Now before I start, I would like to state that I don’t think family is the be-all-end-all. I completely understand that a lot of people come from shitty families. Many factors can contribute to this and it’s unfortunate. A lot of people also come from awesome families that they for some reason can’t see, and that is probably more unfortunate.
I, myself, come from a fantastic family. They may not have all their stuff together, they may not be your picture perfect 50’s t.v. family, but almost all of them have their heart in the right place and would drop anything and everything for one another.
I love that. It makes my heart swell just thinking of it, and yet…it just was never good enough for me. My (maternal) grandparents have been together 50 years, have 7 children who all (excepting 1 uncle) live within 20 minutes of one another. My grandma is one of 6 and again, all live in a 20 minute radius. Same thing with my pap, except he is the youngest of 10 and all of his surviving siblings live pretty much in the same 5 mile radius. (I have an enormous family) Most of my cousins also live in the same area, though there are a few that have gone off on their own.
I think this is wonderful and amazing and astounding. That my family is this large, yet everyone is nearly a stone’s throw from one another. But there was always a nagging feeling at the back of all of this. I loved how close my mom’s side of the family was, but I didn’t even know my dad’s side.
My dad was the oldest of 4. His parents were married for a while but eventually divorced and remarried. My Amma (Icelandic for grandma) had a twin sister, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I saw my grandparents a few times when I was very young, but my parents split up when I was young, and they all lived far away. My pap-pap (not to be confused with the singular pap) Kenny lived in New York and my Amma lived in Minnesota. Not exactly a stone’s throw away. Cue my parent’s divorce and my dad moving to Minnesota and there went that.
Eventually my dad moved back to Pennsylvania, but by then his dad had died and I was an angsty teenager unaffected and unimpressed with the idea of familial bonding.
To cut an extremely long story short, my dad died when I was 15 and I lost all contact with his family.
Enter the internet. I have a half-sister from my dad’s first marriage that would come spend weekends with us when I was little and my parents were together. We lost touch at some point and I tried for years once I became internet savvy to find her again with no luck.
Until one day two years ago when she found me on myspace. I was in awe. I’m pretty sure I actually cried when I got her message. It was amazing because I had tried to find her for so many years in vain and also because I had no real identifying information on my myspace, so it was all by chance.
Along with coming into contact with her, I got in touch with my aunt Linda, my dad’s sister. And through her I have gotten everything I have always wanted in a paternal relative.
She is an amazingly talented artist and along with posting her artwork, she frequently posts pictures. Pictures from when she was young, from when my dad was young, from when I was young.
Through her I have seen and learned so much and I am so amazed.
For instance, I found out that my grandfather joined the Navy when he was 15 by lying and saying he was 17.
I also found out that my cousin, Runar Sigurbjornsson, is an Icelandic musician that owns and operates a restaurant in Xiamen, China with his wife.
And that my family tree links me to the first president of Iceland, Sveinn Björnsson.
I think this is all amazing and it warms my heart every time my aunt posts something new and I am able to learn more about that entire half of my ancestry.
I soak up every ounce of information she shares, because I have wanted for so long to be in touch with this side of myself. But every single time I learn something, it’s incredibly bittersweet. I know that this would all blow my dad’s mind. I don’t think he ever would have imagined that we could be instantly in touch with his relatives from all over the world and it breaks my heart that he is not here to see it.