I’m no stranger to questioning my choices, as is par for the course when you struggle with impulsivity. I sometimes have ideas that seem brilliant in my mind, but when spoken out loud, sound simply crazy. Every now and then I forget that the world does not revolve around just me and my needs or wants, but that stakes could be high for other involved parties as well. And of course, there are times when I have to remind myself that even if I have the best of intentions and mean no harm, I have to fully examine how others perceive me and my motives.
My decision to reach out to my father’s side of the family that I did not know existed was heavily debated in my mind, as well as with trusted loved ones. What was my motivation for meeting people that I have lived without knowing for 43 years? What did I expect to gain from them? What void in my life/heart was I expecting them to fill? What were my intentions, and did they include what was best for everyone?
Answers: I wanted a connection, to know what my relatives are like, what they look like, and how they interact as a family. I honestly had no expectations, because I didn’t want to get hurt. My hope was to establish trust and new relationships with my bloodline. I’m not sure that there is an answer for my 3rd question, as when my dad died, the void that was already present got bigger, however, I was seeking information to calm my heart and quiet my mind. My intentions were to meet my relatives, establish connections, and share stories about our lives, particularly about those that have passed and I think that was okay for some, but not all, and that was a bit difficult to swallow.
I have gained permission from Tosha, my gracious host, to share her name and picture on my blog. Let me put a face with the name…
Let me back up a minute. Tosha is my second cousin’s ex-wife, but like Dylan (my ex-husband) and myself, they have remained close after getting divorced. Tosha is the woman that responded to my original “out of the blue” FB message, and she was instrumental in getting this ball rolling. Throughout the last 2 1/2 years, she and I have been communicating via phone, text, and email, and we have been sharing family information and pictures. I figured that staying at the home of a woman that I have never actually met, a woman that owes me nothing, would be the appropriate thing to do to honor the 1st anniversary of my father’s death. So that’s what we planned.
A couple things to know…
1. Tosha made it clear to me that she lives alone and is used to living alone (this can mean a bunch of different things). *Her children are grown and out of the house.
2. Things that the above could have meant (and by “a bunch”, I meant only four possibilities): 1. Tosha does not really enjoy people invading her space, 2. Tosha was happy to host me, but maybe would still want time to herself, 3. Tosha is completely insane and impulsive, much like myself, or 4. Tosha is possibly a serial killer (you can obviously cross this off the list now since I am blogging, but it was a valid concern at one point).
3. Tosha and I talked at depth about our personalities, and spending time together sounded something like dumping the kitchen junk drawer out onto a trampoline… pure ADHD chaos!
4. Prior to leaving, I was prepped by a friend that is obsessed with crime shows. She reminded me that if I felt scared, or felt like I was in danger at any time, I should leave. These were my friends’ exact words: “Put a spare pair of car keys in a different bag. If you have to leave, grab the bag and go. Don’t worry about your stuff. White people always worry about their stuff and that’s what causes them to be murdered. So just grab the bag with the keys and go and you can get your stuff after the police arrest her.” I mean, come on, if that’s not the love (and a shit ton of anxiety poured on) of a true friend, then I’m not sure what is.
After a bottle of Xanax and 93,633 deep breaths later, I head to Maryland, only to get to Tosha’s house and see this sign posted as I walk in the door:
Oh, and this:
Totally welcoming, eh? I mean, talk about putting me at ease. And it was right at this point that I realized I never packed the spare bag with the extra keys. *This is an important point that will be pertinent later in the blog post.
Tosha welcomed me into her beautiful home and showed me around. Keep in mind, I was staying for 2 nights, and I warned her ahead of time that I do not pack lightly. Despite the warning, Tosha’s face indicated she did not expect me to arrive for such a short stay with my diaper bag size purse, a small suitcase, an overnight bag, a Bogz bag, my work bag with my laptop, a bag filled with journals, books, and pictures, a bag full of food, a cooler bag full of drinks, my pillow, an Armenian Apple Chunk cake, Gata bread, pecan bars, and a bottle of wine. Oh, and some plants, because who doesn’t take plants to someone’s home upon an initial meeting? Overkill? I didn’t think so either, but maybe I could have condensed a bag or two? I mean, the girl was probably scared to death that I was confused and planned on staying for 2 months instead of 2 days. Luckily, I read the dread on her face and assured her that this was my standard amount of luggage for very short trips. I am a rockstar at making good first impressions!
