Thursday, May 5, 2011

Meeting The Other Side of the Family

I've never known much about my dad's side of the family -- my nearest cousins were fare enough apart, both age and distance, that I didn't really know them growing up, and barking up the family tree -- excuse the terrible pun -- I'm completely clueless about anything beyond my grandfather on that side of the family.

I get the sense that on that side of the family relationships tended to be strained and awkward, or at least those whom I know... I don't know if it's normal or not, but anyway...we don't seem to be a overly social bunch in general.

Part of my last name is unique enough that I've always assumed that if I ever met anyone with the same last name the odds of it being a relative would make for a virtual certainty. And when I've Googled the name, in addition to the handful of cousins and relatives, I've come across others who share the same surname but who I've never heard anything about, and certainly not met.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota is -- as I've noted before -- one of my clients -- and I've spent the better part of this week in Rochester for a project. Based on my schedule thus far (and the woeful tendencies of museums to be closed on Mondays) I haven't really hit any of my cultural favorites in the state yet -- I'm planning on seeing a few sights before my flight out tomorrow evening, but I digress.

While I had this trip on my mind I happened to Google my surname and I was reminded that someone who shares the name also works at the Clinic.

I don't do well with introductions, particularly complete strangers, but figuring I had nothing to loose I sent a very awkward "Hey, I don't know you, you don't know me, but we have the same last name so we might be related... and Oh, by the way I'll be in your city in a few weeks". A response and some correspondence later, I'm slowly learning about the "other side" of the family.

The gentleman who I "discovered" is my Dad's cousin (their fathers were brothers), though they've never met and grew up essentially on opposite sides of the country.

We met for very quick coffee when I got into Rochester on Monday afternoon, and compared notes...a very nice gentleman, and nowhere near as awkward as I thought it could be.

Last night he and his wife opened their home to me for dinner and conversation where I also met one of their children (I think, technically a 2nd cousin, but that gets kind of foggy for me). I also met his brother's son (also, I think, technically a 2nd cousin) originally from New York, who happens to be passing through Rochester this week as well. Dinner and desert was great, but the conversation -- learning about a side of the family that I wasn't really conscious about, and comparing some of the traits that seem to be present in my branch of the tree was a lot of fun.


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