There wasn’t an official obituary announcing to the world the loss of my husband. Of all the things we had to deal with that day, and for the days that followed, this was one we pushed to the side. If you planned well, or worked with any funeral service, someone will likely handle this detail. We did not. We were reeling.
I learned that in trying to settle Jay’s affairs that there are companies who really would like one to prove a death has occurred by means of an obituary. I suppose a medical examiner’s report or a death certificate doesn’t carry the weight that an obituary posted in the newspaper does.
So, I give you this – for all the people who need one…
Jay Anthony Utz
Jay Anthony Utz of Pflugerville, TX passed away on Saturday, July 9, 2016.
A memorial was held at 10am on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 at Restoration Covenant Church in Round Rock with Jay’s aunt, the Rev. Marsha Emery officiating.
Jay was born in San Antonio, Texas to Lois and Samuel Utz on February 25, 1976. He married Beth Doughty on May 21, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jay is survived by his wife, Beth Doughty; his sister and brothers Enid Celeste Kowalik, Joel Samuel Utz, and Dale Eldon Utz; his parents, Lois Margaret and Samuel Franklin Utz; and his nephews and niece, Everett, Zachary and Katy Kowalik.
Beth’s aunt, Philis Goodwin read the following on Beth’s behalf:
Today we say goodbye to a husband, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a friend who left us all too soon with so many words left unsaid, so many adventures left to do, so many wry/sardonic laughs left un-chortled, and so much love left unexpressed. For me I’m saying goodbye to my best friend, my confidante, my co-conspirator, my teacher, my hero, my voice of reason, and the only adult in the house. And today and for all the days to come, I’m also saying goodbye to my very favorite person in this world. The best person I know.
Monday was our 202nd Monthiversary which celebrates the day we started dating – it’s a ridiculous holiday unless you’re us. It also happens to be my very favorite. This was the day I’d try my level best to wish him a Happy Monthiversary first. I never really told him we were in competition, but still he almost always managed to win.
And this is also one of the thousands of things I’ll miss.
Jay was the person who stayed with me each night until I fell asleep. Then he’d be there when I’d wake in the middle of the night to ask important questions like: What’s the difference between alternating and direct current? Tell me about stationary objects in motion. And he’d patiently answer until I was satisfied I completely understood and I’d wander off to fall back asleep. I suspect he shook his head when my back was turned, but I have no proof.
On the plane Saturday I realized I didn’t completely understand how planes generated lift, so I made a mental note to discover this information on our ride home.
There wasn’t a ride home – not with Jay, not on this Saturday when my best friend felt he had to leave.
Someone suggested I might be angry, and if I’m angry about anything it’s at this faceless disease called depression. I’m angry that it took away the best person I know. I’m angry it made him feel worthless and that it blinded him to being able to realize how amazing he truly was. I’m angry that he tried and didn’t get the help he needed to fight it. I’m angry it made him see so much bad about himself when all I could ever see was good and kind and beautiful, and he was absolutely beautiful. It robbed me of laughs, of the one person who understood me, of a thousand inside jokes, and a thousand more kisses. It took away our ridiculous Monthiversaries, and it took away my favorite person.
I love you, Jay. You said I deserved better, but there will never be better than you. You are the love of my life, and I miss you so much.
Jay’s brother Dale also spoke and shared personal stories that helped further bring to life a person whom we will all miss dearly – with whom we’ll never get to share another laugh, nor enjoy another character like “Laguardia”.
Tomorrow we’ll be six months away from my -0 birthday. You know that birthday where I finally turn ummm… another year older-ish-esque! Happy Birthday to Me?
You’re probably wondering: 1) Why do I need to worry about it now, and 2) wait, if she’s writing about it, does that mean it’s another present grab? Dear Lord, is she three? I get it. You were born on Christmas. Bummer for you. I’ve got a family to think of! I’m out of town!
Well, 1) if Hobby Lobby can have Christmas stuff out already, then I’m actually a little behind in mentioning it, and 2) YES! You guessed it! It IS a present grab. You’re a good guesser! Also, I’d like to point out that you can see your family any time. I only turn -0 once! (…a decade. Err… bygones.) Go ahead and book your flights. No, book them to Austin. Why do you have to act this way?
So, remember 10 years ago? That other -0 birthday? There was you, me, some other people, and someone MAY have had a dramatic boo-hoo? Then someone’s friend had to hold up each subsequent present and grill the giver with a, “is this going to make her cry?” only handing the gift over only if she was assured, “ummm no? I don’t think so?” Remember? The birthday girl then gave that amazing speech (ok, that was a test – if you’re claiming there was a speech, then you’re now just pretending to have been there, and the bobbing of your head in agreement with all of my words right now is kind of hurtful. Way to be hurtful. This is why I actually cried.)
