When I Was A Kid
I come from a first-generation Italian family that included my Aunt Gloria.
My father worked three jobs when I was a young kid. I hardly saw him while I was growing up.
My dad only had an 8th grade education, but he and my mother were determined—there was never a question or doubt—that my sister and I would go to college. And so we did.
Our parents worked hard and sacrificed much to make that happen.
A Different Kind Of Wealth
Fact is I come from an entire extended family who lived out similar lives to give their sons and daughters a better shot at life than they had.
These were factory workers, waitresses, secretaries, laborers, janitors. After a long, hard week, some gave up their weekends to caddy at local golf courses to help make their dreams of a better life come true for them and their families.
From their daily travails they couldn’t imagine being rich, or even well off. Hardly. Their wealth lay in love of family, personal integrity, honor, hard work and indomitable spirits.
Hugs and kisses were the staples of our family get-togethers at holidays, funerals or whenever. “La familia!,” we’d toast, clinking glasses of red wine–sometimes served in jelly jars– over sumptuous home-made Italian meals that seemed to go on forever.
Recently the family suffered a milestone loss when Aunt Gloria, our last surviving aunt from that generation, passed at age 94. It marked an end of an era.
Shortly after her passing I received a message from one of my cousin’s, nay an ode, not only to Aunt Gloria, but to all of our first-generation relatives who died before she did.
It moved me so—and momentarily leapt me over the hard, cold, techno world that so often impinges on our souls and our humanity—that I thought I’d share it with other Boomers who may be feeling the same sense of loss, and who, as I did, may need some words to help express that loss.
A Message On Loss:
Well, my dear cousins, we always knew we would get to this day. A day when that generation who defines us will be gone. No longer, in the present tense, do we have those to call Mom or Dad or Aunt or Uncle.
Thankfully though, what we do have, are the cherished memories that they worked so selflessly to give to us.
To say that these memories were of joy and happiness would be true, but would also fall woefully short of remembering all that they’ve done.
Their trials of life, of which there were many, were dealt with straight up. They never sheltered any of us from the heartaches that made them human.
At a young age we witnessed their sacrifices, we were taken by them to visit sick relatives, to mourn with them at wakes and to have a front row seat to family discourse.
It wasn’t always clean, but it WAS always pure.
They got through all of their challenges because they believed that’s what you had to do.
Complaining didn’t seem to be an option, family was, and they relied on that support unapologetically and without ever having to ask for it.
They were always there for each other, without limits and without judgement.
They celebrated everything. I don’t mean life’s events, I mean life’s moments.
They never missed an opportunity to get together. Whether planned or spontaneous. It was a reason to break bread, laugh, share and love.
Celebrating meant family and family meant love…the unconditional kind.
Which one of us didn’t feel as if he or she were their favorite? And in some unusual and honest way, we all were.
It reminds me of the line from one of my favorite hymns….All I ask is forever to remember me as loving you.
All you had to do was observe how they went about living their lives and if you learned anything from it, yours would be enriched forever.
Our strength was their struggles.
Our integrity was their dignity.
Our goodness was their humility.
…….Our lives are their legacy.
Love your cousin,