[ Continuation of the story from The Father I Never Knew – On Father’s Day ]
An aunt I never knew remembered my brothers and me in her will. She was my father’s older sister. When my parents divorced, I was not yet 6. My mom divorced my dad, and our understanding as children was that his family wanted nothing more to do with us. It seemed true as decades have passed without contact with them. Whatever childhood memories I had of my relatives on my dad’s side are gone.
Then through a search on the part of a cousin of my aunt Pauline, my father’s sister, we were found. This cousin and Pauline were very close, and the cousin, Mrs. Betty Anne, is actually responsible for our being remembered in our aunt’s will. Aunt Pauline had planned to leave some money to the children of one brother, and this cousin, encouraged her to remember her other brother’s children as well…even though she never knew us.
It turns out, as we heard the story from this lovely lady, that our family on my father’s side did want to know us, but didn’t know how…I will never know the details of that longing. My father made few attempts to see us after the divorce, and, I suppose, lost track of us…even though we grew up close by. My mom lived in the same house a county away for nearly 40 years, an address my father knew. All my wonderings about this will never be satisfied. My paternal grandparents, my father, and his siblings are all gone now.
However, there is hope in these situations, I am finding, and it doesn’t just happen to other people.
Mrs. Betty Anne, this dear cousin of Aunt Pauline, tracked us down. In our visit with her, we talked about the family we shared that she knew well and we didn’t at all. She said our father was a good man. He always dressed well, and was handsome and charming. He didn’t work much (which we knew from our mom’s account), but he was a good man, she would say often.
What was bittersweet, during this long-awaited “re-acquaintance”, was how she talked about our aunt and how she had wanted to know us. She was 97 when she died this Spring, and probably wasn’t internet-search-savvy. We would have been easy to find really…but it did not happen. I regret her loss, and our own…to not know each other.
Now, weeks after this first visit, I’m continuing to learn about my other family through Mrs. Betty Anne. She’s been a kind and generous historian, sharing pictures of family and telling us stories about them. People we don’t know and yet are as close a relative to us as she is to them. It’s been both a joyful and peculiar experience.
I have two first cousins in Athens, Georgia, and am planning to write them. Hopefully they won’t think that too strange after all these years. I wonder what they knew of us…yet, without interest. Maybe they knew nothing of us, as we didn’t them. I’d like to at least change this now.
Finally, Mrs. Betty Anne set me thinking about redeeming the future since I can’t redeem the past. Sometimes when there are issues between family members, they continue through generations, even when the issue itself has long-since-died, along with some in that family. I have that situation with an uncle and aunt on my mom’s side. As much as I believe in the rightness of forgiveness and reconciliation, it’s not been a priority for me to reach out to them. Mrs. Betty Anne, fresh from this experience with our Aunt Pauline, implored us to reach out to this aunt and uncle, as much for their sake as for ours.
I’m writing them tomorrow…maybe this time, the future can be changed.