Through the Looking Glass

Where should I go?” Alice.

That depends on where you want to end up.  The Cheshire Cat

A cluster of five photographs is the first thing I see on moving from my bedroom to the main room of my flat: my grandmother and I with our pets are paired in a single frame with a 40 years earlier photo of Gram and her gra ndmother with their pets; on either side of this, playful snapshots I’d taken of my grandparents – Gram hiding her face to not be “in” the photo, Grumpy lifting a cup of coffee and winking at me; the smallest frame holds a portrait of my parents from a mid-1990s church photoshoot, their smiles prompted by being asked to say money. Alongside my parents, a small Angel of Light.

Since my parents’ deaths, stopping by those photos has been, in effect, my daily prayer – a moment to think on which of their traits, values, and instincts I needed to bring into my day.

That one day – the one after learning that Pops was my father by choice and nurture rather than biology and nature, I left for work without going into that room.

The early March 2018 email in Ancestry came with just an initial, a last name and some numbers to identify its sender, who was listed among the second cousins to me and one of two first cousin I linked to in this DNA and genealogy space. The email writer carefully wondered whether we might be related through “my mother who was adopted at 1 or 2 weeks old in Chicago in 1934.”
A month of correspondence later, the morning of 4 April 2018 I confirmed all the details and – long-story-short here – affirmed the connection to my mother’s family, telling a story she’d suspected and that I’d been sworn to tell only if/when asked directly by a specific short list of people. She was one of those people.
Answering the queries of my newly discovered first cousin once removed unsettled me more than I’d expected: I’d need to be part of telling the others on that short list of people about a life event that had never been shared with them.
And I’d need to attend to two things I’d been ignoring: Of the first cousins listed in Ancestry, one was another of the Three-D’s Daughter: Dorothy, Darlene, Donna – the three youngest sisters in a family that included four more sisters and six brothers. But the other one – while she was linked to my Mom’s hometown, I recognized none of names listed in or linked to her profile.
More unsettling, the cousins from my dad’s family – a first cousin, and two first cousins once removed – were not listed as DNA matches.
This 4 April 2018 date would have been my Pops’ 88th birthday. And I found none of his family in my DNA listings. Even knowing the “genetic” and “genealogical” cousins distinctions, my dad’s niece should have appeared as a DNA match.
On 4 April the piecing together of clues to identify the bio dude was actually easy thanks to two tiny flukes – a couple hundred descendant’s of bio dude’s polygamist, Mormon 2x great uncle filled the 4th to Distant Cousin category, in the listing of DNA relatives and the person who showed up as the “who’s she?” first cousin once removed match had just one male relative who was an age contemporary of my Mom.
To contemplate what might be the stories my parents didn’t tell me, I tuned the car radio to The Current, drove scenic local roads, and cried. A lot. Loudly. At moments pulling into side street parking areas for safety. Having played out all of the worst case scenarios, returned home, put the Son Volt Trace album on repeat and I fell asleep wondering where I would go with this discovery.
Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel
May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
May the wind take your troubles away
By anyone’s reckoning, the 2018 day that would have been my Pops’ 88th birthday, was a miserable day.

Wales was where I wanted to go the next morning – directly out the back door, to my car, to the Hwy 5 exit and the airport.
And where I didn’t want to be was in my home, where I was sure that in looking at those 5 photos – and a couple score of snapshots as well as my own large-scale landscapes – I would find that I had  gone missing from my family: not Alexander, not Stafford, not Svelstad, and not Evans.

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