My Memorial Day
My father Chuck Smith was an Army Air Force pilot toward the end of World War II. When I was 13 months old he was killed when his aircraft crashed in Oklahoma in 1947. My mother and I then lived with my maternal grandparents for a few years until she remarried. My stepfather never adopted me so for my entire life my last name was different from the rest of the family. I never had contact with my father’s brother Jack or his sister Harriet. I grew up thinking that my father was estranged from his family and they had no interest in me. I felt a pain in my heart imagining what he must have been like and why his family abandoned me. At that time there were many children my age and older who suffered pain from a wartime loss. But such pain is always personal, without a connection to the broader suffering.
But then, at 69 years of age, magic happens for me. My wonderful historian daughter Sarah began poking around the loose, broken threads in my family history. She called me one evening to tell me she found the Jack and Harriet Smith families in Michigan and Ohio. Sadly, my father's brother and sister had died, but Sarah gave me my cousin Harriet’s phone number. I called her and introduced myself. As we talked, I learned from my cousins Harriet, Karen, and Kim that their parents had been searching for me all their lives. My father’s death and separation from me was devastating for them. My father, their older brother was their hero.
Betsy and I went to Ann Arbor Michigan last summer for an amazing family reunion where I met all my Smith cousins and their families. Tears of happiness were mixed with many photos and stories about my father’s relationship with his brother and sister and the sadness they felt after losing contact with me. Now later in June we will see them all once again, in Ohio this time, and they will get to meet Sarah, the daughter who made it all possible.
So I discovered that I have a wonderful Smith family of delightful, caring people. It’s never too late for a dream to come true. On this Memorial Day I wish I had memories of my father. But I can feel the warmth and energy that was a part of the fabric of his life present in the lives of Jack and Harriet’s families. Thanks dad.