Thursday, February 5, 2015

An Explanation and a Commercial Break

I am afraid you have all run off and abandoned me when the story is just getting good. But of course, the fault would be mine, as it appears I ran off and abandoned you as well.

I did not.

I left my home in Granger, Indiana, on Friday, January 9th. I was supposed to board a plane at the ungodly morning hour of 7:35 a.m. and be happily skipping and frolicking in Salt Lake City, Utah, by 1:10 p.m. that same day. I was to be a guest lecturer in the German track of SLIG (Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy) that was to begin that following Monday.

Skipping and frolicking was not to be had on Friday, January 9th.

Although northern Indiana had experienced snow the night before, my flight was on time. And because I hate feeling rushed, I had arrived at the airport by 5:30 a.m. South Bend's airport is small, and check in and security checks take only minutes, but I would rather sit on my computer than feel like I am racing to the airport to beat the clock.

I had my breakfast and coffee at the airport. I bided my time playing with new 23andMe results for my paternal great-aunt, my deceased grandfather's only remaining sibling. Routine announcements were made about boarding. Air travel is tedious, but there is something blissful and secure about routine. All seemed good. After boarding my plane and drifting in and out of sleep (which I can do seconds after taking my seat), I realized we had not left the runway. It was just the normal dilly-dallying of flights ahead of us, and repetitive de-icing procedures while we waited. But we sat too long. The pilot announced the crew had timed out, and FAA regulations would not allow them to continue to fly, even though this first leg of my trip was just an hour-plus jaunt to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.

Everyone sullenly filed off the plane.

Chaos ensued.

You cannot cancel a flight at a small airport like South Bend, Indiana, and then find enough seat space on the few subsequent flights scheduled to leave that day to make everyone happy. I was booked on another flight a few hours later that never made it to South Bend. It was canceled in Chicago because of mechanical issues.

I sat in the airport in South Bend, Indiana, for sixteen hours. Waiting. Delayed. Canceled.

After several aborted attempts to go ANYWHERE, I was finally told there was no way I was getting to Salt Lake City that day. The best they could offer was to come back the next morning to try the same scheduled flight routine that failed me that day, or get on the only flight remaining out of South Bend to Atlanta, Georgia. I figured getting to Salt Lake City the next day out of Atlanta held more possibility of coming to fruition than doing the South Bend dance again. So I went to Atlanta.

The details of incompetence once I got to Atlanta would fill pages, but briefly I will say I got a hotel  arranged from a gate agent who was less than happy to help at the end of her shift, and I got on a shuttle to said hotel that arrived at the airport ninety minutes after its supposed "every thirty minute"  continual service.

The hotel was nearly forty miles from the airport. I was exhausted. I was given a card key to a room that did not work. Three keys later, I was no closer to getting into my room. On the fourth trip to the front desk, I asked for a new room instead of a new key. Once I got to the filthy room, I realized I  had left my wake up call under the old room number. I picked up the phone to dial the front desk only to realize the phone was not attached to anything. It was merely a prop. As too was the alarm clock that was plugged in but nonfunctional. I brushed my teeth with my finger and hand-sanitizer and went to bed.

I had to be back at the airport in two hours.

Although the flight to Utah was on time, I arrived to find no luggage. I also had no luggage claim tags, as the agent in South Bend took them from me when she rebooked my flight but never gave me replacements. I was too tired to be miffed. I just went through the motions and dragged my weary ass to the baggage claims office for Delta.

The gate agent in South Bend was indifferent; perhaps with apologetic undertones, but far from sympathetic. The agent in Atlanta was a she-devil. But the baggage claims representative in Salt Lake City was helpful and perky and personable. I should have noted his name. But I could barely recall my own.

He found my luggage in storage. It got there before I did.


If I was on the last flight into Atlanta, and on the first flight into Salt Lake City, how the hell did my luggage get there first? If there is a worm hole for luggage, I would like them to begin testing for human travel. I was too tired to ask questions. I was just happy to have my belongings intact, even though my sanity was not.

A friend picked me up in Salt Lake City on Saturday. We went to have real food. A meal that included things like eggs. Protein bars, overpriced airport coffee, complementary peanuts, and whatever gum or mints I could find in my computer bag hadn't really sated my desire for nutrition over the past twenty-four hours. When we got back to his house, and I was ushered into the spare bedroom, I just dropped my bag and hit the bed. Then I slept. For a long, long, long time.

