Cutting through southeastern Canada’s pastoral countryside, we sliced hours off the long drive home from the welcoming weekend in Detroit of the Shockency family reunion . My brother, Ron Tunstull and his son Ryon from Cincinnati, my sister Linda, and her husband Kenneth Balou, from New York and my sister Beverly John, from Lousville,, Joe and myself, along with almost 100 cousins, converged on the motor city to meet one another. Excitement and expectation stemmed any concerns of meeting an entire group of people we had no connection with beyond the genetic heredity we shared. The timing of this event, on my sister and my birthday weekend, only added to the specialness of the experience.
While we grew up in Detroit during the 50’s and 60’s, the Shockency’s from Kentucky and Indiana were rarely seen. The magic of growing up as cousins and family members were lost to that side, as we grew up around our father’s side, the Tunstull’s. Knowing they existed but having no connection changed in an instant when we met faces that resembled our own, and held similar attitudes and ways of being as us. Names we heard since childhood appeared in the person with their descendants in tow. Family lure was shared, explained and confirmed through stories and photos. Like any long lost relative, we were embraced with eyes of long held recognition saying, “Yes, you are one of us.” My brother Ron, who always favored our mother found a twin, in my eyes, in his second cousin. It was often repeated that weekend I resembled our mother’s brothers and even their sons, which came as a compliment.
The weekend was coordinated by the descendants of Uncle Billy and Aunt Callie Shockency – and their children. Loletia Shockency-McDay, Pat Shockency-Moody, Tyrone and Carl Shockency – provided the welcoming energy that made it all happen. “Bridging the Gap” was the theme to bring the generations together. This gesture, embodied by the younger Johnnie Moody and his sisters, Tyeshia and Lakesha Shell -whose wit, energy and beauty proved beguiling to all of us – set the tone for the new family tapestry, building the bridge one member at a time.
Sadly, the last remaining member of the older generation, Uncle Theodore Shockency, my mother’s baby brother, passed the day before we arrived. The lost was felt by all as we celebrated his spirit and the family in a manner he would have appreciated.
A visit to my 87 years old Aunt Iva Tunstull was a must since I hadn’t seen her in five years. As an 8 year old, my family lived in their house when we first moved to Detroit from New York, gaining five new cousins, as brothers and sisters. As I stepped into the small, once large, rooms of her house, my eyes had to grow accustomed to her frail appearance. However, the very moment she spoke, her voice was the same and the spry energetic person I loved appeared, as if hiding inside a different body. She lit up and leaned forward as we spoke of the old days when we were kids and how she first met her husband, Uncle Sam. The girlish giggle of that first meeting, seventy years earlier, was on display as her smile captured that moment. Our visit was great and as it was time to leave, her emotions shifted on her face, like a pale being cast over a bright moon, she said forlornly, with tears welling in her eyes, “Do not go out of the door fast.”… I stopped…returned for another kiss and slowly exited the house. As we age our defensive crust fades and the child like pure emotions are given freedom to be once more.
The wellspring that is family cannot be underestimated. No matter how much time passes, the open arms of familial love remains.