So, this birthday will be a repeat of the one held 10 years ago – same restaurant (maybe) – same rules. I’m going to ask for something that represents you. If you’ll recall the previous -0 birthday, I received an assortment of stories, photos, poems, comics, drawings, homemade bread, and CDs. I loved all of them, and I’ve saved each item, because it’s a tiny time capsule of who you all were 10 years ago. Ok, I lied. I didn’t save all of them. I totally ate the bread. Hey, it’s not fruitcake people. It wouldn’t have lasted. Don’t judge me. What if I “promise” (no reason for the quotes, nope – move along) not to devour any more presents (well, unless that’s what they’re intended for)? Fine. What if I just promise to try? We good?
Anyway, back to the present grab. This can be anything at all as long as it’s an expression of you. It should be something that when I look at it, I see my amazing friend, or my beautiful family member – an item that says something about you in this moment in time.
The reason I’m announcing my request so early is to give you plenty of time to think. You guys are rather think-y sorts.
A quick note: There will be only one person whom I’ll ask for something very specific – the rest of you can go nuts – for that person it’s an idea I want them to play with (see quote below). (Anyone else is welcome to play off of this, too if you really want – create a picture of you? you in warrior garb? a sketch? a puppet? finger paints? whatever inspires you when you read it, but that also represents you).
Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’
I’m going to shoot for the weekend of December 16th (which is also my beautiful niece’s birthday, and I will be mindful of that so it may be Sunday the 17th).
Oh, and before I run off. This blog post also serves as the even earlier announcement for my upcoming reverse quinceañera in a year and a half – so, start thinking about your hoop skirted dresses, your perfect tiara, and of course your sari, because Bollywood style dance, y’all! (I feel the “y’all” really sets that sentence off. Wow, I think my Dallas is showing.) I already have a fabulous stylist I’ll be coordinating with (thank you, Mere!), and think Beth + hair extensions. I KNOW! FABULOUS! (That was the adjective you chose, right? RIGHT?!?!?! Again, HURTFUL!)
I look forward to seeing you guys there. Here’s to another decade with you amazing people. I’m looking forward to many more!
Lately there’s been the story I plan to write, and then there’s the story I actually end up writing. Originally, this particular story was going to be about conquering the Warrior Dash or at least my version of “conquer,” which would have likely been about me getting really messy and making it through exactly ONE obstacle – with luck, two. Ok, I actually planned to only miss one or maybe two, but apparently I’m “self deprecating” according to some people with names like “all my friends” and “all my family” pfft. I was ready. I’d looked at the course, sized up the obstacles, and said, “hey, you know what? That looks tough, but it’s not not doable. (Ok, that was a double negative, so English teachers everywhere started crying. Bah! Who am I kidding? When I started typing, they started crying.) Basically, it was doable (not not doable) – you get the idea. Of course “doable” doesn’t mean “easy” by any means; it was going to be challenging (or not not challenging – I promise I’ll knock that off now).
Up until the race, I’d been joking that the day would be forever known as “The Day Beth Went to the Hospital.” I’m one of those people who believe you ward off all the evil by thinking of the worst thing that could happen, saying it, and then charging forward. In hindsight, I think I’m a bit of an oracle. Call me Cassandra! But I see I’m skipping/limping ahead.
Our start time was later in the day – 12:45 pm – sometime after all of the serious competitors had found their way through it, and had likely gone a couple more rounds (you could pay a little extra to do it again and again). That night or maybe early that morning, the rains came, and when we arrived the skies were a dull grey and a balmy 50℉-ish (10℃-ish). The weather seemed to teeter between drizzle to light rain, but none of that brought us down. We were wet and cold and ready to get moving.
Earlier that morning, I’d sent a couple of rah rah texts to our team declaring “we got this!” Then pre-race, my trainer sent me one of those notes that make you tear up (well, it did “me” and if you wouldn’t have teared up, well you have no soul, and I just judged you; it’s how I roll). I’d share, but it’s my personal note; however, the gist was to believe in myself – that the only person who could tell me I couldn’t do something was myself.
