By H. David Morrow firstname.lastname@example.org
(Previously published in MISSING LINKS Vol. 8, No. 4, 27 January 2003) http://www.petuniapress.com/
This is her latest new idea: my geneaholic spouse wants us to celebrate each birthday of all the ancestors she has found.
I haven't figured out whether this party honors the departed; commemorates the fact that she finally proved these people are actually relatives; or glorifies that she discovered the same surname and birth date in two different sources.
The reason doesn't matter. We're talking major stuff here.
Based on her research so far, the average will be three parties per day, every day. And that doesn't include the forebears she knows about but cannot thoroughly document, yet.
Now, as her chief caregiver, I want to give my geneaholic wife all the best care possible. I really want to support her and give her strength while she works through this affliction. Even though I am imbued with the very soul of spousal compassion, I worry where all this celebrating may lead.
For starters, I think she's personalizing this search entirely too much. No other relative in her family has pursued ancestral history with this much zeal. I know this is true, because if anyone else had done even a little research, my wife would have to do much less of it.
She simply would have taken the existing information and added data from her generation and that of her children. But that didn't happen. There is no record of family history before she did it. It's like all those people wanted to keep the information secret.
"Why," I asked, "should you do anything special for the very people who've made your life more difficult?" She didn't answer; nor did she care much for my simile: it's like hosting a party for a rich uncle right after he informs you that you're not even mentioned in his will.
Which brings up another point. Money! The last time I checked, it cost almost $10 for a simple eight-inch diameter, decorated, chocolate-with-fudge-icing birthday cake. That's an extra $10,000 annually out of the food budget. (I've included the quantity discount in this figure.)
Candles, of course, will cost even more than the cakes. Some of her relatives fought in the Civil War. I'm not even sure we can fit 150 candles on an eight-inch cake. (Large sheet cakes cost more than a ten-spot.) We're not poor enough to get free food from any of the charity kitchens, so there's no reason to anticipate anyone else is going to pony up for three birthday cakes per day, certainly not her ancestors. They won't even show up for the festivities.
If you held a surprise party (by definition, any party for a deceased ancestor is a surprise) and the guest of honor didn't bother making an appearance, imagine the stress you'd feel. Think of your embarrassment in front of all the other departed relatives.
And that's another thing. After having quintuple bypass surgery less than five years ago, I don't need any more stress in my life. I've watched my retirement accounts dwindle; I've endured the ravings of the political far right and far left; I've listened to innumerable telemarketing calls and deleted more spam from my e-mail than I can count.
I'm not sure how my heart would take it if just one of her Departed relatives actually did show up for the surprise party.
While we're talking about my health, let's examine what must happen to all the cakes. As I've already alluded, I am almost pure. I don't drink to excess; I don't gamble; I have never cheated on my wife; and I am not involved in genealogy. My sole vice is chocolate.
Note that we will be receiving 1,000+ chocolate cakes with fudge icing. Recall that the guest(s) of honor will probably not show up to help eat the cake. Remember that my only vice is chocolate.
In the interest of continuing my membership in the "Clean Plate Club" (I've been a member for more than 65 years and now is not the time to drop out) I'll probably have to eat all the cakes myself. Within six months, I will undoubtedly weigh 350 pounds. My entire circulatory system, like hot fudge, will only operate in tropical temperatures.
This will necessitate my moving to some equatorial island during the winter months. Due to my weight, I'll have to buy two seats on the airplane; that means paying four times for each round trip. Just for me alone. My wife won't be able to go owing to her constant search for more relatives. And not a single one of my wife's ancestors will provide even a small stipend for all this travel and inconvenience. (Would this change if I give them all the frequent flyer miles?)
Finally, there is the matter of presents. What does one buy for a deceased relative? If they've gone to heaven, they supposedly have everything they could want. Otherwise, the only appropriate gift would be a personal fire extinguisher.
So, I've come up with an alternate plan that I hope will satisfy my wife. Instead of separate birthday parties, I'm perfectly happy to host and attend a family reunion of all these progenitors. The way I figure it, an annual reunion will be less costly, less stressful on her, and much less taxing on my heart. We'll supply the venue, entertainment, and favors for each attendee in lieu of individual birthday presents.
Guests will be expected to bring two covered dishes: one main course and one salad. I'll bring dessert for everyone: chocolate fudge brownies.