I am off to West Palm Beach today. Why, you ask? To meet with a cousin whom I have not seen in many decades. I am not sure why. It just seems like a proper thing to do.
We weren't close. In fact, we may have only met once or twice in our youth. I only remember one time. And not much of that. I suspect it had to do with our fathers not being all that close as brothers. This is something I have learned over the years. That my father kept his distance from his siblings. The signs were always there, I suppose. We had lots of contact with my mother's side of the family, including regular visits to her mother's house, but little contact with relatives on my father's side.
Even when my father's brother Alex lived within a couple of blocks, I rarely saw him or his family. Of course, I had long since left home by then. I was off on my own own life and not visiting my parents all that often either.
So it was strange when I received an email from Tom a few weeks ago, introducing himself and asking if I was a relative. We exchanged a few emails and then agreed to meet when he next came to Florida for a visit with his wife's relatives.
I am not going to prejudge this encounter. I am sure it will be pleasant enough, though maybe awkward. It is not like we have old times to talk about or common memories to relive. I wonder if his life has been like mine. If he is closer to his brother than I am to mine. So there will be things to chat about but it might be about the gaps in our lives rather than the common moments.
My father's side of the family, much like my father, has always been a mystery to me.
Families are odd constructs. Some seem to expand with each marriage, absorbing new members, but most seem to have a dominate side. Either the maternal or the paternal relations seem to take precedence. Some even struggle with loyalties to one side or the other. Mine was, as I have said, always leaning toward the maternal. Both of my marriages have had closer ties to my wives' families than my own. I have always attributed that to my estrangement with my own siblings. But there may be something more involved.
Who knows? It may be a common thread in my DNA strand...
A Night Unremembered
6 years ago