It was then time to go, and we dashed out onto the course to find a somewhat muddy path, but still a doable one. As we progressed, the mud became thicker and slicker – the kind that can suck your shoes off or send you sprawling face first onto the ground. Everyone got stuck at some point, and everyone fell. I got through two obstacles, and I applauded myself for not slipping. Heck, I even slid down a bank (on purpose) and with the help of my team, made it up the other side. The whole time reciting my “I got this” mantra. Everyone was faster than me, but I trudged along concentrating on remaining upright. I thought I’d figured out the key – cling to the sides. There was still a little bit of grass there, and if I went slowly enough I could creep through the 5k. Hey, I knew going in I wasn’t competitive.
And then I ran out of grass coming around a downhill bend. I put my foot down, went immediately into the splits (the Jean Claude Van Damme kind though sans some semis and Enya soundtrack, not the body friendlier kind I used to be able to drop into in High School), and thanks to the angle I was at when I lost my balance and started going down, the bottom half of my leg wanted to go just a little further (always an overachiever), and that’s when the “pop” happened in my knee. Talking about this next part is the only time I’ve cried about the day. I fell in front of a medic and his friends who immediately stopped to assess my leg. He then ran up a hill, off the course, and flagged down one of the people watching the course, who in turn grabbed an all terrain vehicle, and a security guy. In the meantime, those guys got me over to the side in a grassy area and they stayed with me. “Can you stand?” No. “Are you in pain?” Not really, my knee feels unstable. When I mentioned the “pop” again, one of the medic’s friends said, “yep, I heard it, too” (which isn’t good when everything is loud, people are bustling about, and a part of your body makes a sound the rest of the world can hear). When the vehicle showed up, it was on the other side of the insanely muddy path, and that’s when I started telling them “no, no I can’t get over there – I can’t do that, no, uh uh” and the five people who were around me kept saying “we’ll get you over there, and you won’t have to put weight on your leg”. Nope! Not doing it. I’ll just stay right here, thank you. I’m enjoying my hypothermia and the adrenaline leaving my system. Mind if I go into a light amount of shock? All of that I didn’t say with words, but everyone understood from my body language that I seriously doubted five strong guys could move me across the treacherous mud without me further damaging my knee. And they did, and when they did the racers stopped, and about 4-5 other guys joined in to get me across the path – all being super supportive, and kind, and all making sure I got into that vehicle safely. I cannot express how grateful I was and am for everyone, nor how amazing they were to hold up their race, to get me across safely, and then to say a few kind words of encouragement as they headed back down the trail. I don’t know them, but I wish I could find them to thank them (and to hug that medic).
The long and short of it all is I have a grade 3 MCL tear. Finally, I won at something! Grade 3, I think, is classified as “the best tear” (don’t burst my bubble – I actually know what it means, thanks). Monday I go in for an MRI to determine if the meniscus is torn as well. I’ll find out those results towards the end of March. As of now, I do not have to have surgery. In most cases, I’m told, the MCL heals; however, if the meniscus is torn they will have to go in for a day procedure that will leave me on crutches for about three days. All of this will likely take about 3 months and involve rehab.
There’s actually a lot of people to thank. Friends and family who have gone out of their way to help me, and to be at the house to help with Sam (and with fun things like “moving” and “standing up”). Also, their families for letting me steal them briefly from their worlds. Friends and family who have sent flowers, offered support, and chocolate, and movie dates, and the best animal videos (to both distract from the MCL tear, and from a certain elected official who has made the adverb “very” great again). And Tori for getting “Everything is Awesome” stuck in my head, so now when people inquire about me I find myself saying “awesome” and then having to sing that song the rest of the day, because I just said that word. No wait, I’m not thanking you, Tori!!! You hear that?
I want to answer a few questions I’ve been getting, and because I’m me I’m just putting this out there for easy reference: How am I doing? My knee is messed up. Ask me in three months. It won’t be magically better if you ask me again tomorrow. Now, you can ask. I can’t stop you, but you will get a sarcastic response. I come from a long line of sarcastic people. It’s not my fault; it’s DNA. Are you in pain? No, not unless I move my knee in an unnatural way that was formerly “natural” a week ago. You are quitting the gym, right? Nope. I’m a badass. A badass that in three months will have made inroads on her upper body to start considering rock wall climbs. Goodbye pointless T-Rex arms!
In sum – I was wrong about how the day would be forever known. It won’t be known as “The Time Beth Went to the Hospital,” but maybe “That Time Beth Horsed Around In Some Mud” or “That Time Beth Did Those Rockin’ Splits.” I’ll work on a good title.
