Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers who celebrate. Bill and I have very casual plans for “turkey day”. In fact, we’re not even having turkey. I mentioned that Bill had dental implant surgery the other day, so he can’t yet chow down on things that aren’t soft. Because he’s a sweet, thoughtful, kind husband, he stopped at the store and bought a duck leg, which he planned to sous vide for me. He was going to eat macaroni and cheese.
When he told me about his plans, I kind of rolled my eyes. It’s not that I don’t appreciate his plans to cook a duck leg for me. I just didn’t need him to go to such a special effort. Thanksgiving is historically my favorite holiday, but in Germany, it’s not a holiday. Most of my family is in Virginia, which is thousands of miles away from here.
I suggested that instead of cooking a duck leg just for me, Bill use the leftover chicken in the fridge to make a chicken pot pie. That way, we can both enjoy the same thing for dinner. It’s soft enough for him to eat, will get rid of leftovers, and is the perfect kind of food for a cold, blustery day like we have today. Bill liked that idea, so he’s planning to do that, and he’ll cook the duck leg later. He’s also making a cherry cheese pie. I don’t need to be eating that, but I won’t turn it down.
Yesterday, I decided to put up the Christmas trees. I was a bit tired and cranky by the time Bill got home from work. I asked him if he’d seen the email I sent asking him to pick up a couple of strands of lights. One of the strands we had was kind of dying. The lights were really dim on the tree and looked terrible.
Bill hadn’t seen my email, so I told him to forget it and I’d just make do. He said “Why don’t you wait until tomorrow to finish this.”
And I said, “Because I just want to get this over with.”
He said, “I could help you with it.”
I responded, “Yes, but you plan to cook tomorrow. Besides, you get in my way.”
He sighed and shook his head, then cracked a smile. Bill is truly the perfect man for me.
I mentioned yesterday that decorating for Christmas isn’t that much fun for me anymore. I’m not good at it; it wears me out; and makes a big mess. However, I do really enjoy seeing the lights and having our living room look more homey and lived in. For that reason, I keep decorating. I think when we move out of Germany, we’ll ditch the smaller tree we bought in 2007, after we forgot to pack our Christmas decorations in our baggage when we moved here with the Army.
Bill finally said, “I’ll go up to the Rewe to see if they have any lights.”
So, while Bill was looking for lights, I continued to decorate the larger tree, which had fully functioning lights. Bill came back later with two strands of German lights that make our smaller tree look like something out of Clark W. Griswold’s most fantastic Christmas wet dreams. Now I wonder if we shouldn’t have just bought all new lights for both trees, because the smaller one is showing up the bigger one. I’ll have to keep that in mind for next year.
This morning, I had vivid dreams of Yerevan. I think it’s because I’m writing a very intense travel blog series about the city, where I lived from 1995-97. Those were considered part of the “dark years” of Yerevan. It’s certainly not a dark place anymore!
I also woke up to a nice Thanksgiving greeting from one of my cousins, who has repeatedly said he wishes I was in Virginia. That’s nice to read, although I think if I were in Virginia, we’d just be black sheep together. 😀 Then he posted that he wants to visit us in Europe. I told him to come on over. I’d love to see him! My home and my heart is always open to those who love and accept me for who I am… and he is one of the people who does.
Anyway, I miss my family, in spite of everything. I hope they all have a good time at Granny’s house. I’m with them in spirit. And I can’t believe it’s been nine years since I was last home with them. Maybe 2024 will be the year I go back over the pond.
By the way… last night, we did another Champagne bucket drawing last night to decide where we’ll be going next… I think 2024 will be a good year for travel, if we’re able to do these suggested trips.
This morning, I woke up to a delightful surprise from one of my cousins. He sent me a private message with a photo that was taken during the summer of 1981. I smiled with instant recognition, as I gazed at the picture of me, at age 9, with a bunch of my cousins and a friend of my cousin’s family.
Years ago, on my original blog, I wrote a blog post called “Family Reserve”. It was about a couple of relatives I lost in 2015. The post’s title came from a Lyle Lovett song by the same name that seemed appropriate. I wrote in those posts how I came to discover Lyle Lovett– courtesy of Mormons, no less. Maybe I’ll repost those old memorials today, since I’m referencing them in today’s post. Anyway, his song “Family Reserve” reminded me of my own family… but since I already used that title in another post, I decided to use part of the chorus as the title for this one. If you don’t know this song, and can abide Lyle Lovett’s music (and I certainly can), I would encourage you to listen to this great song by him.