Allow me to admit that I am in awe of Tosha’s home. Her decorating skills are nearly impossible to describe, as she has incorporated so much history and nostalgia into her decor, and was able to do so in an uncluttered manner. I was completely consumed with taking in the wall hangings, and I spent a good hour walking through her home looking at her things. I am not going to post pictures of Tosha’s home as a courtesy to her privacy, but there are 2 pictures in particular that I would like to share:
So there we were. A Jamaican Black/Chinese woman that grew up in the Military that had moved from continent to continent, country to country, city to city, and a German White/Armenian woman that grew up living in pretty much one area her entire life. One woman all too familiar with the effects of oppression and racism and throughout her life was constantly told that she was not good enough or pretty enough. The other woman living the life of white privilege, ignorant (for much of her life, anyway) to the way that people that didn’t look like her were treated while she was constantly told she was smart and beautiful. One woman searching for her place in the world and trying to find somewhere where she belonged. The other woman grounded in a family with strong values and surrounded by love and acceptance. What in the hell were we going to talk about? How in the hell were we going to find common ground?
Truth. The answers to my aforementioned questions are cake, coffee, and HUMANITY. Mix those things with compassion, empathy, experience, education, a willingness to listen, a willingness to learn, curiosity, and a pinch of understanding. This, my readers, is the guaranteed solution to any unsure or uncomfortable situation in which you will ever find yourself. *Well, situations that do not involve guns, anyway. But as my post already noted, there was a gun present and this solution still seemed to be effective, so just roll with it.
Meeting Tosha and invading her home felt like I was visiting a college friend that I have known my entire life. There was not one moment of feeling uncomfortable. Our conversation was effortless, and we dove in talking about our lives, our personal experiences, our past hurts, our family trauma, our passions, our resilience, our hopes and goals. We listened to one another, we provided feedback to one another, we questioned one another, we challenged one another, and we complimented one another. Two very different people with two extremely different lives that did not know each other, coming together for the first time and finding common ground while living in foreign territories. Two humans being exactly that… HUMAN.
The universe is weird. I would have never believed if in the past someone told me that on March 24, 2022 I would be traveling to the house of a woman I didn’t know to spend 2 nights and 3 days meeting my Soghomonian family. I would have reminded that someone that the Soghomonian family, as I understood it, ended the day my father passed away.
*This is an important part of my journey. I am a control freak, as you are already aware. I tend to feel most comfortable when I plan my future and think that I am in control of everything. I pretend to be a fortune teller, even though my success rate is not getting very high Yelp reviews. This experience alone is helping me to realize that we never know what our futures hold. We might feel that the things that have hurt us in life will never be settled or resolved, but due to some cosmic thing that occurs in the universe, we might be pleasantly surprised as to how things work out. This helps me to remember that just because things do not happen in the timeline that I think they should occur, doesn’t mean that something won’t happen. God damn that thing called patience. I’m so bad at patience. *Insert here the Guns N Roses song called “Patience”. It’s playing in my head right this very second.
So back to the two humans drawn together by my personal trauma related to my father and his secrets, or dare I say, his trauma. Tosha and I spent the day connecting and sharing. Our conversations would bounce from talking about family, to me interrupting to ask a question about something I spotted on one of Tosha’s walls, to Tosha switching the conversation to talk about a possible joint blog, to me talking about my love for Toby Keith, to us examining Tosha’s playlist, to us eating some Armenian Apple Chunk cake, to Tosha telling me her plans to redo her patio, to me asking if we could eat Costco hotdogs for lunch, and on and on and on. We were on the same page and understanding of each other’s inability to remain on task, jumping from topic to topic, interrupting conversations to switch topics, and simply bringing up subjects that were completely out of the blue. Neither of us were ever offended by the other, and neither of us felt unheard, as everything came full circle in time. I am strongly inclined to believe she is my soul sister, as I felt no judgement from her and never once felt anxious during our time together.
On Friday night, Tosha and I spent time going through information and photos related to my past. I don’t often get “signs” from the universe, but on that evening, I felt that my father was speaking to me and blessing the journey on which I was embarking. When I was younger, I once asked my father if there were any other cool Armenian names associated with my family (you have to admit that Soghomonian is a pretty cool name). I remember him telling me about the name Megraditchian. I have tried to find the connection through Ancestry.com, but to no avail. While Tosha and I were looking through a box that contained the Soghomonian history, we found a card written to my great grandparents, and it was signed by “The Megraditchian’s”. I couldn’t believe this. I, once again, was floored. I inquired about who these people were and Tosha told me to ask my great aunt when I met her, as she would most likely be able to tell me about this connection. *Thanks, dad. I am glad that you reminded me that I’m not alone on this journey. I felt your presence, loud and clear.
While it is easy to talk about how great it was to meet Tosha and gorge on crappy food, I went to Maryland with another purpose as well. I went to meet and connect with my father’s family. I am going to be very brief and selective in talking about my time with the Soghomonian’s, and I will not name them, as like my father, they are very private people and I have not obtained their permission to share details about them or their lives.