1/3/2019 – A quick follow-up since its been awhile since I read this entry. Not only did I have a Grade 3 MCL tear, after the MRI the doctor determined I’d completely ruptured my ACL. I did stick with the gym, and I never had surgery. My orthopedic doctor basically gave me choices, and after PT and many follow-up visits, he said, “if everyone had a trainer like yours, I’d be out of business.” It took months to move from all upper body exercises to those where my legs could bear weight, and the day I rowed again, I cried. Now, all that said, one day I may still have to have surgery, but as of this moment I don’t have to have it. My trainer and I worked and continue to work on building up the muscles in my legs, and that helps keep my knee stable. I will never play tennis, or basketball, or run again – not really, because I cannot perform certain movements anymore. That’s ok. I wasn’t planning on taking up those sports. Of course, I also can’t get in a bouncy house or roller skate again, and once I realized that, I had a moment. Rain now scares me. Mud scares me even more, but I take joy in bending my knee beyond 90 degrees, and being able to do bar squats, dead lifts, and of course being able to row. Anyway… that’s where I am today. Tomorrow may be a different story.
When someone passes away, amidst all the love, a lot of questions come out. I thought about ranking them in the degrees by which they annoy me, but that seemed a tad harsh. People are curious, you can’t fault them for that (well, you could), and for the most part they’re not trying to be annoying (although sometimes I wonder), but by golly they’re curious. Some of that curiosity comes from knowing we’ll all be impacted by death throughout our lives, and there’s this hope that the person can shed some little pearl of wisdom that maybe we can use if we’re in a similar situation. Some of the questions come from having never been in a particularly unique situation, and they feel like they’ve pulled up to the world’s best car wreck, and screw the rest of traffic, they’re going to take their nice long look.
Let me start by addressing a few of those questions/statements by offering some advice when it comes to someone who has died by suicide. (Now followers of my Facebook feed may feel this subject looks somewhat familiar. I like to think of my feed as a micro-blog (because that’s a thing, right?) at times, and my followers as a focus group. Err… I think of them as good friends, that’s what I meant. Good friends.)
Don’t ask how it happened especially of the immediate family. Ever. If the person chooses to share that information, that’s one thing, but what has happened is deeply personal, and fairly traumatic. Each retelling can open up some really large wounds, because it’s not a “story”, it’s a life. It’s lives. You don’t have a right to know. Yes, I get it’s a wonderfully dramatic story, and you can’t help but to slow down and try to drink in the drama, but do that from as far away from me as you can possibly get.
Don’t run around asking if any of the immediate family (or me) is suicidal. Yes, something bad happened, and you may be worried, but your worry seems more like gossip when you flitter from person to person planting that little seed.
And whatever you do, don’t go up to any family member (for example: me, again) and make this request: “Please don’t kill yourself.” There are no words that can ever properly convey how wrong I find that statement. I could start with “you clearly don’t know me,” but that just lightly begins to air kiss how deeply angry I am at your words. If you are genuinely worried, you’ll figure out a better way to approach that conversation. As it stood, I nearly said “well damn, there goes my Wednesday plan. I guess I’ll just watch TV now. Fingers crossed wrestling is on tonight!”
Then there’s this other question I’ve had thrown my way that while I find annoying isn’t meant so. It’s mostly annoying because I’m asked it a lot, which means someone who reads this blog (maybe a few) is (are) going to say, “oh hell, I didn’t meant to step in it with Beth.” You didn’t. But since you asked, I’ll answer.
How do you do it? How do you get up in the morning?
I can’t give you a silver bullet answer – something you can apply to your own lives. I can tell you some key things about me and my situation. The biggest thing that gets me up and moving is I was literally just born this way. I’m a “happy” person. In fact, I’m a borderline (and sometimes not so borderline) airhead. I’m goofy. I’m silly. I’m the kid who at five was told by other five year olds I needed to grow up. (To this day we feel sorry for any five year old that feels they need to grow up.) When it comes to a happiness ceiling, mine is really high. I’m a whole lot like one of my aunts who when we get together, we just giggle. Now that said, that doesn’t mean I (or my aunt) can’t be brought down or that I don’t get angry. I actually have quite a temper, but my fuse is exceptionally long. You just don’t want to be around when the fuse is gone. Jay would point out, when I did finally blow, that I was spending a lot of energy being really mad about a person or thing, and the object of my anger couldn’t see how angry I was – that I was wasting a lot of energy. I can blow up like the best and most uncomfortable fireworks display. Thankfully something shiny will usually appear, and I’m chasing it down again. Unfortunately, that shiny thing may not appear for a day or two, but it will always appear.
