The train blasts through clouds of snow as I ponder the week behind me now. I really needed this trip, to show me what’s important in my life at this time. Never before have I traveled alone by train, for twelve hours across the Midwest each way. Surely, an Adventure Across, yet this time we went back into history.
My grandfather is going through cancer therapy and my grandparents needed help around the house. It seemed like a good time to visit, and what better way to travel than by train? When I was a little kid, my family and I would ride a train from Union Station, Chicago to Detroit area where they live and I always remember it being a lot of fun. We traveled in a pack, our big clan, four kids and the parents and all the luggage. We were always a sight to see, but I didn’t ever care. It was always fun. This time, I took the train from western Wisconsin, to Union Station, and hopped on another train to Detroit area. How lovely it is to sit by the window and watch the trees go by, and to see animals and farms dotted along the way. Perfect conditions for pondering and reflecting life, lots of time to sit and just be. My intention for visiting this time was of course to spend time with them, but to also hear their stories of their lives, to look through pictures, and to better understand my roots and where I came from. Something I see in many people, especially young folk, is a sense of being lost, lost from their culture and where they came from. The perseverance and adaptability our ancestors had to endure just to make us and create us in the here-and-now seems somewhat disconnected from the present moment. America is great, don’t get me wrong! But perhaps this void we can feel at times comes from feeling something missing, culturally of the countries we came from perhaps, and we don’t know what it is. I’ve explored this feeling in many different ways, spiritually, galactically, and the more earthly version - through genealogy.
Reflecting back, I feel pretty accomplished with this trip - being brave and enduring the city. Honestly I was so scared of doing this alone and being a tiny fleck in the city of Chicago, with no intentions of leaving the train station. I don’t know, I thought my operating system would completely shut down with the amount of humanity I was around?? I survived though, with much confidence in myself and the ability to face my fears. Now I know I can travel by train; the possibilities open up around me.
I arrived late at night Tuesday and was transported back to my g-parents house by their neighbor. My grandfather in his fedora hat and leather jacket accompanied the neighbor in the front seat of the truck, all of us listening to old school hip-hop with a little giggle inside my chest. How funny was it that this was happening? I thought. I never knew my grandpa to be alright that sort of thing, as I always knew him to be a little grumpy about these modern times! The next morning while he was out at the hospital getting his treatment, my Gam waited for me in the kitchen with the waffle mix all ready. Now Gammy is famous for her waffles, they are light & fluffy and have a secret ingredient of love in them as they are irresistible. I usually don’t get the chance to eat things like this, I was pretty restrictive of what I ate for a long time. Now though? I just don’t care. I would never turn down those waffles! She had Nutella and strawberries ready too; once she shifted the waffles over to my plate they were covered in an instant with sweetness. Being an elemental, faery person, I’m finding it necessary to incorporate more sugary goods into my life… like nectar for insects and birds! Every morning I had these waffles and we even made me a batch to bring along in baggies in my carry on luggage.
She had lots of things on her list for me to do while I was there, and finally, I felt like I had a purpose. Perhaps this winter I’ve spent too much time self-loathing, finding myself living without the purpose I made for myself these last years (I quit doing YouTube for awhile with intentions to never go back - however all I needed was a rest!). Suddenly I had so much time and no-one to serve. I definitely relish in that alone time and find it so fulfilling, painting and writing books, being alone in the woods, though there’s this aspect of helping others that makes life so fulfilling. Gammy told me her freezer in the basement hadn’t been defrosted in 100 years, so that was first on the list. We opened it up and saw three inch thick ice on all of the shelves inside, hardly any room for the contents of the freezer! At once we unplugged the ice box and transported the meat & things into styrofoam coolers, collected from the last 50 years of course, and got to work chipping the ice off the shelves. What we thought would be a couple hour job turned into an entire day’s work, our arms sore from whacking hammers at the chunks and melting the ice with a craft heat gun from decades ago.
Here I am now, seeing the spiritual meaning behind this freezer project - chipping away the ice I’ve built around my inner world, my mental world. It is humorous, really, this realization, seeing that I’ve been stuck inside for months like a block of ice and here I was chipping it away! The Universe has funny ways to share our inner worlds, eh? Because now? I’m feeling like I’ve de-thawed back to sunshine.
Another thing we did was rearrange the basement. Gammy is infamous for being the craftiest person I know, and spends her free time in the basement with her materials creating. In the spaces between art supplies and shelves are Christmas decorations, old paperwork, and empty boxes. We spent the greater part of the morning bringing up old tax papers to be taken to a shredding company - maybe about 20 boxes! From the old business and days long gone. My grandfather opened up a Budget rental car company in Detroit years ago and him and my aunt ran it. They rented cars to the cast & crew for the making of the Gran Torino, and they were just blocks away from the weekend long event called the Dream Cruise, a massive car show and group drive-along right in the Motor City. He used to own a 60’s Pontiac Bonneville, and I always remember Spongebob sitting in the back seat hanging out in the garage. I loved going to the Dream Cruise and naming all the cars to my dad as we walked the event. It was always a challenge to me to see if I could get them right, surprisingly enough I knew many cars before I turned 12.
The thing about my family is… we’ve always been frugal and hold onto things. Sometimes to an extreme! We keep items for years beyond their “expiration” because we like to use something until it can no longer be of use. I always cherished this about us, it gives our living spaces more character and stories to tell as every item has a laundry list of memories attached to them. I was reminded that I am this way too in my life. I still use the color pencils I had when I was in 2nd grade for my art! Would you believe that?
