It’s such an odd sensation, writing my grandmother’s last name on the envelope. The same last name as me. I write people’s names all the time but none that link me to them. As I wrote our last name down on the envelope it was as if I could smell her apple dumplings cooking in the old house in Ohio. As if I could feel my family blood line pumping through my fingers. If you have ever had a lack of family in your life… this sensation is quite a bizarre one. I feel the same way when I type “mom” or “dad”. It’s like those words don’t belong to me.
When I turned 30 this year, I knew that life was going to be different moving forward. Not so much in the sense that I would have to endure the “over the hill” jokes or feel the fleeting moments of nostalgia as I recollected wild stories of my 20’s (which would subsequently be followed with a slow shake of my head and a deep sigh of relief and/ or sadness). But I just felt that my life was going to change in a way that I could not have predicted and I honestly felt excited about what may happen next. I really never expected that I would end up reuniting with our family or the impact that it would have on my life.
It all started when I received a strange package in the mail right before my birthday. I had gotten a call from the front desk of the hotel I was temporarily staying at and was a bit surprised to hear that I had something waiting for me. Just a few weeks before my condo flooded and had left my partner, dog and I stranded in a studio hotel room.
I had resigned myself to the fact that I would see my 30th birthday come and go while lodging here, which was excitement in itself. But I didn’t expect to receive any correspondence, much less a package. I went down to retrieve this mysterious parcel and made myself wait until I got back into my room to look at the return address (it’s the little moments of suspense that makes life interesting, right?). Staring right back at me was your name.
Now that seems like a pretty normal occurrence- grandparents tend to send gifts or letters to their grandchildren for special occasions. However, I had not seen or spoken to you in 21 years. The impending question was “How does she know where I am?” I strongly suspected my favorite cousin Danny played a part in this exchange.
I turned the box over slowly in my hands and then ripped it open to reveal a card and a knitted blanket in various colors of green (how did you know my favorite color?). I strained to read your half-cursive and half-print writing. Each word looked like it had been written with intense thought and concentration yet the words themselves had the feeling of kindness, and I felt them softly squeeze my heart. I knew it was time to go see you and I knew that I would never be the same again after.
I was nervous getting off that plane to come see you, my uncles, aunts, and cousins. There were so many of you! I had fuzzy memories of my uncles & aunts but I had never met the younger cousins. I thought to myself, what am I even doing here? I am not a part of this. Would you hug me? Would I see my face in your faces? I was so grateful that my cousin Danny would be there because we had met up a few times and talked all the time. We were two peas in a pod. If anything, I knew he would make me feel comfortable.
I walked to the outside pick up area where you, Danny, and Uncle Danny were picking me up and my heart was racing! I strained to look for one familiar face and two unfamiliar faces. I then saw Danny running towards me and he picked me up for one of those great bear-hugs that only he can give. Then I walked cautiously with him to the car and what I saw was not unfamiliar at all. I looked just like you! It had been a long time since I have experienced that. I felt something inside of me fall into place as I hugged you and then my Uncle Danny (who looks so much like my dad!).
The rest of the weekend was a blur of laughter, busting chops, lots of coffee, and meeting the rest of the family. I loved getting to know my cousins and feeling like part of something bigger and better than what I had been living these past 21 years. It felt so good to hear the stories of when we were kids and to look at the old pictures of the house that we grew up in (that had become a vivid memory in my dreams). I felt a huge burden lift off of my shoulders as you told me what really happened with my parents and how desperately you all looked for us after my mom kidnapped us. I felt myself let go of so many demons and I felt that space be replaced with my families love. It was hard for me to build up the courage to come see you all but I know it took courage for you to keep writing me. I love you so much and thank you for bringing me back to this family.