I saw my father’s eyes yesterday. I hadn’t seen them, truly seen them, for two or three years before he died. My father had Alzheimer’s and so the eyes I looked into were not his for quite some time, stolen by the disease. But yesterday, I saw them. He was there, in my cousins’ eyes.
I attended my father’s first cousin’s wake. A woman of ninety, whom at one time was the baby of the family, surrounded by her family and friends who will forever love and miss her. My dad always loved Eileen, so it was for him that I made it a point to honor them both by attending. I only really knew one cousin well. As with so many families, everyone is spread out by time, obligations, lives. But within moments I was surrounded by people, my father’s people, my grandfather’s people who remembered them, had stories, history, connections.
As an adoptee, it has always been a challenge for me to find that sense of lineage that those who are not adopted enjoy freely. I have come to understand that for me lineage can be complicated. For me it doesn’t include blood, and bones and features of a face, but stories by my grandparents, my parents and in this case, the memory of my grandfather, my father and his cousin Eileen. Good memories, proud memories. I learned that my grandfather had handed out candy at his grocery store to Eileen’s nieces and nephews and that my grandfather was her favorite uncle, Uncle Willie. My cousins delighted in the knowledge that I had the scales from the grocery he started in Port Chester, NY as a young man in the 1920’s upon his arrival from Ireland. There were stories about the house where they once lived as an extended family and their time spent at Oakland Beach.