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A Resolution Worth Keeping

January 1, 2010 by  

A Resolution Worth Keeping

When I answered the phone, an unfamiliar voice said, “Hello, Chip? It’s Peter.”

“Peter who?” I asked.

“Your cousin Peter,” the voice replied.

I was about to answer, "I don’t have a cousin named Peter" when I realized, wait a minute, I do. This must be the long-lost cousin—my mother’s brother’s oldest son—I hadn’t seen or spoken to in more than 50 years.

The reason for that lengthy gap, and how it was bridged, is a story that could change your life, too. Bear with me while I tell you about a family rift that was finally healed.

My cousin Peter and I were both 14 years old when our families vacationed together for the last time in 1955. We spent two wonderful weeks in the summer on Barnegat Island, N.J., sunning, surfing and diving through the waves.

The next year my father suffered a fatal heart attack. After the funeral, my mother accepted an invitation from her brother in Florida to spend a few weeks with him while she recovered from her shock and sorrow and started to put her life back together. I stayed at school near Detroit, but my two younger brothers went with her. One of the treats my Uncle Harry arranged was a quick trip to Cuba. He had no idea of the Pandora’s Box he would be opening.

My mother fell head over heels in love with Cuba, the Cuban people and the exciting, exotic city of Havana. Property was incredibly cheap. So were labor and most essentials. She could hire a maid for a few dollars a month. There was no question that her "widow’s mite" would stretch a lot further in Cuba than it would in the U.S. After checking things out for a month, Mom returned home, sold what she could, packed what she needed, and flew back to Havana with my brothers to begin a new life.

I’ll save for another time the stories of her sojourn in Cuba—the triumphs she enjoyed, the tragedies she endured. They were the most exciting, most challenging, and most rewarding three years of her life—until Fidel Castro brought it all to a screeching halt.

My Uncle Harry, who had introduced Mom to Havana, was bitterly opposed to her decision to move there. When he failed to talk her out of going, he then declared that he would go to court to take her children from her. It was a threat she would not forgive. For as long as she lived she never spoke to him again.

Thirty-some years later, in an addendum to her last will and testament, Mom wrote: “Please tell Molly [her sister] I am truly sorry for any hurt I may have given her or she me—and I have long ago forgiven her. I am just sad that we never made up.”

Then she added: “My brother Harry is different. Don’t even tell him I am gone.”

Yes, Mom could keep a mad going for a long, long time.

Several years ago I decided it was long past time to bury these old animosities. So I resolved that I would reconnect with family members I hadn’t seen or spoken to in years.

One of the happy consequences of that resolution was a Wood family reunion I hosted for all of the brothers and cousins I could persuade to attend. Nearly two dozen people gathered on Hilton Head Island, S.C., and met relatives they had never known. I learned the difference between a first cousin once removed and a second cousin, and found out I had several of both: not to mention firsts who were twice removed, numerous third cousins and even more distant and confusing relationships.

Cousin Barbara brought me something more precious than memories: Photographs of my father as a child and young man. And even some of my father’s father, who had died before I was born. There he was, a young, mustachioed man, standing in front of the house he had built with his own hands.

Even more amazing, Barbara also had postcards an aunt had sent my father for several years when he was a young boy. There were cards commemorating Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, July 4th and Thanksgiving. These wonderful examples of the printer’s craft are nearly 100 years old. Several of the most beautiful are now mounted and displayed in our home.

Unfortunately, one guest who wasn’t invited—because I had no idea how to reach him (or even if he was still alive)—was my cousin Peter. It would take another three years before I learned where he lived and got a telephone number for him. I immediately called and left a message on his answering machine. I waited a week or so and called again. When another week went by with no reply, I thought I would never hear from him.

But two weeks after that, Peter returned my call. He explained that he and his wife had been vacationing in Europe and had just returned home when they got my message. We’ve chatted many times since then. We had a reunion in person when business brought him to Atlanta. And, more recently, my wife and I stayed with Peter and his wife during a visit to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. I think all of us would agree we had a wonderful time, with nary a cross word spoken. But, oh, what stories of family feuds and dysfunction we were able to share!

I learned that one of cousin Peter’s hobbies (actually, it’s more like an obsession) is to collect and repair antique watches. He is a self-taught master craftsman who knows more than I thought possible about old watches. Among the 3,000 or so timepieces in his collection Peter found absolutely perfect wedding gifts for two very dear friends. (When Jeremy reads this, he’ll know the source of that gorgeous 127-year-old silver pocket watch. Thanks again, Peter.)

So what does all this have to do with the price of tea in China? I’m glad you asked.

