Today I was covering a political event, interviewing candidates and milling about in a room full of people. At one point, I was standing alone off to the side, recording the sound of the busy room. A man walked up, stood directly in front of me and announced "I'm your cousin."
I laughed and said "oh really..."
I thought he was about to make some joke about having the last name Johnson or something like that. I was prepared to be unimpressed. Instead, he looked me in the eye and said "Yes. I'm your cousin. I'm Shane."
I literally gasped and threw my arms around him. It WAS my cousin Shane, who I haven't seen, talked to or heard from since I was 12 years old! I have no idea how he recognized me. We chatted for just a few minutes -- there wasn't time for a lengthy conversation. I just kept staring at him, amazed by the seemingly random encounter and the rush of emotions I was experiencing.
You see for a number of reasons, my father cut off ties with his family members when I was a young girl. As a result of that family break, I never saw my cousins again. It wasn't my fault and it wasn't my cousins' fault that we parted ways -- but we suffered the consequences of the separation. It wasn't until today that I realized I've missed my connection to my cousins. Growing up, we weren't close. We lived in different cities and only saw one another a few times a year. But there is something special about having family and relatives who are connected to you in a way your friends can never be.
I didn't realize how deeply that affected me -- it hit me today that it was a loss I had never really grieved. It's not so much that I missed Shane, specifically (although seeing him again was wonderful). It's that I miss having those bonds with people who are irreversibly connected to me, my history and my blood.
Maybe I miss the idea of what was lost -- images of picnics under the pecan tree in my grandmother's back yard -- sharing the excitement of Christmas with other kids my age -- enjoying my role as princess among a passel of boy cousins -- those are the mental images flying through my mind today. It's the loss of what was and also what could have been --lost possibilities that are probably idealized, mostly unrealized and certainly a defining part of who I am.