How does one reestablish Family connections?

Actually, perhaps the title should use the word ESTABLISH instead of Reestablish.

Since my recent move from New York to Virginia, I have been thinking more about family connections. As one might also suspect, the holiday season has driven a lot of these thoughts. Mainly, I would like to know when is it too late to establish connections to one or both sides of one’s family.

A little bit on why I’m asking this question. My mother and her family are from the States, but my father is from Ghana, which means I have an African-American family in the States (primarily in Virginia and Florida) and a Ghanaian family. My dad’s family is a bit more interesting (maybe interesting is the wrong word) because we have family members in the States, Ghana, and Europe (the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands). As a youngster, I really had strong connections to my mother’s side of the family because most of us were in one area. While I have met some aunts and cousins from my dad’s side of the family over the years, no substantial relationships formed compared to my relationships with my American (non-Ghanaian) family.

One LOL side tangent: When I was 24 or 25, I had an opportunity to travel to London and visit one of my aunts and her family. While my aunt owned a house in Kent, she let me stay in an apartment flat that she owned in London where two of her children lived. The reason why I say let is she charged them rent, but let me stay for free, which was very nice of her. Since I was cheap as hell, I flew into Gatwick Airport, instead of Heathrow Airport. This travel plan meant that I had to take a commuter train from Gatwick Airport to Victoria Station in London where my cousin was going to meet and take me to the flat (clearly, this was before Uber). At some point during my red eye over the Atlantic Ocean, I was like my cousin and I have not seen each other in at least 12 years. How the hell are we going to locate each other when we do not know what the other person looks like? While cell phones were around back then, international texting was expensive as all. Come to think of it, I didn’t even have his cell phone number. Long story short, it took me about 45 minutes of circling the station looking for him.. . Good thing I did not have a lot of luggage.

Ok back to the topic.

Having been in Va for a few months (after my 24-year hiatus), I’ll keep it real and say that I do not really feel close to my cousins from my mother’s side. It’s interesting because we were pretty close growing up, but I guess we’ve drifted apart over the years. I’ll back up and say that maybe I’m the one who has drifted away. I think that I’m the only cousin that left Virginia after high school to pursue my undergraduate (New Orleans) and graduate (NYC) studies. After graduate school, I pretty much didn’t want to stop having fun and stayed in NYC. To make matters worse, I really only visited the area on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even during my summer breaks during my undergraduate years, I was always participating in a summer program/internship that took me to another part of the state or of the country. During my graduate years, these connections became weaker because I would come home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas. In some cases, because of work, I would skip both Thanksgiving and Christmas. So now things feel kind of weird. For instance, I’m pretty sure that there is a family group chat that I’m not a part of. Perhaps, that’s my paranoia talking. Since these cousins have spouses and children, it seems like everyone kind of sticks to their immediate family units. While I would like to reestablish relationships with my mother’s side, I always think that I should be doing the same with my father’s side.

Some barriers to entry (regarding my father’s side):

Family beef:

While my father has about eight siblings, he is somewhat estranged from all but two or three of them. I think that’s a very valid reason why I did not have many connections to his side of the family growing up. I mean if he is beefing with one (or more) of his siblings, it’s highly unlikely that I would have had many opportunities to spend time with those units of the family.

Cultural Differences:

Although I have African-American and Ghanaian roots, I feel more connected to my American roots primarily due to proximity. Another reason, what’s one thing that connects you to your family besides genetics? My answer would be language. Growing up, I never had the opportunity to learn Twi, the language of my father’s family. Twi really isn’t a language that you could study in middle or high school back in the 90s (or even now). Also, my dad never felt the need to teach me his language. It’s one of those languages that you would have to speak at home because there isn’t a huge Ghanaian population in southeast Virginia. So, it’s not like I could passively pick bits and pieces of the language. In one case, when a couple of cousins from Paris visited the States back in the late 80s. I think I was 10 so my other cousins must have been 9 and 8. It was impossible to communicate because they spoke French and Twi, and I spoke neither. Even in my 40s when another Ghanaian finds out I’m Ghanaian (both my first and last names are Ghanaian), they usually give me shit (in a joking way) about not speaking Twi. While I am a part of my dad’s family Whatsup chat group (with over 40 members), I can’t really keep up with what’s going on because most of the conversations are in Twi. Also, some folks post way too many memes and Gifs from Ghanian culture, and those jokes fly right over my head. The funny (well maybe more weird) thing, my dad isn’t even a part of that group. Not sure if he was invited or refused the invitation.

Even though many of my 1st cousins grew up outside of Ghana, they still have a close relationship (through language, culture, food, and interactions) to the motherland.

Lifestyle ‘choices’:

If you have been following this blog, it’s probably not a huge secret that I’m a gay man. As some might suspect, homosexuality is looked down upon in many W. African families. So even if I were to establish connections with my dad’s side, I do not think that I could be my complete self because I would have to hide my ‘gay side’. During my London family reunion that I mentioned earlier, I did not dare say anything about dating dudes. This was kind of sad because at that time I was in a long-term relationship with a guy. It was kind of funny because my aunt was trying to play matchmaker between me and ‘suitable’ Ghanaian women in London. You know, it’s a no-no if you are an unwed man at the age of 25+. Since I was in my doctorate program at that time, I could get away with using the excuse of prioritizing my education over getting married and having a bunch of children.


