By Mickey Dunaway | Reprinted with Permission by Currents Magazine | Cornelius, NC
When you read this month’s Moment in Time, I will have celebrated—OK, maybe not celebrated is not the right word—my 76th birthday in December. I ask myself a lot these days, “What’s Next?” Not in the spiritual sense, but what meaningful thing will I accomplish with the days and keystrokes the Almighty provides?
At 76, it is a question where time is a rather critical factor. I am much closer to my winter days than my summer days. Accepting that my days are indeed numbered is a fact. Not many days of procrastination are left on my calendar, and I was so good at it, too!
How will I address this fact? What can I do with my days that will have meaning for me and perhaps others? I am not a person who loves to promote causes—never have been. My cause was my vocation. I was “a school man” for 48 years as a Teacher, Assistant Principal, Principal, Deputy Superintendent for Instruction, Superintendent, and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership.
My days of teaching and leading are done, although I am honored to occasionally be asked for advice from a former student or colleague. I get to guest teach on occasion for former students.
So, I concluded that I must explore other learning paths to answer my “What’s Next?” birthday question. I don’t like making New Year’s resolutions—too easy to create and even easier to disregard—so I need something with more substance. To fill that tall order, I decided to research and write our Dunaway-Family Tree as a historical novel—accidentally becoming the Dunaway family historian. I figure those two co-joined projects should keep me busy for several Januarys to come.
As succinctly as this longwinded Southerner can put it, my 76th birthday’s “What’s Next?” question became“How Did I Get Here?”
I am excited about what lies behind and ahead—hard work filled with lots and lots of new learning. I began my research this past August with a trip to pick the brains of my south Alabama, mostly older relatives, for two weeks. What a trip! I interviewed my last two living aunts. One was 87 and my mother’s sister, and the other was 96 and my father’s sister-in-law! The other interviewees were my last two older Dunaway cousins and my older brother. When one is 76, one is blessed to find many older relatives!
It was a remarkable excursion that my wife and I took. One that I should have taken years ago. I visited graves from southwest Alabama to southwest Georgia in search of relatives and found a bunch I know to be related and another that may be related. Further research is required.
I recorded the interviews and have a stack of audio files, pictures, certificates, draft notices, and letters on my desk, waiting for me to collate them, which I will do as soon as I submit this to my editor!
I encourage you to ask yourself, “What’s Next?” and make the answer your New Year’s resolution. If you choose to look backward, you will find many resources, with more being added almost weekly. If you jump into your past, you are likely to feel overwhelmed. The size of the task of looking in your family’s rearview mirror can be daunting, but it is worth it—a wonderful family project with you as the leader!
“To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.”