Note: this entry is a continuation of a previous entry
... So I stayed up all night, bought the cheapest tickets I could find ($1000), packed my things, and headed for Dallas.
Unfortunately, I missed the first flight. (Oh yeah, do you remember my self-professed promise to be on time for everything from now on? Well, it appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds).
I first met up with my brother "C" - he and his girlfriend and daughter picked us up at the airport. (It was a test of patience, since my plane was forced to sit on the runway for 20 minutes after we landed).
First stop was McDonald's. [In case you didn't know, Texas has the sweetest tea - and I mean "tea so sweet that it's hard to taste the flavor of the tea through the sugar" - the sweetest tea that I've ever encountered.] Caught up on small talk, and called my mom, who was still enroute from Oklahoma. I love my brother "C", and it was good to see him again.
I was mostly there to visit my mom's side of the family, but since we had some extra time to kill, I talked my brother into paying a visit to our "other" grandmother (and uncle) - people on my dad's side of the family.
We didn't have a phone number for them, but my brother knew exactly where they lived, so we knocked on the door, unannounced, and hoped for the best. To my surprise, we were welcomed in and treated like heroes (despite the fact that I had allowed 20 years to go by without a single card, letter, or phone call).
My grandmother opened up about a lot of things. She talked about our heritage (we have some Native American aka "American Indian" blood in us). She talked about her passion for writing, and described some of the books and poetry that she had written over the years (this came as a surprise to me, and reaffirmed by belief that some traits really are genetic). She talked about the psychic abilities that seem to run in our family line, referring to them as "spiritual gifts". It was an illuminating conversation. They say that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, and it was clear to me that we had more in common than I could have otherwise imagined.
My uncle seemed to be doing well. He and I were pretty close at one time. He was a cameraman for a small but successful film company, and this eventually inspired me to try out the film business myself. [I starred in two films in High School: one written by Dane Marti, and another by Ruel Murphy. Both films did really well; one of them even won second place in the state amateur film competition. Ah, memories.] He talked to me about creating a film together someday. Who knows? Might be fun.
After what seemed like hours, we finally left and went to the "big reunion" with my mother's family. Met up with my grandfather, some aunts and uncles that I hadn't seen since I was about eight years old, and some cousins that I couldn't remember at all. Everyone remarked about how good it was to see me after all these years, etc., etc. My grandfather told me about his days as a photographer for the Navy (I always loved the pictures of the battleships that he took from the nearby harbor). Then, he went into detail about his days as a preacher, and how my parents met during one of his sermons. He asked about my sister [she's fine, but she wasn't able to make it to the reunion]. He asked about my dad [he's fine; he can't make it either but he sends his best regards]. He told me about the wife he lost last year to heart failure. I waited until a quiet moment, and thanked him for taking care of us kids while my mom was in the hospital. He's basically a decent man, trying to do what's right. He's made some mistakes, but he's okay. I wanted him to know that I appreciated him for who he was.
Night fell, and we decided to visit my half-brother "S", who lives about an hour from Dallas, in the country. It was so late that one of his kids had already gone to bed, but it turned out to be a really nice visit anyway [I got to meet "S" and his family for the first time last year. I was sent to Dallas on a business trip, and they came to visit me at the hotel. He looks a lot like me; so in other words, a very handsome man, and he's got a very calm demeanor (aka "nice guy syndrome", like yours truly had at one time)]. Anyway, the kids hit it off really well, and us adults just hung out in the cool night air and talked and talked and talked, until sunrise started to creep over the horizon. It really was a good time.
I only had a couple of hours before my plane to Denver was departing, so I made my last visit to my other half-brother ("J"), who had brought his son along. This was the first time that I seen "J" since he was about two years old, so it was nice to finally meet him in person as an adult (when our parents divorced, he went to live with his dad, who was formerly my step-dad, and I went to live with my real dad; so we ended up being raised in totally different parts of the country). I didn't get to spend much time with him, but we exchanged email addresses and I plan on writing to him soon.
I boarded the return flight less than an hour later, and I was back in Denver just in time to get my presentation finished for work the next day.
Although I had reservations about going to this reunion, I'm glad I went anyway. It felt good to connect with my long-lost brothers, and I feel like I was able to say goodbye to my grandparents (just in case, you know). I know that I'm never going to be as "close" to the family as most of them would like me to be, but at least I can drop in every once in a while, and it's nice - really nice - to be accepted for who I am and to feel like part of a family, even if only for a short time.
Little did I know, that two more reunions were going to be coming my way in the near future ... <to be continued>