Back in April, during my annual physical with my primary care physician, I found out that I was no longer five feet tall. The medical assistant told me that she was going to weigh me and measure my height. I weigh myself quite often, so that was not going to be a surprise (plus or minus the weight of cheese and crackers eaten earlier that day , but I was a bit anxious to find out my height. I got up on the scale while she adjusted the height measure and I stood up very tall and she declared that I was now 59.5 inches tall. I asked her to do it again, assuring her that I was at the very least 60.5 inches tall, maybe more, as I am ever the optimist regarding things that I believe to be absolutes. She sighed (although she didn’t know I saw that, but my peripheral vision is excellent) and told me to step off the scale and get back on again. I know in her heart of hearts, she told herself she probably should have taken the day off to do something fun. In any case, the results of my height were unchanged. Somehow, it all offended me and I asked her if she could possibly or would possibly consider just making it an even 60 inches. She gave me a pained smile and I felt as though I asked her to commit mail fraud, and we both laughed uncomfortably as she stated the doctor would be with me shortly (at least that is what I think I heard). I stood there trying to remeasure myself (wondering if the device needed calibration) and then it sunk in….I was really shrinking. It was a bit jarring. Now, in reality, I was never even close to being tall. I jockeyed for the shortest or next to the shortest position in grades K-6 with another Barbara. We were neck in neck, sort of. By freshman year of high school I was about 4 foot 6 inches tall and then I had a growth spurt and by graduation I was now 5 ft 1 inches tall but I told every one I was 5 ft 1 1/2 inches. Neither one of my parents were tall, nor grandparents, not my sister or anyone else that I shared any DNA with. So, you would think I wouldn’t be surprised. As I left the doctor’s office, I came to the realization that the next time I went to renew my driver’s license, I would have to update that information, because I no longer measured what it said.
Recently, I have been unearthing photos and documents that I have found from many generations before me. I am the unofficial genealogist of both my maternal and paternal family trees. My father spent much of his post retirement time unearthing new relatives both dead and alive. He and my mother travelled back to his hometown in Germany to look at records and keep the tree and all its branches alive with information. He made an effort to make contact with those he found, stateside, who shared the family history and often visited them as part of their travels. My recent review of pictures of family members, some known and many unknown, make me aware of the realization that there are not too many stories left for me to know, now that my parents and their generation are gone. There’s no one to tell me who is who and what the connections were. I always asked a lot of questions and was interested in the physical resemblances, and the manner of dress and often the lack of smiles as it seemed as though prior generations didn’t seem happy to pose. I can completely relate to that! I was told that as a child and teenager, most of my pictures were filled with my scowls. I would look at pictures from more than a century ago to see if I shared the same scowl and dour looks. My father was able to find our family links back to the 1600s. The number of names that were repeated (and iterations there of) through many generations was quite astounding.
I recognize that our personal histories are richer for knowing those who shared our DNA from generation to generation. To see the patterns of interests and occupations, and to imagine how our predecessors lived day to day and their world view fascinates me. We now can acknowledge that our descendants may also wonder about our generation and how we managed our connections and how we will be remembered. It is at this moment that I know that I have no control about how tall I am, as that is far beyond my control. However, when I think of how I can keep what stories I know alive, and share them with the rest of the members of my family, that the height and breadth of the family tree is really what will matter.