What Would It Benefit Me?

Two weeks ago, I discovered the name of a long-lost relative through my genealogical researches.  On a whim, I put the name into Google, and lo and behold, a phone number came up.  Apparently, she lives in Plano, in greater Dallas.  So I called.

Kathleen is 83 and seemed rather bored by my genealogical questions.  Perhaps she was wary, too.  After all, I might be some kind of con man pretending to be a relative and trying to wheedle his way into her bank account.  Finally, she gave me a couple phone numbers to the genealogists in the family.

“Would you like to write down my phone number?” I asked.

“Well,” she said with a heartless Texas drawl, “what would it benefit me?”

After hanging up, I laughed.  Then I went upstairs and found my girlfriend.

“You’ll never believe what this woman said to me,” I said, and proceeded to tell her about the most precious line of the conversation.

What would it benefit me?

David and Claire after 10 years together

“That perfectly sums up a certain way of thinking that some people have, doesn’t it?” I said.

“Yes, it certainly does,” Claire said.

In time, I got over it and continued my genealogical search.  I called both of the numbers Kathleen gave me, and one of those people, Lloyd, was incredibly helpful.  He’s quite an accomplished genealogist, and didn’t really need to refer to the computer in order to rattle off names and dates.  I later learned that he had owned a bank at one point, in spite of the fact that childhood polio had rendered him wheelchair bound.  Now, in his late seventies, Lloyd was lucid, insightful, and comprehensive.

Two weeks later, totally out of the blue, Kathleen called back.  I guess she’d thought about it for a couple weeks and found herself curious. Turns out Kathleen didn’t know the name of her own grandmother, Lillie, or know that she had died at age 27 in 1901 while giving birth to her own father.  She didn’t know that her grandfather had died at 31 of a stroke, a sad turn that scattered their four children to the four winds.

“It’s really kind of a tragedy,” I said.

“Yes, it is.  But that kind of thing happened a lot in those days, women dying in childbirth.”

We talked a bit more, and then, when we were hanging up, she said something curious.

“You’ll call me every now and then, won’t you?”

I grinned.

“What will it benefit me?” I said.

It would have been perfect for me to say that, but in all truth, I didn’t.  I’m not the type of smartass who takes revenge just to be clever.

Yes, Kathleen, I will call you, just to say hello.

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15 thoughts on “What Would It Benefit Me?

  1. I to had a story a little like yours. I blogged about a tragedy that haunts me to this day. A group of students I had died in a tragic accident in Broward County years ago. I blogged it and out of the blue the sister of one of the deceased boys commented back and thanked me. Strange but true.

  2. Nice story. But call her “every now and then”. She has reached out and may want some company, even if on the telephone, with someone she really does not know. Best of luck with your research.

  3. This is a terrific story. Some family members are truly interested in the family. I’m not one of them,but I understand the impulse. When one of these people showed up two years ago [brother of my grandfather], we met and went to dinner. She gave us a copy of her research. I was able to supply her with a list of contacts. I haven’t heard from her since.

  4. My brother is very interested in family history and has had my 85 year old mother doing the ringing around (he doesn’t live in the country). Mum has connected with relatives she didn’t know existed, some now ring her regularly and one seventy nine year old came to see her. I had to laugh at Mum’s horror of her live in boyfriend.

  5. I completely understand you, and I’m focused on: “That perectlly sums up a certain way of tkinking that some people have….”, but I would just to use “a lot of people” instead “some people”, unfortunately, because on your question: “Would you like to write down….”, I would answer: “Yes of course, and can I help you in anyway ?……

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