Today my brother spoke to me on Skype; I knew something was up, because we hardly ever speak on Skype save for the odd conversation about something in particular now and then. He told me he had some news which our parents would tell me about shortly. He gave some notice beforehand: Aunty Rita had passed away.
You will remember the story about Aunty Rita, but I’ll just fill you in. During the war my widowed Granny in England had an affair with an American soldier; she became pregnant, he left with his unit to London, then Scotland, and finally America. My grandfather died there in the 80’s without ever meeting his only son, my dad, or even giving his family there much information about his life in Britain. We found out about his death in 2006, just in time to tell my ageing Granny, who passed away a few months later.
Until last Christmas we were all convinced my dad’s father was an only child, although my Granny had mentioned that she thought my biological grandfather had a younger sister. When my father bought me an annual subscription on Ancestry as a Christmas gift, we proved my Granny right. My grandfather did indeed have a (half-)sister 15 years his junior; the name leapt up from the webpage: Rita.
Thanks to modern technology and a distant cousin’s invaluable help, we managed to get Rita’s home address and phone number in New York state. My dad gave her a call, and the rest was history. Rita knew her brother had had a child in England, but was too young to remember much detail about the story, and besides, she lost touch with my grandfather early on when he decided to pursue his own life away from the family. She didn’t even know when or where he had passed away, so my dad filled her in on the details. There was the added surprise that Rita knew exactly who we were, as if there was no explanation necessary; Rita knew my dad was her nephew, and at once made it clear that he was welcome to come and visit.
Thus, my dad and mum left for America in May, and were actually there when Rita turned 81 -her last birthday- surrounded by her husband, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. Now she had a nephew to add to the Christmas shopping list, and she told my mum when they were leaving “I am so happy to have found a nephew, this has been one of the happiest days of my life”. My parents felt very welcome and at home there, but sadly had to rush out to catch the train back to NYC. Little did they imagine they would not see Rita again.
But even though Rita is gone, and I never got a chance to meet her personally, I am happy she got to know my dad, and my dad got to meet her. Had he and my mum decided to travel to Americn after the summer, it would have been too late, and how guilty we would all have felt then! No, it was all just as it should be. Rita was the missing link, the connection between my dad and the father he never knew. Rita was the first person to show us pictures of my grandfather. Rita was the closest relative my father has ever met on that side of the family. But above all, Rita was a wonderfully strong and patient lady. She was just waiting to meet my dad. Now she’s gone, but her role in my family history will never be forgotten. At long last, we have all been reunited, thanks to her.
God bless, Aunty Rita.
Love from Pete, Dolly, Dan & Will.