October 24, 2008

Facebook Family

Bertha O'Brien (Dunn), James O'Brien, Bertha Dunn (Rixon)

Bertha O'Brien (Dunn), James O'Brien, Bertha Dunn (Rixon)

Through Facebook I’ve recently made contact with some long-lost extended family members. And this week, two of them have left some interesting comments on an old photograph I posted a while back of me, with my mum and my granny.

“Wow, I havent seen many photos with granny in them”, one of them wrote, while the other added, “oh my god. i can’t remember granny when she could walk around. I remember your mum but not as good as i thought. they look so much like nan. i cant believe it”.

They’re my second cousins. Their mother Julie was my elder first cousin with whom I grew up, and I remember when they were born. I was also page-boy at their mother’s first wedding. And now they’re in their twenties (thirties?) with children of their own.

Both comments, as well as some recent events in the family, have been a reminder I’m no longer “the younger one” in my family. Suddenly I’m the grown up who the younger ones look up to (kinda), and who the older ones rely upon (kinda).

At the funeral of my similarly-aged nephew, last year, for example, I found myself moving between the generation I grew up with, and the remains of the older generation who I used to look up to. Of my mum and dad’s brother’s and sister’s (a total of 10), there’s only two left.

“Who’s that?”, I was asked by my ageing aunt at one point, telling her it was the husband or child of “such and such”.

In each family, of course, there’s always someone who is the lynch-pin who keeps everyone in contact. In my family I guess it was my mum and my granny. And when they both died, and there was no longer a house on which to focus the family connection, a lot of us lost contact. I have cousins, for example, who I haven’t seen for maybe twenty years. I have no idea, for example, where my cousin Lorna is, these days. Her mum died in 1978 and I can’t recall the last time I saw her.

I always thought it was odd when a long lost aunt or cousin or whatever would suddenly turn up at our house when I was a child, and it was revealed my mum or dad hadn’t seen them for twenty years. And now, of course, I know exactly how it happens.

Most of my family have stayed in either Lismore or Brisbane, but having been away from my hometown for such a long time, I’ve missed out on seeing the extended younger generation growing up. Of course I know my immediate, immediate family, but it’s the children of the extended family that I’m only just coming to learn about. It’s odd though, since I know their parents very well. And of course we share the same DNA. An interesting, kinda odd, feeling in many ways.

I’m sure one day the information we’re sharing with Facebook will come back to bite us on the bums, but in the meantime it’s been wonderful to reacquaint myself with my extended family. And, as is the style of Facebook, it’s been fun to see photos of them acting like idiots!! :)

Yes, we defnitely have the same DNA! No doubt about that…

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About James O'Brien

Forty-something from Sydney, Australia. My passions include: radio (my job), travel, genealogy, music, art, theatre, food, wine, and learning Swedish.

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