When Your Cousin Is the Supreme Court Nominee

U.S. President Barack Obama waves after Judge Merrick Garland's (L) remarks after announcing Garland as his nominee for the U
U.S. President Barack Obama waves after Judge Merrick Garland's (L) remarks after announcing Garland as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington March 16, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, is my cousin.

After my mother's death, an entire world closed up to me. The story is as complicated a tale as you have heard, and as sad as you may imagine. But, I moved on, and my new world gives a story as equally complicated, and for as much as the old one is sad, the new story is equally joyful.

This week, the old world came back.

Merrick and I share great grandparents on my mother's father's side. Mordecai, to be exact, and Rebecca, if I recall correctly  --  my family wasn't into record keeping. Given what they endured to survive, perhaps we can understand, or at least accept that. Rebecca lives on in one of his daughters, much like my maternal grandmother lives on in me, as the Ida in IdaRose. Jessica, my mother's name, is the name of his other daughter, and I learned for the first time it is likely a family name, and Jessica lives on, for the world to know.

Merrick looks exactly like my grandfather Samuel. He sounds exactly as everyone I grew up with, not just a Chicago accent, but a particular accent likely influenced by the immigrant tongue, and bred within the closeness of the family. I hear my mother, and I weep.

He tells, eloquently while breaking through a wall of emotion, the story of his grandparents escaping persecution. Those are my grandparents, and my story, too. They lived in a schetel, somewhere in northern modern day Poland, in an area under Russian control at the time.

Grandfather Samuel's sisters, one who is Merrick's grandmother, said it was just like Fiddler on the Roof  --  without the soundtrack. He talks about his parents, who I loved, and the role of their entrepreneurialism shaping his life, another family heritage pounding strongly inside both of us, living on, reflected in all the children of our grandparents, and now, strongly in me.

I have never read my family story or heard it spoken for the entire world to hear. My story. Across the world to hear. Frankly, in my isolation from that particular world that closed up when my mother died, I internalized that history, my history, as if it was completely my own  --  for in all respects, it had become that. I thought it would die with me. But not today. Today, it reemerges as ours. His. Mine. Shared between us. All of us. Today, my story, his story, our story, is the story of all of us.

I am of course, intensely proud of this man, who's graduation, wedding and birth announcements always graced our mailbox, who's name was uttered in my household frequently, often around a complex discussion of how I needed to be more like him. Merrick went to Harvard. Merrick got a great job. Merrick is a judge. Merrick Merrick Merrick.

And now, from the grave, I hear my mother, God rest her soul, "Merrick is going to be on the Supreme Court, what are you doing now?" I always had a response to her comparison questions. Now, frankly, I do not.

Merrick has no idea the influence his life had on mine, simply by his act of being, and frankly, being great by any measure. I became who I am in no small part due to his influence, a fight between embracing his greatness and rebelling against it. It shaped who I am today. I didn't go to Harvard, but I did marry a two time Harvard grad, and I have to wonder, was I living up indirectly to the standard my mother held for greatness? These legacy issues bear the most complicated story here.

When people tell me his speech was one of the most eloquent and powerful speeches they have ever heard, that they teared up to hear it, all I can say is that is my cousin. His story. My story. OUR story.

They say you can never go home again. I am starting to believe that's because home never leaves you, you cannot go back to that you never left.

I'm home again.

And in the middle of the political fighting about his nomination, help the Senate remember who and what is behind this man.

My story. His story. Our story.

This post originally appeared on Medium.