Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Indulge me, Please...

 God knows I am not a normal person. While most people have hobbies, I have PASSIONS. I am obsessive and compulsive in these pursuits. In for a penny,  in for a pound, I always say. God hates a coward, lets jump all the way in.
Believe it or not, my life is not entirely consumed with Fire, EMS, and my work life. I actually have a family and other interests. As a matter of fact I have a lot of interests which I have, in turn, dedicated an inordinate amount of time to over the years. My dear wife of 30 odd years (well OK, about 5 of those were not too odd) knows that when I pick up a new 'thing' it will run about a 5 year cycle until I have mastered it or gone as far as I can go based on my money, resources, physical, or mental abilities. To give you an idea, over the past half a century I have heavily participated in the following (I also list in brackets at what point I faded away from the and into something else): Cycling [Worked as lead mechanic in a bicycle shop with 40 other mechanics and completed my first century ride in 8 hours, 41 minutes], Amateur (Ham) Radio [Mostly focused on radio contesting I put this one on hold after I had become licensed as an Extra Class operator and was regularly finishing in the top ten in North America and top 20 worldwide with a few wins in my emtry class, my code speed was about 35 WPM when I faded out], Friendly competitive handgun shooting [Consuming almost 250 rounds of hand loads every week kind of tapped out my bank account when we had a new baby], gunsmithing [see previous], Hunting [We moved into the area where I hunted and it somehow lost it's charm, now I just walk out the back door], Hiking [checked off a few items on my bucket list, particularly in the 'winter ice climbs' section and a 10 day trek through the Rockies at elevation], and Fishing [Fished many different methods and mediums, this one will never go away, I get out every year for a 5 day trip, it's therapy]. There are of course a few more, but you get the point. I have left all of these at levels where I can pick them up later in life when I have more time and my physical abilities slow. Ham radio will probably be the big one for me when I hit around 75, I can wait.
 One I did no mention is genealogy. I put all my waking spare time into researching my families history for almost 10 years. I used to put in 2 hours before work every morning and after dinner I would put in 4 more. I traveled all around a 4 state area, sent letters around the globe, and spent three weeks in the old country doing research. I was hooked. That one started to wane after I had self published a 300 page book on the family history, but not before I had amassed 4 bookshelves full of reference works and a 4 drawer file cabinet full of notes and original documents. I had over 3,500 people in my database and the lines went back to almost 800 A.D.. Yes, I was a sick sick person. I burned out and haven't really touched it in 10 years now, but the juices are beginning to flow again. Six months ago I received a Facebook note from a cousin I don't know in the old country inquiring about data and photographs for a book he is working on. What he asked me for would require a few hundred hours work on my part. I confess that I put him off, but have been thinking about it more and more. Soon I will step down from my post as Captain and might actually have some time on my hands again.
 Today I received a phone call that might have tipped the scales. You may remember me mention in this post that I had re-hooked up with some family I haven't seen much in the last 30 years. Well, that day turned out to be a good one and we did a lot of catching up. When the day ended one of my cousins promised to send me some stuff he had from his visit to the old country in the 1960's, mostly photos he had taken and put in an album. He also promised to send my Dad an old Mauser rifle stock that my Dad had given him as a kid (turns out Dad still has the action and wants to restore the rifle). Well as things would have it, it's been several months and I haven't heard from my dear first cousin. Not really a big surprise, I know we are all busy and he is getting prepared to retire and move south. Today he called me and explained why he hadn't yet sent the stuff he promised. Then he moved into this: "OK, so the third reason I called you was: when I was over in Germany in 1968 and we took a 2 week holiday back to the old country to see Tante [Aunt] Margaret, she gave me some photographic glass plate negatives and I took those back to Germany with me and I still have them." I almost dropped the phone right there in the hay field I was walking across. "Lindy", I said "Do you have any idea what you have there?" It was a rhetorical question, but he tried to answer, "Well I really think I have some pictures of Family in here, but I..." I cut him off , "Lindy, you have the other half of the pictures that our Grandfather took on his trip home in 1903. The other half of this series is with our cousins in Texas and I have only been allowed to examine and print them once. I have one set of contact prints from those plates. Now you have come up with another piece of the series that NOBODY even knew existed. This is freaking amazing!" "Well" Lindy tried to go on, "I was wondering if you would be interested in having them? If so I would like to give them to you because I know you like stuff like this." I have tears in my eyes. I put in over 300 hours investigating and documenting who was in the photographs on the plates I printed, now he has come up with an unknown group of photos from the same series. My dear cousin still has no idea what he has. These plates are over a hundred years old and were taken by my Grandfather in a time when taking a picture meant carrying around 70 pounds of gear. My Grandfather brought back 50 pounds of glass plates from that trip and he must have left the rest in the barn at the family farm to be discovered by my cousin in the 60's and eventually they made their way across the pond where, 107 years later they will come into my hands so that I can print and publish them for the whole family. I'm thinking "MAN, do you have a CLUE how prophetic this is?!".
 Poor Lindy still doesn't get it. I am already calculating drive time to his place, checking my wallet to see if I have enough money for gas, and doing calculations to see if I will be back home in time to grab a shower before going to work tomorrow.  "Well" he said "You take a look at your calendar and see what weekend works for you. I can drive halfway and meet you somewhere to hand them over. There is no way I would want to ship something like this." "OK Lindy", sanity is starting to come back into my muddled head, "Sounds good, let me see what weekends are best, but I will make time to get with you. Just take good care of them until we meet."
 I think I detect a passion welling up in my soul.
 I know this stuff isn't of much interest to my readers, but there are other things in life. Part of what we do in EMS and Fire is to keep people around for longer than they might have been otherwise. My work on the family history will long outlive me, and in that respect, has tremendous value to others. Today was truly a special day for me, I just wanted to share it with somebody.

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