My cousin, name of Bruce, could not have known that I still have many vivid memories of that day at Tank Hollow, as well as the ones that surrounded it. I had just had a birthday, and Bruce and his brothers, all of whom were adolescents, had traveled from Texas to Virginia with their parents to visit other family members. Because they lived in Texas, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with them when I was growing up, even though my family almost always has a family reunion at Thanksgiving. For three years of my early childhood, we lived in England, so of course we didn’t go “home” for the Thanksgiving party. Prior to our time in England, I was too young to remember what we did. We were in Ohio before England, but I was a baby then, having moved to Ohio when I was about six months old.
When we came back to the States, I slowly got to know the relatives I never spent time with. And in 1981, I was acquainted with the “Tolley Boys”, as they were called– four sons of my Uncle Ed and his wife, Nancy. They came to visit my parents first, in Gloucester, Virginia. At the time, two of my sisters worked at Busch Gardens, which is located close to nearby Williamsburg, so we had a bunch of free passes. I remember we all went there for the day and had an absolute blast, even though I lost my wallet. The “Tolley Boys” were like my big brothers. They treated me like a princess, and of course, I ate it up. It was not a normal or usual thing for me to be treated like that.
After their visit to my parents, Ed and Nancy were going to be visiting Natural Bridge, Virginia, which is where the “family homestead” is. My grandmother lived in the house that has been in our family since 1935, along with my Uncle Brownlee, and his wife, Gayle, and their two kids, Justin and Suzanne. I don’t remember why, but there were other family members there that summer. Nancy and Ed took me with them to visit Natural Bridge. Later, my parents came to get me.
Below are some much more modern photos of Granny’s house. It’s been fixed up a lot since 1981. My Uncle Brownlee was extremely handy, and he really made the house a showplace before we lost him in 2019.
I remember that trip was so much fun! I mean, I got in trouble a couple of times… but Uncle Ed was a really fun uncle in the early 80s. He knew where all the best swimming holes were, and he liked hanging out with us kids.
One day, we all got into the back of my Uncle Brownlee’s pickup truck and rode to a place he called Tank Hollow, in Natural Bridge. It wasn’t very far from where my great grandmother lived (she died the following year, in 1982). As a matter of fact, I think we visited her on that trip. I seem to remember her house as a brick structure near a creek, much as Granny’s house is. There are lots of creeks in Natural Bridge, as it’s in the mountains and near the James River. Edited to add: I see there are other falls in Virginia called Tank Hollow– in a place called Cleveland in Russell County. Please note, this is not the same place— I think Ed called the falls “Tank Hollow”, because they were located off of Tank Hollow Road in Natural Bridge. I don’t know if the falls we went to even have an official name.
Tank Hollow was in the woods, and it consisted of a waterfall that overlooked a murky pond. We were all wearing tennis shoes, because of all the rocks and such. Next thing I knew, we were all jumping off the waterfall into the cold, mountain pond. I remember being so enthralled by the experience. The waterfall seemed huge to nine year old me, and I felt so brave jumping into the water and swimming in the creek. It was one of those days when I experienced “pleasant exhaustion”. You know, when you play so hard that you wear yourself out… That’s how it was that day.
I remember the next day, we all went to the James River. We made homemade fishing poles with sticks and string, baited hooks with worms, and fished in the middle of the river. I don’t remember why, but I recall Uncle Ed threatening to spank me for some reason. He never did, but I do remember the threat. I probably mouthed off one too many times. I also remember my Aunt Nancy threatening to send me home. Still, that was also a fun and memorable day, spent with a bunch of my cousins. Ed and Nancy had driven a big Suburban, and it got stuck in the mud.
Here are a couple of other memories from that trip…
Granny’s house was located next to a “hollow”, that had once been part of the original property my grandfather bought years earlier. I remember we weren’t supposed to go walking “down the hollow”, because it was no longer owned by our family. Brownlee once lamented to me about that, because it really was a heavenly piece of property, with two creeks that met each other and flowed to the river.
Anyway, sometimes we would walk down the hollow. I went with my cousins, Jeff and Jeff. One Jeff was the son of my Aunt Doris, and had once been my neighbor, as we had lived in Fairfax County for two years before we moved to Gloucester. The other Jeff lived in Natural Bridge with my Uncle Carl and his wife, Betty, and very little sister, Lori. Natural Bridge Jeff was telling the other Jeff a really dirty story. It was the kind of story that adolescent boys tell each other. Of course, I was nine, and eager to grow up. I heard the story, laughed with them, and later repeated it to two of my younger cousins, then aged 7 and 5.
