A Life Unfolding

Family. It’s a loaded word. For me and many others. The past 36 hours have been full of it. In both expected, and very unexpected ways.

Sunday night started with working out how to get the Oscars on our tv here in Galicia. In Spain, it required us getting our old Moviestar subscription back. And that requires cable. We cut cable five years ago, and only had it briefly so Jeff could have internet after we moved to Galicia. Before Starlink. For a four hour tv show once a year, I wasn’t signing a long term contract for cable.

We had given up our US VPN service after Valencia, as well. Embracing Spanish tv. So Jeff set up our global service, again. And we used a server in Melbourne Australia to get their Plus7 channel, which had the corner on broadcasting the Oscars for all of Australia. It worked great. Until I fell asleep at 3am. But before that I got to see my brother, his wife, and their son on the red carpet. And to revel as host Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at Todd when announcing TAR’s nomination for Best Picture. The film didn’t win. But then again, no one but Everything Everywhere All At Once won anything. I haven’t seen it, but apparently it’s about a complicated family relationship. That word, again. Family. Ugh.

And Then It Got Interesante

I woke up late yesterday. Well, more like lunchtime after my late Oscar night. And I had a message from 23andMe telling me that I had a message waiting for me. 23andMe is an ancestry DNA service. Jeff and I did it before we left the US. I’m not sure why. Maybe he got the test as a gift. But we both did it. Over the years, more and more people are added to my family tree. People from all over the world.

A few months ago a guy reached out to me. We are second cousins, according to the DNA svs. He wanted to know if I knew who his Dad was. 23andMe said he is my Dad’s first cousin. But that couldn’t be possible. My Dad would be 94 this year. His aunts and uncles were all dead, or nearly, by the time this man was born. I couldn’t help him. But then, yesterday he messaged me again. He had another family name. And I knew that name. It was my aunt, my Dad’s sister’s married name. And it rang a bell in my head.

My cousin, her son, went to Africa in the Peace Corp after college in the 70’s. And there was a rumor that there was a child. I asked more questions. It turns out that this man is the child of my cousin, and is from Sierra Leone – in West Africa. Our DNA proves we are related. But it took a little longer to determine precisely how. Holy Moly.

We chatted for awhile about family. He said something interesting.

‘Appears we have a lot of writers in the family. You write, your brother writes movies, and I write songs.’

He’s a musician. His music is on Apple iTunes and Amazon music.

I emailed my Mom his details. She keeps in touch with my cousin in Washington State. Then, she passed on the info. And, yesterday this man was able to speak to his father’s sister for the first time in his life. It brought tears to my eyes.

His grandparents, my aunt and uncle, would have happily embraced him. They were world travelers and served in the Peace Corp in Ecuador during their retirement. Sadly, they are passed away. But his Uncle, my cousin, who lives in the Solomon Islands, since meeting his wife during his stint in the Peace Corp there, will be thrilled to meet him.

What a day! Jeff kept coming out of his office for updates, as I spent the day talking to my new second cousin. Amazing. Last night he sent me photos of his beautiful family. I must admit, I could see a little bit of my mischievous Uncle Joe in his smile.

At Thanksgiving, Jeff and I are heading to see Ryan in Washington DC. Then up the Maine to see our Camino friends, Chris and Esther. On our trip, my newly discovered cousin now lives in Massachusetts not far from Maine, and has invited us for a meal with his family.

Jeff was all smiles last night. ‘How do you feel?’ He asked.

‘Good.’ I said. ‘I’m so glad I could finally help him solve the mystery. And to connect him with his aunt and uncle.’

‘You did a good thing. You changed his life.’

I hadn’t thought of it that way. I just know that for the first time in a long time Family turned out to be a positive thing. As I lay there last evening, as sleep eluded me, I thought back to our long exchange. The one from months ago. Then, all day yesterday. How it all finally unraveled in a flash.

I woke up this morning to an obituary in my Inbox. It seems his father, my cousin, passed away on his sailboat in Sausalito, near San Francisco, during the pandemic. After sailing the South Pacific solo for eight years prior. But even though his father has passed, this isn’t the end of the story. For this man’s journey to find his family has just begun, and I get to be a small part of it. What a privilege. The amazing story of a life unfolding, from Africa to America, and beyond.

10 thoughts on “A Life Unfolding

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