Just the other day my husband said to me, "We just didn't know." He says that a lot. Probably to comfort me as he watches my eyes when asked for another drink of juice when everyone should be in bed.
I wonder about that statement. What if I HAD known? Would I have unchosen any of my 9 my children? It's an interesting question. Especially if you're asking a woman who hasn't slept through the night for 25 years. Not that I care about my comfort. Just my sanity and common sense that has leaked out like the transmission fluid of our car that sits unused in the garage. Some things add to the quality of life and the ability to make decisions. Sleep is one of them.
I let this question marinate with the facts that I'd gathered about Edward Everett Johnson, Uphard and Elizabeth's fifth child; facts that were conflicting at best, confusing at worst. I've concluded that I need another pile for difficult people alongside the RTE (Roaming the Earth) pile for people I can't prove died: The FTN (Fortune-Teller Needed) pile. Only he'd have to look back in time, too.
Because I need help!
But don't give me any more help if you're someone who collects Aunt Millie's stories and tells them to all of the relatives at Sunday dinners, and family reunions as if they're true. Or if you're that someone who puts that information on Ancestry.com BECAUSE SHE SAID IT WAS TRUE!
How would you feel if you found out people were saying you died when you were eight and you're still leading a happy and productive life (for a dead person that is) at the age of 80 in the 1910 census?
We don't do that people! That's just bad math, science and social studies. If they're older than 110 I assume they're dead. Otherwise I believe they could be thriving somewhere on the planet, possibly under the Witness Protection Program or partying in the Amazon under the influence of amnesia. THAT'S why there are no records.
Back to Uphard and Elizabeth.
Imagine, if you will, that it's Saint Patrick's Day, March 17th, in Boston, Massachusetts, 1847. You are ready to deliver your fifth child and are nervous because your almost 4 year-old son passed away 8 months earlier and you're not coping well. Your husband decides to distract you with a visit to a fortune teller just because he's nice like that and you agree to go because you're curious like that.
The three of you sit down in front of a clear crystal ball sitting on a red velvet-draped table with comfy matching chairs. After asking why you're there and if there's anything you want to know you watch Mr. Man as he transfixes his gaze on the globe and you wait, barely breathing.
"You'll have a boy. And you'll name him after his brother." Yes, he knew your little Edward died last year, two weeks shy of his fourth birthday.
"He'll marry and support his wife and three children driving a team of horses." You clap your hands and do a jig with your feet under the table.
"Oh, Uphard! I feel so much better! Thank you!" Uphard is disappointed. He hoped he'd have a carpenter's son.
Mr. Fortune-Teller Man reaches across the table to grasp you by the wrist, subduing and scaring you to silence.
"Hush! I must warn you! I see a WOMAN!" Beware!"
Thoughts of betrayal, infidelity and danger settle like a pall on the room.
"She's wringing her hands and shouting out random, incoherent frustrations. Her children are laughing at her."
"Her facts are all wrong. Your boy and his wife will die on the same night leaving their three children orphans. Albert, your grandson..."
"More grandchildren Uppie!"
"...Albert , she thinks, will be twelve and alone after his two sisters die. He'll sleep in barns every night and continue driving teams for the same livery company as his father."
"Please tell his father, your son, to tell him to write very legibly on his WWI draft papers because that WOMAN won't wear her glasses and she will let her children melt as they wait for dinner as she peruses records for hours only to realize Gertrude wasn't resurrected or in another Witness Protection Program. She was very dead. But Albert is going to marry a Gertrude. And she's NOT his sister!"
This poor WOMAN gets confused so easily.
"So it's not true? Not a bit of it? How dare she write such untruths?!" you stammer to The Man. "What DO you see?"
At which point my fantasy has become a delusion, and I want to reach through the computer screen, grab The Man by the turban, bending him close to my threatening eyes, and promise to pluck his eyebrows slowly if he doesn't spill the beans.
But he's not talking. So I open a new tab and start piecing together a help wanted add for Craigslist, Cape Cod and surrounding areas.
"Zoltar (aka fortune-teller) needed ASAP, full-time. Turban optional. Must be a backwards-thinker and immune to all Aunt Millie-like voices. Call for interview. Leave a message. The phone is buried in the couch. Call back. Messages are never returned. Room and board is payment. Extra pay for diaper-changers: brownies. Boarding starts immediately and ends when the WOMAN says so. Must not oppose being tied to a computer and chair for long periods of time."
Cause I need help.