opening the doors

We met the relatives. It was surprisingly comfortable. It would have been easy to mistake the gathering as a normal family reunion of people who haven’t seen each other in a lengthy period of time, except we were the branch that they didn’t know existed. Oh, they knew that a baby boy had been born. They thought the baby died. What else would you think with an obituary in the Memphis paper? Nobody in their family ever talked about it. When they found out that relatives of that infant were trying to make contact, they opened their hearts to the possibility. They listened. They looked at the records. My father’s story is impossibly bizarre. They could have refused to believe. They didn’t just believe. They traveled to us with photo albums and family trees.

There is a commonality in being a southerner in rural communities that exists regardless of shared DNA. Everyone talked. Stories were told. There were shared life experiences to go with our similar accents. We sat down at a table together and shared a meal. Breaking bread together is a bond that is timeless and multicultural. Family pictures were scoured for similar eyes, noses and laugh lines. Too many of the cousins have the same zipper scar.

I won’t say that this has brought closure. Closure implies endings. It would be more accurate to say that locked doors have been opened. The past is less musty. The air feels clearer. For us, the secrets and lies inflicted by greed and self righteousness have been laid bare. Any story that remains belongs to those who were damaged irreparably. We carry them in our hearts.

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