“Sometimes I also just need to sit down and have a good cry,” she said wiping the tears from her cheeks. “You can have your good cry with me, anytime.” She continued as I wiped the tears from my cheeks as well. And we sat for a few minutes in silence, each far away in our own thoughts, so grateful for each other, and both no longer feeling alone.
We continued to talk about how we felt, what we missed and how much we love each other. My Aunt is an amazing woman. At 91, she is focused on rehabilitation and getting strong so she can be home sooner rather than later. There is no self-pity, there is no “I’m weak, I can’t do anything.” There is resolve to get better and an attitude of “I will live forever.” As I shared some of my fears about getting older and being alone in the world, she continually reminds me that I have her so I am not alone, as if she plans to live as long as I do. I smile at that thought.
Only a week before we buried one of her favorite cousins. Marge was like a sister to my aunt, they shared a bed as children, shared adventures as teens and shared a love and lust for life and family that transcended generations. Seeing Aunt Kit, my mom and their cousin Ruth bury Marge was a dark moment for me and my cousins. The 4 women left of all the cousins were all strong, witty, charming and incredible role models for my generation. Losing one added reality to inevitable for each of us and I think tore a bit from our fabric. We all understood the strength of stock we came from.
Imagine being a young mother in war torn Poland. Your husband leaves for this foreign land, America, 3months prior by steerage class. You stand on the deck of a boat with your 3 month old son, your mother and your younger sister heading to this America hoping for a better life. Hoping for a life where you can make a good living. Hoping for a life where you can practice your religion freely. Hoping for a life where you can be with your entire family and nobody has to be in hiding. A life where you can raise your family free of worry that they will be taken away from you. And you head across the Atlantic not knowing if you will find any of that or for that matter ever see your husband again. The fable was always told that although my grandfather left Europe 3 months prior, their ships landed in Ellis Island around the same time. The story was I’m sure embellished, but as I was always told I, my grandmother was on line to show paperwork and looked through a window seeing her husband being placed in quarantine due to his steerage class. Somehow between my grandmother and my uncles who were at Ellis Island to greet the women who had come alone, they were able to get my grandfather out and home with them. They had all made it to America.
The strength and perseverance they all displayed not only in making the trip but once here, making a life. That strength, courage, and resilience was needed over and over again. My grandparents lost that young son to scarlet fever and because they were immigrants, he was taken and buried somewhere without their knowledge. It never made them bitter and I never heard my grandmother make a snide comment about this America taking her baby. Through strength of character they carried on. They rose above.
The life that was built was one of love, courage and family. The family all lived near each other and during the depression with each other. The women were the center of this family. They worked, even on religious holidays, in order to ensure their family had what they needed. They raised each other’s children, supported each other through every heartache and celebrated each other through every milestone.
This strength of character and ability to be there for each other, to hold each other as they cried and to help each other when one’s strength was being tested has transcended generations. I have seen this with my mother, aunt and their cousins and have felt this with my generation of cousins. All of this love and support on display whenever needed. The stock that we come from is one of bravery, of intellect, of strength of character and all done with sense of humor.
As I sat with my Aunt, having our cry together, I am reminded of something I read recently that speaks to this group of women I have known, loved, experienced and learned from.
“The circles of women around us weave invisible nets of love that carry us when we’re weak and sing with us when we are strong.” ~Sark
No truer words have been spoken. This circle of women, my circle of women, has been there through all the ups and downs of life, with love and strength and beauty and grace. As we begin to watch a generation become lost, I remember that they are all a part of me. They are all in my heart and part of the fabric of my being and I am reminded that my strength is amplified by the invisible net of love that carries me forward.