them comment on blog posts elsewhere; and/or 3) when I saw they were part of the A-to-Z Challenge.

To be clear I only commented on blog posts that I found interesting, never as a way of ingratiating myself to someone hoping for reciprocity, never as a troll. I just said what I was thinking in the moment, like I always have, hoping that my first contact didn’t seem too weird or too nutz.

Then I waited to see how I would be received.

Below is a list of the perks and pitfalls that happened when I reached out to newfound bloggers. ‘Twas an enlightening experience. I’m glad I challenged myself to go outside my comfort zone and do this, but now I’m back to being my more introverted [ambiverted?] self, happy to chat with friendly bloggers who show an interest in what I have to say here.

Thank you very much.

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ONE: Encouraging. Many bloggers seemed pleased that I jumped into their comment section, replying in a timely fashion that made me feel welcome.

TWO: Confusing. Some bloggers sent out mixed signals. Despite generic polite replies I couldn’t figure if I was butting into their circle of blog friends or if I was wanted and they were just surprised by my interest.

THREE: Different. A few bloggers have tightly structured comment sections reminiscent of the singsong Episcopalian worship service’s Collect of the Day. Everyone who left a comment got a pleasant reply [blessing? response?] but the conversations in the comment section never went any farther.

FOUR: Duly noted. A few bloggers ignored my comment, or marginalized it by only ‘liking’ my comment, so that I got the clear impression I was not wanted.

FIVE: Perplexing. Some bloggers have commenting systems that ate my comment not indicating if it was being held in moderation or was not accepted. Should I try again? Do they want comments? [Was WP screwing with me again?]

SIX: Questionable. A few bloggers don’t seem to reply to comments at all, even though they had many of them. Without clearly stating how they process comments it was impossible for me to know if some commenters get an email reply behind the scene and I wasn’t worthy of one or if everyone doesn’t receive a reply.

SEVEN: Uplifting. After leaving a comment for some newfound bloggers, they were curious to see who I was and came here to this blog, often immediately jumping into my comment section.

EIGHT: Sociable. Often when commenting on a newfound blog I came across bloggers who also comment here. As a way of introduction in my first comment to the newfound blogger I’d mention our mutual bloggy friend because interconnectedness is one of the best things about blogging, right?

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QUESTIONS OF THE DAY

Are you inclined to leave comments on newfound blogs that you come across in blog land?

How do you feel when you do that? Do you assume the blogger wants your comment or do you figure you might be an intruder? Or some point in-between?

What’s the best thing that can happen when you leave a comment on a blog post?

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Planning To Be Kind AND Kindly Planning My Future

PLANNING TO BE KIND

Tomorrow, November 13th, is World Kindness Day. It’s based on another one of those core values that I think is important. The value being [obviously]: KINDNESS.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines KINDNESS as: the quality of being kind as in treating people with kindness and respect. The dictionary goes on to say that synonyms for KINDNESS are words like: benevolence, courtesy, favor, grace, service.

Musing on these words while thinking about my childhood and the way my WASP parents reared me, I suspect I never had a chance to not be kind. I just didn’t, but that’s only me. 😇

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF TO BE KIND?

So what do you think, a good idea?

~ ~ • ~ ~

KINDLY PLANNING MY FUTURE

Opening a Franklin Planner catalogue that came in the snail mail a card fell out onto the counter top. The card, featured in the photo below, clearly states the raison d’être of the company.

I started laughing because, well– hell to the yes, this company wants me to plan. Thanks for reminding me, just in case I didn’t notice the name of your company.

But the more I looked at the card the more I realized that I adhere to a slacker philosophy that is more geared toward doing good enough. This is because I realize that plans change, often– and that I can live contentedly not planning every stinking detail of my best life.

Yes, I’d say that I’m being kind to myself by allowing for things to not be best. 🙄

HOW ABOUT YOU, DO YOU PLAN FOR YOUR BEST LIFE OR FOR YOUR GOOD ENOUGH LIFE?

Perhaps I’m being ornery, but isn’t *good enough* good enough?

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In Which I Inadvertently Distress My Primary Care Doctor

Example of daily planner page [via Canva] similar to the ones on which I write my annual doctors’ appointments because I am a good patient.

Well this is awkward…

I went to the primary care doctor’s office for my annual physical.

I see a PCP, a woman, who is in her late 30s.  She’s competent, engaging, and most importantly from my point of view, not an alarmist. Mellow about everything.

Usually.  

Anyhoo, I’m sitting there in the examination room with her and she’s looking at a computer screen, reviewing which doctors I see for annual check-ups.  Which I do because I’m a dutiful adult patient who does what she’s told to do.

[Also because I’m a doctor’s daughter.  And let me tell ‘ya, if as a child you listen to enough detailed dinnertime conversations about people who are icky sick because they didn’t go to their doctors for a regular check-up, then as an adult you make those time-consuming appointments with your doctors for your annual check-ups.]

Again, anyhoo, getting to what I want to tell you…

So my doc looks on her computer screen and confirms with me that I’m seeing a certain dermatologist.  Let’s call him Dr. Face.  She asks me which one of his associates I see when I go for my annual skin care check.  I tell her I see him.

She stops what she’s doing, turns to me and says: “You see him?”

I say: “Yes.”

She says: “I go to that practice and I never get to see him.  He’s the best, I wanna see Dr. Face, too.”

I say: “Yes, he’s good.”

She says: “But Dr. Face doesn’t do your procedures, right?  Some other med assistant or doc does them?”

I say: “No, he does them.”

She says: “Well, how does that happen?  Why does he work on you and not me?”

I shrug.

Then she says: “How’d you find him?”

I say: “You referred me.”

There is a long pause while she looks at my chart on the screen and I say nothing.  

Then she says, more like a girlfriend than my doctor: “Well darn, I gotta refer myself.  I’m jealous.  I can’t believe you get to see Dr. Face and I don’t.”

At which point, even though this was kind of funny, I didn’t smile at my good fortune, instead I made murmuring sounds of sympathy for my doctor’s sad realization that she wasn’t getting the best healthcare that she wanted. 

Because doctor is a nice woman, who I am sorry to report, doesn’t seem to have the right connections to get in with Dr. Face.

Go figure!

A Quandary Regarding Mental Health + Tattoos + Modern Etiquette

“NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness. We are the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness.”

Thanks to the efforts of NAMI it’s Mental Illness Awareness Week here in the USA. This year’s theme is #CureStigma. 

In light of this theme here’s something I’ve been thinking about. I’m unclear about what I should do when I’m in situations like the following one.

I was at a doctor’s office, in the examining room, with a medical assistant who was settling me onto the examining table, getting things ready for the doc.

When she reached across me to grab the blood pressure cuff I noticed that she had a tattoo on her inside left wrist.  What caught my eye was that the tattoo was of a semicolon.

As you probably know, that is the tat one gets when you have, or someone you love has, engaged in self-harming behaviors;  OR when you or a loved one have attempted to commit, or possibly in the case of a loved one succeeded in committing, suicide.

[More on the semicolon tattoo meaning here and here.]

In general I’ve found that people with visible tattoos seem pleased when you notice the tattoo.  They often have a story to tell about their tattoos and I’m willing to listen.

However, in this particular case I was reluctant to say anything, so I said nothing and just smiled like I didn’t know what I was seeing.

So my questions are:

  • Would you consider a visible semicolon tattoo to be an invitation for conversation about what it means to the person with this tattoo?
  • Or would you not say a word about it unless the person with the tattoo brings up the topic?

Anyone got any experience with or advice about how to handle this type of situation? I feel like there might be some kind of modern etiquette involved here, but I don’t know what it is.