Practicing Safe Social Distancing

I realize it’s been months since I posted anything here. It’s not like I’ve been too busy. Too lazy, maybe. Yes, definitely.

But first, a word about Safe Social Distancing: I’m packing a tape measure and I’m not afraid to use it.

So rather than just sitting home, watching the endless Covid-19 coverage, with scenes of overworked medical personnel and crowded facilities; endangered seniors and compromised individuals; bickering politicians; and concerned epidemiologists and virologists pushing constant handwashing and strict social distancing, interspersed with upbeat, bouncy, innocent, and typically shrill TV ads imploring me to get on down to Menard’s and Best Buy and FELDMAN CHEVROLET!!! (among the shrillest of annoying ads, and a personal pain in my ears and the mostly-empty space between), to say nothing of the reports of irresponsible Covidiots who are generally-but-not-always young enough to think they know everything, and who also erroneously think they are invulnerable, bulletproof, immune, and don’t care who they might infect (“Let’s party like it’s 1917!”). And everybody hoarding toilet paper, of course.

And then there are the daily emails encouraging me to get out to Office Max and Dunham’s and– at least three times a day– Guitar Center. I just got another one, the first of the day– like I need to humiliate myself with more hopeless guitar-related frustration. And… and…

Where was I? Oh yah. Rather than sit home through all that, washing my hands, staring out the window, and feeding the cat… I decided– since this past Wednesday was a rare, mild, beautiful, sunny spring day in March– to jump in the old Ford (certainly not the Ford pictured here) and sneak across the county line and multiple township borders for a ride in the country…

To visit my grandparents.

Don’t be alarmed. We were indeed practicing responsible social distancing. We didn’t stop for food, gas or snacks. We stuck to the back roads, many of them dirt and gravel. Despite the sad lack of spring foliage, it was a pleasant drive. Forests and plains and gently rolling hills; narrow roads canopied by massive, gnarled old trees; picturesque, derelict barns and abandoned houses. We saw very few people on the drive, and interacted with none of them.

Please know that we did not put my grandparents in peril!

I’ve been doing a lot of genealogical research, lately focusing on my mother’s father’s family.

(An aside: In these tense and testy days, I’ve decided to slow down, to be more tolerant and forgiving of others. De-stress. Calm myself. For instance: when I encounter someone driving in an unpredictable, distracted, even possibly dangerous manner, rather than vent my spleen and blow my horn at them, I imagine that it’s my dear, beloved grandfather at the wheel. It works. Of course, it’s also a bit disturbing to think about, since he died almost 37 years ago. He would turn 125 this year. But I digress.)

We sought out the little, inactive (but not quite abandoned), very old Wright Cemetery in Iosco Township, Livingston County, Michigan.

Among the grandparents and other family members we visited there were my thrice-great grandparents Henry Sharp III and his wife Hannah; two of their sons: Henry Sharp IIII, and my second-great grandparents William and Mary Melissa Sharp. Also in attendance were William’s first two wives: Phebe Chalker and Jane Dawson, both widows with children when he married them (sequentially, not simultaneously). There were also three of his children: Charles Erving (son of Jane) and little Gracie and Susie (daughters of Mary). There was even room enough for Louisa, a daughter of William and Henry IIII’s brother Samuel.

In all, William Sharp (1830-1901) fathered 11 children– that I know of for sure– and adopted 3, although possibly not in the legal sense. Those were different times.

None of these dear family members were at risk of catching Covid-19, or anything else for that matter. Henry III, gone 162 years, would be 218 now. The youngest, Susie, who died in her first year, has been gone 139 years. Mary Melissa is the newest resident of this plot in the Wright Cemetery, joining her extended family in 1936, at the age of 90. My grandfather was a pallbearer at her funeral. He knew her, and I knew him, and I find that connection amazing.

I really can’t speak for any of the Sharps, but I certainly enjoyed my visit, and I hope they appreciate that they are not forgotten.

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