Missed Opportunity

My aunt died last week. She was my father’s sister. I wasn’t close to her; in fact, I only met her once, briefly. It doesn’t seem like her passing should be a big deal for me. If only…

My mother remembers my father’s only sister as a very sweet girl. She and my mother were sophomores in high school when my mother and father ran away to get married and await my arrival. When the marriage didn’t work out, I stayed with my mother and had no relationship with my father or his family. My mother was always afraid my father’s family would try to take me away from her. For their part, I think my father’s family wanted to forget the whole unfortunate incident and that was easiest if I wasn’t around. I had one brief visit with my paternal grandparents when I was eleven, but I never saw my father again.

I tried to contact him after my visit with his parents. They discouraged my inquiry and while my mother was supportive, she was clearly uncomfortable. By now I knew my father was remarried with a whole new family (his parents sent me a picture) and I decided to let the whole thing go. Clearly, my mother and father would not reunite and we would not all live happily ever after, at least not together.

Fast forward to 1994, now the mother of two young children myself, I decided I needed to know more about my father. I wanted to know if we resembled my father. I also wanted to know about his medical history. I contacted a people search firm I heard advertised on the radio. For $29.95 on my credit card, I learned my father was dead. When I asked the women on the phone how he died, she said, “I don’t know; I can’t tell.” She suggested I write the Social Security Administration for a copy of his death certificate. When I did, they responded with a request for information proving I had the right to know.  I decided I didn’t care enough to continue and dropped my inquiry.

Then about five years ago, I was contacted and put in touch with a half brother and two half sisters, children of my father and his second wife. I met each of them, as well as my father’s second wife, my stepmother. We’ve developed a relationship, and my stepmother, in particular, was a great source of information about my father.

Recently, I’d been thinking I would like to learn more about his early life and his family. I knew that this aunt only lived about five or six hours away and decided I might try to talk with her. She had never shown any interest, but I thought she might be curious enough about me to agree to meet. I planned to contact her once summer was over. And then, last week she passed away.

While I don’t mourn the woman I met only once as a child, I do regret missing the opportunity to talk with her. If only I had tried to meet her earlier when I first connected with the family, I might have learned a lot about my father and the way he lived and his family background. She was his little sister; who knows what she might have told me! I’ll never know, because I didn’t take the time to ask when it was still possible. When she passed away, she took all that information with her. There is no one left who can tell me what she could. I thought I had more time.

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