Family is such a strange thing. Most of my life, I've only known my mother's family. When I was very little, my father came home drunk one night, and threw my mother into a venetian door so hard it folded the wrong way. She took the next day off work and promptly moved out. From what I am told, he came around sporadically to visit until I was a toddler, and then disappeared. I never saw him again. I was never particularly inspired to meet him, figuring I would get around to it when I wanted to.
Fast forward. I'm 20, having grown up reasonably stable without him. It's just after the holiday season. My mom and I are talking on the phone because her uncle just died. J and I are debating going to the funeral, which is 2 hours away. She tells me that my little sister, then 12, asked if I ever knew my father. Mom then asked if I had ever wanted to know him. I said "Oh maybe one of these days. Everybody tells me he was a jackass. I'm not sure if I want to get to know him?" End of discussion.
The next day, my great-grandmother dies. So now we're definitely going to Columbus for funerals. Due to the slick road conditions, she makes us swear to be careful coming up. "Deaths happen in 3s," she says. Nothing happens, we see my grandfather (my mom's father) who I haven't seen in some 10 years because he's a drunk and my grandmother and mother refuse to see him. He still looks like a fat old drunk. Big shock. My uncles still occasionally see him, but they take after him a bit.
We get back home to our lives. My mom calls a week later and says "Don't freak out, but the third thing happened."
Yup, you guessed it, my dad dropped dead that very week, at the ripe old age of 50. Universe has a funny way of letting you know the answer to questions you ask. Obit was very short and confusing. Obit was run on Wednesday morning, and the viewing was Wednesday night. Nobody even told my mom until Friday. From what I can find of the death certificate, he died at a hospital, cause unstated, was autopsied, and then cremated. So there goes any chance of me getting to know the dirty drunk truck driver they called Spanky.
Fast forward to 2006. Ancestry.com is offering a free trial period, so you can do as much researching in your family as you can in the two weeks. I of course start trying to figure out more about my entire family, including my dad's side. Turns out I have at least one half-sibling. She's four years older than me. May have gotten married recently, I can't quite tell. The internet is a great tool but it can confuse the hell out of you. Now I can't figure out if I should try to contact her. Or my grandfather, who is still alive, it turns out. Part of me wants to, very much, because there is so much identity that can be gained. Does my sister have green eyes also? Does my grandfather yell at every idiot driver? Plus, are there any hereditary disorders I should know about? Having never been around these people, it would be quite an interesting little research into Nature v. Nurture. But if I think about it on the other side, would it shock the hell out of them to hear from me? I'm not sure if any of them know I exist. Their possible reactions are limitless.
Meanwhile, I can find J's extended family back six generations, because they haven't MOVED. His family has lived where we live for all this time! It's very strange!