In short, these people, my people, are wonderful.
Everyone was super warm and welcoming right off the bat. I was doing chores and helping prepare the meal within 20 minutes of arrival. There was none of that weirdness that can happen sometimes when nobody knows that their brother or son or husband had a secret child way-back-when. It was as though I was now part of the family and that was that.
My cousin Faith just had a baby in November, which made for a nice parallel. I wasn't the only new face to examine and welcome into the family. Took the pressure off a bit. Thanks, little Jo-Jo!
Big family dinner New Year's Day--fried catfish, greens, chitterlings, gumbo. Probably about 20 people, many of whom looked at me and immediately said I look just like my father. They told me stories of what he was like growing up, how he'd been a basketball star in high school and had wooed all the ladies.
What a strange feeling to be told that you look like someone! I've never looked like anyone before. I wanted to see him immediately.
Finally on Saturday, January 2, I did. Debbie and I went to where he was staying and there was my face on a fifty-year-old man. He looked me up and down and said, "So you my baby?" Then he hooted. I laughed. A bit of humor goes a long way when you're so nervous you think you might explode. We talked (mostly he did the talking). He paced, though I don't think he was particularly nervous. He showed me his calf muscle. I showed him mine. He put his arm next to mine. Just a shade darker. "It's because you ain't been in the sun," he said. After what felt like only a minute, we had to leave.
Although I only got to spend 20 minutes with him, I do feel that I got to know him a little bit through his family. Everyone had a story to tell about him. I see the role that he plays in the family. How, in a strange way, he brings them together, how they've all come together in different ways through the years to make sure he's well.
I'm still processing all of it. Mostly I felt like I was basking in a pool of light. A beautiful, dark, shimmering pool of light. Dark and light.
I hope the connections last this time. But if they don't, it still feels better just to finally know. Finally.