Finding Family and Going “Home” – By Cara Potapshyn Meyers
Next week, I will be meeting cousins and extended family I have never met before. Other than FaceBook postings, messages and exchanges over the past couple years, we have never been able to find an appropriate time to meet. We finally settled on several good days this month. I am trembling with excitement and anticipation of meeting everyone for the first time. However, I must back track in order to accurately tell this great tale.
About a dozen years ago, when my father was still alive, I randomly plunked my maiden name into google search to see what came up. My maiden name is so unusual, I expected to find just my immediate family. What came up was a page of names of people I never heard of before. They all had the same last name as mine and lived in Michigan. I printed the list out and brought this list for my father to see, hoping he would recognize some of these names. All my father could say was, “Well what do you know…there is Jack, my cousin. And these others must be his sisters and brothers.” I asked my father if he wanted to get in touch with Jack if I could find his address. He said he would love it and would send him a letter. I found his address and a letter was sent off.
Several weeks later, my father received a letter back from Jack, who established that, yes, they were first cousins, both born on the same day, only two years apart! The names on the paper my father kept were, indeed, Jack’s siblings and other close family members. Jack’s father and my father’s father were brothers. From what I was told, those two brothers came from Russia to Ellis Island. My grandfather was able to find work in New York and establish a home. The other brother could not. It was rumored that big car industries in Detroit were looking for men to hire. The other brother set off to Michigan with hopes of finding work and settling down. The rest, as they say, is history.
My father was ecstatic, corresponding both by phone as well as good, old fashioned, snail mail! Just a couple years later, however, Jack met his demise. His lovely wife, Pearl, continued to correspond with my father until my father went through several years of medical problems and hospitalizations. At that point, I began corresponding with Pearl, who always wanted to know how my father was doing. Ironically, our last call was two weeks before my father died. I tried to get in touch with her, but messages were not returned and letters not responded to. I wondered what could have happened to her but had no one to ask.
Two years ago, when my husband decided he wanted a divorce, I felt that I wanted a part of my old identity back. I changed my last name to include my maiden name on Facebook. About two weeks later, I received a message by a woman who had a last name the same as my maiden name. She wanted to know if I was related to Michael Potapshyn, my father. I quickly wrote back and confirmed that I was, then asked how she knew my father. She explained that her husband is my second cousin, and her husband’s father was Jack! I broke out in goosebumps! Pearl always wanted to talk about how my father was doing, but never mentioned anything about her family!
From that point on, I had running dialog with this woman who found me on FaceBook. She then told me that she had three married daughters, each with children of their own. At that time, she had five Grandchildren. Now, in two short years, she has nine, with another on the way! Even more exciting was that for most of last year, all three daughters were pregnant at the same time! Thus the difficulty in finding a suitable time for me to visit.
During this time, I got to know each of the daughters through FaceBook. They all sound loving, kind and bonded to each other and to their parents and extended family. As my divorce continued, I realized that my son was my only close blood relative. I do have cousins who live nearby, however our contact is sparse. The more I got to know my “Michigan Family,” the more I craved seeing them.
I finally sent messages through FaceBook asking when would be a good time to visit. We all mutually decided that summer would be the best time of year as “everyone HAS to get a chance” to meet me. Then we narrowed the time down to next week.
I will finally get to meet Pearl, who I understand is too sick to call or write anymore. I will also get to spend time with Gary, my second cousin, as we have never conversed before. I will get to meet his beautiful daughters, one who is the spitting image of my cousin in Florida and one who most people say looks very much like me. In fact, on the car ride up to my son’s camp, I showed my son a few pictures of the daughters. He exclaimed, “Mommy! They look just like you!” I replied, “Yes, Honey, they do…that’s because we’re cousins!”
Stay tuned for a follow up blog on my experiences “going home!”
Note: I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Robin, Founder of MotherhoodLater.com, for choosing me as her first blogger, three years ago this week! I have enjoyed blogging for MotherhoodLater immensely, and have learned to critique my blogs both through feedback from our readers as well as our other amazing bloggers, both present and past. MotherhoodLater has become a large part of my world, thanks to Robin’s confidence in me. I look forward to blogging more and more as MotherhoodLater continues to grow! Happy Blogging Anniversary to…me!