I don’t recall exactly when it was that I started doing family history research, but I believe it was shortly after my dad’s death in 2006. But it was in 2012 that I started my official journey on Ancestry.com. Oh, what I have learned since then. To make a very long story short, it was the impetus for a reunion of my siblings. But not only a reunion, it was the first time, ever, that all five of us had been at the same location at the same time.
By a previous marriage, my mother had three children, then two with my father. All three of my half-siblings lived with us at one time or another, but never more than one at a time. And if there was a time when we were all together, I surely do not recall that occasion. Like many families, ours was complicated, and complicated to a degree that surpassed my understanding. After our reunion, I posted the following on Facebook.
We know who, what, when, where, how, and maybe even why but what of the denouement? If I were a writer, surely, I could find the words, paint the picture, describe the learning, sharing, caring and crying. But what did it all mean? Can only in imaginations such magic be created or such tragedy be found? Are such outcomes only reserved for the writer’s canvas? I’ve been attempting to explain the events of the past week but all seem inadequate. I was there. I witnessed what happened, and I still cannot explain it. We called it a reunion but never before had we all been together at the same place at the same time. Brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, new friends and old–lost then found. A family of strangers. Kin by halves, kin by wholes and some kin to none. Who would have thought? Was it by chance, luck, kismet, or by the grace of God that this should happen at this time in our lives? But as we all know, our finding each other and reuniting is not the story. It’s not even the denouement. This story is one of restoration and absolution, resolution and reconciliation–stories within a story. No imagination was required with this story. No imagination could have conjured up what happened with even the finest potion. Some things you just can’t make up. Some things are reserved for the miracles of life. I wish I were a writer as this is a story that should be captured for generations. It’s a story of the best things in life–grace and forgiveness. Grace, which can only exist when favor is undeserved and forgiveness which can only exist when sin is present. Love is the ultimate result. This is our story and one that should be told for generations. Healing began this week and yes, there will be scars. But the scars should no longer be viewed upon as pain inflicted but rather freedom from the bonds of bitterness and resentment. The week was perfect, including the rain. I guess we weren’t the only ones crying. And although our tears were a release of many emotions, I have to think the tears from heaven were tears of joy. At least I hope so.
I started my family history research 6 or 7 years ago, but I didn’t begin applying that research until little over a year ago. Aimee used to ask what I was looking for and what was the point? I simply told her I didn’t know. Little did I know that next to my wife and children, I would find the greatest gift ever. Last week was not just a simple reunion of friends and relatives. It was a restoration of family and lives broken for many, many years. Who would have thought that such renewed life could be found in the winter of ours? I have to admit, I’ve always had difficulty with the word miracle. It has always seemed so easy to throw that word at anything unexplained. My problem is, I can’t find another word that even comes close.
Now, approaching eleven years later, the denouement has been written. Unfortunately, some wounds never heal. In my book, Outside These Walls, a conversation goes as follows:
“Lis … I can’t go back. I won’t go back. I still wear the scars.”
“No, Pete, you don’t. Scars come from healing. Trust me. You still have gaping wounds that need time and attention to heal. Why do you think your pain persists?”
I don’t know if I was subconsciously thinking about one of my brothers when I wrote this, perhaps. I just know it to be true. It would have been nice to have gotten together again, but excuses were found. Now, one brother has passed, my oldest sister is afflicted with some form of dementia, and my other brother, well, he remains the brother I really never got to know.
After Jen is assaulted, her attacker approaches her to apologize. This is Jen’s response.
“Hey, Johnny! I’ll forgive, but not for your sake. I gots no room for carrying that around. But you violated me. And not just that, you called me a vile word. You can call a girl many things. Cunt isn’t one of them. Theys no apology big enough to wipe that from my memory. Be on your way now.”
I’m at a disadvantage. I’ve never been terribly abused or violated. Sure, I have some pain in my past. My divorce was no picnic, but I’ve never been deeply wounded. So I’d never profess to know what it feels like, but I have been witness to it. But with being witness to it comes a feeling of helplessness. I don’t know which is worse.
Odd, as I sit here at my keyboard, it wasn’t long after our reunion that I began work on my first novel. If there is a connection, I’m unaware of it. But when I started, I knew I was doing it for myself with no conscious reason. Despite that, I soon discovered I was drawing upon my life experience, directly or indirectly, as I wrote. Outside These Walls is certainly not a memoir, but in many aspects, it’s a metaphor of my life.