It's astounding to think how some choices we make in life will ripple on down through the ages.
I pondered this the other day while watching my 11-year-old son, Noah, build his model of the RMS Titanic.
He was lifting the red and black hull up with care, eyeballing it to make sure the ship's four great smokestacks were just so.
This week you'll be hearing a lot about the Titanic, which sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. This coming Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the maritime disaster, which sent 1,509 of 2,214 passengers to their icy graves.
My great-grandfather, James Kiernan, had planned to sail on the Titanic but changed his mind. Otherwise, he would surely have been among the fated ship's dead.
James lived in a tiny English village called Chapel Field, not too far from Manchester, and made his living as a master bricklayer when he could find the work. Times were tough, in the spring of 1912. James had a brother in Indiana, so he thought he'd sail across the pond on this mighty new ship, the Titanic, in search of work in the U.S.
He didn't have much cash, thankfully.
Could he have afforded the journey overland to Southampton, from where the Titanic was to set sail, James surely would have found himself in steerage, or third class.
That, coupled with the fact that he was a man, would have almost certainly sealed his fate among the Titanic's tally of victims, considering 1,339 of the perished were men.
Nevertheless, James was indeed bound for Southampton when someone suggested he leave from Liverpool instead. It was closer, and he would dodge a lot of train fare in the process.
And so James sailed to New York on another ship whose name, unlike the Titanic's, was gleefully destined for obscurity. Sound wisdom, says I.
Had James boarded the Titanic, that decision would not only have cost my great-grandfather his own life, it would have erased four generations and counting of descendants. Those who would have been erased from history would, to date, include my grandmother, my mom, my aunt, a cousin, my two sisters and their three children, myself and my two boys.
Gone. Makes you think, eh? And if you're contemplating a trip, perhaps moreso. Will that be by plane, train, automobile, or boat?
If I had a time machine, I'd buy James the tastiest keg of beer in the known universe, slap him hard on the back and say well done. Awesome choice not to sail on the Titanic, I'd say. Thanks, lad.
Still, the young man destined to become my great-grandfather didn't always make the best choices in life.
He sailed back to England after only three months in the U.S.
Apparently somebody made him some frog's legs for dinner, and he didn't like that. Funny what details get handed down through time.
When James got back to Chapel Field his first stop was a favourite watering hole, "The Cottage Tap," from where great cheering was said to be heard from well down the street as our thirsty traveller proceeded to blow all of his three months' earnings treating everyone in the pub to drinks.
Well, he was Irish, eh.
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