THE GIFT OF FAMILY RECONNECTION
by Harriette J. Schwartz
Harriette J. Schwartz aka HJSWritergal
THE GIFT OF FAMILY RECONNECTION
© 2008 Article by Harriette J. Schwartz aka HJSWritergal
I am in the midst of an exciting family reconnection. In my wildest dreams I never would have expected this to happen. With the cybernick HJSWritergal I simply HAVE to write about it. Like many of you, I am a member of various social networks and among them is Facebook. Last week I got a message there: "Did you grow up in the Bronx and do you have two sisters named Deena and Esta?" Well YES, and very few people spell their names correctly. Just like she spelled Harriette, my mom followed suit on spelling the names of my two sisters a bit differently. The name of the woman sending the message was Beverly. I knew immediately it was my first cousin, the daughter of my dad's sister, my Aunt Frieda. Dad and Aunt Frieda are both gone, she in 1973 and dad in 1978. I wrote back "Do you have a sister named Ronni? Is this who I think it is?" Of course it is both of my first cousins Beverly and Ronni.
The very next day, my cousin Beverly wrote me back: "OMG! Ronni and I have tried for years to locate you and your sisters! We had no idea what names you were now using (married or otherwise) or where you live. This is incredible! I live in NJ and she just moved to L.A. We are both widowed. I'd love to hear more about, Deena and Esta, etc. I think the last time I saw any of you was about 35 years ago. I'd love to speak to you or email further.” Bev and I got on the phone and almost forgot to get off! We obviously have a lot to say to each other. It is marvelous!
We just lost touch as people sometimes do. No rhyme or reason, just the usual moving along and the living of life. I did stay in touch a bit longer with Ronni who was married and lived in Manhattan as did I for many years. We lost touch in the early 80s. The same thing happened on the phone with her when we chatted the other night. It was already late but before we knew it an hour had passed and it was nearly midnight. Ronni’s husband was a prominent oncologist. I remember him well, a true sweetheart. I found out that he passed away at the age of sixty, three years ago. Of all things it was a brain tumor. Beverly’s husband had also died of a brain tumor, twenty years ago. My husband died fifteen years ago of pancreatic cancer. All three of us have had brushes with breast cancer. We apparently have a lot of common family blood and history. Fortunately most of it is made up of good memories and family anecdotes which we can reminisce over and share.
Bev and Ronni have been looking for my sisters and I for ages. It can be difficult to find women without knowing married names. It is equally difficult if a woman does not use their married name and someone is searching for them under that, as is the case with me. It turns out that Ronni, who is a designer moved out here recently. Her kids, are out here. She bought a house and is busy designing it for herself. Ronni used to take old photos and do paintings of them. She is really good at them.
We’ve begun to exchange old photos and memories and we are having a truly grand time. Sharing stories and information with both of them is truly a lovely and wonderful thing. Bev and Ronni are a little older than I and their memories of our grandparents is a little more exstensive than my own. I do not remember grandma, she died when I was a year old. She was the age I will be in August, 59. I did not know that. I only vaguely remember visiting my grandpa as a little kid. I knew that grandma’s name was Esther and that my sister Esta was named for her, but for the life of me I could not recall grandpa’s first name and I was curious as to my grandmother’s maiden name as well. I emailed and asked my rediscovered family and Bev responded with this: “Her name maiden name started with a "U", I think. Maybe it will come to me at some strange moment (probably at 3 a.m.). Grandpa's name was really Ruben but they called him Irving. I'm not sure why but he was a bit of a Damon Runyon character. My mother told a story about when Grandpa (who never had a real job) tried to make a few bucks by hitting the front of the mayor's car (I think it was Fiorello LaGuardia) with his hand and claiming he had been hit! No one ever claimed that we came from a classy family.” LOL pallies, isn’t that a gem of a tale?
I have always looked almost exactly like my dad but as I age it is even more evident. Now I look at the photos of grandma Esther and of her children, my dad Max and his sister my Aunt Frieda and I see how they both looked just like their mother. I never really took note of that before. I can also see the resemblance as it has been passed down to myself and my cousins. Without question we share certain familial features. In younger days it was not at all evident to me. Yet as I look at photos of us today, the resemblance is undeniable. Perhaps my eyes have grown a wisdom that in youth they could never attain.
I am thrilled to have been found and to have my cousins back in my life. It feels superb and the warmth there is evident. We none of us have large family connections to speak of and thus this rediscovery is something very dear to them and to me. I will not say that I look forward to getting to know them as I already know them well despite the years we may have missed. I most certainly will relish the process of catching up and reexaming the old days be they good bad or ugly. Most of all I look forward to creating new memories with them both.