All My Relations

When I was a little girl, my mother taught me this bedtime prayer, “God bless mommy and daddy, Steve and me and all my relations. Please let daddy have a safe journey…” I do not remember how the prayer ended, or if it simply ended there with an “Ah-men.” 

We always prayed for dad to have a “safe journey” because he was in the Merchant Marine, and at sea more than at home. And because when storms came, it was not unusual for people to pray for them to go out to sea.

I haven’t thought about “…all my relations” for a long time. Both of my parents were from large families. We lived near some of my dad’s family in Massachusetts, but we saw much more of my mother’s side of the family and most of them were in Baltimore.

Although I occasionally saw Marcellino cousins, it was my O’Hara aunts, uncles and cousins that I knew best and saw most often.

Two children and two women in the foreground of some beach cottages
Cousin Phil, Mom’s sister Millie, Mom and me

After both of my parents had passed away and I had moved on and out-of-state, I frequently commented that “I wouldn’t know any of my cousins if I fell over them.” And I also said that while I thought my father was very loving, I thought his family were a bunch of cold fish. I had my reasons. (Sorry cousins!) 

I should say however, that I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, my dad’s mother, when I was quite young, and I loved her. She was from Lisbon, Portugal, and spoke beautiful broken English with a thick accent.

She would talk about ‘the old country’ and because of her, I love the sounds of all languages. And my ears tune in to the sounds of regional accents wherever I may be when I hear them.

The park above Onset Pier.

Something happened recently to make me think again about “all my relations” and to see them with new eyes. The “Something” was that I had an opportunity to go to Onset and spend a whole week. It was the first time in 45 years that I had more than two days in town for a funeral or a quick visit.

I had a few unanswered questions about my father and his family before heading home, and when I posed them to my brother, he put me in touch with some relatives I did not know existed. They are, in a sense, new relatives.

We have always been related; we just didn’t know each other existed. I would have known sooner, had I shown my brother’s interest in our family heritage and culture, or even if I had shown interest in the research that he was doing.

One keen example of this is when we went home for our mom’s funeral service, besides walking around our home town separately, he and his family went to the town hall to look at birth records, and I went to the beach to look for shells.

But several relatives, including my brother and the grandchildren of some of my dad’s siblings have taken advantage of the offerings of and other similar organizations and started digging.

women sitting at a table in a restuarant
Cousin Day!

In some cases, the cousins who were doing this research have been at it for years, in other cases; some of us have only recently turned our attention to our father’s or grandparents’ family, and have only recently come to the party.

I did not know that they existed!

I had not known that the cousins my brother put me in touch with existed; what was more shocking to me was taht I did not know that their grandfather, my father’s brother John had existed either. It took me a while to wrap my head around that. Suffice it to say, that my father’s family was not close. And my Uncle John died before I was born, so he was never mentioned.

I suppose that sections of dad’s family were close, but visits were few and far between. no family reunions that included everybody and many of the siblings moved far away from home.

Nevertheless, one day in October 2019, eight of us met for the first time in Antonio’s (Portuguese) Restaurant in New Bedford, Massachusetts, for a long, leisurely lunch.

With spreadsheets, cell phones and pictures, we compared notes, histories, stories that had been passed down, shared myths and worked our way through “myth-information.”  We talked about old conflicts that had torn the family apart, inherited diseases, longing for knowledge and healing.

woman standing behind parents headstone at a cemetary

We found love and hope, in the open hearts of our cousins. We walked each other through some of our individual family stories and helped each other pick up loose threads.  We made decisions to repair the breach, to not carry old wounds but to heal them and to go bravely into conversations that perhaps our parents and grandparents would have wished we had left “well enough alone.”  We laughed, cried and embraced, scoured the cemetery where the grandparents’/great-grandparents are buried and took pictures.

For me personally, the knowledge I seek is more about my father’s siblings and their children and grandchildren, than it is about those who came before. Because those who came before, are people I can learn something about, but the cousins who are descended from my father’s siblings are people I can know. In getting to know them and their stories, I can see something of my father and grandmother and hopefully, learn something about myself along the way.

So now, I need to pick up something of my old bedtime prayer and say, God bless mom and dad, Steve and me, my spouse and our children and grandchildren…and all my relations. I think about my “new” cousins and a smile breaks across my face and a tear glistens in my eye and there is a spring of sorts in my step that wasn’t there before. I am a vintage chic on a journey of discovery and determined to press on.

Not holdling back the tide,


Copyright 2021 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and

Written and published for the first time in January 2020

Linking up with Denyse Whelan’s #lifethisweek

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

15 thoughts on “All My Relations

  1. Great post, Michelle! I loved reading about your family. I hope none of your cousins from your father’s side read this post! 😉 You are so lucky to have found some “long lost cousins”. My dad’s family was not really close either. There were 13 children in his family, so there are many cousins I don’t know. My mom was an only child, so there are no cousins from her side, but we had some second cousins we were close to. All families come together in their own unique ways!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Laurie, this is an early post that I edited. My paragraphs tend to be very long, so I tried to keep your writing in mind as I shortened things up a bit (thank you for that). Actually, I was pretty up front with the girls about my cold fish estimation and they all h ad similar experiences but are a very loving group. One of my cousins follows my blog on Facebook and I did edit one statement in another post so as to not hurt her feelings. The others just laughed. That trip home last October and those connections with classmates and cousins really fueled my writing. It just took me from October to the end of December to start. Blessings, Michele


    1. Natalie, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I did a lot of crying that day, it was wonderful. Hoping if COVID-19 cooperates to be able to meet with them again this fall. So much to be thankful for. Blessings, Michele #SeniSal


  2. This is a wonderful post. I come from a large German Canadian family with many may cousins. We all know each other and keep n touch. Every 5 years we have a huge family reunion with about 200 attending. It is a joyous time.I’m so glad you connected with your cousins! #SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! 200, that is great. In my immediate family reunions are called weddings and funerals. The family I married into had annual family reunions on both sides. It was quite a culture shock from my family of 4. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on my post. #SeniSal Michele


  3. Its funny about cousins and family one never knew existed until you do. I am in contact via FB with some of my cousins but some who Im not think that my father was the poorer of us all. So we are beneath them…#SeniSal

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That is sad, but I understand. I think many of my dad’s siblings only talked with some but not everyone. They were products of their time and circumstances, 1st Generation born in the US. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this post. #SeniSal Michele


  4. I like posts where I can see what I am also trying to do. I admit while my Dad is still well and alive at 97 I try to ask him more questions to help me keep my memories of my past and my relatives. Luckily we chat most weeks and to be honest, it is a great distraction for him if I ask him questions rather than hear his stories that have been shared with me befote.

    Thank you for linking up your blog post today. Next week’s optional prompt is 7/51 Self Care Stories #1. 15 Feb. In this one, I am using the new category in my blog called Ageing Stories because it was a good fit. Look forward to seeing you there too. Denyse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Denyse, how wonderful that you still have your father and are able to chat with him. Sounds like you have a great solution to keeping your dad thinking, talking and communicating. I may miss a week now and then but I am happy to participate in Life This Week,,,,,,,,, thanks for your response to mine. Blessings, Michele

      Liked by 1 person

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