August 15, 2021


Being in a complicated family like mine, I’ve always put a lot of value in being connected!  When you are constantly reminded that you are a half-sister or a half-aunt, it’s easy to begin feeling like you aren’t really connected.

This photo illustrates my point.  I would tell you that these two people—Matthew Eaves and Will Connelly—are both very special to me.  And that I am their aunt.  With Matthew, I am actually his half-great-aunt, I suppose.  His father John was my half-nephew, his grandfather Easy my half-brother.  Will’s more complicated.  His father Bill was my ex-husband Tom’s brother. So he’s my nephew by marriage.  And after divorce, what?  I rest my case.  I love them both and claim to be related to them.

Obviously, they are not related to each other at all.  The interesting thing about this photo is that it was taken downtown at the Nashville Downtown Partnership, where I worked for 16 years.  At different periods, I got a part time job there for both Will and Matt!  First came Will.  He was out of college and figuring out what to do.  We were conducting a downtown business census to determine how many people actually worked there. We needed someone to go door to door and wrap up the census—and Will did the job!  During his time with us, he met the outreach worker for unhoused people downtown—and that led him to his calling. 

Years later, Matt needed a summer job before finishing up high school at MBA and heading to Vanderbilt. We had done some major renovations at the office and needed someone to help us get everything back in place. We enjoyed having Matt around a few hours each week.  A favorite story was the day he decided to take a nap on his lunch break.  I came back to my small office to find this lanky six-foot kid curled up on the carpet fast asleep!  

When the photo was made, Will was already working at finding housing for his clients.  He stopped in and chatted with Matt and me.  Will was at MBA with Matt’s brother Jesse. So they had the MBA connection—and I was their link.

Once I decided it would be fun to get a group of my “almost nephews” together for lunch.  Phil Connelly (Tom’s oldest nephew) was delighted with the idea and said he would like to host the lunch at the Nashville City Club.  Those who came included Hunter and Will (Bill’s sons), Josh and Matt Eaves (John’s sons), my son Patrick and my son-in-law Paul.  After we were seated, Phil called to say he’d been detained in traffic and wouldn’t make it—but he put our lunch on his tab at the club.

We had a wonderful time together that day—and I reminded them that they were connected in many ways—even if not all related.  Bill’s sons and Patrick shared the experience of having their parents divorce; John’s sons and Patrick shared the experience of having their father die with cancer; Paul, Josh and later Matthew were Vanderbilt graduates; and both Bill’s sons and John’s sons graduated from MBA.  These are some of the ties that bind us together—often more so than a shared ancestry.  

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