At the beginning of a new year, many of us make various resolutions. We vow all sorts of things: To stop smoking, to lose weight, to exercise more, to paint the back porch. And in almost every case (be honest now), most resolutions are discarded before we remember to write the new year in our checkbooks.

This time, let me urge you to do something different. Make a truly meaningful resolution—one that has the power to change your life and the life of someone else.

Resolve to heal an old wound with a former friend or family member. Ask forgiveness where appropriate; grant forgiveness where you should. Reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in years. The results can be amazing.

And who knows? One of them may have an ancient family memento that will become one of your most cherished possessions. You’ll never know until you try.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

—Chip Wood

Chip Wood

is the geopolitical editor of PersonalLiberty.com. He is the founder of Soundview Publications, in Atlanta, where he was also the host of an award-winning radio talk show for many years. He was the publisher of several bestselling books, including Crisis Investing by Doug Casey, None Dare Call It Conspiracy by Gary Allen and Larry Abraham and The War on Gold by Anthony Sutton. Chip is well known on the investment conference circuit where he has served as Master of Ceremonies for FreedomFest, The New Orleans Investment Conference, Sovereign Society, and The Atlanta Investment Conference.

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  • Pat

    This is an astonishing story, and I completely agree. So glad you and Peter got back together and that you and the others had such a great time at the reunion with photographs, etc. I have had some experiences since one of my cousins introduced me to genealogy several years ago, of which I had no knowledge! I have millions of “cuzzins” that I would have never known about otherwise. Most of my greats & great-greats and great-great-greats on my father’s side are buried in the area we moved to 3 years ago, and I have also visited graves of “greats” and great-greats and great-great-greats on my mother’s side. What a joy to get to “know” them. One of my great-great-fathers founded the church we are members of in 1856! So much family history here. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story. Were you on TV recently I think on one of those a.m. shows?

  • WW

    How could you not remember you had a cousin Peter after trying to reach him???? Maybe your getting old and forgetful…. and this does say something about your credibility as it pertains to your articles!!!

    • DaveH

      Liberal alert.

      • eyeswideopen

        Daveh, didn’t you pick up on the point of someone trying to dictate to another adult, how and where she should raise her children? Why do people feel as though they must impose their beliefs and cause such pain? The woman was not abusing her children and at that time they would not have been in danger. Yes, things changed, but no one can predict the future. I am surprised that you only made the typical name calling comment.

    • JeffN

      Come on. He’s trying to tell a story. Give him a break. Why do liberals always use slander and insults first instead of logic and reason? You should also work your spelling if you’re going to post your hateful remarks.

      May the Lord be with you and look out for you and open your eyes…

      • Davila

        jeffN, I so agree. They have a double standard, all for me and well none for you. Liberals if they lived their so called standards would kill themselves. Its like taking communist leaders and putting them in the place of their servants.

        The Lord will Judge all, as for the Liberals….His will be done.

      • http://donthaveone Beberoni

        Because they are liberals. Attack is their M.O.

    • JanO

      Did you not read the story? He had called Peter 2 times but did not get a response as they were vacationing in Europe!

    • libertytrain

      Perhaps you need to read the article again – you must have only scanned it -

    • Liberty

      Things happen in life, they sometimes don’t go smoothly and unexpected things can happen, and he is no exception. Because Liberals have been making our lives more difficult than it was. And Mr. Wood did more than he should, and he was very frank about it.

      Mr. Wood is a good Samaritan. I love to read all his articles when I see them. He’s brave, patriotic and often voices his concern and stands up for people’s rights, including yours. I can not say thanks enough to him, it’s too bad you don’t see it. Perhaps the positive characteristics about him is why Liberals do not like him, and who cares?

      Thank you and happy New Years to you, Mr. Wood.

  • veritas

    A perfect book to read on the subject of forgiveness is
    “Total Forgiveness” by R.T. Kendall.

    • Davila

      the book was Great…it should be in every prison! haha.

  • http://www.pureheartsinternational.com Geoff Pace

    This brings up my “skeletons” , if you will. I had a rather ugly divorce over a quarter century ago the end result of which I still do not know where my three kids are. My EX having been in the law enforcement field took my children out of the public eye so-to-speak.
    They can’t even be traced by SSN! That includes my Ex,too.

    So, I am left with being in a quandry and having been in a “Freeze-frame” about how I remember who they were all these intervening years. I am retired now and can not afford a PI to investigate this professionally. How do I repent when there is no one on this earth that can hear my repentance and make amends to? They might all be dead for all I know.

    • eglefeather

      You posted this so you have access to a computer. You can use your computor to serch the web for your spouce, by maiden name as well as your children. I have found potential relatives by doing this. Ancenstry and geneology have web sites that can be used free of charge. This would allow you to check for your exes mothers maiden as well if she changed her name to that.

