Olivia and John Woolsey
Never Too Late
Returning home from work on November 12, I heard a guttural cry coming from the back of my home. Fear gripped me as I recalled hearing this frightening sound on two previous occasions.
The first time, my husband John and I were sitting in an Emergency Room while a doctor informed John that his beautiful daughter Kimberlee had passed away from injuries sustained in an automobile accident that evening. She was twenty-eight, leaving two sons aged ten and six. Ten years later, I heard it again when John was notified of his son Rodney's death at age forty-seven, leaving four children ages 13, 15, and twin daughters age 17.
Although John and I have been happily married for over 35 years, many of those years were troubled with chaos, turmoil, and many misunderstandings because of our previous marriages and bringing seven children into a not-so-blended family environment. Relationships among us and all our children had been strained to the limit.
As I raced back to where the cry continued to ring out, fear gripped every fiber in me. I pleaded with God, "Please don't let this be another emergency about one of our children or grandchildren!"
When I reached the doorway, I saw my husband standing across the room; tears rolled down his saddened face as emotion overwhelmed him. Seeing me there, he gestured as if to say, "I cannot speak with you right now."
I blurted out, "What's wrong . . . what's wrong, Honey?" When I approached, I noticed photos and childhood memorabilia of Rod and Kim face up on the desk.
John cried, "I miss my kids so much! I realized today that time is passing for me; I need to see my boys and grandchildren before it's too late. It's been nine years since I've seen them."
I responded, "Let's bring your boys, their children, Rod's and Kim's kids, and all of the remaining grandkids to Missouri for a Christmas family reunion."
He answered, "It's too late. There is no way that all five of our kids, and twenty-one grandchildren can get off work or out of school to come to Missouri on such short notice. It's too late I'm telling you! So just drop it. And besides, Honey, you know they can't afford a trip for so many . . . and neither can we," he whispered, his eyes welling up with tears once again.
Like millions of spouses affected by divorce, remarriage, the difficulties of blending families, the hurt, pain, envy, and a feeling of disconnect in these situations, I had my concerns about butting in where I didn't belong. For over thirteen years I had not seen John's sons nor had much communication with them. I had never met three of my stepsons' children. Nonetheless, the desire to reunite John with the family members he dearly loved and sorely missed was stronger than my fear of rejection from his adult children.
I secretly placed a call to his sons to ask whether they would like to come to Missouri to visit their father.
One son replied, "Yeah, I would love for my children to see where I grew up." The other responded, "Oh, I'll check with my kids to see if they want to make the trip." The four grandchildren in Texas quickly determined they could take leave from work or make the trip during their college Christmas break.
I withdrew $6,000 cash value from my insurance policy to pay all expenses of bringing the family together.
On December 12, my daughter Barbara and I made the two-hour trip to the airport to pick up John's sons and six of the teenage grandchildren. The four college-age grandchildren from Texas made the twelve-hour drive to Joplin to join their uncles and cousins at Grandpa John's house for the surprise visit and family reunion.
When we arrived home with all the kids, they waited on the front steps while I came into the house from the garage door as if I were returning home from work for the evening.
I found John relaxing in his recliner in the living room watching television. To set the scene, I casually commented, "I'm so tired. I hope no one comes or calls tonight."
After a few moments of visiting, John said, "Honey, it sounds like people are singing Christmas carols outside our door." We paused and heard a group singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."
I laughed and said, "Let's just go answer the door together since it's probably a group from church who are making the rounds and singing Christmas Carols to the old folks!"
We walked to the front door, and I stepped back so John would have to open it. As he looked out, it was apparent he was confused. There stood a group of teenagers whose height ranged from 5'10 to 6'8". (John's sons were hiding behind the grandkids.) John continued to look confused for a moment (he hadn't seen these kids for nine years) as he tried to process it all. All of a sudden, he placed his hand over his heart and began stepping backward. In a weak voice he said over and over, "Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing?"
His boys stepped forward and ran up the stairs into their father's open arms, tears rolling down their faces. John was once again overwhelmed with emotion, this time that of an unbelievably grateful heart. The kids began filing into the house, all in tears at the reunion of father and sons.
|John hugging his boys after opening the door|
|John and his sons David and Shane|
The days went by quickly with cousins enjoying time with cousins, some meeting for the first time. The sons enjoyed quality time with their father as well as getting to know their stepsisters and families whom they hadn't seen for fifteen years.
When the two-week visit came to an end, the good-byes at the airport were almost unbearable. On December 27, we received a letter from David excerpted below. I'm sure you will agree that it proves it is "Never Too Late" to reach out to reestablish family ties regardless of the pain and confusion of divorce, remarriage, and physical and emotional separation.
December 27 - Dad and Olivia
Just getting around to writing . . . how great it was to see you. To be honest I was a little anxious about seeing you; I didn't know if I would be shocked to see how much you had aged. I was shocked at how little . . . both of you look great! I do feel guilty at times that our relationship has become . . . so strained and . . .emotionally not up to snuff either. Of course this probably sounds a bit negative or pessimistic . . . but . . . I don't want to ignore my feelings either. Dad, I have always known that you love me, but it's so nice to see it in your eyes! Too bad our physical beings have a tendency to overpower our spiritual beings, for . . . our spirit and love never dies. [Your children, Olivia] sure were a pleasure; I'm happy for you and them, that you have the relationships that you do with dad. . . . . To be honest . . . there have been times I've felt a little jealous, but I'll never feel that way again. It now gives me peace knowing that there is someone there to help Dad in any way that he may need it. It was really great to see you, as well as to see Rod and Kim's kids. Please also tell everyone . . . it was really great to see them, and I love them. . . .
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you!
If you have family you want to reconnect with, pray and ask God to give you wisdom, courage, and love to make a call today. It's Never Too Late if God is overseeing the details. We believe that we would have had many regrets had we not attempted to reconnect, but now we can rest assured without regrets because we did our part and reached out. Healthy communication between Dad and sons continue.
May God bless you and yours today and always!