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April 3, 2011


my family

by Andrea O'Connell

There are weddings, and then there are weddings!  Last night I attended a magical wedding and had such a lovely time!

Aja and Ryan, the bride and groom, now husband and wife, are lovely.  Theirs is a perfect union – perfect in every way.  It was one of those weddings where sentimental people cry because the couple is so beautiful and handsome, and the words exchanged are so lovely.

I have known Ryan since he was about three.  He’s nearly in his thirties now; a paramedic; handsome with strong Roman looking features despite his Irish heritage.

Ryan and I are connected via an extended family connection that can get confusing!  Let’s see what you think of this connection.

First, my mom (Pat) and my father (Andy) were divorced around 30 years ago.  My mom and my two brothers (Tim and Tom), and I were left with nothing – my father was not sure-footed when it came to compassion or consideration for his family.  I was in junior college, locally, my two brothers were in high school.  One of my brothers was in private school – an excellent Catholic school – that was expensive. Of course, my father didn’t pay for that, so my brother went to work to pay his way through high school.  My other brother was in a public school, which is free, so he was okay. My college was paid by scholarships and government money, so I was okay.  But, my mom, who hadn’t worked since she was in high school (she was a stay at home mom), had to find a job.  And we had to find a place to live.

We moved into a small two bedroom apartment that was near my junior college and my brother’s public high school.  My mom went on to work for the Bar Association.  She worked with Judges and lawyers, and learned a lot about the legal system, which she passed on to me, and especially my brother who went on to become a lawyer.

Long before all this, while my mother was in high school, in Massachusetts, she met Mary (Ryan’s Grandmother), and they became great friends, they had a whole group of friends, all Irish Catholic, and who all moved to Florida.

My mother and father moved to Florida when I was two years old and there was already a large contingent of family and extended family here.

My mother and Mary remained friends. Then tragedy struck and Mary’s husband passed away from a heart attack.  Mary O’Connor had 3 children: Steve, Debbie, and Tom (O’Connor); she was left on her own to make do, and it wasn’t easy.

Mary was a devout Catholic and attended a church where a Priest named Bill O’Connell served. Father (Bill) O’Connell and Mary O’Connor and her kids became fast friends.  Father O’Connell spent a great deal of time with Mary’s family.   I was a kid then, too, and knew Mary’s kids.  I remember seeing Father O’Connell and Mary and her kids at my Aunt’s house, at Mary’s house, and at another Aunt’s house.  Father O’Connell became a part of our whole family, as extended family.

A few years passed.  Father O’Connell became smitten with Mary and her three kids.  He left the priesthood and they married.

About ten years passed and Mary suffered a heart attack – it was her second one.  It happened while my mother and she were chatting on the phone as they often did for hours.  Mary dropped the phone, collapsed, and was rushed to the hospital where she later died.

My mother, who was now a few years divorced and still living in the small two bedroom apartment (I was finishing my Bachelors degree in a college about an hour away – living on campus), was devastated.  Bill was devastated.  Mary’s children were devastated. Mary had grandchildren now (Ryan, Dustin, Cindy, Jenna and Katie), and they were devastated.  We all were – I had an anxiety attack and was taken out of my dorm room and to the hospital – but I was fine, just shaken up.

It was a sad time in our lives when Mary left us.  I loved her. We all did.

Bill and my mother began talking – a lot.  Bill often came over to my mom’s and she’d cook for him.  Mom and Bill would come pick me up at school and take me places; we’d go to the nicest restaurants, as that was Bill’s favorite pastime.

It took a little over a year for Bill to ask my mother to marry him.

Bill O’Connell was going to marry Pat O’Connell.  Bill became my Step Father, and to this day he is in every way a better father then mine ever was. Bill’s Step-children (Mary’s children), became my step brothers and sisters, or so we seemed to be.

Mary’s children: Steve, Debbie and Tom (all O’Connor’s) and Andrea, Tom, and Tim (all O’Connell’s), were closely joined now, but not by blood, just by history and marriage.

