Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Think We Have Forever..and ramblings
It was a beautiful, sunny and breezy day for the family barbecue we went to on Saturday. There were 4 generations of relatives. It wasn't as large as they used to be, but rather a smaller gathering of more immediate family.

Two of the younger cousins flew up from Florida to stay with their grandmother, my husband's aunt, who was also the hostess for the barbecue. Her grandson wants to check out some colleges in NY and is interested in photography. They were the only out of state relatives. Nope ..actually family from PA too but that is really local..just over the border from where we live.

And there was way more food than could be eaten. I contributed the homemade coleslaw...which btw..I think using honey for the sweetener makes all the difference. :) All the usual salads which were delicious. Aunt Dales infamous baked beans...and she adds hamburger in with it. No one makes beans as good as she does. :) Also corn on the cob, hamburgers and hot dogs and lots of deserts, with my m-i-l's Hawaiian wedding cake being my favorite.

The hamburgers had a good flavor - black angus beef. Although mine was almost raw in the middle and so I only ate the outer edges.

I am pretty particular about food prep and also cooking beef and poultry thoroughly. But people were eating the hamburgers that way. Doesn't anyone think about e-coli? I mean blood was dripping from the center of my burger. My m-i-l saw it and commented how hers has to be well done. And so we began discussing raw meat and one of the cousins (13) always eats raw hamburger when preparing a meal.

1st of all...ewwww! But seriously...isn't that dangerous to do these days? I didn't think people did that anymore. So I said it is alright to have a steak or roast rare in the middle because the e-coli doesn't go into the middle and would be cooked on the outside. However, hamburger meat is ground up and so it is potentially mixed all through the meat and is why it has to be thoroughly cooked.

I'll admit I was concerned about what I ate but all is well.'s always nice to see the aunts and uncles that we don't usually get to see. So many people have died...almost a whole generation except for one relative and she is out in Ohio now. I appreciate things so much more than I did when I was younger. I used to want to get out of some family things and now I cherish them.

When we're younger we think we have forever. I did anyway. And I never thought about losing relatives...seeing them die off one by one. And now I keep telling our sons that family is important and it's important to keep the bonds strong. And I think family reunions and barbecues do that. And funerals. But sadly...that is often when we realize too late that there was someone special in our midst that we could've done so many things with, had wonderful conversations. And gain insights and perspectives that come from people who have lived a full life and have much to impart to the younger generations.

And I love seeing children running around at family functions. They breathe a whole new life into the family. I loved watching Devan with her close friend Kelly. They're both seven and seem to be like 2 peas in a pod. It truly warmed my heart watching them yesterday and reminded me so much of Iris and me when we were 7. :) I can't wait to show Iris the pictures I took of the girls. :)

And it was neat seeing our sons now young adults interacting with family.

When older son was little there were so relatives of all ages. Then those cousins grew up and some moved away and have their own families now. So 2nd son didn't see how big the family gatherings used to be..but they were still good. And now..they're even smaller.

I just want them to have relatives that they will still feel connected with even if we, their parents weren't around anymore. The thing is...certain relatives bring a cohesiveness to the family. When they die there is this hole that seems to create more distance in the younger generations because they don't feel as connected and go off in different directions. I think it is important for the older generation to arrange events, celebrations that will periodically bring everyone together and then hopefully the traditions will carry on.

In my family..forget it. My mother's generation did not keep in touch with all the relatives on a regular basis. So my immediate family is very small. I only have my mother and 3 female cousins and 2 male cousins..John who married my cousin Lee and Joshua my cousin Sandy's son and then her sister Nancy. That's it..and I don't get to see them much at all. I actually have a lot of relatives but simply don't know any of them. My mother is the last of the older generation and she wouldn't know who her cousins families are because she lost touch years ago.

She was over here the other day and she was helping me to identify relatives in old pictures.

The thing that struck me most about these pictures, is that everyone seemed to be busily living their they had forever and yet the only evidence now is some faded photographs collecting dust in a box. Some staged photos..some candid. Some in the states...others in Scotland. And some of the European photographs were taken by my uncle Hector (I miss him so very much) during his time in the army during WWII, which was for most of the war. Or some that were taken by Uncle Jim (I miss him very much too) when he was in the Pacific during WWII.