    • Jana

      Geoff, you might be surprised, a PI might not be as expensive as you think. At least get a couple of quotes.

  • milton jobe

    A great piece, Every one could use a dose of forgiveness.

  • Ardie

    “Skeletons” is what it’s all about. There were 2 children in our family, my brother and I. Our relationship began deteriorating during college days and we lost contact for quite some time after we graduated. My father died while we were in college and my mother was not able to keep a family connection going. Computers and emails were the vehicle that brought us back together, although it was obvious that our lives had gone in opposite directions in our value system as well as politically, so we seemed to have very little in common anymore. He had no desire to reunite and try to capture a family connection again. In January of last year, I received an email from him regarding his health issues….cancer of the kidneys and the lungs….and that he had opted not to go the chemo route, but went with hospice care. I begged to have a reunion with him and a time of reconciliation before it was too late, but to no avail. He died on March 1 and I’ve had a hard time dealing with his loss because it is difficult to find closure when your relationship has been a fractured one for so many years. There needed to be some forgiveness and some coming together(a happy ending) before this story ended and without it, I seem to be left searching for answers that may never come.

    • ML Ross

      Ardie, I wonder if you’re not mourning the “WHAT IF’S”..What if you had never had a split? What if you could have got together again? What if you could have acted like brothers are supposed to act toward each other? The truth is, these things didn’t happen. So there is no use wasting the mental energy bemoaning that fact. Instead, use your energy to remember the good things when you were young together. Are there any nieces/nephews you could get acquainted with? If so, perhaps they would like to hear of their father’s youth. It is normal
      for most of us to have thoughts of “What if” when we lose someone..that is pretty natural, I think. But don’t lose yourself in it. ML

  • http://PersonalLibertydigest Patricia Borneman

    DearArdie:- I made a copy of your letter and am hanging it under our family picture of our seven children , now adults. I am 78 and husband is 81. One is unforgiving and will not come in the house with one and now they have taken up sides and do not even come over… I also hung St.Francis of Asissi Prayer. Cut out of a obituary where a mother asked ” instead of flowers make up with someone you have not talked to in years. “……..Could it be that he was just too sick for a reunion? Blessings to you Pat

  • jim

    I thought Face book was a site for teenagers, then I found a number of adults were on it. My wife has relatives all across the country, from Alaska to South Carolina and it is a great way for all of them to keep in touch and exchange pictures. If your family is seperated by long distances, this is a good way to keep the family closer.

  • Mary

    It is a wonderful gift when family members come together in love and forgiveness. I have hung on to a marriage and have watched 2 daughters walk out of my life. I have shed many tears & offered many prayers, but the only thing that has given me any comfort is the account of Abraham, Ishmael & Isaac in the book of Genesis. Abraham had to release both sons for the sake of God’s plan. I continue to ache for my family, but I also have come to the realization that it remains in the hands of our Heavenly Father. When I became a mother, I thought that my sole purpose in life was to be the very best mother I could be, even to the point of all sacrifice. However, would that be a form of having other gods in my life? It is hard to think that my family agenda would not be pleasing to God, for all the love that I have for them. But my primary love should be for the God of the universe. Thankfully, Abraham passed that test which allowed for God’s plan to usher in Jesus as our Savior. Furthermore, God released His only son for a purpose greater than HIMSELF. Alas, I am more than a wife and mother, I am a child of the living God. I pray that we can be a comfort to others.

  • Ardie

    Dear Pat, WOW…I appreciate your kind words so much. When I read it, it brought tears to my eyes and I could almost feel the pain that you are experiencing. I LOVED the idea that you presented from a mother’s obituary…instead of flowers, make up with someone you haven’t talked to in years. That’s powerful!!! I pray that someday your children will be able to resolve their differences and be “best friends” again. What a GIFT that would be for you! You asked if it could have been that my brother was too ill to have a reunion with me. I believe that was clearly the case,and he apparently didn’t want me to see him in that condition, but I could have looked beyond that to be able to reconcile our differences and be a “family” again. My husband and I have been blessed with 12 wonderful children and they have a strong connection with us and with each other for which we are grateful each day of our lives. May God wrap His arms around you and bring you the peace you are looking for within your family.
    .

  • Carole

    May God bless you. Later you will see the remifications your efforts have created, and I mean Joy, Peace, and Love.

  • Ardie

    Carole, Thanks for your input. I hope you are right about the results of my efforts…to have feelings of joy, peace, and love within. Do I detect that you have learned this lesson the hard way, from experience with a similar situation?

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