Wednesday, December 03, 2008

12/3/08 The long-lost cousin

Hard to tell in this photo, but Katrina took a page from the Cousin Remi Chapter of Self-Art tonight and drew all over herself, her clothes, the carpet and many other items in the family room tonight.

She acted like her cousin for a full half-hour while I was inattentively indisposed on the phone with a cousin of mine.

One I've never talked to before.

I got the call just as I walked in the door with All Three: "Hello, I hope I'm reaching Nay-o-mee, I'm Jimmy's cousin Robert..." Say no more, I grabbed the phone and locked myself in the office. This was my father's cousin, a man I've heard of but have never spoken to before. He and my dad knew each other as kids, and they've stayed in touch over the years. Dad's cousin (my first cousin once removed) knew that Dad had moved, and had talked to Dad, but Cousin Bob was concerned that "Jimmy" wasn't being straightforward about how he is or where he was.

To my surprise, Cousin Bob didn't quite get the picture, until I filled him in, that Dad only knows in a vague sense where he is, and that concepts of distance and time have long since failed him. Cousin Bob, who lives in California, said, "Jimmy asked me right away if I was going to stop by -- he doesn't seem to understand how far away I am!" No kidding.

I learned that I have more great-aunts and uncles than Dad ever told me, probably because I never asked until he was already having trouble remembering. I knew his mother was Opal Morgan (hence Julian's middle name), and she had two sisters, Odessa and Leota. But I didn't know there were three more sisters and a brother. I gained three great-aunts and a great-uncle today! Even if they've all long since died. (My grandmother, Opal, died of Alzheimer's in her early 60s, before I was born...the genetics of Alzheimer's are not in my favor.) I must have second-cousins all over the place.

My great-aunt, Leota Morgan, died young, in the 1940s, Cousin Bob tells me. I already knew she was a screenwriter, and have seen her credits on IMDB. One movie she wrote, Man and Wife (1923), even had a famous actress in it, Norma Shearer.

What a treat to discover a little piece of family history right in my own backyard, sort of (Cousin Bob and his wife are in Southern California). Finding out more about my ancestors -- and more ancestors -- is a little "spooooky" as Julian would say.

And the line continues....even if it's covered in Magic Marker.


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