Friday morning found us - Starbucks in hand - hitting the road for an overnight trip to Knoxville for my stepmom's memorial service*.
On the eight-hour drive there was plenty of time for trepidation. She was a sweet lady who made my Dad's life immensely happier in the second half than in the first, but altho she has been a part of my family for well more than half my life .... we never really developed a relationship of our own.
What i used to view as her pushing me away, may have actually been her attempt to push Dad and me together, but the result was the same .... we never went shopping together, or talked on the phone, or laughed until late in the night. I have no idea what her favorite color was or did she love chocolate.
After all these years i hardly knew her.
And my stepbrothers and sister even less. Only three times have the four of us been in the same place at the same time - and only twice with my brother, too. We have spent the occasional day or two at Christmas or in the summer with one or another for some big event. It was just easier to allow the 500n miles between us to become a wall. So, it was not a trip i wanted to make, but i needed to go.
What i found was not what I expected.
Mitchell and i walked into the church and sat in the "family pews" with two rows of people i did not recognize. Slowly i came to realize that they were the children and grandchildren of my steps - daughters whom i had not seen since they were children. Daughters with husbands and children of their own. And, they were America.
Later, over dinner I discovered that my parents - whose photos are in the dictionary next to the word "bigot" - had managed to beget a family filled with all the people they railed against. The woman who is married to a man of another race and has a multiracial daughter of her own. The single woman with an eleven-year old. The college administrator who is married to another woman and has adopted two boys. Many divorced, many not married, and all interesting and welcoming. All there to say goodbye to the grandmother and great-grandmother they loved and to support their own parents.
Meeting them and seeing all these interesting members of my very extended family made the trip worthwhile, and gave me hope for America. If my white bread family can morph into this caring, diverse group then maybe the rest of us can, too.
Coming home was a very different drive
*Thank you. She was mid-90's and in failing health for several years, so the only real surprise was the timing.