Three women look at old photo albums together

Looking for Mumpsy and Finding Blessings

In 1967, my dad and I were looking at photos at my grandmother's house. He held up a picture and said, "Here I am when I was about your age with my dog, Mumpsy!" The photo was taken in 1940 when Dad was ten years old. I had heard about his beloved Boston Terrier that died while Dad was serving in the Army. Although I kidded him, I loved the photo. I would not see it again for forty-three years.

The Bible says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. I am not sure if it was the love or control of money that transpired between my grandmother and uncle, but I know it hurt my dad deeply.

Grandma Virgie passed away in November 1981. A few weeks later, my uncle told my dad that he had removed his name from a bank account and replaced his own! Worst yet, Grandma Virgie had approved it. He justified what he had done by saying, "You didn't help much when our mother was sick."

My dad died unexpectedly in 1983. I called my uncle and told him the sad news. It was an awkward conversation, but he did attend Dad's funeral. I never saw him again; he passed away in 1997.

Where is Mumpsy?

In 2010, I started scanning old photographs to save on discs, and I commented that I wished we had that cute picture of Dad with Mumpsy. "I wonder if Jean has that photo," Mother said. Mother and her sister-in-law were two very different people. Grandma Virgie compared her daughters-in-law and did not encourage them to be friendly. Gossip is the devil's radio.

My mother said, "I'm in my eighties, and Jean is a few years younger. Neither of us has many years left. Let's see if we can figure out how to get that photo." Mother put aside all the anxiety she felt and contacted my aunt through the mail. Mother asked about the picture and sent a photo of Jean's two sons (my cousins) and me when we were toddlers. Two weeks passed, and we hadn't heard anything. Mother called Aunt Jean. She was pleasant and said, "I haven't found the picture you were asking about, but you are welcome to come over and help me look for it." They agreed on a day and time for Mother to go to Jean's home.  Mother hadn't walked into Jean's house in twenty-nine years.

Looking for Mumpsy

I couldn't go with Mother because I was still teaching at the time. Mother and Jean went through boxes of old photos for two hours. They visited and caught up with what had happened in almost thirty years. Jean had earned her college degree and had become an artist, even selling a lot of her paintings. She was very different from her younger self.

They went to lunch together and visited some more. Mother took Jean home and said, "Well, I guess I will be going." Jean said, "Don't go! Come in, and I'll make us some coffee." As they were drinking their coffee, Jean brought out a photo album Mother had seen years before.  Grandma Virgie made the album for my uncle while he served in the Navy during World War II.  There was the photo of Dad with Mumpsy, just loose in the back of the album.  Their search was over!

Mother and I renewed our connection to Dad's family because of a sweet picture taken seventy years earlier. Whenever I visited Aunt Jean in her home, she would say, "Stay a little longer." I invited her to come to my house for lunch. Mother even stayed a few days with her after Jean's heart attack. My cousins lived out of state, so it was a convenient solution.

Aunt Jean passed away in 2013, just three years after we made contact with her. My mother and I consider it a blessing that we were able to reconnect with Dad's family. I can still see how sad my dad looked when he told us that his brother had removed his name from an account. I wished my grandmother and uncle had been upfront about it. The secrecy and manipulation are what really hurt. It was never about the money.

Finding blessings

It feels good to be part of the family again. When my cousin Scott is in town, he will call and say, "You and Aunt Wilma should meet us for dinner. I'm buying!" His older brother, Richard, has a daughter who lives in the area, so he will stop by when he is in town. We exchange photos and memories.

In 2017, I was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). MDS is a type of blood cancer caused by bone marrow failure. My cousins and their wives have been sweet to email, text, and send cards. Scott even called after my trip to MD Anderson and said, "I have been reading about what you have. If you need a transplant, and I'm a match, I will be your donor." I thought about the times we would fuss as kids. I gave him a black eye when I was eight years old. I almost cried. "Thank you, Scott, that means a lot to me!" I said.

Dennis Connely with Mumpsy

We found Mumpsy and discovered many blessings after we shook off our hard feelings. The past belongs in the past, and we don't live there any longer.

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