Another key thing is that no one left me alone, not even when it was really all I wanted. I longed to go shut the door to my bedroom after Jay passed away. I didn’t want to do the things that needed to get done. Dad had me make a list, and on a normal day the list was something I could have accomplished in a few hours. On that second day after Jay left, I had only managed to do two things, and the process was absolutely the most mentally exhausting thing I had done. Dad then helped me make the plan for the next day and the next slowly showing me how to walk in the world again. During all of this, I didn’t want to interact with anyone, and yet they kept appearing at my house forcing me to be here. When you combine that with another inherent trait I have – wanting everyone else to be ok, you have a situation where I felt forced to come out and to try and make everyone else feel better. I would tell stories about Jay, and while I wasn’t fully present, it kept me present enough.
I remember when Mom passed away unexpectedly, I tried to cheer-up the hospital chaplain by telling him stories despite desperately wanting him to leave the room so it would just be the two of us. I once fell down a staircase trying to get a bag of glass bottles to a recycling station, and when the glass and I landed at the bottom I saw a little boy looking on in horror, and so I did what I do – I talked to him, laughed about being clumsy, got everything together, and then fell apart behind closed doors. Part of who I am is a less polished version of my grandmother. A woman who when presented with any group of people would go immediately into hostess mode. This is what I do.
To this day, some six months later, I am still not left alone over the weekends. I have activities through the middle of March and beyond. They’re rarely anything I’ve planned, but are things people have brought me into.
So, in short: How do I get up every day? I can get up because that’s who I am. I don’t know another way (and as one friend “gently” put it: “…because you’re not a pathetic piece of shit,” (no intended offense to those who can’t), and because I have an amazing support group in my family and friends. They don’t let me make any other choice … and I try to remain open to new situations; I try to still live and experience new things/new and interesting people. I don’t have a silver bullet. I only have me. And the truth is I’m not always sunshine and lollipops. I still get sad, and when I do I get a tissue, and I start over again.
To my friends and family (and new/amazing acquaintances), and of course the Phalanx: Thank you for continuing to help me walk through this world. I love you more than you’ll know (because I’m apparently keeping that a secret? Who says “more than you’ll know”? Why is that a saying?) Bah, you’ll know how much, because I say I love you in awkward ways that make you feel uncomfortable, so suck it up.
When I started this blog some 9 years ago (good grief) the main goal was to practice writing. If I could somehow amuse my family and friends then that was a bonus. If I could force them to continue to read without amusing them (as I’ve managed to do), then that was like a super double bonus plus! Go loyalty! The focus or theme or what have you was to write-up anecdotes using the style I’ve always used – the “style” (I really feel that needs some air-quotes) being how I tend to write letters (now emails) to friends. I’m all over the place – like this paragraph. They never minded that bit, seemed to encourage it at times, “you write like you speak,” and thus you suffer. Shake your head at them.
I’ve been waiting for a good anecdote to share, but unfortunately an interesting one hasn’t really risen up. I suspect it’s because I travel in the wrong circles. That’s right friends, I’m calling you out – you and your clear lack of “right” circle-ness. There’s a geometry joke in there. Ok, sure there was the one guy at the Humane Society last week. His fit-pitching was fairly epic as I waited patiently(ish) to ask about a fluffy sole who was clearly calling to me behind the glass, but again not much of a story since I walked out without being helped. His fit had reached a new exciting blend of frustration and confusion over some fairly simple rules. (For the record, Humane Society rules are just not that hard, guy! You don’t have a permanent place for a cat. One day you will, but that’s not today.) I also managed to smash a joint on my thumb on the same day. I keep insisting it’s purple and at least five times bigger than it was earlier in the day only to be asked by these so-called friends while comparing the thumbs side-by-side, “which thumb is it?” Uh, the big purple one! (It’s purple on the inside?) It still smarts – probably nerve damage. It will likely have to be removed. Sadly, it happens to be the thumb I hit the space bar with. Soon my writing will be devoid of spaces. Iapologizeinadvance.
So, in light of this writing lull and to keep practicing (because after 9 years there hasn’t been any noticeable progress) I’ve resolved to write an autobiography of sorts. I know, right? Some of history’s most famous and infamous people have them and now we can add famous, infamous and Beth. It’s a literary milestone.
I’ll start off slow. I don’t want to completely overwhelm you with the life and times of the lower middle-class all at once – the adventures of a monolingual speaker who has barely escaped the borders of their state much less the country. Hey, there was that time I went to Canada. Boy, talk about culture shock! Loonies and toonies – where do they come up with that stuff?
Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (So I’m reminded in song.)
They claim this is a photo of me, but really it could be anyone. Parents, just because you wrote my name on the back doesn’t prove anything. I’m watching you!
