Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Charles William

My dad's mother died when Dad was a baby. His father subsequently moved to another state, where he remarried and had two daughters. Dad remained in Indiana and was raised by his maternal grandparents. As a result, I've never had a close relationship with any cousins on Dad's side of the family.

Fortunately, though, there were close cousin relationships on my mother's side of the family.

My mother had two brothers, Charles and Howard.

Uncle Howard had two sons: Charles, who we called "Charles William" to distinguish between him and our Uncle Charles; and Howard, who we always called "Bub." I'm not sure where that nickname came from.

Uncle Charles had three sons and a daughter: Bill, Steve, Rick, and Debi.

And my mom had a boy and a girl: Phil and me.

So there were eight of us cousins. We lost Phil in 1967, in a car wreck. We lost Steve in the same way in 1975. Bill died in a motorcycle accident in 2013. Then, in November, 2015, I received word from Charles Williams' wife that he had died two months earlier, apparently from cancer.

Charles William and wife, Evelyn
(This photo is probably from the seventies)

The last time I'd seen Charles William or his brother, Bub, was in 1989, at the time of their dad's death. There had been virtually no contact with them since that time. I wrote each of them a letter in 2009. Bub's was returned with a sticker saying that the forwarding order had expired. Charles Williams' letter wasn't returned to me, so I presumed that he'd received it.

But it wasn't until March, 2015, that I heard from him. He called one night, out of the blue. He had received that letter and had put it in a drawer and kept it all these years. That night, he said, the time seemed right for him to call me. We had a nice conversation, and I was glad for the chance to reconnect with him. I sensed, though, that the reason he had finally called was that he believed his time on earth was growing short.

Charles William was estranged from everyone in the family, including his two grown sons and his brother.

When I learned of his death, I contacted his ex-wife, who had not known about it. She notified his sons. I also called the last number I had for his brother, Bub. I reached Bub's wife and learned that they had been divorced several years ago. She gave me his new number, and I was able to renew contact with him and let him know about his brother's death.

So, the eight cousins are now four. On the positive side, we've now reconnected with Cousin Bub. And, as my cousin, Debi, dryly pointed out, she and I are no longer a minority.

If there are any estrangements in your family that are within your power to heal, I would urge you to consider starting off the new year by making that effort. Family is important and grows even more so as that family begins shrinking.

I wrote a draft of this post right after learning of Charles Williams' death over a year ago but, for whatever reason, never published it. It seemed right to do it now, before any more time passes.


  1. Thanks for the encouragement to connect with family.I don't feel estranged from any family members, but am certainly closer to some than to others.I'm actually going to a cousins house for pizza tonight.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing about your family, Linda, and for encouraging others to connect with family members. Lovely photo, and wonderful post!

  3. Very nice, sometime people put family on a shelf and forget what they can mean in our lives.I am oldest in my family and can count mine on both hands.I have a friend who has 92 in her family still.

  4. It's nice of you to post this after having it in draft form for so long. I agree with you, we have to stay in touch with the ones we care about. Otherwise regret can eat you up. Once the person is gone, there is no turning back.

    Mersad Donko Photography

  5. It's really a shame that so many families these days are either split up, estranged or just don't care. We rarely saw family on the paternal side of my immediate childhood family, but I have loads of great memories of going to school with and playing outside on summer evenings with cousins from the maternal side.

  6. Ruth - I hope you enjoyed the pizza with your cousins. I'm truly grateful to have had some close cousins. I don't think I fully appreciated that blessing until recent years.

    Linda - Thank you for your kind comment. It breaks my heart when I hear of family members who haven't spoken in years. I can't imagine what hurt could be worth that price.

    Steve - Your friend is blessed indeed to have 92 living members of her family. Amazing. Especially if they're all still talking to each other. :)

    Mersad - I love seeing the relationship you and Jasmina have with each other. Treasure that!

    Toni - It really is sad to see families loose touch with each other, whether over some perceived wrong or through unintentional negligence. Treasure those cousins!

  7. I guess, Linda, relationships can be really difficult in families for no apparent reason other than that that the people see the world differently and aren't able or willing to forget it for a while and be nice to one another. I can see it in my extended family as well as in many other families around me. Sometimes it's really hard to overcome that.

    1. Doug and I have been taking a class for adult children of dysfunctional families through our church and have come to realize the truth of what you're saying. It's been a eye opener for us. There are some situations which can never be fully reconciled, but it's important to let go of any bitterness that we have been clinging to. It's been said that bitterness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.

  8. Glad you wrote and published this... It may help others ---since so many families have estranged family members in their family.... SAD --but just part of life I guess... I often wonder how the person who chooses to be estranged really feels --especially as he/she is close to death... Wonder if there were regrets from Charles William? Sad, isn't it? BUT---this post is a good reminder to all to catch up with family since we don't ever know when life will be over...


    1. We can never fully understand what makes a person pull back from family and/or friends. In Charles Williams' case, I think a big part of it was that he felt that no one cared about him. Sadly, that made others feel that he didn't care about them. No winners.


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