Lots of people are interested in researching their family history, in fact it is a common hobby and is taken very seriously by some. As everybody knows, when we look into our family history, we represent it in a diagram that has become known as a family tree.
But to me, the term has taken on a different connotation in the past few years. In January 2008, I lost the second of my parents, with the death of my dad, totally unexpectedly, at the age of 64. After my mum died in 1996, it was hard to come to terms with, but there was still the solid foundation of a remaining parent giving continuity with childhood. I still felt as if my branch of the family tree was being held up by a trunk and roots of some kind. But when I became a 35 year old orphan, that (mainly subconscious) grounded feeling disappeared overnight. Instead of being a branch on a tree, I was adrift in mid-air with nothing to keep me up there. It hit me more than I would ever have expected, to be honest. I was always closer to my mum than my dad, and have always been very independent. But when you lose your second parent, something that has been a given from the day you were born is suddenly removed, cut away from underneath you, and that was a feeling I was totally unprepared for. Lost, alone, terrified do not even begin to cover it.
Although I have done a lot to re-ground myself – a secure, loving marriage and good friendships are a key part of that – even three and a half years later there is still a feeling that I am sitting here on my branch, but the tree has gone – in the truest sense of the word, rootless.