This is my first cousin twice removed.
That means he’s my grandfather’s first cousin. His dad was my great-grandfather’s brother.
I got his name from Ancestry.com. His dad showed up on the 1910 census in the same house as my great-grandfather. Ancestry led me to another census with this man’s father listed as the head of household in the same city where I was born and raised, Waco, Texas. This man was listed as seven years old.
I Googled his name + Waco, Texas. The search produced a result which listed his full name on a high school reunion roster with his address. I grabbed a good ol’ fashion phone book and his name was listed with the same address. There was a slight difference in the spelling of the last name. I called the number.
I asked if this was the residence listed in the phone book. He said yes.
I apologized for bothering him at home and told him I was doing ancestry research. “My grandfather’s name was William,” I said.
“Did he have a brother named Willis?” he asked.
“No, his brother’s name was James,” I said, a little disheartened.
“Oh, yeah, it was Willie and Jimmy,” he replied.
I said, “Their dad was named Foster and he had a brother named Floyd.”
“My daddy’s name was Floyd,” he said.
“Floyd had two boys, James and Elwood,” I said.
“My brother’s name was Elwood,” he said.
It was him. Misspelled last name and all.
“I’d like to meet you,” I told him.
“That would be fine,” he replied. “Let me know you’re on your way and I’ll unlock the gate.”
I arranged to meet him on a Friday. I called on Friday to make sure the gate would be unlocked, as he’d requested.
“I hate to do this to you, man, but I’ve got some folks who want to take me to dinner tonight, believe it or not.”
I believed it. I went back home and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hurt. This man may be a link to my family’s past. Of course people want to spend time with him and treat him to a steak. “Don’t forget about me,” he’d said at the end of the call.
I didn’t. I went to see him today, the Monday after our initial scheduled meeting.
I’d assumed he had family living with him. I was wrong. He lives alone. He told me about his career working for the city. He showed me his expansive yet outdated home. He showed me the house without using a cane or a walker. I asked him if he knew my grandfather and my great-uncle.
“Yeah, Jimmy was all over. Very social. Willie was, uh, harder to know. He kind of kept to himself.”
This is the opposite of my experience with these men. My grandfather died in ‘93. My great-uncle died about twelve years later.
I told him I didn’t want to impose but I’d like to visit him again.
“I’ll be here,” he said. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to.”
His wife died of Alzheimer’s and his son has passed. He’s 94 years old.
Last week, I didn’t know he existed.
We live five miles apart.