He Ate Himself to Death

A few years ago, my daughter and I were in the dentist’s waiting room, waiting for my son to be done with his appointment. Since the kids had back-to-back appointments, I had some time on my hands. I brought along my laptop and was abstracting mortality schedules for my¬† genealogy society. (Because it’s perfectly normal to abstract mortality schedules while waiting at the dentist’s office.)

1850 mortality schedule, Logan County, Ohio. Downloaded from Ancestry.

1850 mortality schedule, Logan County, Ohio. Downloaded from Ancestry.

My daughter was curious what I was working on. I explained that the mortality schedule was taken with some censuses and that it was a basically a death record. She looked through the entries as I continued typing. Suddenly, she sat up straight and exclaimed:

“He ate himself to death?!”

I gave her that look that only a parent can give. You know — the one where you don’t want to stifle their curiosity, but you have no earthly idea what your child is talking about.

I was also thankful that there was nobody else in the waiting room.

“Who ate himself to death?”

“That man there. It says he died of consumption.”

That’s my daughter. The one who has always been excellent at using context clues to figure out unfamiliar words.

I smiled and explained that “consumption” was what they used to call tuberculosis. I’m not sure if she was relieved or disappointed.

My son walked into the waiting room just after that, proud that he had no cavities. I was happy that we could leave before I’d have to explain what “bad blood” was.

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