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There and Back Again

By Neal Stone --

Been a while since I've posted. For those of you who have read my article The Voyage Home you know about me finding long lost family and the trip I planned to meet them. Here is Part 1 of the story.

Part 1 – Journey of the Heart, a Voyage of the Soul

the journey "Eid Al Adha to all"Image by via Flickr
Every journey we take starts with that one step. But to take that step requires a certain amount of courage. Courage to overcome the unknown as well as the known.

All my life I have been on a quest, a search. Looking for my dad and his family. In the past few years I have found them all thanks to the help of my sister Darcy. But that was just the beginning of the journey. On May 14th, 2010 that journey continued to a trip across the USA. A journey of joy and sadness, of hope and fear, of expectations and the unexpected.

On May 14th it was off at work at noon for Elaine, my wife, and I and then home to get the RV. Then off to my sister Darcy’s to pick her up along with my brother-in-law Kevin and niece Crystal and of course the dog, Chanel, went as well.

Once on our way we stopped for food then it was I-90 East bound. First stop Missoula MT.

We made a stop at Little Bighorn, MT. What a sad place to visit. To see what hate, oppression and prejudice can lead to. But even sadder was the Native American owned gift shop catering to both sides. Both native American fans and Gen. Custer fans got their space.

We stopped in Nashville along the way. We got to see the Duke’s of Hazard and Willie Nelson museums. The Grand Ole Oprey was damaged by the flood so we didn’t get to see that. Seems God needs to work on his priorities since the Duke’s and Willie’s museums were untouched.

Then it was on the road again. After a few days of travel and camping in some very nice rest areas it was time to arrive in Georgia. How will it go? How will they receive us? Will dad be there? So much anxiety and yet excitement.

No sooner had we gotten out of Tennessee that traffic came to a dead stop. We were just a few hours from meeting our Aunt Kaye so it was frustrating to say the least. We already had enough anxiety as it was and now this.

After sitting for a while I decided to take a nap in the back of the RV. No sooner had I laid down that I heard voices outside the RV. I got up and asked what was going on. Turns out this gal who was sitting in the car behind us had to pee really bad. She tapped on the window and asked Elaine, my wife, if she could use the RV bathroom.

Of course napping I was unaware of this when I asked what was going on. My wife looked at me and said “Open the door.” So in walks this gal and makes a bee line for the bathroom. No sooner does she close the door when we hear her saying out loud “Praise Jesus, I can’t stop going, Thank the Lord...” the whole time she was in there. Needless to say this broke up the tension and anxiety and made our day.

We continued our journey and finally arrived in Georgia on May 18th. It was a tearful, but joyful reunion to meet everyone. We met at a restaurant and met some of my cousins and other family. I was so nervous I could barely eat. Dad wasn’t there and we never got to see him or talk to him. It hurt, but we expected this to begin with so you prepare yourself as much as you can. But it still can eat at you.

We spent a few days hanging out with Aunt Kaye. Talking, sharing, joking and just having a great time. We would sit there in the evenings looking through family photos until our eyes watered from being tired, and then we would look some more. There were a few magical moments on this trip and this was one of them. Seeing pictures of our grandma and how much she looks like my sister. It was the same for me with my dad’s photos.

We got to pick through the photos and select some for our aunt to scan for us and e-mail. She has already done this and got some work to do on my end.

The whole time we visited I got to watch my Aunt Kaye and cousin Benny go back and forth giving each other crap and having a good time doing it. It was so funny and I would occasionally get into it myself and have fun. It was also fun watching Benny play with Chanel, our dog, the same way I did.

I also have some of my dad’s traits and looks. People were amazed out how much I looked and talked like him. I would be reminded of this on a regular basis.

The time finally came to see Unca Ron. This led to a tearful goodbye to one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met, my Aunt Kaye. It was hard to leave her and say goodbye. But the journey had to continue. So we hugged and cried and said goodbye to our dear Aunt Kaye. I still tear up every time I think of having to leave her and Unca Ron. We miss you Auntie and Unca.

We will be back!

I have learned many things in my life, but nothing is more important than what I learned on this journey. No one can defeat you unless you let them. No one can take anything from you unless you let them. My step-dad, who is a Christian, took my life, my identity and my family away from me as he did to my siblings as well. All these years he has been an abuser of my family causing our mother and family undue and undeserved heartache.

This journey was a beginning of winning back what we once lost. Regaining our lives and families long lost. My step-dad drew the line in the sand, today I step across that line and take a stand against the oppressor and accept no defeat. You want my life? Come and get it!

Parents cherish your children. You only have then once and then that’s it. Raise them without prejudice and hate. Teach them to live who they are, not what you want them to be. Let them have their lives and limit them not.

I have found and won back my family from my dad’s side. I now have stories, memories and photo’s I can cherish and you can’t and won’t ever take that away from me. I now have victory over that which held me back. I now have a bigger family and am loving it!

This has been a journey home.

Next Part 2 – The Journey Within – A Visit with Unca