Recently I learned that several of my first cousins’ died last year. That may sound strange as most people have some sort of relationship or contact with their blood relatives. Not so in my family. There has been an estrangement for many, many years.
The alienation was due to the death of my father in March of 1959. It was a fateful night for this seven year old girl. My father was one of the younger ones in his family, dying at the age of thirty five from a massive heart atatck.He was the second brother to die of cardiac causes, as my uncle Mike died in 1957. Dad was from a large Polish family, most of whom lived in Saginaw Michigan, where we lived also. I had numerous cousins, aunts and uncles. Time, and life changes took me far away from them.
Before death, Christmas Eve was a huge clebration at my Aunt Lottie’s and Uncle Wallys house. The tall, white flocked scotch pine, with all blue lights, and what seemed like hundreds of skinny plastic icycles hanging from the boughs fascinated me. We children ran through their big , stately home, playing all evening long. We all were decked out in our pretty holiday attire. The adults remained in the kitchen, drinking “high balls” , eating rich, traditional ,holiday fare.
During the first few years after my father’s death family interaction slolwy began to diminish. It was usually weddings, graduations, and rarely Christmas holidays we got together. I was closest to my cousins’ Mary and Linda. Our mom’s were widows and they often went out to the “Apple Orchard”, a local tavern, to dance on Sunday nights.We girls would pretend to be grownups having our own little parties complete with makeup, dress up clothes, dancing to the latest rock and roll hits, and sipping grape juice from a wine glass. Turning off the lights and playing hide and seek in their basement was fun during holiday break. I remember taking our metal saucers and heading for the hill behind their house in the country to slide, rewarding ourselves with hot cocoa afterwards.
Even my time spent with Mary and Linda bagan to change. My mother had to work full time, and she also got a boyfriend. As an only child I spent far too much time alone; I lived in my head and imaginings became my closest friends.
Ofen, I was shuttled off to one of my mother’s friend’s as she went out with her beloved or searched for the next one. Yet, many of these friends had good and lasting impact on my young heart and mind. Bea, would make me popcorn as we played dominoes. I will never forget the first time I set foot in a evangelical church. Why, they said and did things that were completely foreign to this little Catholic girl. People stood up and gave testimony to what the Lord did for them. Some cried. They spoke of Yeshua (Jesus) as if they knew him. They sang songs about the Lord God, and read from a Bible.
I recall Lorraine LaFleur, she and my mother would go out also. Lorraine tended bar, she kind of walked on the wild side. She did have grandchildren though, and we would play tag on hot summer nights in the city, in the more neglected part of town. Their lives were lead in a not so spotless environment, so different than mine, , ( my mother was pretty tidy…actually, OCD). Witnessing one girl get disciplined quite severly by her step parent also impacted my heart.
The minimal interaction I had with my paternal family halted when my mother met the man of her dreams and off to the big, big city we went. First it was Grand Rapids, during the eight grade. Spring of 1965 they married and we moved to Chicago. I had new family now, but this time I was the step child.
I grew up quickly those ensuing years. Perhaps it was the lack of direction, coulpled with loneliness that pointed me on the path I choose to write about in my memoir. I lived with an alcoholic step father and a mother who chased him out of every bar on the south side of Chicago.
Wanting love of my own I got pregnant and married when I was 16. My husband was an alcoholic also. Throughout my adult life I have rebelled against Ha Shem (God). I have been in and out of various churches, divorce courts, counseling, and bars. Only a death would bring me back to Saginaw and my father’s family, and at that I did not often attend. Eventually, they became extinct to me.
Two weeks ago I decided to internet search a cousin. She suffered a sudden onset lung disease a few years ago and I wanted to call her. Sadly, I found her obituary. From there I saw her two brothers had died within the past three years. Then I found my childhood playmate cousin, Mary, died last year, she was 61. The obit stated she was predeceased by a son. This also was news to me. Yesterday, I began searching for other cousins. To my surprise my younger cousin Robert died in 2011.
Robert was born when I was nine.He was an aqua blue, wild eyed little blond boy. The last time I saw him he was about 5. A cat was frantically trying to get away from him as he laughed and swung it through the air by it’s tail! I do not know what became of him, how he lived his life, his occupation, did he marry or have children, and did he have faith. All I know is the two sentence blurb stating he died in January 2011.
Rolling this information over and over in my mind has altered my perspective on my life. I considered Mary. She was married to the same man for 43 years. Her children all had the same father, and were not scarred by divorce. She lived in the same area, with the same people, probably doing the same thing all her life. She even went to the same Catholic church.These are wonderful things and I am not jealous or envious. Mary also buried one of her children, just as I did. Unanswered questions about her faith: did she just attend Mass and put her trust in a doctrine, or ritual? Or, did she have a dynamic relationship with the One True God, the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, snd trust Him with her life and her death? In fact, I could ask that of my other cousin’s who died and those living, as well.
Mary is no longer alive, nor is Robert, Sandy, Bruce, Ronnie, and Eddie. I am.
My life has been an arduous journey, very different, atypical.. My autobiography needs to be written in volumes, small doses so the reader can handle it. In fact people probably will think it is fiction. But it has brought me where I am today. This is the key: I have experienced joy through Messiah Yeshua. I have forgiveness, purpose for my life, and a future to embrace. All the ups and downs, sadness and happiness, wins and losses that confront us, the most important thing is our standing with Ha Shem (God), and we are confident in what Romans 8:28 tells us:
Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose; 29 because those whom he knew in advance, he also determined in advance would be conformed to the pattern of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; 30 and those whom he thus determined in advance, he also called; and those whom he called, he also caused to be considered righteous; and those whom he caused to be considered righteous he also glorified! Read it again and let it sink in.
Therefore, I realize there is much to be done, much to type, much to share. I do not know how many more times my heart will beat on this earth, I must give “testimony” while I still have breath, before my name shows up on a Google obituary search. Shalom, Sarah Anne
Complete Jewish Bible Copyright 1998 by David H. Stern. Published by Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. (The Complete Jewish Bible Online)