My Aunt Gayle overheard me repeating the story I’d heard from my older male cousins on that walk. She promptly “blessed” me out, as she put it. She told her kids that I had a “dirty mouth” and they shouldn’t listen to me. I remember crying, because I didn’t know I’d done anything wrong… She later apologized to me and said her kids “didn’t know what to do with that stuff”. Hello? I was only nine years old myself. I didn’t know, either. 😉 Oh, I probably knew it was “forbidden” stuff, but I was still just a child in need of guidance, right?
In spite of the few negative incidents that happened during that visit, I remember it to be a really fun time and a happy memory. For many years, I remembered going to Tank Hollow and fantasized about visiting again and swimming there. Years later, I asked my uncle about it, because I didn’t even remember where it was located. I said I remembered it to be a big waterfall we jumped off of a bunch of times.
I clearly remember Ed saying, “That was Tank Hollow. And the waterfall wasn’t that big.”
I had such a hard time believing that, because I remembered it to be huge from my memories as a nine year old child. One day, during the summer of 1993, I visited my relatives in Natural Bridge, and we went to Tank Hollow. I was there with Aunt Gayle, and my cousins Justin and Suzanne, and one of Justin’s Army buddies. Sure enough, I saw that Ed was right. The waterfall was a lot smaller than I remembered it. But we jumped off it anyway. Somewhere in storage, I have photos from that day, not that I’d necessarily want to look at myself in a bathing suit, even when I was 21 years old.
When Bill and I were dating on Labor Day weekend in September 2001– the week before 9/11, actually– he came down to Natural Bridge and met my extended family. I took him to Tank Hollow, which now seemed even less impressive. The water was even murkier than it was before, and I wondered if there were snakes there… that thought hadn’t crossed my mind at all, when I was a child, or even when I was a younger woman. I also took him to another local swimming hole called Straw Pond, and we went swimming there, and at Cave Mountain Lake, a park area with a lake where we used to go when I was a kid… I loved it then, but saw it through different eyes as an adult.
Then, we went to Goshen Pass, another special place in my past, as I remember having my sixth birthday party there, with members of my huge, extended family, and my Granny giving me Sweet Honesty perfume in a bottle shaped like a sheep. Goshen Pass is a beautiful place, and it’s probably where Bill and I realized we were in love. We had a magical day enjoying the gorge. Then, the following week came 9/11. Bill was in the Pentagon– in the area that was hit by the jetliner. When he survived, we realized we should probably go public. It wasn’t long after that that we were engaged.
Natural Bridge has always been such a special place to me. And yet, I haven’t been there in almost nine years… I never thought I’d stay away for so long, nor would I have ever expected to feel “weird” about being there now. But, I have to admit I do feel weird. So much has changed since those days in the early 80s.
My Aunt Gayle still lives in Granny’s house. I hope it will never leave the family, because it really is a magical place, and there’s so much family history there. The road it sits on is actually named after my grandfather, Lloyd Tolley, who used to run a store there that sold basic essentials.
In fact, in the old wax museum (which closed in 2014), there was a wax depiction of one of my distant relatives– my great great great Uncle Archibald “Bar” Tolley. I think his nickname was actually “Bear”, but because of the Scottish-like hillbilly accent in those parts, it sounded more like “Bar”. I see another blogger has written about him here, and a bunch of my apparent relatives are chiming in. He was famed for hunting and killing a lot of bears, and was said to be known for his honesty and “salty” tongue (so that’s where I get it).
By coincidence, last night, I was reading about “Bar” Tolley, and figuring out how we’re related. I can see his father, Ezekiel, was my 3rd great grandfather, and his brother, Thomas Milton Tolley, was my great great grandfather. So, that would make Archibald “Bar” Tolley my great great great uncle, I guess. 😉 It’s so funny that he was immortalized in the Natural Bridge Wax Museum! The link leads to a video someone made about it. I’m so glad I took Bill there over that special Labor Day weekend in 2001.
Well… it’s always a delight to see old photos and remember things through rose tinted glasses. I do have some fabulous memories of when I was a child. We did have a lot of fun, especially during those less “regulated” times. Or maybe it just seems that way to me, because I was a kid, and I wasn’t worried about the things that worry adults of every age. I’m grateful that my cousin, Bruce, shared that long ago photo of us on that awesome day in the summer of 1981. I miss those times… and those people.
