First, I want to wish all the fathers out there the happiest of Father’s Days. I didn’t have any particular plans to write about Father’s Day today. As it turns out, my dad was pretty prominent this Father’s Day.
I don’t have a lot of connection with my father’s side of the family. As you may know from previous posts, he was 20 years older than my mother. What that means in practical terms is that he was the same generation as many of the grandparents of my peers. His father passed away in 1953, twenty years before I was born. He had two brothers. One, Peter, who I’ve written about a little, lived in Spain and Switzerland. I met him when I was three and we went to Switzerland to visit him, my grandmother (who also lived there) and various other friends of the family. So I had no relationship with him. Peter had one daughter by his first marriage in the early 1950’s. I never met her, although we had some limited correspondence after her father died in 2007. She seemed to enjoy sending gifts to the kids. We were never to meet, however, as she passed away late last year. She did have a half sister from her mother’s first marriage (prior to Peter), and I’ve met her a couple of times.
My dad’s oldest brother, Hans lived in New England. He had one daughter who lives in Montreal. She, like Peter’s daughter, is closer in age to my mother than to me, and she has two kids. Her daughter is about the same age as Alissa’s brother and her son is a couple of years younger. I met her in 1979. I was 6, her daughter was 18 months old (I recall being a frog for her, which she loved) and her son was on the way. I haven’t seen her since.
I did get to meet my uncle (deceased) and aunt (still living) on two occasion. The first was that 1979 trip back east to visit them in their home in the woods next to a pond in Wellesley, Massachusetts. I also got to meet them on a trip to Vienna in 1993 to attend an event commemorating my grandfather’s contributions to Austrian theater. But once again, I had no significant relationship with him.
Things started to change in 2008, however. My cousin’s daughter started attending college in Vancouver, so she and her boyfriend came down for Thanksgiving. I must say, in retrospect, it was a very brave thing for her to do, joining relatives who were complete strangers for a holiday dinner. I’m glad she had the courage.
So that’s the extent of my contact with my dad’s side of the family, and for many years it left me feeling somewhat alone.
Well, my cousin and her daughter were down this weekend. It was a very spur of the moment decision, but it was very fun. We had dinner last night and spent much of today together, joined by my mom and Alissa’s parents.
There’s something about family that I’ve never truly appreciated, and it was on display this weekend. It’s shared history. It’s being able to look at the details of the family stories without having to explain the context because it’s already known, not from a common source, but from the same events seen throught different eyes and shared by different storytellers. It’s understanding that my father was not the only one of his brothers who could take 20 minutes to answer, and that all three of us were developing the same ability.
In short, by virtue of seeing my relatives today, I feel that much less alone in the world, and that’s a wonderful feeling.
Once again, Happy Father’s Day to all you dad’s out there.