Dreams – An Introspective
Prussian born John Everett started out as a sailor at the age of 13. He loved traveling by sea and had plans of visiting every major sea port in the world. At the age of 28, he had almost accomplished this dream. The United States West Coast contained the only major sea port he hadn’t yet visited. This was now 1849, in the middle of the California Gold Rush days. There was no hotter destination for any ship then was San Francisco. But then John got distracted by a pretty face. Helen Tanser was on the ship, traveling from Liverpool to New Orleans. That was John Everett’s last voyage.
Johann Tillack was also Prussian born. His family had worked the same small farm for many years. 32 year old Johann, along with his mother and three brothers, set their sights on the Australian Gold Rush, which was in full swing in 1855. Johann had high hopes for this new dream. And to some degree, he was successful. He told of picking small gold nuggets right out of the stream with his pocket knife. But Johann liked to spend his free time in the saloon. The combination of drinking and gambling had soon left Johann as broke as a poor Prussian farmer.
Not long after emigrating from England to Eastern Canada, 16 year old Frank Rubbra and his brother set out looking for adventure. Soon, they were both down in South Africa, fighting for Great Britain in the Boar War. His adventure was cut short when he contracted Yellow Fever. He lived about 8 years longer, but he never really recuperated from his illness.
These three men, all of whom are my ancestors a few generations back, were then young and full of anticipation as they pursued their dreams of adventure and success. As I have studied their lives along with my other ancestors, preparing to tell their life stories in a historical novel for my children, I have seen the pattern repeatedly. The youth have ambitious dreams for the future. Then they find interruptions and obstacles to those dreams, postponing their fulfillment. Then subtly, compromises creep in, stealing away the original dreams and offering something else. Eventually, realization dawns that life isn’t happening as was anticipated when young.
The lives of these three men, all of whom are my grandfathers a few generations back, have become a symbol of my own failures and disappointment. Like John Everett, the sailor, I had goals when I was young that probably won’t be realized. There are other things, more important, that now require my limited time and money. Johann Tillack, the gold miner who lost it all in the saloon reminds me of my own weaknesses and of the many mistakes I have made (and do make). If I could do it all over, I would be so much closer to realized dreams. And Frank Rubbra’s lingering sickness which eventually took his life makes me think of the obstacles in my life that I have no control over. Circumstances in the past and present that seem to dictate the future.
Now I’m watching my own children maturing as they enter this same phase in their lives. I hear of some of the dreams and plans that they are formulating. I watch their successes and set backs. I give advice when I can. I want them to find their dreams more than I want my own. When I hear of their successes it makes my day. And when I learn of problems, I think it troubles me more than them.
I think my father said it all, when he told me at my latest visit, “When it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters in this life is our relationships and family.” I have pondered that statement a lot.
When John gave up seeing San Francisco Bay to marry Helen, I think he thought it was a pretty good trade. Then when their children came along, his “sea legs” grew roots even further down into terra firma.
Amidst all his mistakes, Johann did one thing very right. He found the love of his life, Mary Sophia. Anything to do with drinking and gambling became a thing of the past, as they raised a large family. When Johann died in 1904 at the age of 81, he was surrounded by a large circle of family and friends who loved him. That was worth far more to him than all the gold in Australia. He died a very rich man in what really matters.
Even Frank Rubbra, returned to Canada, found the love of his life and started his own family before his untimely death. He called his little girl, who was my grandma, his “Little Blue Bell.” His sickness robbed him of much, but it didn’t rob him of what my dad says really matters in this life, family and friends… loved ones who will always remember and miss.
I have thought about my Beautiful Wife and my own children. My Dad’s words ring true to me there as well. I would trade any of my own goals and dreams in a heartbeat if it would help them realize theirs. But the truth is my big wonderful family is the realization of my fondest dream. It’s is no wonder to me, that some of my less important dreams of yesteryear have been put on the eternal back burner. I guess from that perspective, in some ways, I might even be part of the fulfillment of John’s, Johann’s, and Frank’s best dreams.