There is something missing from my view this evening. One of the earth’s lovely, gentle creatures is missing. My cousin Judy McNamara is missing.
I was adopted by my father, Bob Munkeby, after he married my mother, Patricia Wagner. She never used the name of my genetic father, Mac McGenty. There was a ‘civil’ marriage, a ‘civil’ divorce. A vain attempt, as my wife (of 62 years) says, to keep me from being a bastard. I never knew about this clandestine event until I saw my birth certificate when I got married. My father, Bob Munkeby, had a sister—Wanda Munkeby Volkenant. She and her husband, Gordon, had two daughters—Judy and Marcia. So ‘kissin’ cousins. Marcia my age, Judy three years older.
Our families only got together a few times a year—Thanksgiving, Christmas mostly—up until Judy, Marcia and I were in high school. Our parents had, let’s say a stupid misunderstanding. So these two pretty, fun, smart cousins I knew as a kid disappeared from my life. Even though there was no ‘blood’ relationship, I had definitely felt a strong connection.
Then, as it happens my mom and dad die; my aunt and uncle die. We see each other at funerals, say we should get together, and never do. Then fate intervenes. I’m a strong believer in following fate. Best not try to ignore fate, I’d say. So, one day my wife and I are driving some of my soccer players home after a game and as we drive down a side street, my wife informs me I’ve just driven by my cousin who I know lives in Waukesha, Wisc. I have a hard time believing her, both because she’s only met my cousin a couple times, and…what are the odds? But, I back up and sure enough, it’s my cousin Judy taking a stroll while visiting her parents.
We talk for a moment. Turns out a couple of young Munkeby ladies are visiting from Norway. Ends up I invite Judy and Rannveig, the older of the girls, to the dress rehearsal for a play I was working on, and, since it was a beautiful summer evening, we explore downtown Minneapolis. A totally bonding moment.
That night I tell Judy we’re playing in a soccer tournament in Waukesha. She asks where we’re staying. I tell her the dorms at Carroll College. Of course she’s on the board of Carroll College. There’s that fate thing, again. So, Judy, Marcia and I become ‘family,’ again. Then one day a remarkable woman—Claudia Welch—calls and I discover Judy, Marcia, and I have a ‘secret’ cousin we hadn’t known about (a long story). This is starting to resemble the Twilight Zone.
Twice in the last three years I invited Judy (sans her husband Bill who was working), Marcia and her husband Bob, Claudia and her ‘friend’ Paul, and my sister up to the lake. It was definitely a family gathering. Of course they love my wife, Mary, and vice-versa.
This last gathering was fortunate as Judy’s cancer, which had not been apparent, worsened and she passed away on January 24, 2008. Judy was beautiful, a beautiful person, a scholar, and one of the kindest, most gentle persons I have ever known.
My view from the tub will never look complete, again.