Thursday, March 9, 2017

Out of the blue

And so, out of the blue, one day before the sixteenth anniversary of my mother’s death, I received a message request on Facebook from a person I did not know. That person turned out to be my first cousin Robert, the son of my mother’s sister, Mildred, both of whom I had never met as a child. In the space of a few days, I have discovered my mother’s side of the family (a side that we had little to no contact with growing up), thanks to Robert, who has done extensive searching to create a family tree. His tremendous work organizing it has paid off. It is extremely interesting to see how large my mother’s family actually was. Her mother had five children by her first husband (who died), and then five by her second husband. Robert led me to Victoria, another first cousin, who is the daughter of my mother’s brother Joseph. The family spread beyond Brooklyn where they grew up, to New Jersey, Indiana and Maryland. Among the things I have discovered is that heart disease does not just run in my father’s family, but also in my mother’s, as many of her brothers and sisters (and father and mother) passed away due to heart conditions, strokes or kidney disease. It explains why my mother was so focused on eating healthily (little fat, few sugary desserts) and on remaining thin her entire life. It has not escaped me that I got to know that Robert existed one day before the anniversary of my mother’s death. I’d like to think that this was her way of communicating with me, perhaps to let me know that all of the secrecy and untold tales of her family are secret no longer. They are the stories of another era, when society’s constraints and rules were harsh and when there was little tolerance for lives lived outside of those constraints and rules. I understand my mother so much better now for having met Robert, and I am grateful that this opportunity was given to us.

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