My Mom has an older brother and a younger sister. My immediate family was/is close to my Aunt Helen and her three daughters. But my Uncle Russell left Ohio (where my family lived) when I was young, and I only remember meeting him once. Russell was tall with wavy hair, and in my little girl mind he looked like the handsome Red Skelton I saw on TV.
After Uncle Russell left Ohio, my Mom occasionally received thick postcards from him in the mail. The cards consisted of glossy pictures that folded out into one big line of connected photos, and came from far away states like Florida and Texas. As I remember, there was never a return address -- at least not one where he stayed for long -- and the only message said “Love, Russell.” After a while, the cards stopped coming.
Just like we didn’t see Uncle Russell, we also didn’t see Russell’s ex wife and three children, who moved to California after Russell and his wife divorced. When I was older, however, Mom would tell me about letters she received from her nieces and nephew, about photos they sent of their kids, and sometimes of phone calls. I met one of the cousins, Sonney, when he rode his motorcycle to our farm. Sonney was grown and married; I’m 11 years younger and was in high school or maybe junior high at the time. I never met the girl cousins.
Five years ago Jim and I drove our new-to-us RV to Salt Lake City from where we’d purchased it in Banning, California. Afterwards I talked with my Mom about our trip. She said our route on I-15 must have taken us close to Adelanto, California, where one of my girl cousins -- Bobbie -- lives. I had no idea.
This time when we drove through California, I was only slightly better prepared. Jim and I travel a little bit by the seat of our pants, and don’t plan many of our stops very far in advance. But I called my Mom to see if she had Bobbie’s contact information in case we ended up near Adelanto, a town in the high desert between Barstow and Los Angeles. She had Bobbie’s address but not her phone number. With the little Internet connection I had, I confirmed that the address was probably right but could not find a phone number on line.
Once we got out of Death Valley, we had cell phone coverage so I called Mom again. She’d found Bobbie’s phone number and had left me a message, but it didn’t get through the non-connectivity that is Death Valley (at least if you have Verizon). Jim and I found a place to camp near Barstow and I called Bobbie. Her husband, Claude, answered. After I introduced myself and asked for Bobbie, he handed her the phone saying “It’s a long-lost cousin.” Bobbie agreed to a visit the next day, and even invited us to her home for lunch. We went. And it was lovely.