Aisle Of Wit

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Giving Thanks For Family

As Thanksgiving and Chanukah approach and Christmas looms right behind, and particularly after the year we’ve all had to endure, there’s a collective need to find solace and refuge in family.  For as much as friendship and even a spouse can fill a void, there is nothing quite more nurturing in my opinion than the chance to spend traditional holidays with people you share DNA with.  This year I will be doing so, but with family I never knew existed until recently.

One of the downsides of speaking Leblanguage is that the people who had heard one version of you sometimes can’t fully accept rigorous honesty when it becomes your essence.  For a variety of reasons, many related to the voice and attitude I had when I was previously married, many members of my core family simply grew too detached and too drained to keep me in their lives.  I’m hurt, of course, but they have to live their own lives and I have to live mine.  So just as fate put me on an unprecedented journey in a search for a home and a new career fate helped me find some truly amazing people with whom I will share this Thanksgiving holiday.

I always knew my mother’s father had a secret family of step-siblings.  My great-grandfather lost my great-grandmother when he was in his 40s, and after he had fathered five children between 1895 and 1903.  It’s fair to say he didn’t fight in the Spanish-American War.  (He was British, BTW).  He remarried. to a woman who already had had five kids of her own.  With the help of clearly fertile DNA and perhaps a heavy-handed pubmaster Lewis and Leah Chapin put three more young ‘uns into early 20th century London.

One of the offspring of LewLay gave birth to a strapping wrestler named Don Fernandez, a surname I vaguely knew was somehow related to us.  It turns out Don and his family briefly shared a home in mid-city LA in the 50s with my mom’s beloved first cousin and his family.  Don is not only still with us, he is healthy and curious and during the height of last winter’s lockdown was eager to discover family via zoom.  My first cousin was equally curious and had connected with Don and a few others on his side.  With little else to do, and with other ends of my life crumbling, Zoom became a savior and bi-weekly calls to these newly discovered relatives became another lifesaver.

Don has been a true patriarch and diligent organizer of these calls, but as protocols loosened and weather improved the Zooms became less of an appointment and opportunity to connect loomed.  In the middle of all of this, by the way, Don and his wife Harriet both contracted COVID, and frankly we were all worried.  But as noted Don is a fighter, and it’s clear Harriet and he both have a lot of life left in them.  At age 82 Don became the first person I personally knew who contracted the virus and came out the other end alive and kicking.  We briefly met in the spring, and I am most thankful for that.  Incredibly, he’s the  closest living relative in that generation on my mom’s side.  I’m thankful for him.

Other newly discovered cousins in my generation have become more of a personal connection for me.  Two in particular stand out.  Sweet Meredith in suburban San Diego has been a spiritual and emotional rock for me, a lovely woman of faith and integrity and a surprisingly passionate Padres fan. She was the first of these cousins that I was able to personally connect with, and she helped fill the void in my religious journey when my previous living situation was disrupted.  She provides me with the counsel of experience and relatability and knows more of my details than most.  I’m very thankful for her.

Finally, the family in Santa Rosa that I will share Thanksgiving 2021 with.  Cindy and Barry May, their daughter Jade and her boyfriend Tim have been, pure and simple, some of the most genuine and generous people I’ve ever met.  They have a beautiful home and a truly lovely spirit.  Cindy and Barry are generous, grounded and loving, their own partnership of more than 40 years an inspiration to anyone who may doubt that the power of love is possible.

Jade and Tim are of my niece’s generation and it is clear that Jade has inherited her mom’s outer and inner beauty.  She is a talented artist and warm-hearted soul that I am confident will provide all of us many happy days ahead.  In fact, she will eventually contribute a logo to this site (nudge, nudge, cuz) and indeed define what Leblanguage looks like.

I know I’m not the easiest person to deal with and this particular year has truly been a challenge for many who have been in my life and certainly for me.  But finding personal connections with people who are successful in life and love is all one truly needs to thrive and survive, and for that alone I am eternally thankful and grateful to them, my beloved grandfather’s very fertile dad and to the miracle of technology that brought us together after nearly a century of disconnect.

When I first visited the May family this spring these towels were waiting for me after a very long drive up north.  I’ve never had anyone put out such a warm welcome in my life.  I’ll definitely enjoy their hospitality and companionship, and I know I’ll enjoy the beautiful holiday meal they are eagerly planning.  But, frankly, I’m most eager to see those towels again.

May all of you be able to give thanks to loved ones and terrycloth as special as mine.  Until next time…