Eventually we got to the shelf with pictures of family. My family, their families, and the families before them. I’ve been researching our ancestry to trace exactly which cities and towns in Europe our ancestors came from, as one day I would like to visit these places, eat their food, be in the culture, and remember on a cellular level where I came from. It surely was a treat to see my ancestors in photos, to see what my great-greats looked like, and to see how pieces of them are within me too! From the husky, Austrian great-great grandmother who looked like she’d surely hit you with a rolling pin if you misbehaved, to the soft spoken and gentle one with a hobby farm in the city, it was truly a treat to meet them. I spent hours with the photos in the living room while watching old game shows from the 70’s, because there was nothing better on TV than those. The screen blurred in the background anyway while Gammy embroidered little animals and Pappy napped in his chair.
My grandparents shared stories of the photos I put before them, about how Pappy’s parents met by peeping through the windows of the manufacturing companies they worked for. She worked at Heinz picking warts off cucumbers, and he worked at Iron City Brewing Co. as a beer brewer. They shared quick glances through the factory windows and one day asked her out, the rest is history. I thought that was such a funny story - picking the warts off cucumbers for pickles! How absurd! Both their families treasured the gift of neighbors and gathering to help each other. Since they lived in the 1930’s they endured the Great Depression in the city of Pittsburgh. Of course there is something to be learned from those times, the importance of family and friends. Laughing, playing, having parties, playing pianos and trumpets out on the front porch, wandering around forests, going on family trips to Canada, fishing, enjoying life. Life becomes much richer when spent with groups of people who love and celebrate each other and who can depend on each other. Or just celebrate in general - there is so much to be thankful for in life even in economic crisis where the world seems to be falling apart. Our family was lucky enough to have everyone stay home from the war, no one served in WWII. A blessing really, to have a lineage seemingly clear of that violence and fighting. They did however, observe it all and lived through these dark times. And, endured because here we all are today. Looking through these pictures showed me what I long for in my life - the gift of family and friends. Admittedly I’ve been living a limited life in this area, partially because I was traveling so much, but also because I didn’t know where to find this gift. It always seems to be right in front of me, it’s just a matter of recognizing it and engaging with it.
On Friday, I learned that Pappy had desires for writing a book about his life. Being an author of a few memoirs, I always encourage people who tell me they want to write a book to do so! It is a process of healing, of finding the lessons in life, and having those spiritual moments of realizing all happened in divine order. Personally I’ve written two books like this so far and both have been cathartic for me to write. An added bonus is, if the person decides to publish the book, others can read it, relate to it, be inspired by it, and healing can occur for them too. Perhaps this is one of the best ways to leave a legacy, one that can be read over and over again, books and manuscripts can live on forever. Our stories are the thoughts and feelings of history, without them there’s no spirit in the subject, really. We are all a part of something greater, our soul can be imbued in history.
He told me he wrote 172 pages on Word (that’s a lot, mind you) and somehow with his fumbly fingers accidentally deleted his manuscript and he vowed, “Never again!” Moments before, he mumbled about a book he was reading that rested on his bookshelf, the author who was a major complainer and had nothing good to say about life. Clearly a connection here - I mentioned to him that perhaps the manuscript disappeared because he was meant to write something better. The funny thing is, this has happened to me so many times it is no longer triggering to my anger. This very blog post included! Usually it means we need to rewrite our story once more because we didn’t figure out the puzzle, we didn’t get an A on that essay given to us by Earth School. When I shared this, it seemed like he got the concept, that yeah, there’s much more to be thankful for and no matter how many mistakes are made, there are equally and even more positive things that come out of life. This whole happening was a reflection of my inner world, that ice-block inside my soul world, that I needed to see to give not only compassion and love to him, but to myself as well. These were the moments I was waiting for for so long, and the wisdom didn’t come from anywhere but within myself while helping another. What a blessing it was to have this experience.
Eventually I encouraged him to write his book over, because all of his family and future family would want to know the legacy of his life, and I showed him how to use dictation to write instead of typing. Gammy and I snuck off to the store later while picking up our food and I got him a desktop microphone to make the process of writing much simpler. He perked up quite a bit, as he’s been feeling pretty low from having to go through radiation and cancer treatments everyday for the last several weeks. Writing a book is giving him purpose in his life and motivation to move on from this dark chapter, and to find the light in his life now and in the “mistakes he’s made” (his words, not mine!)
This morning, I had to say goodbye to them, something that is always hard for me to do. I’ve cried every time since I was a kid, perhaps so because it was under their roof I lived for the first few years of my life on Planet Earth. They were there when I was born, when I had heart surgery, and in the everyday life. We went to Niagara Falls together often, living in the town next-to, and traveled around the East. I hugged and kissed them goodbye, sharing I’d be back soon, and waited for my train in the station. They made sure I got on alright, resting in their gigantic Ford Expedition from the 90’s, yet another thing they’ve kept for all these years just to use it till the end of its life. Any moments with them I will cherish forever and ever, as it is love like this that makes love worth experiencing.
I hope this post inspires you to spend time with your family and to make more memories with them. In the moments that they are gone, we may wish we would have spent just a bit more time with them, let go of our differences, and cherished the feelings of belonging to something greater than ourselves. Losing my dad suddenly taught me this lesson, and I want to make sure I do my best to spend time with people I care about the most before they move on.