I never knew how life changing starting this blog last May would be for me. I have been able to do many wonderful things. The BBC asked me to do posts about the shows. I have been able to be in contact with musicians, artists, and other people in different fields across many industries that I would have never had the opportunity to meet or correspond with in any other setting. I have been able to write down my own perspective on my Chamorro culture and Guam. I also have been able to be an activist for LGBT issues.
However, the most impactful and most wonderful result of starting this blog was allowing me to meet a branch of my family that I have never met before who live in the Bay area. I met some of them for the first time yesterday.
My generation of cousins has all been in some way or another interested in knowing about our roots and genealogy. I have seen this especially true in those cousins who share in the bloodline of Henry and Maria Leddy of Guam. Henry was originally from New Jersey and was assigned to Guam with the Marine Garrison shortly after the end of the Spanish American War. There he met Maria Blas. They married and had four children. They were John, Daniel, Lucy and Elsie. I am the grandson of John.
A couple of months ago, I received an email from Sharon Leddy Zabel. She had read one my posts on the internet about my grandfather and knew there was some connection to her. You see, she is the granddaughter of Elsie.
What makes this connection more poignant, the cousins of our generation know so little about each other because my grandfather lived on Guam along with his sister Lucy and their descendants. While Elsie moved many years ago to the Bay area and the effects of thousands of miles of distance took its course.
On my side, my Leddy grandparents have all passed away and so have my dad and all of his siblings except for one, my Uncle Patrick. My own first cousins are also displaced since we lost, prematurely, the generation above us to a unique disease that affected most of our parents.
I have not been back to Guam since 1991. I rarely get to see my own siblings and mother due to costs and other of life’s many challenges that have required the use of my resources elsewhere.
So, to meet actual relatives who live close by was monumental to me. This blog brought Sharon to me and introduce me to family.
We met at the Tennessee Grill located at 1128 Taraval Street in San Francisco. This traditional American diner has been serving up its popular fare since 1952. I initially met Uncle Al, Aunt Elsie, Aunt Conchita and Uncle Luis – all children of Aunt Elsie. This restaurant has been family owned, and according to the cousins, was where they all worked and practically lived when they were growing up.
I remember my grandfather speaking about this place when he visited his sister many years back. It all became real to me. I was touching his memories and now making some of my own.
I then met one of my cousins Ricardo Calvo who is the son of Auntie Conchita. Then I met Deborah Leddy, who flew in from New York, and Michelle Leddy who lives in the city. Sharon came in with her husband Tim and her daughters. Then I met Diane who is a daughter of Auntie Conchita.
They immediately made Gary and I feel at home. We ordered the food there. Gary and I had the famous Tennessee Special Hamburger. Thumbs Up here!
My only disappointment was my iPhone battery did not last and I was only able to take a very few pictures. I vowed to be ready with a good camera on the next get together.
We started conversing about family history and stories. We talked about Guam and Chamorro food. We talked about recent visits to the island. I felt like I had known these people forever. Michelle gave me copies of family pictures. I was so moved by this gesture. I was overwhelmed by the pictures as I looked at their family over the years and realized these were my people.
Okay, I had to have a “JP incident.” Those of you who know me, know that I tend to have some accident prone moments that go down in the family history books. As we were leaving the restaurant, I was engaged in conversation with my arms moving around ( one of my signature movements) when I flung one arm back into the waitress behind me. Of course there went the tray she was carrying crashing into the floor. There was Uncle Al and Aunt Elsie. I wanted to crawl under the nearest table. Luckily it was just a dirty glass with half filled soda and some utensils. I will be surprised if they were to ever invite me back. Honestly, they were so gracious and understanding towards me.
We then went to Classic Bowl. Of course, on the way there Gary and I got lost. It took us a while to find the place. Yep, I could hear them now. “Yep, those gay boys and directions!” We arrived at the bowling center and there were my cousins sitting down chowing down on some calamari. I loved it. They really have Leddy blood in them and Chamorro blood. We are grazers…where there is food we are there!
Another cousin, Roland Calvo joined us with his daughter Casey. We had the best time bowling. Our bowling may not be the most up to par, although Gary did pretty good. We had the spirit in true Leddy –Chamorro style.
As we departed for our separated ways, a wave of emotions came over me. I realized how much I have missed having my relatives around me. I missed hanging out with my brothers and just joking around. I miss my sister. I miss my mom and my cousins back in Guam. Being around Roland and Ricardo was like being around my brothers. Being around the girls was like being around my sister and female cousins. I felt like the holes in my soul where family has been missing were being filled up and I had not realized how important it was to me.
Seeing the Uncles and Aunties was especially poignant. My father passed away when I was 24 years old. All of his siblings, except one are gone. To see members of that generation alive tugged at my heartstrings. Seeing these older relatives meant so much to me. I have missed that presence in my life and their wisdom.
You know, I was thinking, I hoped they liked me. I really would like to get to know them better and would like to join them all in the family events ahead. To bask in their presence brings me closer to home, to my roots, to my Leddy ancestry, to family.
Thanks, Sharon, for reaching out to me. I give you props, cuz!
Here are some pictures that Michelle Leddy passed along to me that shows Aunt Elsie and her children from years past.