Here are the lyrics for Lyle Lovett’s old song, “Family Reserve”:
When I saw the ambulance screaming down Main Street I didn’t give it a thought But it was my Uncle Eugene He died on October The second, nineteen eighty-one
Now my uncle Wilbert They all called him Skinner And they said for his younger ways He’d get drunk in the morning And show me the rolls of fifties and hundreds He kept in the glove box of his old gray Impala
And we’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
Now my second cousin, his name was Calloway He died when he’d barely turned two It was peanut butter and jelly that did it The help, she didn’t know what to do She just stood there and she watched him turn blue
And we’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
And my friend Brian Temple He thought he could make it So from the third story he jumped And he missed the swimming pool only by inches And everyone said he was drunk
And there was Great Uncle Julius And there was Aunt Annie Miller And Mary, and Granddaddy Po And there was Hannah, and Ella And Alvin, and Alec And he owned his own funeral home
And there are more I remember And more I could mention And words I could write in a song But I feel ’em watching And I see ’em laughing And I hear ’em singing along
We’re all gonna be here forever So mama, don’t you make such a stir Just put down that camera And come on and join up The last of the family reserve
This morning, I was reading an article about a very busty, but tiny, nurse who has gotten a lot of complaints about the way she wears her scrubs. She made a video for Tik Tok, and it went viral. I’m nowhere close to being as tiny as she is, but I’m about her height with huge boobs. I know the pain. I’ve had big “sweater hams” my whole life. I worry about them a lot, since I’m 50 and hate visiting doctors for things like mammograms. I have had back issues, though I’m sure my back pain isn’t anything like hers.
I could relate to the nurse’s comments about people sexualizing her, telling her that her body shape was a problem for them. They told her she looked “inappropriate”. The top of her scrubs made her look too sexy. Honestly, if you’re really sick, are you going to care what your nurse’s scrubs look like? Short of getting surgery, which this nurse may one day decide to do just to alleviate the back pain, I don’t know what she’s supposed to do. Sizing up might not be a good solution, since the scrubs might not fit the rest of her properly. Maybe she could have them tailored, but that would be expensive and time consuming. Her body is covered. I figure that’s what should matter.
I did have a laugh in the comments on God’s page about this story. One commenter wrote:
I’ve been told by teachers I was “dressed inappropriately” while wearing a sweater… Look it’s not my fault I have big sweater hams. It is however the ADULT TEACHER’S fault that they are looking at a minor with inappropriate thoughts.
Everybody went nuts at the term “sweater hams”. I think I’ve heard that before, but it’s not a very common euphemism for big tits. In any case, I can relate. I have big boobs, too. This time of year, they aren’t much fun to deal with, because it’s hot outside. Naturally, there was a mansplainer, who wrote this:
I want to roast some serious ham. Just because I think the phrase “big sweater hams” is the weirdest thing I’ve ever heard. You don’t have meat. You are not meat. You are a person. Ham is delicious. Women are not meat.
Um… she was just being funny, guy. Read the room. Most everyone thinks the concept of “sweater hams” is hilarious. This is not the time for you to be giving someone a hard time for saying something unconventional. Why do people have to confront others for expressing themselves?
Yesterday, I was reading Amy Klobuchar’s Facebook page, and she posted about Steve Bannon’s guilty verdict in court. It was the end of a long day, and I wrote that I wouldn’t be happy until he was behind bars. And two obvious conservatives, a man and a woman, decided to leave me crappy comments, which I ignored. Why do people do that? Why harass strangers over sharing their opinions? These folks don’t even like Amy Klobuchar’s politics. Do they just want to spread misery and rudeness to strangers? I don’t see the appeal. It would be one thing if it was a news story. This is a liberal politician. They aren’t gonna vote for her. They just want to be assholes to people who support her work. I don’t understand the motivation. That behavior doesn’t change hearts and minds. I won’t be voting for a conservative politician because two random Trumpies confronted me on Facebook.
And finally, I got some news this morning from one of my cousins. My Uncle Ed, a man with whom my last conversation occurred in 2017, and ended on a very bad note, is apparently on his deathbed. He’s 85 years old; and last month, he suffered a bout of pneumonia. Apparently, he’s been struggling the whole time, and is now probably on the verge of death, if he hasn’t already crossed the bar. My cousin, who is a gay man, sent me a DM last night, while I was asleep. He lamented that his brother, who is a colossal Trump supporter, chose that time to argue about politics. It got ugly.
