Ancestering

by Bella Rum

I’ve taken a nose dive into my family tree, or as H calls the process, “ancestering.” “Are you in there ancestering again?” He poked fun at me for a day or so, and then he was bitten by the bug, too. We’re both doing our trees. So far, we’ve found a woman who delivered five babies over seven years and died at a young age, leaving all five babies motherless, a couple who died on the same day from “severe influenza” and were buried on the same day, and two suicides – one in each of our families. One was a male. His death certificate read “gunshot to the brain” and the other was a “gunshot to the chest.” The latter was my cousin. She was very beautiful, wealthy and young – only forty-seven – no children.

During the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, most of my mother’s side of the family managed to eke out a living by farming. Peanuts were the big crop. Virginia still has wonderful peanuts. My father’s side of the family were watermen, teachers, machinists, carpenters, boatbuilders, etc.

Women had so many children before contraception was widely available to them. It was nothing for women to have five, six, seven, even eight children during their childbearing years and sometimes die at a young age. This doesn’t even take into account the outcome for the babies. One of my female relatives lost three babies out of eight. Though availability of contraception changed the lives of women in much of the world, reading about my ancestors made me think about how the lack of access to contraception is still an issue for women in parts of the world.

About 222 million women who want to avoid pregnancy in developing countries are not using a modern birth control method. Birth control use in developing countries has decreased the number of deaths during or around the time of pregnancy by 40% (about 270,000 deaths prevented in 2008) and could prevent 70% if the full demand for birth control were met. — Wikipedia

So that’s what I’ve been doing with my time in these waning days of summer. The weather has been hot and muggy. Staying inside with a project is not the worst thing a body could do, but I have opened the backdoor onto a couple of almost-cool mornings this week. Fall is still out there somewhere, but it’s coming. The perennial garden is looking a little worse for wear. Everything is past it’s prime, but, like a doddering old man, it still has something useful to offer if you look closely enough. It’s time to stop deadheading and just leave the seed heads on the Black-eyed Susans and Cone Flowers for the birds. We can wait another month before putting everything to bed. No need to rush. All in good time.

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