I grew-up disconnected from most of my extended biological family, although they are quite numerous, particularly on my father’s side (he was the second oldest of 15 children). Consequently, I have (or had) lots aunts and uncles and a slew of cousins, most of whom I’ve never met. The reasons for that disconnection are complex and due to a family dysfunction that was in play before I was born; I was just one of the beneficiaries of it.
Thanks to one of my uncles, who used to stay with us during the summers when he was a college student and I was very young, I later learned a lot about the history of my dad’s family. As a child, I had a special affection for Uncle Joe. He was ten years younger than my father and still had enough play in him that I just enjoyed being with him. I looked forward to him arriving every summer to work at the candy factory on the boardwalk in Asbury Park.
One of his later in life hobbies was genealogy which he took seriously. His research was pretty extensive, going back to my great-great-great-grandmother, a slave woman named Lucinda owned by a family from whom my family takes our last name. He did research into that family as well and shared much of what he found with anyone in our family who was interested. I was interested and have a lot of that documentation, including some very dated pictures.
I later connected with one of my dad’s younger sisters, and through her I met several cousins, her children and the children of other siblings of my father. Some of those connections have been in person and some by Facebook® because they live so far away. Sadly, a few of those face-to-face meetings have been at family funerals. Still, establishing these connections has been a nice addition to my life; they have filled in some voids for which I’m happy. One of my west coast cousins sent me a picture I didn’t have: my great-grandmother (b. 1867 – d.1944), and the family resemblance is uncanny. These things are valuable nuggets to me, and I look to pass them on whenever I can.
The day Thanksgiving, two of our grandchildren (18 and 16yrs) surprised visited us. My wife’s birthday was on Thanksgiving, and although they had called to wish her a happy birthday (we didn’t do the family gathering we normally do because of Covid concerns), they decided we needed a face-to-face visit. When the doorbell rang, I asked my wife if she was expecting anyone, to which she said “No.” I opened the door and there they stood with their Covid masks on. They came in and hung-out with us for a while.
It was good visit. We got caught-up on how our granddaughter was faring in her first semester of college and how our grandson (a high school junior) was dealing with going to school a couple of days a week and the rest of the week taking virtual classes. We talked about their aspirations and even some of their struggles and concerns, all of this with the TV on as background noise in the room where we sat.
I noticed our grandson scanning some of the pictures we have on a bookcase, pictures of various family members, and decided to pull out some others of their dad and our two daughters (their aunts), when all of them were very young. I passed three or four of the pictures around, and it generated some conversation and few chuckles. Before long they said their goodbyes and left, headed to the Panera Bread® a few miles from our home.
As I was putting those pictures back into the albums, I was thinking that there is so much about our family my family members don’t know, and I would love to share it with them. Isn’t the transfer of important information one of the responsibilities and privileges of older family members?
I don’t want to push it on them. Perhaps one day, they’ll develop an interest and an appetite for it.
© Byron L. Hannon, 2020. All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise indicated.