One’s Origins: A Journey from Adoption to Identity – Part Seventeen

Through all the tumult and the strife, I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?

“How Can I Keep from Singing”
Songwriters:
Camilla Kerslake; Michael Damien Hedges; Robert Lowry; Sally Herbert
Recorded by Enya

In Part Sixteen, One’s Origins began charting its course homeward to the present moment. I closed Part Sixteen reintroducing the meeting of my two half-brothers. I also alluded to meeting a cadre of family members. This is what Part Seventeen is all about. I would, for the first time ever, see the road for which I have long wandered this earth searching; the road to more complete belonging.

Shortly after meeting Scott in April of 2019 (Part Three) there were rumblings of a large family reunion being planned for the summer. This reunion was going to serve two extraordinary purposes, one sorrowful and one joyful.

A weekend in the middle of July was selected and the location was to be near Donner Lake in Truckee, CA, about 15 miles northwest of the north rim of Lake Tahoe. Six of us would be arriving from Utah, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. The remainder would be coming from within California. All things on balance, this location was most centrally located. What a divine coincidence it was that this northeastern region of California, where I had visited only once before on a bicycle tour twenty years earlier, was of very somber significance of which I shall soon share.

My father, Lawrence was the middle child of three boys. His older brother is deceased and the younger one, Uncle Bruce, is alive and well. Between my two uncles there are 10 children who are all first cousins to Dan, Scott and me[1]. With the only exception of Dan, Scott and myself, everyone else had grown up with each other or at least knowing of each other. Most had not seen each other for quite some time, and a few had not seen others in thirty years.

Dan, his family and I were meeting everyone for the first time, and all the same, there was a mysterious sense of familiarity. We all felt familiar with one another from the moment we all laid eyes on each other. This should not surprise us since the origin of the English word familiar means “belonging to family”.

This was apparent from the very beginning of my visit. My cousin Donna, along with Dan, traveled nearly two hours from Truckee to meet me at Sacramento airport. I don’t believe we were more than five miles on our way back before Donna began to open up with me about some of the details of her life. I strongly doubt I would have had her courage to be so forthcoming so soon. That she did, however, immediately relieved me of all my apprehensions to be fully and swiftly reciprocal. Her openness softly disarmed me, and I found this quite freeing.

Donna; Matt; Nina; Uncle Bruce; Dan; Mary; Ann; cousin Bruce (missing: Donny)

Once we arrived back at the house, I began to meet many others with whom I share my paternal linage. Most were already there when I arrived, and a few would be arriving later. With each relative I met, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of how much I had missed them while never hitherto knowing they existed. I felt this way when I met Dan and Scott and I felt this way there and then as well. I fail to find words to describe the sensation of missing someone you never met before. There was no denying that our pre-life cellular bond had never been quiescent/dormant. As much as this was a true reunion for my uncle and cousins and for the others (myself included) it was ostensibly just a union, this was indeed a reunion for all in a near cosmic sense. Dan was accompanied by his wife, Jenny, along with their five children and five grandchildren. My cousin Nina was accompanied by her husband and son. In total, we would have 21 beautiful souls gathering to reunite. To accommodate us all, two full-size rental houses five minutes apart were secured.

Matt; Bruce; Donna; Dan at Fallen Leaf Lake

In Part Two, I shared that the first meeting of Dan and I took place at the sight where our father Lawrence is buried at Santa Rosa Memorial Park in Santa Rosa, CA. On the Saturday of our reunion weekend, July 13th, Dan and I along with Uncle Bruce, my cousin Donna and her companion Larry, set out for a midday road trip to Fallen Leaf Lake, about two miles south of the southern rim of Lake Tahoe. As our reunion was north of Lake Tahoe, this would be about an hour’s drive each way. Particularly for Dan, Uncle Bruce and I, this visit to Fallen Leaf Lake had a very special meaning. On July 23, 1969, at approximately 4:00 PM local time Lawrence Stone, father to Dan, Scott and me, had drowned in this lake three weeks after his 24th birthday. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, Scott was unable to attend the reunion. Almost to the day, 50 years after his death Dan, Uncle Bruce and I stood on one of the docks near the café and gift shop looking out over the lake. It is often such a cliché to say, ‘Miss you and wish you were here.’  On that day and at that place, Scott’s unfortunate absence was mightily felt.

It gives me chills to recount that the only time I had ever been in this area before was 20 years earlier on a road cycling vacation that traversed the Sierra Nevada region. I had spent a week riding my bicycle over these same mountains and around these very lakes oblivious to the fact that my father had drowned nearby 30 years earlier.

Throughout the weekend the music played, and everyone enjoyed.

