“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
~ Arthur Ashe
Family reunion…of sorts
Meeting up with a long lost cousin
A year or so ago I found my step-cousin Milton on Ancestry. Receiving a response of any kind on that site often does not happen; I was pleasantly surprised when Milt sent a reply right away. Since then, he, my sister, and I have had a very nice, catch-up correspondence.
This past weekend my sister–standing between Milt and myself in the top photo–hosted a lawn concert. All Olson, Geier, and Appell cousins were invited. It was an end-of-the-summer musical bash (featuring local talent Ellen Whyte), something we all very much looked forward to attending. I could listen to Ellen all day, but another reason for our anticipation: Lynne, our mother Margaret (wearing the pink jacket, same photo), and I were about to meet up with Milton, the cousin we had not seen since 1978. That, and there was a tiny surprise on the agenda.
Where it all began
We don’t share DNA, but…
Our grandmothers worked together for the Sperry Flour Company in Tacoma and were very good friends. Here they are as co-workers in a 1927 company photo.
It was a day of learning, too. Milt very graciously shared photo albums we had not previously seen. There were a few surprises. I did not know that all four, our biological grandparents, were friends.
A few years later it all changed. Carl and Lalla divorced in 1933, and Juanita passed in 1949. At least part of that friendship flourished; in either 1950 or 1951, Lalla and Ed married. My father Rod and Milt’s mother Dolores became step-siblings, and Milt and I became step-cousins.
Connections with the Appell clan
The fun did not stop with my father’s Geier/Haggie side. A couple of weeks ago Milt sent me copies of slides he’d been scanning. Amazingly, he’d discovered a collection from my parents’ wedding on August 3, 1957 (my mother is an Appell). By themselves the slides are a genealogist’s delight, yet I was drawn to a photo of an adorable little girl whom I recognized.
I knew my Appell cousin Tom would be at Lynne’s party. If my suspicion was correct, he would want to see this photo. There is an uncanny resemblance to Susie, Tom’s sister, who was born in 1954.
As I chatted nearby, whatever it was that made me turn towards Tom quickly revealed itself as one of those full circle, breath-taking, teary-eyed moments one never forgets. I saw a serious expression on Milt’s face and Tom wiping his eyes while holding the photo. I saw Tom hug Milt and my eyes started leaking. Bingo. The little girl in the photo is Susie, a precious reminder of life’s fragile nature. Susie was killed in an auto accident when she was 20 in 1975. Until Milt started scanning, no one had seen these photos.
The power of connection
The road leads home
I believe several of us are thankful no one captured the eye leakage on film, but it was a day none of us will forget. Think about the path of this one photo and its power.
Milton has photos and slides, Milton and Karen reconnect, Milton shares photos of wedding, Karen spies cousin Susie, Lynne hosts lawn concert, Tom and Milt meet for the first time, photos are shared, and our world shrinks, just a teeny bit.
Here are photos of our blessed day, as cousins reconnect and others meet for the first time; we strengthened our bond through the power of family. It might be a small world, but our circle just got a little larger.
Why did I use the Arthur Ashe quote above? Sometimes doing what we can means the world to someone else.
Life is good. ❤