My break in posts here has been much longer than I anticipated but it has also given me so much material for this blog. So today, I am writing about certificates. What we think they say, particularly about ourselves and those very close to us, may not be as accurate as we think. Verifying is the only way to be accurate. My father’s birth location is my case in point. I had been told by my father that he had been born in Grafton, North Dakota. He had supplied it on all sorts of records over the years, but I had never verified it (nor had he, apparently).
I learned that this lack of verification is a bad idea and I learned it just recently, by accident, thanks to “The Book of Mormon.” Not the book itself, but rather the musical. You see, a few weeks ago, I was looking for theater tickets to “The Book of Mormon,” which I had purchased many, many months before and upon receiving them, I put them in that infamous black hole, “A Safe Place.” Somehow, that is where I stumbled across both “The Book of Mormon” tickets, and my father’s birth certificate.
Having accomplished my goal, I read over the birth certificate and noticed that Dad was not born where he claimed but in a small rural township in North Dakota. Yes, he was present at the time of his birth, so I’d taken his word about it, but thinking it over, I realized that while he was there, he was not really geographically aware of his surroundings at the time of his birth. Since his parents, my grandparents, were no longer around to fact check my records for validity, I perpetuated the wrong birth location, as did he. Without thinking, I had merely gone by what my father had told me about the location of his birth, instead of verifying the fact, as all good genealogists should do. In fact, when I told him about his place of birth, he was surprised at first, then after thinking about it, he told me that he realized that the township was right; it was where his mother’s family lived. His father was the one who was from Grafton.
It was a fluke that I had his birth certificate. Well, maybe not a fluke but rather a bit of devious forethought perpetuated by my husband, but for good reasons. You see, Dad was visiting us in December of 2010 in Colorado over his 92nd birthday when he realized that he had forgotten to renew his driver’s license in Florida. For some reason, he thought that I had his copy of his birth certificate and when I told him that I did not, he got my husband to help him order a new copy. When the birth certificate arrived, I never looked at it, probably because I was caught up in the holiday chaos. Several weeks later, my husband flew back to Florida with my father, confident that there was no way that the state of Florida would ever renew Dad’s license.
As an aside, I have to say that overconfidence is a real problem with my husband and me. Whenever we get overconfident and open our mouths to express it, Loki or whomever is running the Great Casino in the Afterlife, pauses to make us eat our words. Case in point, my husband flew home, the phone rang, and he heard my father telling him how he had just secured his driver’s license for another seven years. Legally. Keep in mind, that the state of Florida asked only that he showed an I.D. and that he had proof of an eye exam in the past year. This was despite of his physical condition (i.e., he could barely walk with a walker, could not fully turn his head, had exceedingly slow reactive response times, and could not use his right leg without lifting it manually) and without requiring a road test. Dad would be able to legally drive until the next renewal time, which would be on, or before his 99th birthday. So, in an attempt to safeguard both other drivers and pedestrians, the next time we were in Florida, my husband “filed” Dad’s birth certificate in a “safe place,” hoping that in 2017, when he next came up for renewal, we might forget where it had gone. Back in 2010/2011, excluding his physical issues, my dad was in overall, robust health. He frequently said that he expected to live longer than his mother had lived and she died at the age of 106. Even the doctors agreed. So, considering his health, we were fairly certain that the battle over renewing his driver’s license would be on our calendar in 2017.
Sadly, despite his valid driver’s license, he began to deteriorate earlier this year, so by the time that I found his birth certificate, I made more than a mental note about his place of birth and all else. That brings me to my next point, which I will explain in an upcoming entry: having the correct information to produce whenever you need to provide it.