Tracing My Outer Branches

if-not-now-whenSometimes writing a post is as difficult as giving birth and this was such a post. No, I have not given birth personally, but I did assist my dog once and I know she had a hell of a time. So, it is an If not now, when?” time to write it and get it done.

I know so many people who trace their roots, roots meaning the search backward in time to discover the bloodlines before them. Although I have done this to a lesser extent, the search at hand was to search among the branches that sprung forward. Due to a special deal with Wizz Airlines, this path of rediscovering at least one nephew of the only two-bloodline nephews I have was a possibility. Yet, there was a great deal of resistance.

Kevin and I with the National Library Of Iceland

Kevin and I with the National Library Of Iceland

Wizz just started flying from Budapest to Reykjavik, Iceland this summer. As fate would have it, they offered a summer sale offering every companion seat for 50% off. Using this as an excuse to fill our summer, we booked tickets to Catania, Sicily; Reykjavik, Iceland; and Nice, France. Our friend Kat was thrilled to be included in our Iceland trip, though she did not get the discount, but three of us were heading north.

What I knew before we left was that my oldest nephew, Kevin is studying at the University of Iceland, getting his second master’s degree. The first degree was in Viking Studies, but now he is pursuing Icelandic as a Foreign Language. The latter includes a substantial amount of linguistics courses. When people asked me why? My only recourse was to say “Why not?” I could not explain beyond this since I had not seen my nephew since 2001, but not for lack of attempts. We have offered to fly him and his brother to Budapest on several occasions, but to no avail.

Other than a little stalking on Facebook with infrequent messages from me to him and his responding, there has not been much communication. Hence, when  planning the trip, I demonstrated a saturnine outlook at making contact with Kevin.

Testing the waters, I just posted a general comment on my Facebook page stating we were visiting to see if there was a response. The effective result was similar to trying to get fish to swim to Rome on land. The bait was set, but there were no bites.

Ron pushed, nudged, and finally violently shoved me into making explicit and personal contact with Kevin. To my shock, delight, and leading to an overwhelming emotional response, when explicitly asked if he wanted to meet up, his response was “Of course I do!”

Now new dilemmas rose to the surface, though in retrospect they may have been minor, but at the time, it felt like scaling a mountain. The last time I saw this “kid”, he was a kid. Now, he is a grown adult. How will we get along? What will we talk about? How much time will he want to spend with us? The questions were endless and as it turned out unnecessary.

Part of the concern was due to his father, my younger brother. We have never been

Þingvellir National Park - Where You Walk Between Two Continents

Þingvellir National Park – Where You Walk Between Two Continents

close, though I have made attempts in the past where we were progressing into a healthy sibling zone; then other family dramas tainted that budding relationship causing enough of a schism, it makes the Grand Canyon look like a splinter in the earth. We have not spoken since our father died in 2011. This caused a good deal of apprehension about how this would influence his son.

Our friend Kat had joined us, so we rented an AirBnB apartment for the week. Kevin had offered to meet us at the airport, but we settled for meeting at the apartment. He arrived first and was there to greet us. Knowing I would greet a man, was different then actually greeting a man who was my nephew. Before lunging into a hug, I did ask permission. As it turned out, I hugged him at each meeting as well as every good-bye. There were so many unused hugs over the years; they were clawing to get out waiting for sanctioning. After feeling like I had mauled Kevin, I did a check-in once again. “Do you mind my hugging you?” I hesitantly asked. He smiled and said “No, I am still good.”

With the exception of one day, the day we ventured on the Grand Circle tour, Kevin spend a good portion of the day with us. He is working, but flexed his hours with another employee who owed him the favor. Kevin joined us as we explored every museum in Reykjavík. Initially, I feared he had been to these so would not want to return. As it turned out, he had not been to hardly any. The economy of a foreign student in an expensive country could be the reason. We were not going to look this gift horse in the mouth. It was truly a gift knowing he had the desire to share it with us. What did not occur to me then, was what a gift it turned out to be.

KevinRon and I agreed our museum visits would not have been nearly as interesting, stimulating or educational if Kevin were not there to share them with us. Yes, I am prejudice, but others have already mentioned Kevin is a walking fountain of knowledge. Iceland is progressive enough to have everything translated into English, but having Kevin’s scholarship brought us to a deeper level of understanding and appreciation of the history and culture that we would not have experienced otherwise.

Sharing time with him was one of the highlights of the trip. It made me regret even more the other milestones in his life that we were not privy to until after the fact. There was his high school graduation, college graduation, and his graduation with this first Ron and I Þingvellir National ParkMaster’s degree in Viking Studies from the University of Iceland, but we have great hopes we will be in the loop when he graduates from this, his second Master’s degree from the U of I, not to be mistaken as the University of Iowa, Illinois, or Idaho.

Iceland, at least Reykjavík, was nothing like I expected, yet it was all I did not dare to hope for. If the timing works out, I would love to attend Kevin’s graduation at the end of this academic year. We will see.

After completing my Ed.D., the frustration of finding a teaching position where I was willing to live, led to Ron and I leaving the country. We intended to travel for a year before settling somewhere in MA or RI. We left the US without any credit card debt, no car payments and our house mortgage paid by renters. We had $10,000 in the bank to make our way through a year.

1 Comment

  1. Touching and fascinating. Reminds me of my “reunion” with a “lost” son.

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