Sunday, August 2, 2009
An Unexpected Phone Call
This is Clarence, my grandfather.
It was about 9:00 p.m. when I pressed the button to my answering machine to check the calls for the day and heard a message from a man who said he was related to me. He lives in New Jersey and while researching his family history, he had found my father's name. He called my dad and my dad referred him to me. Since it was about midnight in New Jersey, I decided it was best to call him back the next day.
New Jersey? All the family members I know, are from California. It was then I remembered my grandfather Clarence's old family papers stuck in a file folder in my desk. I knew Grandpa was originally from New Jersey, but for some reason I didn't think there was any family left back there...or any that I could find.
After all, the move to California happened so long ago...before 1920. The story is told that my grandfather's mother and father---my great-grandfather Frederick and great-grandmother Matilda--had a falling out. Apparently Frederick had an affinity for alcohol. So Matilda left him, and brought my grandfather and his little brother, Merrill, to California.
I returned the phone call the next day, and Tom and I have been emailing almost every day since...trying to put together the pieces of our family history. Our great-grandfathers were brothers. (Frederick and Edward) They both struggled with alcohol, and they both experienced tragedy.
On the bright side, it is fascinating to have a new cousin spring into my life, and to see pictures of his family, children...and to notice resemblances. Not to mention exploring our common ancestry. Our family helped found Elizabethtown, New Jersey in the 1600's--and played roles in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars.
My cousin is also an accomplished journalist, has won awards for his writing, and is a professor of Journalism. He is one of six people in the nation to win the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellowship.
Son update: My oldest son returned home this evening. He has been gone for about 3 weeks. We knew he was okay, because he called a couple of times. I'm not sure how I feel about him being home. A little anxious. Things are challenging when he is here. But this is how things are. He's here. And I love him.