We spent every Christmas at my mom and Bill’s house (until my mom didn’t have the strength to do it anymore).  We always had the most crazy Christmas Eve parties!  It was a free-for-all and anybody and everybody was invited.  Our parties became tradition, until about four years ago when my mom lost the strength to continue.

Now we have separate Christmas Eve parties, and it’s sad because I miss it.  Now we have quiet Christmas Eve’s with only my brother Tom, sis-in-law, and my niece, me and mom and Bill.

Anyway, back to my story.

Tom O’Connor married a Debbie, who became an O’Connor.  Now we had two Debbie O’Connors, a Tom O’Connor and a Tom O’Connell.  Tom and Debbie had two children Dustin and Ryan.  Now Ryan has a wife, Aja, married last night.  Tom and Debbie divorced; Tom married Val – thank goodness.  Val is a name easily remembered.

In the late 1980’s, Mary’s daughter Debbie married a man whose last name was “Andrea”.  She became Debbie Andrea. I was still Andrea O’Connell.  So, we had a whole name game going on!

Steve O’Connor, Mary’s oldest son, married Micki.  They had three lovely girls: Cynde, Jenna and Katie.  Jenna married and became an Andrews.  (Can you imagine if she was an Andrea?!!)

Last night, at the wedding, some people asked what my connection is to Ryan.  And, I wanted to say he’s my nephew.  Thought that’s not entirely true, in my heart he and his brother are the nephews I never had.

I refer to Debbie as my Step sister, but that’s not really true, but it’s true in other ways.

Cynde refers to me as her aunt, which I find so dear!   I adore everyone in my extended family, and last night we were all together.  I was the only O’Connell there.

My brother Tim lives in Orlando; my brother Tom, his wife, Mandy were not able to attend, and my mother and Bill, though they love all the extended family, did not attend.  They missed so much last night.

They missed seeing what passed between Aja and Ryan as they said their I do’s.

My body is sore today from all the dancing I did; I am so tired today after drinking one too many beers (yes, I do like beer – in moderation!), but my heart is lighter having spent a wonderful night with my wonderful family.

Much love to Aja and Ryan.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. CptKD
    Apr 4 2011

    “Congratulations” – To Aja (What a beautiful name) and Ryan!

    Your family sound like a great bunch of people –

    And as complicated as that all was, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one with a complicated family history! LOL!

    Thank you so much, for sharing a part of that with us, Andrea!

    I wish them, and you of course, only and all, the very best!
    With the warmest regards,


    • Apr 4 2011

      Thank you so much, CptKD. I am still sore from all the dancing….LOL! I love Aja’s name, too. It’s pronounced like Asia.

      I so appreciate your warm sentiments… 🙂

  2. CptKD
    Apr 4 2011

    You are very welcome!

    As I said – I appreciate your ‘opening up’, and sharing with us, on a more personal level.

    It’s nice to sort of ‘get to know you’, a little more…

    Besides, it was a nice break from the usual Anthony posts!
    No offense there! Whatsoever!
    I just know, and I’m pretty sure, that once the trial starts, it’s going to be ALL about that…

    So thank you again, for the little break –
    It sort of compliments, my taking of this wknd off –

    NO blogs, no news, no Inmate Anthony!

    I was on major ‘overload’ by the end of Friday…LOL!

  3. Weezie
    Apr 6 2011

    Hi Andrea; After a sorded break from yes, more computer problems. looks like I might be on track, finally.
    I love your family history story or I should say chronicle because it’s true, so it’s not just a STORY. I got confused after the 3rd paragraph. However I see how life has its’ many curves, and how people can end up in a place they never thought they would (ie: the ex Priest – your step Dad). He sounds like an amazing MAN and mentor. He certainly has had a full life, and I am so happy he decided to include a family to his life.

    Weddings are usually formal and long but yours sounded like so much fun, and you of all people, boogying the night away, and partaking in a beer or two. I guess you can store that hula away for the next week. I think weddings restore our faith in passion and love. I am only happy that I too had those feelings when I got married. Of course the flip flop in your tummy goes away, but you somehow replace those feelings with contentment and joy and gratefullness. I wouldn’t change it now for anything. Thanks for sharing that lovely account of your family.


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