Sunday I attended an instructors meeting and registration reception for SLIG. Monday was the first class in the German course, and although I was not lecturing that day, I wanted to sit in and absorb the content of the other lectures, meet the students, and check out the layout of the situation.

Throughout the afternoon, I noticed this slight tickle in my chest. An occasional cough. Hmmmm.... perhaps it's just the dry air? The inversion in Salt Lake City was pretty bad that week. The layer of smog was probably just making my bronchi unhappy.

I lectured on Tuesday. The voice was rough. The tickle had turned into a cough. And each one of them felt like a million little paper cuts in my lungs. I went back to my friend's place and slept for thirteen hours in anticipation of the following day's lecture.

I managed to pull off the next day's lecture, but I honestly have no memory of it. I ached all over. I am sure my friend beat me with a baseball bat during my hours of unconsciousness. On hindsight, I probably infected more people in my class than I enlightened. What has come to be known in genealogy circles as the SLIG-CRUD or the SLIG Epidemic of 2015 encompassed a whole host of respiratory nastiness that took down an outrageous number of registrants, attendees, and instructors.

I had the flu.

I had only anticipated staying with my friend in Utah for a few days and arranging other accommodations with other friends, but I could barely get out of bed. He came and went from work, while I felt miserable, begging for forgiveness for being the houseguest that never leaves. I had raided his plentiful supply of cold and flu remedies in his medicine cabinet. I took enough acetaminophen to destroy my liver and ibuprofen to anger my kidneys. I even had some codeine to add to the Mucinex to dull the cough. Double-dose swigs of NyQuil was the routine end to every night, although my bedtime was becoming more evening than nighttime as I became progressively weaker. The body aches subsided, and each day I felt a little better, but fatigued. I just figured time was necessary for recovery. But for every day I would get to the Family History Library to do research, the following day I would feel significantly worse.

Although SLIG ended, my illness did not. 

The walk to the Family History Library was two miles from where I was staying. I am a walker. That is not a bad distance, and normally it's a good time for me to swill a coffee and contemplate my day of research. It is invigorating. But by the time I would arrive at my destination this week I was drenched in sweat. So much so that I had to undress in the bathrooms and remove my first layer of clothes and ring them out into the sink. Sweating became the norm. I woke up that way. Beads of it would form on my forehead when I walked from my microfilm machine to the rows and rows of film-laden cabinets.

By the following Wednesday after SLIG I had to rest after my morning shower. Rest after dressing. And I even brushed my teeth sitting on the toilet because the whole morning ritual was exhausting. And sweaty.

On Thursday, my disease-addled mind thought I could walk to the Family History Library. It is more or less a straight line from where I was staying. 

I got lost. And confused. My eyes had trouble focusing on the street signs ahead of me. I checked. I was wearing my glasses. I sat on a park bench drenched in sweat contemplating my next move. I went back home.

That evening as I laid in the silence of my friend's spare bedroom, I could hear what sounded like the crunching of crisp dead leaves underfoot on an autumn day. It was the sound of inhaled air fighting to enter my lungs.

I had pneumonia.

I wept. Partly because I was over a thousand miles from home feeling miserable. But more so because I was not myself. The sweating, the fatigue, the inability to draw oxygen deeply into my lungs - these were bad things. Very bad. But I could not properly get into my own head. I felt "other worldly." I was spacey, confused, unable to wrap my head around simple concepts.

I was very sick.

And much to the dismay of friends and family, I did not go to the hospital. I am a veterinarian, and frankly, I would put the diagnostic skills of a veterinarian above most M.D.s any day; especially doctors in emergent-care facilities who are often stuck in a rush-in, rush-out, situation. Although I had taken way too long to diagnose myself, I figured I had pneumonia. A chest x-ray and blood gases would tell me how badly it was, but the treatment was antibiotics. I hadn't turned blue yet, so I didn't need supplemental oxygen. Going to an emergency room or an emergent care facility would accomplish confirmation of what I presumed, and treatment I could already procure. Being a doctor, I travel with an emergency drug stash to cover a wide variety of medical disasters. Luckily, I had the appropriate antibiotics for presumed community-acquired pneumonia. If that didn't turn things around, I would willingly turn my body over to a fully-staffed medical establishment.

Or a morgue.

Twenty-four hours after beginning antibiotics, I felt a bit of my presence returning. But I was oh-so-very tired.

Seventy-two hours after beginning antibiotics, I felt like Michael D. Lacopo - mind, body, and soul - had finally made a reentrance into society. Finally.

And then I had to board a flight for Denver, Colorado. That was a week ago.

Thankfully, it was uneventful.

