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Better Late Than Never Spring Break Edition

I have been a bad, bad blogger, and I know it.  I missed this week’s blog.  I have some excuses, none of which are really good enough, but wait until you hear how I have been spending my Spring/Easter Break.  First, you need to know a little background.

Two years ago, Easter was much earlier than usual.  It was in late March.  I will never forget this as long as I live because on Monday, March 25, 2008 my father went in for a heart valve replacement.  I was on my Spring Break that week, because we always get Good Friday and the entire following week off school/work.  Dad’s surgery went fine, but he developed some breathing problems in the hospital, and by Thursday he was dead.  Turns out it was a vicious strain of pneumonia.  I tell you this not to depress you, but to set up what’s coming next.

my family at my mother 's 60th birthday partyThis time of year has now become a little challenging for me, and I am coming to the close of my graduate school experience this summer.  This week, on Thursday, April 8th, I presented my ePortfolio, which is our program’s equivalent of a Masters thesis.  By the way, Thursday would have been my father’s 73rd birthday.  Oh, and Friday the 9th would have been his sister’s 90th.  And their brother, my Uncle Brian, just died last night or this morning, between those two birthdays, at the age of 78.

But again, I am not telling you this to make you sad or sympathetic toward me.  It’s really important to my story.

Saturday night, I was online, reading some blogs.  There is one by an author who lives very near me that I sometimes read.  I am going to keep her anonymous for now because we’ve decided not to go public with the rest of the story just yet.  For some reason, I read on Saturday night that she never knew her father.  Over the past year, he passed away and she didn’t find out for almost a year.  When she did, it brought up all these emotions for her, understandably.  So I e-mailed her.

I’m really into genealogy and family history, you see, so I offered to see what I could find out about her father’s family.  I waited to hear back and did a little pre-emptive digging.  I found a woman who lives not too far away from us who was a half-sister to the author’s father.  She had been given up for adoption but had established contact with her mother (the author’s grandmother) years ago before the woman passed away.  The next day, I heard from the author.  She liked the idea of learning more about her family.

Well, that was all the green light I needed.  We’ve had a very busy week.  Between census records and social security documents and marriages and draft registrations, we’ve dug up quite a lot.  I also found some work already done by some distant relatives.  I’ve gotten the author in touch with this lost half-aunt and she has begun calling her other aunts and – as it turns out – some half siblings she never knew.  We’ve learned that she had a great great great grandfather who was a Confederate soldier from Mississippi.  We’ve found another line that goes back to the late 1600s in the part of Virginia where Jamestown was settled.  I’ve been able to do every inch of this journey from my laptop on my living room couch.

We’ve also learned some things that have helped the author understand why her father walked out of her life before it began, and we’ve learned that, according to people who knew him, she may have been better off without him.  That does not change the decades of having an empty space in her heart for the father she could only imagine, but it does provide some excellent inspiration for her current writing – and a gateway to a new journey of healing.

I had a good relationship with my father.  It was not perfect, but he was present and active in my life, he was a fantastic provider, and he loved us all very much.  My son’s middle name is my father’s first name.  I have many memories, most of them really good ones.  Accompanying my new friend on her journey has helped me a little bit with my own healing.  I still miss my father, but now it’s even clearer to me that what I miss is the relationship we had, not – like my author friend has had to reconcile – the relationship, built on wishes and daydreams, that never was.

My mother does not cry over losing my father.  It may seem hard to believe, but this is a woman whose own father died when she was three and whose mother died when Mom was seventeen.  She speaks of the fifty good years they had together, and how so many people never get anything like that in their lives.  My sister and I still cry over him sometimes, and I suspect my brothers might too.  But this latest development, this drama that has unfolded before my eyes in someone else’s life reminds me once again how good I had it, with my stable family and the Dad who lived until I was 37.

If you love shows like “Who Do You Think You Are?” and might like to research your own family history, I can recommend Ancestry.com (and Ancestry.co.uk) as well as Genes Reunited (which is primarily for British ancestry).

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