The Other Side of the Family

After leaving Aunt Milda, K and I drive to see another relative : my late father’s half-sister, Pat.

We pull up outside the gate of the house. It’s a large two-apartment building. The front yard is basically gravel, and several dogs of various sizes are either lying in the shade or roaming around.

K does NOT like dogs. By the looks of one of them in particular (a medium-sized, Rottweiler-looking SOB named Rex), I don’t blame her one iota.

Aunt Pat appears from the upper apartment. As she makes her way down the steps, she summons her two granddaughters to move the dogs to the back of the house so we can eventually come inside.

Pat opens the gate, comes to the car, and we exchange greetings.

“You look the same,” she says through the rolled-down car window. She immediately follows this up with, “Your belly’s getting fat,” and reaches into the car to run her hand over my belly, as if she’s smoothing out a wrinkle in my t-shirt.

I’m behaving today, so despite what I’m actually thinking, I let it slide.

Inside her apartment, we take a breather from the unrelenting heat.

She shares the apartment with my younger cousin — who’s at work when we visit — his wife and their two-year-old son. My older cousin – and his family live in the unit below. One of his daughters – who’s 13 – sits in one of the chairs at the far end of the living room, looking at me every so often.

My older cousin passes by the doorway for a moment to say hi, before disappearing again.

My aunt brings K and I up to speed on what she’s been dealing with. She mentions that she heard about the family research I’ve been doing (I guess my mother had asked her on my behalf, and I’d forgotten about it), but says she doesn’t really know much about her side of the family. She’s from a generation where relatives didn’t say much and, if you asked, told you to mind your own business.

She does give me a couple of scraps of information I wasn’t expecting – my grandmother’s middle name, where her father was from (St. Elizabeth parish), and she also suggests that the woman I’d been told was my father’s grandmother (with whom he was really close) may not have been his biological grandmother, but someone who looked after my grandmother.

(Did she mean, when my grandmother was a little girl? Or perhaps when she was pregnant with my father? It’s not clear.)

Aunt Pat mentions that my younger cousin has quite a collection of family photos, both originals and scanned images. She gets my older cousin’s daughter to fetch them so I can take a look.

A few of them are of my grandmother and her husband – taken when I was probably about 5 or 6 years old. Others include photos of my grandmother, aunt and cousins through the years — at social events, at church, at the boys’ weddings.

Pat says I can take some of them, if I want. I feel kind of weird about it – they are my cousin’s photos after all. But she insists that it’s okay. She even gets ahold of the photo collage my cousin’s put together, and removes a couple of photos for me to keep.

We’re given some guineps to take when we go – and we leave … eventually.

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