On Saturday, I was privileged to meet my great aunt and 2 of her children. My paternal grandfather’s brother, my great uncle, is still living, and this is his family. My heart was set on meeting my great uncle, as I never got to meet my grandfather and he is the only person alive that would resemble the closest experience I could have to actually meeting my grandfather. They were raised by the same parents, and they lived in an Armenian household where the language was spoken and the customs were alive. He is the one man that knows things about my grandfather, his personality, his life stories. *Remember, my grandfather died when my father was 11 years old. I just wanted to lay eyes on this man and hug him. I wanted to soak in his features and speech. Unfortunately, my great uncle was not open to meeting me for reasons that are his own. While I cannot speak to them, and I struggle to understand, I respect his decision and I have come to accept that this is not a choice in which I get to have a say or an opinion.
Tosha and I arrived home from Costco and I was aware that some of the Soghomonian’s were coming over to spend the day meeting me and talking. Upon arriving at Tosha’s, I was putting things that I had purchased at Costco into my trunk when I locked my keys in my trunk. Seriously? Go back up to the paragraph where my friend tell me to pack extra keys and my failing to listen to this advice. Yep, if Tosha was a serial killer, I would inevitably be dead. I immediately go into an anxious state and am trying to think about what to do when Tosha comes out of the house and informs me that the family is there. Awesome. I have been relaxed thus far and the minute it is time to meet my family, I’m having a mini panic attack about my keys being locked in my trunk. Thanks universe.
I am so fortunate. I am so grateful. Without skipping a beat, my male cousin (second cousin, but I’m not going to keep writing that out) introduces himself to me and tells me that he will call AAA (Triple A? I’m not sure how they advertise their business…) and get my car unlocked. I breathe a sigh of relief and then go and meet my great aunt and my female cousin (second cousin, but refer to the above). The warmth and acceptance that this family radiated from their initial hugs is something that will remain in my mind and on my heart forever. We sat down and spent the entire afternoon and evening getting to know one another, talking, sharing stories, trading information, laughing, and quite simply, healing. They shared with me information and stories about my great grandparents and their lives, specifically the details surrounding their immigration from Armenia. They spoke about my grandfather’s 2 sisters, my great aunts that have both passed away. They told me that the Megraditchian’s were my great grandfather’s relatives, ones that my grandfather’s sister was able to make connections with later in life. They shared their hurt and confusion, and they openly understood mine. They did not cast judgement or anger, they did not place blame or act defensive. They spoke openly and factually. They shared things related to their attempts to be a part of my father’s life after he lost his own father, and together, we all began to understand that miscommunication can cause unnecessary pain. They listened intently. They made me feel welcome, like I belonged, like I was a part of the Soghomonian family.
I think it will take me a bit of time to digest all that occurred on this day. I find myself lost in thought thinking about the things they shared with me and wondering about how my life would be had they been a apart of it all along, wondering if my father would have healed if he had connections with them and had them in his life. Initially, I felt resentment when thinking about this, but after much thought, I relish in knowing that going forward, this could be the impetus to creating new memories and forming new relationships. It is so hard to let go of the past, and for me, I hate that I have no control over past and no power to change it. It is part of my struggle and healing journey to learn to sit in what was, but it is also powerful and exciting to know that I can be a part of shaping the future. I keep smiling when thinking about how my great aunt reminds me of my maternal grandmother, she is a woman that loves her family whole heartedly and does everything in her power to keep them together. I love that my female cousin is someone who I want to continue to get to know, as she has so much to offer due to her amazing insight and innate capacity to ask questions and listen to my answers. I am awed by my male cousin’s affection, his willingness to jump in when I had a problem and take care of it by making calls and helping me. I see my father in the Soghomonian’s. His work ethic, his propensity for privacy, his delight in building things and fixing things on his own, his eyebrows and facial features, his struggles related to being born into an immigrant family, his trauma, his pain.
While this is my healing journey, I hope that all involved have been able to also find some sort of healing and peace. I want my stories and the information that I have gained to help my sister and my children to better understand my father and his life experiences, leading all of us to better understand why he was who he was. I want to open doors and encourage all of the Soghomonian’s to feel like they have family in addition to the family that they have known throughout their entire lives. I want to continue to have meetings with the Soghomonian’s, and I want to continue to get to know them and their amazing stories.
I do not have the words to properly thank Tosha and the Soghomonian’s for their openness and willingness to meet me. Words seem inadequate to describe what I have gained from this experience. A more appropriate description would be the feelings that I am now feeling. Feelings of hope and encouragement, feelings of understanding that my father’s actions and inactions were in no way my fault. I now have compassion and love for a man that caused so much hurt in my life.
On Friday, my female cousin stayed well into the late night and prior to her leaving, I told her this: “I would live it all over again. I would experience the hurt and pain that my father caused all over again, every single day and minute of it, if only he could be alive today so I could call him and tell him about this experience.” We hugged and I didn’t want to let her go, but I have to hold on to the hope that it was not a goodbye, but rather, a see you soon.
Cheers, hayrik (that means father in the Armenian language). I hope that wherever you are right now, that you are sitting with your parents and smiling and laughing. I hope your heart is as full as mine.