I’d like to now turn to happier times. Let’s return to the reunion. Our lodging was split between two homes since we had a near-sellout crowd in attendance. One of our two rented homes served as our main reunion headquarters where all our congregating took place. This multi-level cabin was nestled deep within the lush green arbor salad of tall Jeffrey and Lodgepole Pine along with a bit of White Fir. Off the backside of cabin there was a large deck strong enough to support us all at once. From anywhere on the deck one could not escape the breathtaking views of the sun slicing its way through the tall trees. The visual wonders that poured through the cornea would soon be matched only by the auditory pleasures that flooded the ear canals for the duration of the weekend. The weather was picture perfect for the entire weekend. Nights were chilly making for pleasant sleeping and days were warm with clear skies.

Nina and Larry harmonizing beautifully.

On the first full day of our reunion, my cousin Nina, who is a professional karaoke artist, began to unpack her equipment on the deck. This was followed by Larry who has been playing the guitar since before I was born. He and Donna traveled nine hours each way from just outside Salt Lake City to be with us and Larry had his guitar and acoustic amp in tow. For the next two days, the auditory delight I would hear from the voices that would sing would echo throughout the valley and envelop me.

Three of Dan’s children (my nieces and nephew) Sara; Thomas; Kathryn.

Nina and Larry’s singing voice both could hold their own on any stage and commercial radio anywhere. One by one, all my cousins along with Dan’s family alike would take turns singing songs – and all possessed amazing singing voices. Two of Dan’s grandchildren, one six and one five, collaborated on a duet of “Tequila” by The Champs. They nailed it! I confess that I found the coincidence unsettling that each time I took a turn at the microphone, the vast majority of them would head indoors for a change of scenery. My singing voice, apparently, was enough to make one’s eyes tire from the ever-perfect views of nature outside that surrounded us.

At one point, Dan and I took a short drive to a general store a little further down the mountain.  As we walked from the car to the store and back, we could look up at the mountainside towards the cabin and hear the trees singing with the voices of those I had long loved but with whom I only recently became reacquainted.

Not bad at all for a makeshift bedroom for the week.

Shortly after returning home from Lake Tahoe, plans were being made for Thanksgiving to be held at Nina’s house less than twenty miles south of Sacramento, CA. Most of us who attended the Lake Tahoe reunion also attended Thanksgiving and many stayed for several days. My cousin Matthew who I met in the very beginning and introduced in Part Four joined us along with another cousin Donny and Nina’s daughter. These three were unable to join us in Lake Tahoe. I myself arrived Monday and returned home Friday to avoid the two busiest travel days connected to the Thanksgiving holiday. There was singing, of course, just as there had been at the Lake Tahoe reunion. If in the coddling arms of mother nature is the first place I’d want to be listening to the voices of angels, a music studio is the second place. Nina, our karaoke maestro and lead vocalist, houses her wares inside a detached garage converted into a no holds barred music studio. Due to yet again an overflow situation for sleeping accommodations, I along with one of my cousins slept on air mattresses in the studio. Imagine a five-year boy, with a fascination for Batman that only a five-year-old boy could have, being told that he had to sleep in the Batcave for a few nights. That was me.

A Thanksgiving week full of song and dance.
So much for which to be thankful.

The week was filled with music and song just like in Lake Tahoe. I am sad to report that the verdict was that I hadn’t improved much since Lake Tahoe. I know it has everything to do with confidence. Music and song, as well as other artistic outlets for emotional expression, is so tightly woven into the fabric of my paternal genealogy that all I received from each and every one of them was the sincerest of encouragement.

One afternoon, Dan and I took a ride to his house about three hours north on Nina’s home where I would spend one night. Along the way, we stopped to visit the man who raised him; the man he grew up referring to as Dad. Their relationship is as beautiful as any relationship between a grown man and his dad can ever hope to be. It’s the very beauty my eyes continue to see in the relationship with my dad with every passing year. Meeting Dan’s dad was a most pleasant surprise. Surrealism has no bounds.

I conclude Part Seventeen with this astonishing realization. Less than one year has passed since our Lake Tahoe reunion weekend and all people on earth are living in the throes of emotionally turbulent times as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on the world. If our learning of each other occurred just one single year later, or if the current global pandemic occurred just one year sooner, we would only have progressed as far as learning about each other and that’s it. There would quite likely be no meeting Dan and there would certainly not be any meeting of Scott. This weekend would not have occurred, nor would Thanksgiving be what it was. If nothing had happened beyond learning of one another had occurred, One’s Origins would never have been born and this life-giving journey, where I have found so much healing, would not have had this opportunity to begin.

In Part Eighteen I will begin to bring One’s Origins home where it belongs. The journey will continue on for as long as I live, and hopefully long beyond.

[1] Our aunts, uncles, and cousins are all connected to us fully by only one of our parents, unlike full siblings which must share both parents. A sharing of only one parent is a half-sibling. However, as long as my father and my cousin’s father are full siblings, then my cousins are full cousins. If my father and their father were half-siblings, then we would be half cousins. More interestingly, my cousins have a younger half-brother who all share the same father – my father’s brother. So, for me, as well as Dan and Scott, they are all full cousins to me but the youngest among them is a half-sibling to the others.

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