I saw that, for me, this country would always be populated with presences and absences, presences of absences, the living and the dead. The world as it is would always be a reminder of the world that was, and of the world that is to come.
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow
Gerry and I arrive at the restaurant early and sit in the lobby passing a bit of time. He scrolls through the photos on his phone, I watch the clock. It’s early evening and this appointment has been in the back of my mind all day—with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. Meeting new people has never come easy for me.
If you’ve read my book you’ll know that I spent a good part of my life seeking that which comes natural for most, but proved elusive for me: family. So when I receive an email from a birth cousin I connected with a few years ago, and subsequently spoke with a couple of times on the phone, telling me she and her husband will be passing through town and wondering if we might get together for coffee, I immediately it on my calendar and protect the date.
We recognize one another as soon as we enter the restaurant (say what you will about social media, it provides real benefits for family seekers like me). Gerry and I follow my cousin and her husband to the booth they’re being seated at, and spend the next few hours getting to know one another.
Conversation flows easily; I sense kindred spirits in both my cousin and her husband. Gerry and I share a decadent chocolate desert, they share the same, and I don’t taste one bit of it so filled am I with the gift of easy conversation and connection.
A couple of weeks ago I sat in a park on a warm evening with Gerry, my daughter and granddaughter, and my son’s fiancé and was overcome with gratitude for the sense of family I felt blanketed in. I feel that same way now—like I’m with my people.
My cousin fills in the blanks for me on some family stuff and introduces me, through our conversation and a couple of photos, to her siblings and children and their children. We talk about a little one who had heart surgery this very day, and who I prayed for this morning—again thanks to the magic of social media. We talk about the birth mom I never knew— a quiet woman who struggled—and I’m reassured that I had the best possible upbringing with my adoptive family, even as I’m grieved for not having had these cousins in my life. We talk about the lives we’ve lived, and are living now; I find myself wishing we lived closer than two provinces apart.
Too soon, it’s time to leave. We pause for photos, talk of getting together again, and hugs when we leave the restaurant.
”I love them!” I exclaim under my breath to Gerry as we leave the hotel. I suspect, rightly as it turns out, that I’ll have trouble sleeping. I’ll need time to process, replay conversations, and just bask in the gift of reunion.
And so, this morning, I’m feeling abundantly blessed and somewhat melancholy. Rarely have I felt such a camaraderie with people I just met, and there have been only a handful of times that I’ve felt embraced by the family I am part of by blood. Both of these, priceless treasures to me.
Or in this case, complicated happy.