I am back in Salt Lake City, Utah, to FINALLY do some research, and to lecture at the FGS 2015 National Conference. But I am also responding to several hundred unanswered emails. Yes, I said several hundred.

I am hoping to get caught up with my life as quickly as possible, and to pick you all up for the continued ride you have shared with me. I promise not to disappoint you again. I cannot promise I will not die, but let's just say it's not currently on my agenda.

BUT.... until I can pick up where we left off, let's talk genealogy. And research. And spending valuable, fun time together.

I will be teaching an advanced course in Pennsylvania research this summer with the knowledgeable Sharon Cook MacInnes, Ph.D., at GRIP (Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh) from July 19 to July 24. The class is shaping up to be something extremely exciting and fun and brimming with information. See more details at 2015 Pennsylvania: Research in the Keystone State | Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

I tell you this now because GRIP registration for this course opens on 18 February 2015 at noon Eastern Standard Time. There are only a limited number of registrant positions, and classes fill up quickly. I would love to see you in person and share my passion and my knowledge with you! Mark your calendars and check out the registration process at Registration | Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh.

I am alive. I am mostly well. I am also scatterbrained and way behind schedule. But I owe you a blog.

Where were we?

Oh yes, I have to take my mother to Denver to meet her father.


  1. Thank goodness you are feeling better - and shame on you for not getting treatment sooner (just in case your mother didn't already scold you)

  2. Welcome back.

    Just read the GRIP material - looks interesting just for the history parts. That said, don't stop with Haverford as a source of Quaker material - Swarthmore and even Bryn Mawr have additional resources that more than complement Haverford's.

    1. Firstly, the schedule is mostly a teaser for the general assessment of what is scheduled for that day. And secondly, I always welcome knowledge and experience of repositories from other researchers! Let me know what you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the various Quaker repositories. I have to admit, Quaker research does not top the list for topics I have spent hours and hours of time in Pennsylvania repositories, so I would love to hear more from those who have really delved into the various collections!

  3. So glad you're feeling better! And that was indeed the plane trip from hell...TO flu hell, from the sound of it. Don't worry, nobody's going to run away and leave you before hearing the rest of the story!

  4. What a tough traveling experience! I'm so glad I read your post.... I'm planning on attending GRIP and have been trying to decide what class to take. My father's family has lived in Pennsylvania for hundreds of years, so that class looked interesting. But, the instructors' names didn't 'ring a bell', so I had decided against it. I didn't catch that you were one of the instructors! Hmmmm... I will have to really consider this now! Thanks for the post. :)

  5. Glad you've rejoined the living!!
    You can't die before clueing us all in on the saga -- the 1001 nights!!

    RE quaker sources in PA -- The folks at Swarthmore Family History Library at Swarthmore College were very helpful to me in my research on NY Friends. Check out what they have.

  6. Per my earlier (anonymous) comments - I think you would find Swarthmore the more comprehensive repository but the three colleges there (Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore) are close both physically and cooperatively. Other good Quaker sources might include Guilford in N.C., and Earlham in Richmond Indiana.

  7. What an utter nightmare! I had started to worry about you since you've been so regular about leaving us in tortured suspense! I am glad you are feeling better. And please tell us the rest of the story soon! :)

  8. Bless your heart!

  9. Always love your humor! Thanks for the update. Can we just say that flying sucks? Glad you are better. Staying tuned for the rest of the story!

  10. I was wondering "Is that all of the story" because of the Grande Finale glad you are continuing the rest of this adventure. Your story is one of the most fascinating ancestral search I've read thus far.

    So sorry for all the problems you had with airports, flights and lost luggage. That's enough to make a person sick, but I'm so glad you're better and will be back writing soon

  11. My husband did bring me flowers for Valentines day.. but an even better gift would be a new post! :)

  12. Your presentation was the best yesterday at RootsTech. It was good to meet you. I now know that you are the person behind this blog. I'm the person that gave you the card after the presentation.

    Regards, Grant

  13. Just read your blog post. I hope you can make it back to RootsTech next year. I think it would be interesting to hear the story behind the story of some of the research you do. You certainly told that story, and told it well on this blog about just making it to Salt Lake City and what happened after you arrived here.


    Grant Davis

  14. My dear Dr. Lacopo:

    Do take your own health more seriously. Your mother depends on you, as do your readers.

    Go well,
    CPT, IN
    USA (R)

  15. Thanks for all your efforts that you have put in this. very interesting information. i like with express my support of your ideas in your article, and looking forward to your next article.

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