I was born. At least that’s what I’ve been told, and as proof I’ve been presented various papers and a book with a few photos documenting the event. It’s all rather convenient and a bit suspicious if you ask me. Some of the photos show these youthful kidults who I can confirm did grow up to be my parents. They look a bit tired in the earlier pictures. I’m told they remained that way for approximately 18 years and then something inexplicable happened that made them look and feel lighter. I’ve never been able to identify precisely what changed, but it must have been fairly important. Although, I admit I’ve seen the weight return over the years, which oddly corresponded with some big things in my life. Must be some sort of weird symbiotic thing.
Both of my parents were from Dallas. Mom from Highland Park and Dad from South Oak Cliff. If you’re familiar with Dallas, you understand the significance. If you’re not, then to sum it up – Mom was born on the right side of the tracks (in fact those tracks aren’t even Dallas tracks, they’re tracks in their own city within Dallas) and Dad was born on the very wrong side of the tracks. I later learned that many of Dad’s (and his family’s) numerous shortcomings had to do with his tracks (those shortcomings multiplied x10 each year post their divorce). I learned from Dad that people from the right side of the tracks (aka “your mother”) tended to marinate Spam in a lovely Dr. Pepper based sauce. Dad wasn’t particularly good at lobbing insults.
I’m not really sure what initially drew them together. Mom would say she thought Dad was smart, but was proven wrong; he was only social climbing – tricked her by claiming to read books. Clever guy! Dad said something along the lines of Mom was really nice and fun. Bless his heart.
I’m personally from a trailer park in West Dallas. Well, that’s probably not true. My parents were both attending school when I was born, and I’m told we lived in Arlington. There are more pictures that they claim prove we lived there, but we could be any place, and I find these people somewhat sketchy. I mean can you really trust Mr. Illiterate Wrong Tracks and his Jolly Dr. Pepper Spam-eating bride? (Just think, I am the product of that union; it actually explains so much about my personality and my humor???)
Quick disclaimer to stop any gasping: I absolutely would tease my parents in this way. In fact, I’m teasing Dad now. Dad, you’re welcome! To post a retort, I guess you’ll need to work on that new blog of yours. Now you have incentive. You’re welcome, part two.
Next up, the trailer park! (In other words, I’m cutting this short and giving you a small reprieve. There’s only so much “me” one should be forced to sit through in one day.) And I’ll leave you with a little Julie Andrews, because I stupidly got this song stuck in my head where it is now firmly lodged. I only have myself to blame.
My question to the group was fairly straight forward, “Has there been a proven Y-DNA link between my ancestor and a certain ill-tempered curmudgeon on the Mayflower?” I’ve been told by several people that one exists, but when I start asking for the proof what I get in return is anecdotal. One of the big family tree lessons I’ve learned from digging around on Ancestry.com is that among the good information there is a such an amazing ton of bad information, so take all information with a big grain of salt. Unfortunately, in large part thanks to the internet, the bad information easily and quite quickly hops from family tree to family tree with ease. All you need to do is press a button. One of my favorite examples involves my 3rd great grandmother having my great-great grandfather at the age of one according to several trees. Think what you will about my family, I’m 99.9% (leaving that .1% to account for physiological wackiness) certain that my 3rd great grandmother wasn’t having children quite that young.
In this particular email to this group who all share my last name, I threw in a little “P.S.” asking, “Out of curiosity, how do you pronounce our last name?” I might as well have made that the subject of the email and posted it in big, bold, capital letters, because while i got a few “no one is quite sure about your Y-DNA question and the Mayflower Association will not accept DNA evidence as proof of descent” everyone else immediately jumped on the pronunciation thing.
So, basically this past Friday night I unwittingly started a small family war.
You see, the first part of my name is “Dough”. I pronounce it the way it looks, like dough or doe. A few people chimed in with “no, it’s like ‘dow’”, or “no, it’s more like ‘dah’”. Then came the proclamations: “We here in Ohio say it…!!” or “Well, in the northeast we say…!” This was followed by a quick shot across the bow, “oh, so when you make bread, do you make it with dow?” They added a little wicked emoticon smiley face to soften the impact, but that comment was met with a picture of and recipe for pandowdy to strengthen the dow/food claim. Touché, mon frère. touché! Points to the chef!
There was a brief intermission of kvetching about people adding “er’s” to our name and some general fussing about the difficulty in trying to get people to pronounce correctly. A friend of mine suffers from a similar issue with her first name. The issue being you pronounce your name and the person you’re speaking with repeats it back with an entirely different pronunciation despite having just heard the correct version. In my friend’s case, her name is Anna, but when she introduces herself as Anna more often than not the person she’s speaking with changes it to Anna. You easily see her dilemma and frustration. (Yes, sometimes I’m difficult on purpose.)
