Father’s Day has always left me longing. My father died when I was three years old, and I only have two memories of him. One is a trip to the local Tastee Freeze for a soft serve ice cream cone. I was wearing yellow pajamas, and it was summertime. I remember riding in the front seat of the car sans seatbelt (that was okay back then) and feeling so happy to be spending time with my Daddy. It might have been around Father’s Day, but I have no way of knowing.
My second memory of my father isn’t quite so lovely. I remember seeing him in the casket at his funeral. I saw the white, fluffy bedding around his body in the raised casket and asked my Mom, “Why is Daddy in a baby bed?” Someone took me to the funeral home lobby soon after that where I remember sitting with my Mrs. Beasley doll watching people walk through the doors.
Just those two memories – one happy, one sad. I have photos of my father, but I cannot remember his face in real life. I remember only the emotions associated with my two memories.
My husband and I don’t have children of our own, and we are both only children since my brother died four years ago. He did not have children either. My mother is an only child, too. So, I am the last of my family. Each Father’s Day reminds me of that fact.
But, this Father’s Day is different.
My husband, Rick, got into genealogy a few years ago and began searching for information about his ancestors and extended family. I wasn’t as interested in seeking out my own family’s history, maybe because I didn’t want more confirmation that it all ended with me. But, that didn’t stop Rick from investigating my family’s tree for me. He asked my Mom for photos and for information. He posted data online with Ancestry.com. He found and shared birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses and military records. I listened when he shared new discoveries with me, but knowing about my ancestors just made me frustrated that I don’t have descendants to carry on the family name.
Then, I got an email. Or rather, Rick got an email. From my cousin.
Unbeknownst to me, Rick found and contacted a cousin on Facebook who I didn’t even know existed. And that cousin responded back! I can’t exactly describe my feelings. It was somewhere between a mix of excitement, sadness and relief. I read the email and cried like a baby, surprised at such an emotional response.
That was six months ago, and I still haven’t emailed my newfound cousin. I am friends with him and his sister on Facebook now, and I enjoy seeing photos of them and learning about family I never knew existed. I have messaged with his sister, and we shared a few photos.
I definitely want to meet this family I’ve discovered, but I know the tears will come. There will be tears of joy at seeing cousins who share common ancestors. There will be tears of gratitude for stories that can fill gaps in my family tree. There will be tears of sadness that half a century has gone by before I knew them.
So, this Father’s Day is different. I look at one of the very few photos of my father, and this time it doesn’t just evoke fuzzy memories and sadness. Now the picture brings hope – hope for new family and new memories that will keep the legacy of my family forever strong.