People can get really weird when someone close to them is about to die. I mean, my cousin– the infamous “Timmy”, whom I’ve written about before in this blog (and whose name isn’t actually Timmy)– is not acting strange when he argues about politics. He does that all the time. It’s just that he’s choosing to do it now, when his father is at death’s door. Instead of coming together with his brothers, including the one who wrote to me, Timmy is acting like an asshole. I suspect it’s because it’s his way of coping.
In July 2014, when my dad was dying, one of my sisters similarly acted like a huge asshole. I never confronted her about it. I wanted to at the time, because what she did was extremely inappropriate. My dad was in the hospital and had to be put on a ventilator. My sister, who has a habit of minimizing and discounting other people’s opinions and painful experiences, had (and maybe still has) a chip on her shoulder about the fact that I don’t hang out with my family much anymore. I specifically didn’t hang out with my dad much, because my dad was a source of a lot of pain. He regularly humiliated me, insulted me, and when I was younger, physically struck me. I finally got to a point at which I didn’t want to endure that treatment anymore, so I withdrew. And having sisters diminish that, and basically tell me that it was up to me to swallow more shit, made me want to withdraw from them, too. I’m happier and healthier for it.
Well, as my dad was dying, my sister somehow got the idea that I wouldn’t be coming to see him in the hospital. She kept sending me emotional blackmailing emails. In one email, she sent a picture of my dad in his hospital bed, wearing a huge CPAP mask. I knew this was not a photo my dad would have consented to. I doubted our mom would have approved, either. She had sent it to be manipulative, and to shame me into doing what she felt was “right”.
What really pissed me off, though, was that she absolutely didn’t need to do that. I was going to go see him, even though we were in the middle of trying to move from Texas to Germany. It wasn’t necessary for her to make the situation more painful than it already was. And even if I had decided NOT to go, that would have been my privilege. I am an adult, and I make decisions for myself. I was really tempted to lash out at her, but I decided that would make things worse than they needed to be. So I “thanked” her for the information, and Bill and I went to see my dad for the last time. He died two days later. I remained pretty upset about the photo my sister sent. It was inappropriate, unnecessary, and totally disrespectful. She wonders why I don’t want to go home and spend time with the family? It’s because of shit like THAT! I just want to live my life in peace.
So, when I read my cousin’s comments about his brother’s behavior, it made me think of my sister’s behavior. It’s not uncommon for “Timmy” to behave like a political blowhard. He traded booze for religion and politics, and has turned into an insufferable turd. But I know, deep down, he’s not really like that. I know that he’s a good person, underneath that MAGA facade. I assume most of the jerks I run into online are also, deep down, not terrible people. They say these things because they’re afraid. They think their lives are going to change, and they can’t control it. So they lash out with hate. It’s bad enough when that negativity is directed at a stranger, but it’s heartbreaking when it’s toward a supposed loved one.
Right now, my cousins need each other. They are sharing the experience of losing a parent. They are understandably under stress. I’m sure that arguing politics is one way to stop thinking about the huge loss they are about to endure. I love my uncle very much, even though the last time we communicated, he called me a “liberal nutjob”, and reminded me so much of my dad when he was on one of his worst benders. I know that overall, like my dad, his brother, my uncle is a decent person. But, like so many of us, he’s lost the plot and fallen into the abyss of political and religious bullshit. And it’s taken a huge toll on family relations, which is a real shame.
Which brings me to the “new kid in town” part of this post…
It occurs to me that my Uncle Ed may, if he hasn’t already, be crossing into the great beyond. I imagine my dad, his brothers, Carl and Brownlee, and his sisters, Jeanne, and Susan, his wife, Nancy, and his parents, Pappy and Granny, will all be waiting there to usher him into Heaven. That’s if Heaven exists, of course… and if they all went there. All of them were devout Christians. Ed will be the next “new kid” in town. And as I ponder that, I ponder this awesome album I downloaded by J.D. Souther, who helped write the song made famous by The Eagles. Below is a link for your consideration…
Well… I don’t know if Uncle Ed is gone yet. I do know that his mother, my Granny, died fifteen years ago yesterday. So if he has passed, it’s kind of an interesting time to go. My love goes out to my family who will miss him. I have many great memories of him, and the fun we had at family events. Before Trump changed him, he was one of my favorite people. I hope he finds much joy and peace as he becomes the newest family member to join the party in Heaven.
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.
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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