Barely legible, Susannah’s grave marker emphasizes a simple fact–even stone wears away. First goes the body, then the memory of your mark, and finally the mark of your memory. What is left is the imperfect effort of a few people to remind us. And that reminder is fraught with imperfection.
Historical truth is an illusion. Even historians focusing on the great conflicts, people, or turning points in history cannot help but infuse their world view onto “facts” written by others with their own world view. Artifacts help–letters, certificates of birth and death, first hand accounts–but who can know motivation, intent, or the emotions behind imprints retrieved long ago.
I write historical fiction. And I frankly think all life is fiction unfolding. We make life what we will. We create our lives, as we will. Others interpret our lives, as they will.
Susannah Oswalt was born sometime in 1784 in Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In about 1800, at about 16, she married her first cousin, Andrew Croy. She could not sign her name. She was a “housekeeper” and kept that house in Rose Township, Stark/Carroll County, Ohio for about 38 years where she bore 8 sons and 2 daughters. She moved with Andrew (always with Andrew) to Coshocton County for nearly 18 years, and then moved back to Carroll County to be with her daughters and nurse her husband who died on December 20, 1859. Not quite five years later, on October 26, 1864, she died and was buried next to him.
Her stone grows lichen that eats at the etching of her life. But I feel her motivation, her intent, her emotions in my DNA. Fact or fiction–who is to say?