My whole Y-DNA question was drowned out by “o” and “ow” sounds..
That’s when my favorite part of this discussion appeared (although “do you make your bread with dow” is easily my second favorite). It began with “there’s a street in London with that same name, maybe we should find out how they say it” to which a gentleman from the UK stepped up and boldly claimed, “the correct pronunciation is ‘dow’”. Now the use of the word “correct” would be enough to send both of my eyebrows skyward, but what edged his response up to the very top as a true favorite was a truly delightful paragraph about the history of language My favorite line being one where the author carefully explained to the American dullards what was meant by the tern “18th century” with an “or as you would say” for the rest of us who couldn’t keep up with that fancy “18th century” talk. Whoa! Easy there feller. You’re saying 1850 isn’t in the 18th century? But they both have the number 18 in them!!! MIND BLOWN! He also added that the 1700’s really only covers 1700-1709, a statement with which I would tend to disagree, but hey I’m American like that – fat, loud, simple and wielding a gun just like everyone else I know, bless my heart. This fellow then followed with another fun bit that basically stated, “the reason you pronounce it incorrectly is likely because you’re making a faulty assumption about the origins of your name.”
A short note followed from another fellow in the UK asking, “what do the English know? In Scotland and Ireland they say ‘dough’” followed by even more winky smiley emoticons. 🙂 😉 😛
Half a day went by without any further response while the Americans were undoubtedly using the time to take careful notes about the whole “century” thing. “Ok, so if 1700-1799 is the 18th century, then that would mean… Holy cow! It’s all coming together now.” And just when I thought we’d spend the rest of the weekend contemplating these latest revelations, Braden from Ohio stepped in to give his own take on the history of language, as well as a general history of the name. Then all hell broke loose as Braden went all haplogroup and Y-DNA on the guy. Oh snap! History/Science nerd smack-down DNA style! The gist of what he said, since it was a rather long and detailed email, had to do with discussing the moment in history when spelling became more standardized. He used the aforementioned haplogroup to shed doubt as to whether we Americans, who share that name, have actual ties to those similarly named in England since apparently it’s an uncommon haplogroup for the area. To finish off, he cited anecdotal evidence based on his own UK travels of places he found where folks, when presented with the spelling, pronounced our “dough” as “doe” to prove that even in the UK there’s not necessarily one “correct” accepted pronunciation. I nearly sent Braden a “Bravo! Well said!” email, but decided to hold off.
As of this morning, the “dough” battle rages on ignited by my simple question.
My take on the whole thing, history and haplogroups aside, is that the “right” way to say your own name is the way you pronounce it.
It started out as a little thing. I had heard of National Geographic’s Genographic Project through an acquaintance. The project focused (and continues to focus, there’s now a 2.0 version) on deep ancestry from an anthropological perspective and how people began to populate the earth. It traces DNA migration patterns using genetic mutations to follow our ancient ancestors’ path. For my part, they only needed me to gently swab my cheek and in exchange I would learn about my mother’s family’s migration path from Africa across Asia and Europe. Mitochondrial Eve + me? I was in!
When the kit arrived the suggestion to “gently swab” went out the door and became “enthusiastically remove your inner cheek.” Hey, I wasn’t about to risk the chance that National Geographic wouldn’t have enough material to work with, and so I spit half of my inner face into a nice accommodating tube, only pausing a moment to admire the grossness of it all. Then I sealed the tube, stuffed it into a padded mailer and sent my oral bio-hazard whizzing through our mail system A few weeks later an email arrived saying something cheerful like, “Hello, K23719! (they don’t have your name on file and well, this isn’t my number, but you get the idea) Please push the magic link below for cool pictures and info about the migration of your mtDNA.” I pushed knowing I’d finally see beyond the “… and then they left Roanoke and headed to Atlanta where they eventually cursed Sherman,” and I wasn’t disappointed. I learned my mother’s line belonged to Haplogroup U4.
Haplogroup U4 has its origin in the Upper Palaeolithic, dating to approximately 25,000 years ago and has been implicated in the expansion of modern humans into Europe occurring before the Last Glacial Maximum U4 is an ancient mitochondrial haplogroup and is relatively rare in modern populations. U4 is found in Europe with highest concentrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic states and is also associated with the remnants of ancient European hunting-gatherers preserved in the indigenous populations of Siberia.U4 is found in Nganasans the indigenous inhabitants of the Taimyr Peninsula, in the Mansi (16.3%) an endangered people, and in the Ket people (28.9%) of the Yenisey River. U4 is also preserved in the Kalash people a unique tribe among the Indo-Aryan peoples of Pakistan (current population size 3,700) where it attains its highest frequency of 34%.
