I think that every parent at one time or another [and maybe more than once] has "lost" their child. Maybe it was in a department store. Maybe it was at the grocery store.
No matter where it was, while you were looking for them, if you're the praying kind, you probably prayed, "It doesn't matter just as long as I find them." [Or something like that.] Then after you found them safe and sound [maybe hiding amongst the stacks of toilet paper in the grocery store], relief washed through you like a cleansing rain. And your very, very first thought was, "It doesn't matter why you ran off. I'm just so glad I found you."
Later there will be time for lectures and scoldings, and [my favorite], "Don't ever do that again!" demands later.
But the "I-don't-care-I'm-just-so-glad-I-found-you!" feeling is powerful. Maybe even desperate at times. Nothing else matters. Just that I found you.
This is exactly how I feel when I'm searching for my ancestors. [*snort* Minus the panic. Sometimes.] When I finally find them, that's how I feel. Never mind that I've been looking for them for years. And not just looking for their vitals either. I'm talking about really finding 'em. Their nicknames. Their likes and dislikes. Their hopes and fears. Their stories.
So here's what I have to say to my very, very dear ancestors:
It doesn't matter that I really don't have a "go-to" person in my family for remembrances, stories and whatnot. [Did you never talk about yourself? Geez Louise.]
It doesn't matter that I spend countless hours in libraries so cold that meat could be hung in there looking for you in books that look like they haven't been read, much less touched, in years. All for just a shred [A measly shred. Is that too much to ask?] of your very existence.
It doesn't matter that I'm going cross-eyed trying to read your contemporary's awful [God-awful] handwriting in hopes of finding where you lived or who you lived with [Geez. Another wife? *rolling eyes heavenward*].
It doesn't matter that I have to look for your tombstone in a cemetery that looks like its last visitor ~alive or not~ was in 1965. Or that your tombstone is probably underneath the brush left from the last hurricane. And that it's broken. Or that the side of town that your cemetery is in is not so good ~to say the very least~ and after looking, like forever, I still can't find you, and my tummy is growling because I skipped breakfast and lunch to find your tombstone, and I have 30 minutes left before I have to pick up the kids from school. And there's nary a fast food restaurant around. Nor a bathroom. Nor a gas station [cuz, oh yeah, I need gas, too.].
It doesn't matter that I have to drive to Galveston Island, Texas and take photos of where the family farm once was. Near the beach. [And the waves can be heard from there.] Or that I have to go spend time on the 3rd floor of the library where the archives are located looking for you instead of relaxing on the beach with a frosty fruity drink. Or that I have to take the ferry from Galveston Island to Bolivar Peninsula to take photos of more beach-front property you might have lived on or nearby. Or that I have to go back again because I got a lead on your church records. [O.K., so maybe some searches are a little more enjoyable than others. Thank you. But maybe you could just send me a message in a bottle while I relax on the beach.]
Likewise, it doesn't matter what your journey was to get to me.
It doesn't matter if you ran away from home. [Just make sure you left me a paper trail. *wink*]
It doesn't matter if you changed your name five times. [Just who the hell were ya', anyways?]
It doesn't matter if you had two divorces, three wives, and a few mistresses. [Oh well, some people never learn. Just a few more leaves on the trees. Oooh, and the stories.]
It doesn't matter that you eloped. [At least you only married once. Unlike some people. I hope you eloped in a neighboring county, though. Not in some far-flung place that I'd never think to look in.]
It doesn't matter that all you ever had was that little piece of land that you farmed on out of necessity. [I just hope you were happy. And that you left the farm records behind.]
It doesn't matter that you were excommunicated from the Catholic Church because of all your divorces. [Paper trail. Paper trail.]
It doesn't matter that you lost everything in the hurricane. [I'm proud you survived and bounced back. Otherwise, whose great-granddaughter would I be?]
It doesn't matter that you didn't leave any photos behind. [I wonder if we looked alike. And who is responsible for my freckles? Was that you Annie O'Brien?]
It doesn't matter that if you and I are truly related, that you weren't a patriot in the American Revolutionary War. [I mean, I wasn't there. Who am I to judge? I'm just glad you stood up for what you thought was right. Besides, without you, who would I be then?]
It just doesn't matter. You're family. You're mine.
You see, I'm just so glad that I found you.