Harry, the 4 lb. bada**
My darling cousin E and I speak at least every two weeks and, almost every time, one or both of us cries. She called a few days ago to tell me that the last post I’d written had made her cry as it brought back such great memories of the great times of childhood. As is usual, we were both crying by time we were done. It is rarely based on negativity or sadness but, rather, on a shared memory of our childhoods among our huge and somewhat eccentric Celtic clan. As I’ve written in earlier posts, removed from my family through circumstances not of my choosing, reunion was decades to come. One evening, about 8 years ago, I happened on a genealogy website with one little query including the names of my paternal grandparents. I was so excited, my heart was racing…after all these years! It was E and she was looking for family members. I responded and soon we were talking and we grew to be four of us woring on it.
Before the Brooklyn Navy Yard closed, 2 generations of family had lived & worked in Red Hook. Our paternal grnadmother was a strong woman. She was the mother of 18, 12 of whom made it to adulthood, 8 of those being boys. Each served in one or both wars and in every branch of the military. My grandmother became well-known on her own right at home. She donated more blood than anyone in NY; collected infinite amounts of silk hosiery, rubber and whatever else needed. We never knew these things about her growing up. Just like we never realized how hard our Dads worked at the Navy Yard…I still cannot see “On the Waterfront” without heartache. I never heard complaints or saw a hint of what each day was like for my Dad or uncles. No one complained, it was just life on life’s terms.
E’s dad was among my favorite uncles, incredibly hilarious and the entertainment for all the kids. When we were young, there would be an annual gathering at an aunt & uncle’s in New Jersey…they had a huge piece of property that could accommodate the entire brood. It was in sharing these fond memories as well as re-connecting with one cousin after the next that brought up the concept of the reunion. E & I, along with a couple of others, began tracking down names and addresses or whatever contacts we could. She & I are alike in that we both seem predisposed to organizing, planning, playing Nancy Drew…or in her case, Lois Lane…
and getting the task done. I did it in politics where she’s done it in life on a grand scale and , I suspect, we love it equally well. Unfortunately, we can only control so much. I knew before we began that I could not attend due to personal constraints. Many others were enthusiastic until it was a reality and then, one by one, they begged off until there were just a handful. E is the most optimistic and upbeat person I know &, God knows, she’s gotten me through some storms, but I know what family means to her and I knew this was a big disappointment. As always, she made the best of it but I was incensed! Most lived within driving distance, a couple a day or so by car and then one in the mid-West and me in Oregon.
I pray that next year, I will have the resources and that others will show a legitimate effort to attend. Our parents are gone and I hate to see the family history of certain animosities and pettiness be carried on. Most of us who have spoken have talked about the little family feuds and skirmishes and spoke of gratitude that we would not travel that path. I would like to believe it sincere. In the meantime, E has demonstrated reaping what we sow. Although I don’t know her family, their devotion to each other and the bonds that exist are amazing. It is an almost abstract concept to me as I didn’t grow up with it and have spent most of my life seeking. Unconditional love came from one person and all animals. E & her husband have worked hard and earned all that they have,no one takes anything for granted…neither the people in their lives nor the comforts with which they are blessed. E is a person of optimism, commitment to those around her, generosity and kindness to all with whom she comes in contact and an unfailing faith and spirituality. She never fails to inspire me at every turn and has seen me through these last dark & challenging years. I retain a certain amount of N.Y. cynicism, sarcasm and snide comment when I consider it necessary. I aspire to that which seems innate to Elaine. I do have a soft heart and a spirituality of my own, but if I wanted to catch up to her, I’d better hurry….I’m not getting any younger, I just look that way!
Casual Tartan Hunting Tartan
The Warrior Morrigan, one of the three incarnations of the ancient Celtic Goddess. She is usually accompanied by three ravens. The warrior version that I have tattooed on me is different and I’ve not gotten the third one.
Fate smiled upon me..in a weird way…when I moved into this building. I had a reclusive neighbor who spoke to no one and grumbled at everyone. One day, he deigned to strike up a conversation and I discovered that it was the flags of Scotland & Irelamd, along with our family crest, that drew him. As I leanred, he was a writer, historian & fact-checker who freelanced his services. He moved away 2 years ago and passed suddenly but before he did, he presented me with a gift. Unbeknownst to me, he had spent countless hours documenting, annotating and gathering over 900 years of family history! I was speechless…how rare. I could not believe he had done all this and the details were amazing and , so far, proving to be accurate. I passed them on to E to distribute. Unbelievalby, it is the last 3 generations that are the hardest to sort out. In Journalism, I first learned the who,what,when where and why. With our combined research and educations, it is hard to believe that those basics are the stumpers. That, however, is for another day.
It has been an emotional roller coaster in recent weeks and last week ended on a sad note. My cousin (more like my brother)Ralph, on the maternal side of the family passed away a few years ago & I always miss him. About three or four years ago, I found his childhood best friend on FB and we began sporadic contact. He remembered me as the bratty five-years younger girl with whom they were often stuck. I remembered their 45 vinyl records and learning the words to all their late 50’s early 60’s music and my natural flair for dance.
I received an email from a mutual childhood friend telling me of Pat’s sudden death and found myself overwrought as my mind flooded with memories and of missing my cousin. I wrote to Pat’s family though they’d no idea of me and they were appreciative of the memories I shared of his youth. Then I called E…as always, it started out tearful but ended with laughter.
There are a small number of people who can bring that kind of bond to our lives; give us laughter and tears in the same few moments; have compassion for our difficulties and true joy for our happiness. I don’t know how many anyone gets nor do I know who they’re supposed to be…parents, friends, lovers, extended family? For me, there have been a very rare few and almost none related by blood…then there’s my cousin, E. I am more than blessed.