The Scottish Saltire

The Scottish Saltire

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Family I Never Knew

When I met my dad in 1995, not only did I begin to learn about him, but about his family too. He showed me lots and lots of pictures and told me lots and lots of stories. The first time I went to CA to visit him I got to meet his brother, Larry and two of his brother Norman's sons, Darryl and Greg. My cousins and I hit it off right away and I went home knowing that I was and always had been part of a really great family. And I knew I loved my father and that he had always loved me. A couple of years later I met my dad's only sister and her husband. My Aunt Carmen and Uncle Dick live in Las Vegas. It was kind of startling to meet my aunt and see my eyes looking back at me. She showed me pictures of their two children; more cousins for me.

My dad and I didn't get to have a lifelong relationship but at least we had 12 years. Those of you who know my dad's story know that he was an amazing man. At least I know I come by my stubborn sense of determination and self reliance honestly! This man lived his life on his own terms and I think he even decided when it was his time to bow out.

That day came on the 11th of August last year. He had let it be known that he didn't want any kind of a service. He wanted his family to all get together and have a barbecue at Spring Lake, a local recreation area near his home in Santa Rosa. So that's what we did. I flew into San Fransisco where my Aunt Carmen and Uncle Dick, picked me up. Their son, Paul, who had flown in from VA the day before, was with them. My cousin, Paul was the first of many new relatives I was to meet that day. We drove the 2 hours from San Fransisco to Santa Rosa and I enjoyed listening to the gentle banter between the three of them. When we pulled into the picnic area I started to get kind of nervous about meeting all of these strangers. Would they like me? Would I like them? I wished my dad was there. By ones and two I met my family that day. It wasn't too hard to keep the names straight because I had heard Dad talk about most of them. The second cousins got a little confusing but everyone was really nice and very welcoming. I tried to imagine what it would have been like to grow up with all of these people and to have a shared history with them.

I heard lots of stories about my dad that day. I even had a few to share myself. Every story was told with lots of laughter and love. One of the most surreal parts of the day was to talk with those aunts and uncles who had known my mother. She died when I was seven, so my own memories of her are rather sparse and hazy, but here were people who knew her when she was barely more than a teenager and in love with my father. It was like seeing a wrinkle in time. What my life would have been like if my parents had stayed together and my mother had not died at the age of twenty-eight. I would have played with these cousins as a child at family gatherings and known these aunts and uncles as the "grownups" in my life. I'm not sorry for the childhood that I did have. My maternal grandmother, who adopted and raised me, also gave me as much love as any child could ask for. But I never really had much of an extended family. And yet I did and here they were. This was what would have been if my life had not taken me down that other fork. It was a lot to try to absorb in a single afternoon. Occasionally when I would start to feel a little overwhelmed by it all I would find Carmen or Dick or Paul. They unknowingly served as my emotional safety net that day. I flew back to Tucson the next day knowing a little more about who I am and where I come from. And I missed my dad even more.

Someone once told me that most people lose family as they get older. He said I was the only person he knew who gained family. If anyone is interested in seeing the pictures from that day you can find them under The Colors of My World on the sidebar.

1 comment:

Nikki said...

So *this* is what all these people look like! Thanks for posting the pics, Mom... I'm off to Green Bay for Easter, let's chat while we're in the same (okay, almost the same) time zone! Love you!