Bill, family

Life… and death… goes on.

Today is the 18th anniversary of my marriage to Bill. We usually take trips for our anniversary. This year we couldn’t go anywhere because of COVID-19. Bill went to work because there’s a big project he’s working on. I’m reminded that last year, he had a TDY that started the day after our anniversary. I went with him on that trip, because it was to Wroclaw, Poland, and Wroclaw is a neat town. That was before the pandemic radically changed everything.

A week ago, we learned of Bill’s dad’s passing. Bill was already dressed and ready to go to work when he found out about it. I told him he needed to tell his co-workers that he wasn’t coming in. That was a good decision, since he did need some time to process the news and the fact that we were not going to be able to go to Tennessee for the funeral. A few days ago, a relative sent Bill a picture of his father in his casket. He had said he’d wanted to see the photo, but I think it was a shock to see his dad laid out like that… not looking like the man he knew. Part of it might have been because he’d been very sick, and part might have been that when someone’s soul leaves their body, the body simply turns into a shell of what it once was.

The news about Bill’s dad came less than a month after my cousin lost his husband to liver cancer. And it came a week before I found out my cousin, Karen, passed away from colon cancer. I wasn’t very close to Karen, although we had some things in common. Like me, she was a musical person. Like me, she loved visiting our grandmother’s house in Natural Bridge, Virginia. But she was much more religious than I am and we had very different political views. She was also significantly older and lived in a different state. I never got to know her as well as I might have, although her presence in our family was one of great prominence. She was the eldest grandchild on both sides of her family, and very much a leader among us. By contrast, I am one of the youngest grandchildren on my dad’s side and the youngest on my mom’s side (which consists of my three sisters and my cousin Sue).

2020 has really been a surreal year so far. It started off fine. We visited France three times between Christmas 2019 and February 2020. Bill’s mom came to visit, and he went to the States for business and found time to stop in Utah to finally see his daughter, her husband, and his two grandchildren. It was the first time he’d seen Catherine since 2004, when she was just eleven years old. She’s now grown into a beautiful, thoughtful, and kind young woman. As much as I complained about the Mormons over the years, I am grateful there were good people in the church who helped her escape her mother and launch a more normal life. Obviously, she had some good role models to emulate. And it was such a joy for Bill to see her and meet her family. It had been fifteen long years, and clearly, they have missed each other so much. It took awhile, but we finally learned that we weren’t in the Twilight Zone, after all. ‘Nuff said about that.

Then the pandemic struck, just as Bill was returning from that trip. Everything changed. Bill had to work from home. We tried to adopt a dog, only to have it escape its transport on the way to us and get hit by a car. We sued our former landlady, and Bill got asked to be a witness in a lawsuit. We did some traveling, but it was a different mood, with constant worry about masking and personal hygiene and not getting sick. And then we adopted Noyzi, the street dog from Kosovo, who has stolen our hearts.

It hasn’t been all bad. There have been some unexpected moments of joy as we’ve adapted to this depressing pandemic experience. I’ve loved having more time with my husband, who isn’t able to jet off to faraway places for work right now. We’ve been eating more meals at home, although I do really miss getting dressed up and going places. I’ve loved getting to know Noyzi, who amazes us every day as he adapts to life as a pet in Germany rather than one of many dogs in a group home in Kosovo.

I would have liked to have gone somewhere special to celebrate our special day today. The last 18 years have flown by, and we’re still happy together. But it’s not a bad thing to be home, safe and well, and enjoying the company of Arran and Noyzi. I didn’t expect to suddenly lose three relatives within a span of a few weeks, though. It really makes one stop and think how fleeting and fragile life can be.

Well… I think I’ll take the opportunity to make some music today. Maybe someone will like it. Maybe someone won’t. But at least it’ll keep me out of trouble. And I expect Bill will bring home some bubbly for tonight.

Edited to add… this was our wedding song and I somehow never did it for YouTube. So here it is…
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23andMe

Another long lost relative…

Yesterday, I noticed I had a new relative on 23andMe, this one even closer to my DNA than the one I wrote about yesterday. Her name is Pat and she’s my first cousin once removed on my mother’s side. She and my mom were born during the same year, which makes her an octogenarian. Her father was my mom’s Uncle Herbert. I never knew most of my mom’s relatives because they had a smaller family and weren’t as social as my dad’s people were. I do remember meeting my mom’s Uncle Walter, who was married to an Irish woman and lived in northern Virginia. I remember Walter was always well dressed and drove nice cars. Pat also knew Walter well, although she only met my mom once or twice.

I can hardly fathom not knowing my cousins. I grew up going to family reunions every year. I know my twenty-one cousins on my dad’s side pretty well, and I know a lot of their children. I only have one cousin on my mom’s side, though I am finding out I have more distant relatives like Pat, who now lives in Washington State. Like my mom, she married an Air Force officer and he moved her all over the place. When he retired in 1979, the year after my dad did, he worked for Boeing in Washington State. She’s apparently been out there for many years.

I called my mom last night to tell her about these discoveries I’ve made through 23andMe and she was very interested. I passed my mom’s phone number to Pat, since mom doesn’t use computers. I hope they’ll get to talk to each other.

Meanwhile, although I had resisted Ancestry.com for years, I finally ordered a DNA test from them, just because I want to see how close the results will be to 23andMe’s. Then I started making a family tree. I was amazed by how far it went back. I found relatives of my maternal grandfather’s as far back as the 1500s. I found German relatives I didn’t know about, some of whom were from Hesse. Sure enough, my people on both sides have been in Virginia for many years, but before that, they came from Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. I found one from Delaware and one from Connecticut. I guess they arrived in Boston and made their way south right around the time people started coming to America from England. I found one branch from Ireland, including County Donegal, which is where the Crossens came from (Crossen is my married name).

I decided not to sign up for Ancestry.com’s subscription service because it’s pretty expensive and I don’t need another subscription. I also read a lot of negative reviews of the service and people having trouble quitting it. I may change my mind eventually. It’s amazing what you can find. I found an old yearbook photo of Bill’s on Ancestry.com, along with our marriage license. He was very cute as a high school JROTC cadet. I probably would have had a crush on him back then, too… of course, when he was in high school, I was in elementary school.

It’s mind boggling to realize that if any one of the 300 people I’ve found so far who are my direct ancestors had made different choices in life, I wouldn’t be here today. It’s even more mind boggling to know that my particular branch of the family tree will end with me. This new hobby ought to keep me busy for awhile. Every time I think I’ve found everything there is, I fall down another rabbit hole. At the very least, it gives me a chance to connect with other people, which is a very rewarding thing… especially since I have been feeling pretty divorced from my family lately.

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