So I went looking for long-lost property in Greece, and found another arm of my family instead. I haven’t made sense of what I’ve discovered yet, but I’m trying.
On the way back from Alekos’s farm, we were all very quiet in the car. The sun was setting on the horizon, the sky a palette of pink. I suppose each of us was trying to process what we’d discovered about the other and what it meant. If anything.
Alekos piped up at this point and touched my father’s shoulder. “Remember we are family now. We share a name and a history. We are related.”
My father nodded, I tried to stifle a laugh. I knew what my dad was thinking. He’s a shy man, friendly and polite enough, but he’s not particularly social. I got those specific genes from my mother.
Situations out of the ordinary make Dad feel uncomfortable. So I knew he was squirming. When we were alone again, I knew he was going to say something like, why do you get me into these things?
I had my response ready; it was Dave’s fault. He’s the one who spotted the truck. I’d avoid the part about making that first phone call.
When Alekos and his partner dropped us off, we thanked them for their hospitality. Alekos wanted us to come back to his farm on Sunday, but my dad said we’d already caused him too much trouble. “You’ve done too much for us.”
My dad hates to inconvenience anyone. And he always thinks he’s doing that. Why? I don’t know. For me, I figure they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t mean to invite us. I take people at face value; my dad thinks there is always some sort of hidden message. It’s a Greek thing I think. This idea that things are not what they seem.
For the next few days, my dad talked about how incredible these people were. “We were total strangers and they took us to their house, fed us.”
Filoxenia, I said. Hospitality. Greeks are famous for it.
And they probably wanted to find some connection to a larger family they might have not known. We all need to belong.
My dad teased me about putting him in an uncomfortable situation, but not in any serious way, so I knew he’d enjoyed the experience.
We didn’t go to the farm on the Sunday. I had understood Alekos would call us. He didn’t. I wondered if I’d missed something in translation. If he’d given us an appointed time and my father simply forgot it. I didn’t know, but as we waited to hear from Alekos, I felt a longing for that phone to ring.
After we returned to Athens, I wrote to Alekos to thank him. He’d given me that connection to the larger family and one more thing I didn’t expect, an idea for my next novel. If I couldn’t find the story behind my family or our lost property in real life, perhaps I could create it in my fiction. The voices, their life stories are already buzzing in my head.
Alekos called us after he received my note. Then the cousin my father spoke to on the phone when we were in Kyparissia called. I spoke to that cousin and her sister. They came to our apartment on a Friday night with old pictures of their grandmother and my father’s grandfather and diagrams and maps of the old Leventoyannis property. As it turns out Viti and Lela were my father’s second cousins. Their grandmother, Aphrodite (who Viti is named after) was my great grandfather Theodore’s sister. Confused? Me too. Basically these women were my dad’s second cousins. And Alekos was a third cousin. I hadn’t figured that last bit out until we met Viti and Lela.
Viti in particular knew more about the family history than my father remembered or that I’d ever heard. And she also knew about my aunt, my cousin and his wife. The one sad note came from Viti and Lela. They said, “isn’t it a pity that we found each other so late.”
Yes, it is, but in another way, isn’t it great that destiny finally brought us together. Well, destiny and a sharp-eyed Canadian.
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