Now, where I don’t quite get all of the science behind this, I do get enough of it that I find the information absolutely fascinating. And every few weeks when another U4 person uploads their results, Family Tree DNA sends me an email notifying me that there’s another one of my clan members romping about. I mentally fist bump them.
Sometime after I received my National Geographic results, I regained my interest in our family tree and began playing around with it. I cleaned up (deleted the whole thing and started fresh) what I had and managed to add some new, better researched, branches into my Family Tree Maker application. At the same time, I started poking Find A Grave, where I got lost for a bit then re-emerged with even more great family information. The best find from Find A Grave was my 2nd cousin Carol. We had a shared “that’s MY great-grandfather” moment followed by “who are you?” Carol is amazing and while I don’t know her, I love her to death. She talked me into doing two new things. One was having my DNA tested through Ancestry.com, the other was taking those results and uploading them into GEDmatch. She said both would match me up with other relatives (and they have).
Quick aside – in contacting these strangers (aka cousins) I’ve found through these sites, I’ve learned one thing. As a whole, Mom’s relatives are extremely unhelpful and border on rude, whereas Dad’s relatives “people” are crazy helpful and know way more than I could ever hope to know about our tree and about DNA in general. I mention this only because it would irk Mom to know this and that irkiness would be amusing. Hey, it’s hard when you grow up on the right side of the tracks and have to hear the lowly peasant stock are kinder people. Mom, I’m just sayin’… There’s a particular pain-filled story with one of Mom’s people, but that’s for another time. Suffice it to say I managed to not repeatedly beat my head against my desk which amounted to a huge, applause-worthy accomplishment on my part. Did I mention it was a very huge accomplishment? One of my immediate relatives who also talked to this person had a similar experience – in fact, we’re all lucky that several of us didn’t have self-inflicted concussions.
That leads me to the results. The first thing I’ll show you are my Ancestry results. I like them because they’re simple and well, kind of pretty. They’re also straight-forward. I like those qualities: simple, kind of pretty and straight-forward, which is like “simple” but well it’s “straight forward” – you know what I’m saying. The results are what I expected. I’m very British, somewhat Irish and a mix of many other things which includes my U4-iness.
Like I said, it’s straight forward and pretty
Next up are several of the different ways I parsed up my DNA through GEDmatch. Depending on which one you look at, I’m apparently a variety of Europeans, Baltic and what have you (an unidentified and rare group of misfits)) which we all could guess. But, if you poke around even more you’ll see I have Jewish ancestry (apparently from Germany), I’m part Pygmy (Jay, I’m looking forward to those jokes – no, really – for the record, that is not where my short legs came from), Amerindian (which, if I read that right is not necessarily American Indian, but possibly their pre-ice bridge walking cousins – who knows?), Oceanic, and Iranian. Such a weird mix. I’ve told Jay I want a Pygmy figure wearing a yarmulke to represent my people.
Also comes with an assortment of lovely pie charts. I’m many-colored.
Here’s the thing, though. The more I am on GEDmatch, the less I understand and while I find these charts fascinating, I don’t know what they really mean. Where they say “North_Atlantic” did my people spring forth from the ocean? Are we talking Atlantis? On one, the results say I’m part pygmy, but in another it shows no pygmy. Did my inner pygmy scamper off for that test?
And well sure, I can click on the links the PhD student who put these together provided, but their splatter charts make zero sense to me. It looks like someone took a chip brush, dipped it in paint and then fanned it across my screen while saying, “see, you get it now, right?” The 4 pt. font doesn’t help either, for the record..
I read a comparison of the different DNA test information today. It looked at Ancestry, GEDmatch and 23andme and it basically seemed to say “Ancestry is for stupid people while these others are for those who are technical.” This may be the first time I’ve felt extremely untechnical (stupid) as I look at chromosome strings and try to figure out how one of my mother’s cousins has no shared “X” DNA with me, but comes up as a match.
My relatives. I’m related to these people how? You should see the chromosome strings. 😦
Kudos to my Dad’s “people” who have tried to help with, “ok Beth, here’s an excel spreadsheet. The strings tell you the family lines and the…” What? My brain just cannot wrap around it. I feel I may be doomed to Ancestry and the pretty, yet simple pictures. Hey, I’m 75% British! Am I Welsh? Scottish? Who knows?