Connecting in Real Life

My big fat Dunn family

Photo by Helena Lopes from Pexels

I’ve written about my cousin, Mark, in previous posts. Mark is technically my 2nd cousin, once removed. Or my father’s second cousin. His grandmother, Ruth Dunn Bondy, was the baby of her family and the 6th daughter born to William Henry Harrison Dunn and Martha Eleanor Wilson. My great grandfather, George Oliver Dunn, was the 2nd boy, and the only male to live to adulthood. There was 14 years between them.

With a large family spanning more than a decade, it isn’t surprising that the ages of the cousins varies greatly. Although Mark is my father’s 2nd cousin, he is a year and a half older than I am. We did not grow up knowing each other; in fact, we never knew ABOUT each other either. That was apparently a well known secret of our parents and grandparents. He spent some of his childhood in Bethesda, and I never once met him. That day finally happened last weekend. Cue: the Hallelujah Chorus.

We’ve been writing each other consistently for almost 2 years. We’ve spoken on the phone as well. So it was a foregone conclusion that one day we would have the chance to meet in person. An open weekend on both our calendars and Frontier Airlines made that possible!

The timing of our correspondence naturally has people assuming we met inside through our mutual family tree. We did not meet that way at all. It was because of our mutual family tree that we did meet, but for an entirely different reason. I had written a message on his mother’s obituary wall and he responded to my message. We quickly developed a friendship and that was that. THEN we collaborated on our tree.

I wrote a blog post earlier about making time for the living. It was that post that clinched my airline reservation to Santa Barbara. I promised myself to walk the talk. It’s a good reminder to make these kind of things happen. But because of that trip, I didn’t blog last week and I was not sure what topic I would discuss this week either. In the end, I felt it right and appropriate to bring life back to the forefront. Because it matters greatly when you go down rabbit holes of vital records, land deeds and wills.

I won’t regale you of our daily activities, but you can assume I had a great view of the Pacific ocean, ate super good food, went to some wineries and imbibed in a slew of different wines, and most of all, enjoyed the company of my hosts–Mark and his husband, J. There are no words that could actually come close to describe their graciousness and generosity. Or my gratitude for rolling out the red carpet for someone who was unknown to them personally before last Thursday. In short, I had a wonderful trip. And they are THE.BEST. I feel like I’ve known them for a really long time.

Brick Barn Wine Estate (Buellton, CA) – photo taken by J. for me on my iPhone

While J. was golfing with friends, Mark and I were able to do some work on our tree. It wasn’t weekend completely void of genealogy! I came home with a case of wine, some olive oil, a Lionel Richie CD, and some items inherited from his grandmother and mother that were from the household of Martha Wilson Dunn. I was touched. And yes, you may also assume that my crybaby ways were in full force. I never imagined having a piece of my family history in my possession. I was touched by his kindness and thoughtfulness.

Mark’s sister, Gaye, was supposed to come up from Los Angeles to spend the day with us, but she wasn’t feeling well. That was a bummer, for sure. It just means that I will need to make another trip to make sure I can meet her too.

As we hugged goodbye at the airport on Sunday night, we could only thank our late loved ones for this boon. We both know that my grandfather, his mother and grandmother were smiling down on us and could take credit for a meeting that was long overdue. I’m also sure they were having their own happy hour and toasting the family. After all, these persistent Dunns were a big part of the reason we met.

Author: Betsey K.

Mother of two daughters, two Siamese cats and a 3 legged dog. Genealogy hack. Research nut. Search engine proficient. Daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece and ex-wife. And a person who strives for balance and peace.

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