Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Loss, and Gain

I had an interesting experience today. I met family members I never knew existed. Sort of.

It starts with a death in the family.


My dad had a million siblings - OK, not a million, but enough to be confusing when one is the youngest son in a large family whose father was the youngest in an even larger family. Most of my cousins are almost old enough to be my parents, and those closest in age to me are their kids, my second cousins. So my dad's sister passed recently, aged well into her nineties. My dad died at 53 back in the Seventies when I was eleven, and I sort of lose track of his side of the family.

Two of my sisters and I were at the memorial service today where we expected to offer condolences to our cousin Steve and Dad's last remaining sister. Imagine our surprise to read in the obit that our aunt was "survived by her son Steve, daughter Lee, and granddaughter Octavia". *blink-blink* Who?

It turns out my aunt had a close companion, friend, and caregiver who was with her through thick and thin for more than 15 years. Like a daughter she was, and her daughter, in turn, became a de facto granddaughter. They are both lovely people and we were baffled that we were unaware of them. We all made our introductions, swapped information, and I expect we will be hearing from them again. I hope so.

After the memorial my sisters and I went to lunch and talked some more about information we had gleaned. It seems my aunt had not shared info about her chosen daughter and granddaughter with the family because they are African American and some of the family is, umm, less accepting. As I said, I do not know them (my relatives) well enough to make any harsh judgement, and the root might lie less in familial racism and more in more simple sibling antipathy between my aunts.

Today I lost an aunt and gained a cousin and a second cousin. Interesting day...

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