For the first time since St. Patrick’s Day, I set aside a day to travel recreationally during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Quarantine be damned. This was about family.
This excursion was not work-related. I joined my wife, Kim, to spend the day with her half-brother, Donnie, in Wichita, Kansas, and to meet her long-lost uncle.
We first met Donnie on a whim during Christmas 2013. My dad had died that summer, and my mom was taking our family to visit my sister Cindy’s family in Florida and take the kids to Disney World.
Ice and snow delayed our departure from the Wichita airport. Kim had met her dad only once during her life, and she randomly decided to cold call her uncle while stranded in Kansas.
His family was most gracious. An impromptu family visit introduced Kim to Donnie, her brother from another mother. That led us to meet Kim’s sole-surviving uncle last week in Wichita to learn more about her dad.
Kim’s (and Donnie’s) father was rather fruitful and married five times. In an interesting twist, Kim’s mom was Donnie’s stepmom. We attended the funeral for Donnie’s biological mom last spring, and Donnie paid his respects at Kim’s mom’s funeral in May.
We’re losing loved ones, but we’re gaining relatives. After discovering Donnie, I recently used some internet sleuthing to find another half-sibling for Kim and Donnie living in the Oklahoma City metro. And thanks to Ancestry.com, Kim was contacted by another half-sister living in Virginia. (Thank you, DNA tests!)
I call them her sisters from the same ol’ mister. I look forward to meeting them in person at some point.
We chased some tombstones in Wichita cemeteries last week. Trying to connect to the past, we tracked down graves of the half-siblings’ grandparents.
While attending the burial of Donnie’s mom last spring, we couldn’t find their dad’s grave in Sedgwick County, Kansas. We had better luck last week, locating his tombstone thanks to the internet once again. That was neat.
On the night before writing this column, my niece Adriana texted me about family ties.
“I’m curious about Granddad Bob’s side of the family,” she wrote, social distancing from the Sunshine State. “My mom tells me that half were from the Mayflower and half were outlaws?”
Without revealing any more family secrets here, I emailed my family tree built on Ancestry.com to let her be the judge.
Not to sound like Alex P. Keaton, but family ties really are important, even if they are unraveled and need to be tied back together.
Collins can be reached at email@example.com.