A letter to my great-great-great-granddaughter

Aug 15, 2012 at 5:00 am

Ni hao! I presume you speak Chinese. That seems to be the most likely scenario, based on the currently available evidence. But even if you speak English, my English probably looks to you like Chaucer’s does to me (“Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde,” am I right?).

Either way, instant translation probably isn’t a problem for you. You probably have some sort of Google/Apple implant for that. (If that makes no sense, never mind; those used to be technology companies.)

I also assume you are alive, which means humanity survived and my descendants reproduced. If not, oh well. We had a pretty good run.

Sorry about the weather. We just couldn’t stop driving.

And sorry about all the people. We also really enjoyed fucking. The big problem was we couldn’t come to a consensus on family planning. Self-control is kind of an issue with us. Maybe it’s still a problem for you. Humans! What is it with us?

Here’s how things got out of hand: Religious and political leaders figured out that the path to fame and fortune was paved with baby-making, so they made it taboo not to make babies. One day we looked up and there were 7 billion of us. Oops!

I would like to think that old men aren’t still manipulating young women’s bodies in your day. But they probably are. There’s so much money in it! Then again, maybe there aren’t a lot of people left because of nuclear war or disease or cataclysmic natural disasters. That would be a shame.

In case you’re interested, my great-grandparents were: Catherine Greenwell, John Queen, Catherine O’Brien, Thomas McCarthy, Mary Woerter, Joseph Schlegel, Catharine Streigel and Gerhard Welp. I’m listing them because I’m told very few people can name all eight of their great-grandparents even though they were practically just here. Can you? Out of my eight, there are two Catherines and a Catharine. Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Three cheers for Gerhard!

One of our ancestors, Joseph Schlegel, was a regionally famous harness maker. Before he knew it, trains and cars came along and harness-making became about as useful as tits on a boar hog, as the old farmers used to say. That’s the way it goes.

I presume you get most of your protein from meat grown in a laboratory, which is what some scientists predict. But not us: In 2012, there are 4.5 billion cattle, pigs, goats and sheep on our Earth, waiting for us to kill them for food. Hence the usefulness of boar-hog references. Those cattle are belching and farting up a storm. Again, sorry about the weather.

I’m learning about our family’s history from my Aunt Mary Felts, the family genealogist. At least one of my own great-great-great grandfathers owned slaves. That makes me sad, but if you go back 10,000 years or so, some of our ancestors were probably slave owners and some were probably slaves. And there isn’t much to do about that except learn from it.

Some Americans might be bothered to think of their descendants speaking Chinese, but not me. My father was the first in his line to be a native-English speaker. Before him? German-speakers as far as the eye can see. Everything is ephemeral, even America.

Another one of your ancestors, my Pampa, Thomas J. McCarthy, worked for the B&O Railroad. Railroads were eventually considered to be like tits on a boar hog. I guess cars just went better with baby-making.

Here’s a little about me: I’m a writer, so I’ve spent 25 years in an office looking at computer screens. Computers were devices we used to make the outdoors more appealing. When my daughter Laura was in elementary school and gave a presentation about her parents’ jobs, she said this about me: “Daddy types.” I wish you could meet her. You’d like her.

We’ve got a lot of problems in 2012, but maybe her generation will fix them before they get to you. If not, maybe you’ll figure out the solutions. Pampa said the world was once on the verge of starvation, and then we came up with the tractor. He also had a story about the flyswatter saving humanity, but he might’ve been kidding. With him, it was sometimes hard to tell. People also have said that about me.

Well, as ol’ Chaucer says, time waits for no one. Wish I could meet you. At least you’ll know that I was thinking about you.