Skeletons in the Closet

A cemetery.

Exploring genealogy can lead to some real surprises. Family secrets like the baby “born” to the woman in her sixties with a 16 year old daughter. To save face, the grandparents registered the birth as their own instead of their unwed daughter, even though the daughter continued to raise that little girl plus two more. Or how about the man who stole a pig, was exonerated, then got in a fight with the sheriff over something completely different and killed him in a barroom brawl. There’s suicides, like my great great uncle who had horrible lifelong pain from arthritis or one of Mr. FixIt’s distant relatives who took arsenic. You never know what you might find when you delve into the past.

When I was a little girl, I had a special aunt. She lifted me up and made me feel good about myself. I remember her stooping down to tell me how beautiful I looked in periwinkle blue. It made my heart sing and I absolutely adored her. I grew up emulating her every move, style, thought. She was married to my dad’s brother and she did NOT like that side of the family. Unfortunately, she instilled that in me and I never really had much of a relationship with them. But I was one of her “special ones”. We talked for hours…HOURS. I basked in her attention.

Then, somewhere along the line…there was a rift. I wasn’t allowed to come see her anymore. I had done something my uncle didn’t approve of and that was that. It was easier to let me go than to deal with his anger. I didn’t talk with her for a long time. Then Mr. Virgo died. I just had to talk to her…just one more time. I called and left a message. And told her I would try her only once more the following afternoon. When I called back, she picked up on the first ring. It was like old times. I collapsed into my beloved aunt’s love and she comforted me in my loss. She listened to me cry. We talked for two hours and when it came time to ring off, I sensed this was the last time I would ever talk with her. I wanted to make it count.

I told her to listen to me. I told her I knew it wasn’t her turning me away because she didn’t love me. I knew the uncomfortable situation she was in. It was a different time. Women were more dependent…for a number of reasons. She couldn’t walk away. I understood that. I told her I loved her very much, I knew I was still one of her “special ones”, and I didn’t blame her. She cried. She thanked me for understanding. I told her goodbye. That was five years ago.

I’m telling you…I was a late bloomer. I didn’t learn the lessons of your 20’s till I was in my 60’s. When an impressionable young girl is under the spell of a powerful mother figure, real personal growth isn’t possible until that influence is removed. In rapid succession, I lost my grandma, I lost a marriage in which I had always deferred to my husband, one of my best friends moved away, I lost my mom, my aunt, and Mr. Virgo…all in a period of a few short years. I was set adrift. I didn’t know how to be…me. It was bad enough that I lost my sweet husband and was grieving and had to learn how to be without him. But those people who should have been there to help me learn how to be a widow…weren’t. As a late bloomer, I had a crash course in Adulting 101. It was incredibly rough.

Then something wonderful happened. OK, it was awful…I lost my dad. I was never close to him, but it was loss just the same. And right there in the basement of the church when we gathered to eat after the funeral, the miracle happened. Those family members on my dad’s side that I had shunned out of deference to my aunt, opened their arms and drew me in. They loved on me. They gave me their phone numbers. They planned a family picnic. I saw them…really SAW them as the beautiful people they are and I realized in that moment how much I had lost by being led astray. All those years, I thought I couldn’t love them both…my aunt AND my dad’s family. What a waste.

Last night, I was diving into an hour or so of genealogy research before I started writing. I don’t know if you are familiar with When there are new hints for a family member in your tree, a little leaf grows out of the upper right corner of their picture. It has been five years since I’ve signed into Ancestry to do a little snooping around. OMGosh! It looked like a forest in there! Leaves everywhere. I started with my parents and their siblings. I opened my uncle’s hint. A picture of his gravestone. He had died in 2016! I called my cousins and they hadn’t heard a thing. I googled. Nothing. I searched the newspaper archive. No obituary. Nothing.

I sat back and let my mind wander and absorb the news. My thoughts swirled round till they started to settle into a reality. All this time, I had let myself believe that once this man was gone, my aunt could talk to me freely again. I could have that relationship back that I had cherished. But, it’s been two years. If she was going to call me…she would have by now. That’s too…half empty to me. Maybe she lost my contact information in the five years since we last talked. Maybe she has dementia and can’t call me. Or, maybe it was her. Maybe SHE was the one who didn’t like what I had done and cut me off.

I spent about 15 minutes feeling really sad that I would never have that special relationship again. Then I realized I have gained SO much since things changed. I learned how to think for myself. I gained a whole family of cousins whom I love very much. Life is all about change. It isn’t always easy to adapt to change. However…adapt or stay trapped. It always comes back to choices. I’m special now because GOD says I’m special…I say I’m special…Mr. FixIt and my family says I’m special. And I still look beautiful in periwinkle blue. ❤️

“But after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who calls you to share his eternal glory in union with Christ, will himself perfect you and give you firmness, strength, and a sure foundation. To him be the power for ever! Amen.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:10-11‬ ‭GNBDC

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