“I should be no stranger to this by now.”
That is what keeps running through the corridors of my mind as I read through the e-mails that my mother is receiving from my late grandmother’s childhood best friend, informing us of wonderful, lively and exciting parts of this amazing woman that my mother and I apparently never fully got to know.
Most of my life was spent with one blood relative to my name—my mother. It is heard often from those who were separated and are then reunited with their blood relations, “I finally felt whole.” To many this seems so cliché because when one doesn’t lack in this manner, they cannot fully understand what it is like to be only partially defined.
The only way I can describe this feeling of lacking a full self, is with an analogy: It is as if one had come from being alone out in the desert, trying to survive when they arrived into a village. And upon arriving into that village, they announced that they were hungry and thirsty. Say that person was given only a large amount of water. Their belly, for a moment, may feel satisfied and full, but that physical satisfaction wouldn’t last long because they would still desire the other half of that equation; food.
Here have I been in life, previously only drinking water when I was hungering for that other half. With my mother not knowing anything about her father, having large chunks of her mother’s life omitted by her mother’s choosing, my never knowing my own father, it would be accurate to say that a sense of self was a little hard to grasp with so many gaping holes.
So many others in life mature knowing at least two parents or having a knowledge of them and their heritage. They are generally told at some point in life “you are x amount of this and y amount of that. Your ancestors hail from here and we come from this set of beliefs or this sort of background.” But that wasn’t me. A number of components within me truly were ‘missing’ and I didn’t know what those components were; but rather simply that they were gone.
Eventually both my mother and I have been provided with our ‘meals’ of sorts. I have been provided with my father, and along with him, his entire family. From him I have learned certain aspects of him that are within myself, without having previously known a single thing about him. I look at our personalities or those of my brothers and see that we are related and share common traits—even ignoring our shared appearances. My mother, on the other hand, has been presented with brothers and other relatives who can answer only a little about what her other half is. Her father was as much as mystery as was her mother. And this is my point:
My grandmother only served my mother and I a portion of her identity and left so many things out. Yet the intimate details of who we are, are so important to define not only for ourselves, but for those who come after us.
My mother and I are reading e-mails from a woman who is not family and who we have never met, but that knows our family, it would appear, deeply; knows of this small portion of me and this half of my mother. And for this woman I am extremely grateful as I am learning what it feels like to be satisfied of that drowned hunger.
I am half German, and portions of English, Danish, Irish, French and Spanish as we hail from its royalty. I am as analytical and straight-forth as is my Father. I am as sensitive and as altruistic as was my Grandmother. I am as active as are my Uncles, and as stubborn as is my mother. I am as much myself as I am all of these people within me. And that, at this very moment, has me so full up.