Without going into deep detail, I was a hidden baby. My mother didn’t tell her mother about me until I was two or three years old, and my father’s side of the family didn’t know about me until some time after that. I think I was introduced to my dad’s side of the family when I was around six years old. Only recently did one of my twin cousins tell me it wasn’t until he was 22 (putting me at 23) did he come to understand we were actually related, despite having spent bits of 16-years celebrating holidays together. He thought I was my mother’s child, and that my dad, his uncle, was merely her husband, not my father. I only learned this this year.
My recollections upon meeting this hitherto unknown side of my family, a mere hour away from where we lived, was that of excitement and trepidation. My cousin remembers tormenting me, tho thankfully, I don’t recall this! Suddenly there was more to my fledgling roots than me, my mom and dad, and the gauzy relatives in Memphis, who I’d met, maybe, twice.
I had a new Aunt and Uncle, twin cousins, and GRANDPARENTS! These people were intriguing as they were so different from us. From an adult perspective, they were conservative, a traditional family. There were cultural and political differences between my dad and his brother’s family. My mom was our family’s main bread-winner, in the 60’s through retirement. My dad was an artist, my uncle a contractor, and my grandfather made his fortune as an insurance broker. My aunt navigated Nazi Germany as a youngster, and indeed was unwillingly conscripted into the Hitler Youth. My mother was Jewish. That we managed to, including arms of the family yet undisclosed, commune and enjoy each others company over decades is a blessing in my life.
When the clan moved down the south coast of the state, we spent some Christmas’ with them. My aunt took us to mid-night mass at the Catholic mission. It was lovely, and not unfamiliar as my Jewish mama sent me off to Catholic school at the end of my elementary-school education due to our public school system’s malaise.
Holiday dinners were outrageous and excessive in a wonderful way that I don’t think any of us have yet eclipsed. Well, we’ve never overcooked the roast beast, but other than that, my memory of these dinners, the KFC debacle aside (another post, possibly 😂) are warm and fuzzy.
My aunt and uncle grew apart, and divorced well over 25-years ago. The last time I spent significant time with my aunt was when my other twin-cousin brought her to our place for Thanksgiving dinner. Last night this same cousin told me she passed away 9-days ago. She had had a challenging last year that ultimately left her unable to ambulate. She told him that she was done, and she left.
I truly believe that people, when fortunate, can choose their time, and depart. I think my aunt was one of the lucky ones.
I will always hear her voice, her persuasiveness, and her strength.