As I promised in my Yahoo Network essay “DNA- Who We Really Are (Part I),” published on October 25, 2013, it’s time to reveal my DNA ancestry results. I am thrilled that my profile matches my grandparents’ oral histories: one quarter Native American; one quarter French; one quarter Spanish; and, one quarter English/Irish. My native blood is spread from California to the mid-western United States. (It would take a more inclusive test to trace the origins of my specific tribes.) Suffice it to say, my bloodlines run deep and prove that many lives from generations back make up the only one of me, as is the case with every single one of us still breathing on this planet.
My octogenarian mother and ailing brother are all I have left of my immediate family. My desperate need to hold on to my family any way I can is the reason for this mission to research my roots. My brother and I do not have children to carry on the Escallier-Gutierre(z) bloodlines (my maternal grandfather dropped the ‘z’ off of his surname to combat racial discrimination in the 1920’s and 1930’s). The buck literally stops here. I can’t imagine my life without my mother and brother, but time is working against all of us. It is somewhat daunting to know that when I pass, I won’t have any blood ties to look after my legacy.
What is a legacy and why is it important? I suppose I am asking myself this question and sending it out into ether space for other fellow Baby Boomers to ponder. Rather than bemoan the fact I never had children, will never be a grandmother, and wonder who will watch over me when I no longer am able, I wish to turn all this around and make it a personal, positive challenge. So I ask myself, “Jeaninne, how will you make your mark and reinvent your golden years?”
I understand a legacy to be the accumulation of one’s life’s work as it improves mankind. I can rest easy knowing that I have taught children and adolescents for 36 years; have written grants for the establishment of educational programs; and have published many of my written works. However, when it all sifts out, the only thing we have left in this life is the love and support of family. Most likely, I will outlive my closest family members, and statistically, I will outlive my husband. It would be easy to say that I am looking for a new family, but it’s not that simple.
No, as I write and reflect, I think I know what is driving me to seek my roots. Each time I find a piece of the puzzle that completes my past, I better understand the journey I am on today. I relish the personal power of knowing that I am the first college graduate on my family tree; that the women on both sides were incredible survivors; and, that I have risen above the abject poverty and unspeakable hardships of my ancestors. I think my ancestors would want to tell me, “You have the strength to achieve your own greatness. Don’t let anything stand in the way of your passions.” Now is the time to honor the path they have cleared for me. I won’t let them down.