While the above topics are pretty significant, is it simply too late to establish these connections? Since most of my cousins are the same age as I am, they are married and have children. At this point, it’s probably impossible to say Hey family member, let’s hang out and party all night in (I dunno) Rome. I take that back, let’s party until 11 pm in Rome.


While I’m a ‘tough’ guy ;), I fear rejection like most folks. Actually, for certain things, I simply do not put in an effort because sometimes I have the mentality of why bother. Why bother trying to establish connections if I’m going to end up in the same place as I started. I know having this mindset is one of my many flaws.

Question(s) of the Day:

-Have you ever tried establish connections with unfamiliar family members? If so, what was the hardest part? Were you successful?

Social Media Plug:


  1. OK, right, so I’m 50 now and when I was about 43 my cousin P reached out to me with a Christmas card. Backtracking: I don’t speak to my parents and haven’t done since 2000, for good reason and to protect myself. My younger cousins P and M are the sons of my dad’s younger brother, who my parents were in touch with but not very kindly or lovingly (they were sneery about them being lower class). I established email I think contact with P, he is that family member who keeps in touch and maintains archives and family trees etc. Then he let me know his brother was seriously ill with cancer, and I wrote to M while he was receiving treatment and established contact with him and his partner. M has recovered and is in full remission, their dad sadly passed, and then M and his mum and P had beef and are now not talking to each other. They live close to each other and we go and see them at least once or twice a year (separately), and they come up here. P has two kids, M none, I have a sort of aunt relationship with the kids (now 17) and send Christmas and birthday gifts. Went to M’s wedding but P invited my parents so didn’t go to his. We manage even though we’re all in touch with each other and P with my parents, but the beefs are respected and info is not passed on inappropriately between beefing parties. So it’s delicate but there and I do cherish having that contact and some family. Dunno if that helps!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Also very happy to talk privately about other aspects, it’s not my place to share my family’s details semi-publicly but there are some other issues that might help in your navigation x


    • Wow this sounds like a deliciate situation, but it’s great that you have contact with your cousins and now your nieces and nephews.

      While it’s probably was tough, I commend you for putting your mental health over an unfortunate situation with your parents. Also, thanks for sharing your story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you! Yes, a hard decision to make but a necessary one. I hope this has helped, anyway. Weirdly there is a cultural thing there in that an urban academic type person is so different from more provincial family members and that has to be danced around even without country and country background differences! There is another level of complexity involved as well so a delicate dance. You can find me on Facebook under Liz Dexter (was Broomfield) if you want to message about it any time. And good luck with whatever you decide to do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I completely agree with the differences between urban/non-urban/rural, academic/nonacademic types definitely add to the complexity. I’ll even add travelled/non-travelled. Looking back, I am so glad that I did a study abroad program during my undergrad years because it initiated my open mindedness.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I may be in the minority here but I’ve never (well, since I became an adult) been one to feel like I “have to” have a relationship with a family member simply because they’re family. Both my parents were abusive, although my dad wasn’t abusive to me but he was to my mom and brother. Long story short, my parents divorced when I was 7, my dad moved away, and I stopped talking to him in college. I keep conversations with my mom short and haven’t seen her in a few years (she’s in another state). We have a better relationship if we don’t talk often. My brother and I also rarely talk but not because we don’t get along, simply because we both realize we’re very different people and the only thing we have in common is our parents, which isn’t enough to keep us in a good and healthy relationship. That’s the bottom line here for all of this. Is the relationship good and healthy for both parties. If not, I don’t see a reason to continue just because they’re “blood.” If you think it’s worth trying again with your family member(s), give it a chance and reach out to them. If not or if you do and things don’t work out, don’t feel guilty. You should never feel guilty for being in an unhealthy relationship.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing you this, and I’m sorry that you had experience this growing up. Also, I agree with you 100% regarding “You should never feel guilty for being in an unhealthy relationship.”

      I’ll admit that this need to connect with family comes and goes. I guess that I hit didn’t hit me too hard in NYC, because I considered my close friends as family. Now that I’m back in Virginia, I guess this needed has returned . . . for now.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Growing up we never had much contact with even our 1st cousins. I feel like we missed so much not knowing these people.
    I have reached out to some of my cousins via FB and we have that FB relationship. IE: not much.
    I like to use the line from Breaking Bad, “I’m the one who knocks.”
    Most people do not reach out. So we remain strangers.
    Sometimes the only way to establish any connection with family is to do it your self.
    So once in a while I’ll knock on someone’s door.
    A few year’s ago on a business trip I got to spend some time with a 1st cousin I had never met. We are very different people, but we share so much. It was great fun for both of us dispelling some family mythology.
    Go knock.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love your analogy of “knocking on someone’s door”, and thanks for your sharing.

      The kind of interesting thing regarding my family – my first cousins and I pretty much grew up as brothers and sisters. However, once folks (including mysel) started their own individual family units, we grew apart. Well, technically, I didn’t start an individual family unit, but moved away from the area in 1998 for college and grad school.

      I’ll try giving a knock, at least to my dad’s side (most of which live Europe and W. Africa) after Easter because I’m giving up IG and FB for Lent. Maybe the 40 days and 40 nights will help me muster up the courage to knock.


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