It was sometime back in 2000 whatever and I called my mother one day, just to see how she was doing and she informed me that she was quite busy putting a luncheon together, planning a menu and making the grocery list. This was nothing new for her for after she retired, having luncheons was something she looked forward to each and every week. Getting out the interesting and quirky serving pieces all too familiar from when we had holidays meals as a family while I was growing up was part of this ritual as was putting the food she created (from new and exciting recipes she got from food television show hosts) out for everyone to try right along with her. No doubt this was to see if Paula Deen or Racheal Ray really DID know what they were talking about, right?
Anyway, I inquired, as polite conversation required, as to who was on the guest list for this gathering and the usual suspects names were mentioned along with two I had never before heard. Who were Paul and Connie, I wondered. I mean, I know she said they were cousins of hers and I fully understood that word but WHO were they. Naturally I had to press the issue and she took a deep breath before launching into a story of lost and found.
Mom was the youngest of 13 children with many of her siblings being old enough to be HER parents. It seems that her mother may have had that in common with her as Paul happened to be the grandson of one of my grandmother’s brothers yet he and my mother were the same age. Okay, my mother’s cousin Carl was Paul’s dad. Carl’s father was my grandmother’s brother.
She explained it all to me slowly, like she was deep in thought or actually gazing at the twisted branches of our family tree. And she went on to explain that as she grew up, she and Paul were playmates, they had spent a few years getting to know each other when his parents experienced a bitter divorce resulting in Paul being kept from our family by his most angry mother. It had been decades since she had last seen him and this luncheon was to be a reunion of not only he and my mother but 2 of her sisters would be there and of course Connie, the wife no one ever knew existed.
In spite of her detailed explanation, it took me a minute to grasp the deeper meaning of what was taking place and as soon as I got it I asked her how it all came about. She giggled and said that she had gone on her computer and typed in his name in a Google search and FOUND HIM! Not only did she find him but she found out that he lived merely 20 minutes away from her and probably had since 1972. They chatted by phone several times before agreeing to meet, catching up before the big day much in the same way one cleans the house before the cleaning lady arrives.
It seems that Paul missed my mother as much she missed him however he NEVER thought he would EVER see or hear about his family again. Apparently his mother told him outrageous tales, like the family had disowned him and that no one, not even his beloved Aunt Louise (my grandmother) ever wanted anything to do with him. It had been drilled into him so much so that it never occurred to him to look for anyone, so he married and raised a family who never knew they had another family with hundreds of cousins! He and Connie were so happy, so very happy to be part of the family Paul had been born into; the family who had never forgotten him.
Naturally the reunion was a blessing for all concerned as here was everyone getting on in years as they said and they would be able to share memories of times when they were just starting to figure life out and learn about adventures locked in the archives of their minds. These luncheons took place as frequently as possible and often times they would include a movie, shopping or a wee road trip to generate new memories to look back on one day in the future.
And for all the years they gathered and had this fun, I never met Paul and Connie until my mother died. During the week she was hospitalized we spoke on the phone a few times as I lived in another state and they were right there by her side every day. The day of her memorial service when they walked up to me and smiling through tears, they took turns holding onto me for dear life. It was as though by holding me, they were holding onto my mother. The love was incredible and because I had heard so much about them, it was as though we needed no introduction. Connie’s face beamed as she said to me, “We have your mother to thank for this moment you know. She was the one who initiated the search that brought us all back together!”