The couple both agreed if either wanted children after they married that they would start a family.
Just one decisive vote all it would take. All that would be needed both pledged, promised. But during dating many things are like being on school summer vacation easy.
Shortly after each said I do, the husband said I don’t, won’t father our child. He did not want kids and that was that. The door closed, nailed shut on the subject. That marriage issue, hurdle and disagreement meant the hard work of a real school year was in session, underway. Like a surprise quiz or test you were not prepared for suddenly announced. Causing a pit in your stomach about any other surprises ahead in the marriage. The honeymoon was over.
Neither had thought they wanted to have kids during dating because they had married late.
But the biological clock was still ticking, healthy and the wife especially was so good with kids. But had never had any. I knew as a kid I wanted kids and that that was one of my purposes in life. To be a parent, raise a bunch the better part of two decades until empty nest syndrome kicked in. And all kinds of free time was created to fill with new life pursuits, hobbies, relationship self improvement.
I got a call from a man claiming to be my cousin. A child in the family no one knew about, that did not show up in any of the photo albums, the reunion conversations. The son of my great uncle and aunt that I always knew as childless, also marrying late. And both long gone, dead and buried.
That call out of the blue coming in right on schedule hit me oddly at first.
The knee jerk response, instinct was no. Can’t be. No kids in my memories of the pair. But logic said hear him out. Listen to the story and see if it is plausible, possible.
The new cousin was a man in his seventies, living on the Maine coast. He was blessed with four girls of his own. Had carried the secret of his real parents for approaching four score. And as he closed in on his death, the end of his life, he wanted two things. To know the health history of my great aunt and uncle, his parents.
My great uncle was a diabetic that did not take care of the disease even though his wife, my great aunt was a cracker jack nurse.
This new cousin wanted to tell his daughters the secret, the family health history of their real grandparents. He had one daughter with diabetes.
At first, my new elderly cousin believed his real mother, my great aunt was his aunt. Called her that growing up. His mother could not conceive a child, my great aunt had found herself pregnant back in the 1930’s. A picklish condition and one that I don’t think my great uncle ever knew about during courting and sparking. That might have upset the marital to be apple cart in the pursuit. When he was her initiative.
My great aunt was a world war one nurse and made several trips here, there on “assignments”. So heading to Braintree Massachusetts to work at a hospital where she was needed for nine months, a little under a year did not seem out of the ordinary to anyone in her family in the Houlton Maine area. Nurses went where duty called, traveled like doctors who used to make house calls too. They would stay with the sick, run the house, keep things in order until the infirmed were back on their feet. Feeling in the pink.
I scanned, emailed tons of images of my great aunt and uncle and my new bonafide second cousin did the same from his end of himself.
His birth certificate was witnessed by one of my great aunt’s best friends, Alfreda Rooney from Ludlow Maine. The names of the principles were creatively altered but you could see the logic leading to what the paperwork revealed.
My parents came to the real estate office, Both studied the images he had kindly emailed me and both exclaimed how much he looked at this age like one or the other of his real parents. No DNA swabs, paternity tests or grave exhumations needed. Nothing high profile or filled with drama or notariety of the players in this paternity issue. No high skates legal suit with lots of billable hours. It was simple. I had a new cousin, welcome aboard my attitude. Family is everything I was taught, shown growing up.
No financial gain motivation, just wanting to get the secret off his chest before he died.
To let his kids, my new four third cousins know their real heritage, lineage. He had known his real mother as his Aunt for the better part of his life until his mother let him in on the secret before her passing. Wonder how many other similiar secrets went to the grave in the families, neighbors around me?
My new cousin and I exchange Christmas cards. My parents who are both gone now when alive invited him north to visit. He never did with them but called me one day for assistance in finding my great aunt and uncle’s grave stone. I helped him and told him everything I knew, that was shared with me about his parents.
When I told him my cousin Perry and I were two cousins she seemed to be especially fond of, and how much fun my great aunt was, what a tease I heard my great uncle was, he seemed troubled. Did not share the joys, fond memories and told me his real mother create problems for him that he was still struggling with as he admitted to the world what not everyone would share as the best action to take.
It was bittersweet like many stepping stones, set backs, and trials we all have in life.
No one is immune. What is your family secret? Have you come to terms, grips with it? Do you keep it under tight wraps? Ashamed, embarrassed or empowered with it to be stronger because of it. To use it for good or just the sheer freedom to admit and not carry it around.
Loving someone is like that.
Don’t ever try to smother it, hide it, let them know even if that love is not returned, if the other side of the signal gave up on you, the us. Because you waited too long. It feels good to tell the truth in matters of the heart. Regardless of the outcome. Swallow your pride. Everyone needs someone to lean on sometime in life. When you are not strong, when you need someone to carry on. It is never too late as long as you are alive. There is always a morning after the storm.
I don’t believe my great uncle ever knew he was this retired fellow from Rockland Maine’s father. Swept under the rug, kept tight lipped by the few that knew that never spilled the beans. Until the boy’s supposedly mother told the truth of who really was. Would the truth hurt someone, cause more problems for others?
Be ready for your call, keep an open mind, and invite in any new family members you may have. Family, kids are one of God’s most important institutions. Cherish yours. Embrace and hold them close through the peaks and valleys of your life.
Maine, big state, down to Earth people who keep it simple, real, honest.