I wish I had Asked, I wish I had listened

From: Tony Jacobs


For me, one of the hardest things to do in life is to find the positive in the negative things that happen in our lives. I will never forget the phone call I got in Subic Bay, Philippines when Bobbie called to tell me that Dad had died. On the long trip home across the Pacific, between the tears of self pity and remorse, I thought about how little I really knew about Dad and the earlier years. As I worried about Mom and how she would do without having Dad around to do the things for her that he had always done. I was really glad that she would be there to tell me more about Dad and his earlier years.

Nine years later when Mom died, I found myself driving back to Iowa after her funeral not knowing much more about Dad than I did on that trip across the Pacific and I was in the same situation with Mom. Sometimes that first blow with the two-by-four doesn’t work and now I had lost some opportunities forever. One other thing that I remember from that trip home for the funeral was how impressed I was with our family. As we sat around the room and selected the things we wanted of Mom & Dad’s, It seemed that we were more concerned about what others wanted than we were about what we wanted. I was obviously proud of my own children but I was also very proud of all of the nieces and nephews. They were all different but they were all such good people. Now I was worried that without Mom or Dad around, I would lose touch with them and I didn’t know how to change that. This is where the newsletter idea got started.

It took me a while but after conversations with several siblings, in September of 1985, I sent off the letter to my siblings suggesting “The Jacobs’ Newsletter”. When I go back and look at the first newsletter I am a little embarrassed but I am also pleased with how far we have come. In the beginning, I would receive a letter from each of the siblings who chose to participate in that issue and I would type them all in and send out the newsletter. Originally, we sent out the newsletter at the end of each calendar quarter but in October, 1989 we went to 3 issues per year.

In January 1989 we came up with letterhead for the newsletter but the biggest advancement in the newsletter came when my son, Ryan, put it on the web at https://e-jacobs.com/. This allows us to do so much more than we were ever able to do before and has made my job as editor so much easier when we use the web tools that are provided. There are always tradeoffs because Ryan does have more work and his job is so much easier when the articles are in on time.

It seems that all good things have extra benefits that we never consider when we first start them and in the case of our newsletter, that is definitely the case. I started the newsletter out of a selfish fear that I was going to lose touch with some very wonderful people: brothers, sisters, and their families. Although the newsletter is not a replacement for one-on-one communication, I think that it has provided an avenue of communication that did not exist for us before. But the extra benefits definitely deserve some attention. What are they?

  • We have increased the communication with others on both sides of the family because we send newsletters to some of our Aunts and Uncles.
  • We have become international by sending copies of the newsletter to our relatives in Holland and they are now reading it on the web.
  • We have nieces and nephews who are getting information about their family that they would not get without the newsletter.
  • We now have a family log of events that never existed before. There is a great deal of detail missing but it is the start of a historical record.
  • From a selfish perspective, this newsletter has involved my children with my family history more than anything that I could have imagined.
  • …and this list goes on and on!

Why is the newsletter on the web so important? “The Jacobs’ Newsletter” is a not for profit deal and the editor is not independently wealthy so the distribution of the publication was limited to siblings and a few selected others. Now everyone with a computer in whatever country they live in can see it on the web. I have heard from relatives that I have never met because of the web page and I expect that will continue as more relatives become familiar with it and word-of-mouth is the only thing we have used to make people aware of it.

So where does it go from here? I don’t know the answer to that question. I would have never guessed that we would have accomplished the things we have when I first suggested this newsletter in 1985. I am very proud of what we have but I think it can improve so much and the improvements that have been made over the years were suggestions from people who are involved.

What can each of you do to improve what we have today?

  • Be sure to tell your children and other family acquaintances about the family web page.
  • Be sure that you are submitting your articles each and every time they are due because some of the value of the newsletter is lost each time you miss.
  • Share your ideas on what we can do to improve our web page and newsletter with others.
  • Find a way for you and others in your family to get more involved with our newsletter.

Regrets are an unfortunate part of everyone’s life. I regret not having spent more time with Mom & Dad just to get to know and understand them better. I regret not taking the opportunity to have said some of the things I know I should have said to them. I regret not having thanked them for all of the things they did for me over the years including the siblings that I have to share this newsletter with. One regret that I hope I never have is that for whatever reason, this newsletter should some day cease to exist. Now is the time for us to involve the next generation and my family wants to involve whoever wants to participate.

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