Sorry for the long periods between posts. This has been a very trying year. My mother had been battling esophageal and stomach cancer since just before my trip to Greece last year. This past July, five years and two weeks after she lost her husband of sixty-two years, she lost her own battle and passed beyond the veil. She was 86 years old. And, with her passing, both sides of our family lost the last link to her generation. So, we’ve been dealing with illness, death, and estate stuff on top of the minutiae of our own lives. Plus, I’m inching my own way towards retirement, Medicare, and Social Security. C’est la vie.
I’m grateful for the time that I was able to spend with mom in her final days, reminiscing on family stories, identifying people in over 100 years of family photos, and just spending time with her. I was fortunate in that I was able to rush three hours north in order to make it to her bedside mere moments before she left us. At Thanksgiving, we’ll hold a small wake and ash-spreading ritual on the family farm. Even though we had been expecting this outcome for some time, this experience has left me emotionally drained and heartbroken. I’ve been making weekly prayers for their spirits to be cared for and watched over in the Underworld. And I have been increasingly aware of the sands in my own hourglass slowly sifting down. C’est la mort.
My mother had a rough childhood. Her biological mother died when she was two, leaving her and her 10 siblings in the hands of their alcoholic, abusive short haul trucker father who regularly threatened to kill the oldest kids. He eventually died of rheumatoid arthritis. The older cousins (reflecting the opinions of his children) still refer to him as “the beast” and “the monster,” not “grandpa.”
Mom and the next youngest of her sisters were farmed out to foster families for several years after the family was broken up when the children were caught raiding apple orchards in order to keep from starving. The foster program in Ohio, at least back then, was brutal, with families fostering children solely to collect a paycheck. Mom and her sister were eventually split up, and my mother was adopted by one of the kindest men I’ve ever known (and his wife, who was a shrew and a sometime whore (quite literally)).
Mom eventually graduated from high school and married my father. Within two years, they had me and began building a house together. To her, this was a rebirth. I didn’t know until a few months before she passed just what my birth truly meant to my mother. As she told a researcher from Kent State University, her overriding thought at my birth was, “Now I have a family that won’t leave me.” We often don’t know what we mean to others until it’s far too late.
All of mom’s siblings eventually found one another again, mostly through the work of my Uncle Orville, whose Herakleian efforts were the stuff of legend. We now number well over 100 first, second, third, and fourth cousins. But mom was the last sibling standing. Now it is our turn.
My friends and I just returned this past week from yet another trip to Greece, including a pilgrimage to both Eleusis and to the Sanctuary of the Great Gods on Samothraki. This trip, taken as it was with three men who I consider to be the sons that I’ll never have, has really helped to soothe my bruised spirit. Yes, I know. I still haven’t worked my way through the posts covering our trip from September of last year, but I promise that I will do so in the coming weeks (okay, maybe months). Then I’ll start writing about this October’s trip, as well as other things. Until then, αντιο.