If only pictures could talk...if they could just audibly describe themselves as seen through the photographer's eyes. What was everything really like back then. I did record my uncle on video when he was 80. I set the camera upon the counter, taping him while he shared his WWII experiences with all of us sitting at our kitchen table. And as he told these stories...he cried. And I know these weren't the worst ones. My uncle never talked about the war and he only cried 2 other times that I know of.

He cried when his son, my cousin Doug was killed and he cried when his crane killed a man due to a mechanical malfunction. The city of New York impounded it for investigation and stated that was the cause. And I am guessing he cried when the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed. He helped to build that and was proud of the job.

I Called down to Alabama to speak with him that morning but his wife said he couldn't watch the news anymore and was out in the garden. So I told her to let him be and I'd call again. I can only imagine how a man who fought so long in a major war felt seeing us attacked in various places, people dying and the buildings he worked hard to erect reduced to a pile of rubble on the ground. I imagine he cried that day too.

I should go and pull out that tape. We never watched it after that. I am sure it will reveal more to me than I witnessed in person that day.

Life gets so busy or we are distracted by technology...and don't keep up with all the personal interactions that we should. I know I am certainly guilty of that. I think unless something goes wrong that causes us to suddenly have 20-20 vision in the present, to become acutely aware of what is really important...that for most of us... it is easy to take life and relationships for granted..thinking we have forever... even though we don't.


Rositta said...

Family, yes very important. I was an only child, my son is an only child and when my parents emigrated to Canada there was only us three. We left behind grandparents, aunts, uncles and many cousins behind the Iron Curtain of which I've only met one. I'm making a pilgrimage this fall to my mother's birthplace in the former east Germany.
BTW, I eat raw meat lots of times, it's called steak tartar and I mix it with raw egg, another no no and I'm still alive, it's a German thing...ciao

SeaSpray said...

Hi Rositta- That must've been so hard to leave so many loved ones behind. And having relatives behind the iron awful!

My grandparents left their families in Scotland.

My grandmother and her 2 sisters and my grandfather and his 8 brothers left Scotland and never saw their parents again. I don't know how people did that and how the parents could stand it.

My grandparents met in New England, where they 1st settled before coming down to NJ.

They lived near each other in Scotland but had never met. My grandfathers brothers all settled in Canada and I don't know why he came hear. I would love to talk with them now as an adult!

My mother and I came across an interesting picture and it was of my grandfather posing with other people on the ship that brought him to this country.

The picture was really interesting and reminded me of some shots on the Titanic...same era..maybe a bit earlier but not much.

I could see the ocean in the background and and parts of the ship. Very interesting!

I thought steak tartar is a steak that is placed on the griddle and then instantly flipped to the other side and the criterion for a good steak tartar is that it is still mooing prior to ingesting. ;)

My paternal side of the family is German... but I don't know any of the history in Germany.

Rositta said...

Steak tartare is a really good piece of steak ground like hamburger mixed with chopped onion and a raw egg. I eat it on a really good fresh rye bread and usually buy mine at a German deli or buy a filet at the butcher and grind it myself. I don't indulge often and my husband thinks I'm nuts, of course he's not German, he's Greek and they overcook everything anyway.
Wiki's version has the raw egg on top and that doesn't turn me on.
I have a picture of myself with my parents standing on the deck of a ship leaving Germany in the 50's. I have seen what's left of my father's family in west Germany, just not my Mom's branch. My father did go back and see his parents before they died but my mother was never able to go back and never saw her parents or siblings again, yes it's very sad///ciao

Elaine said...

That was a fascinating post; I now wish I had paid more attention as a child to my aunt, a schoolteacher, because she was born in 1895 and could have told me so many things, about my family and about life in general in the early days of last century.

Also, on a lighter note, NEVER eat raw meat. You are quite right there. Perhaps rositta has built up sn immunity to get away with it.

SeaSpray said...

That's so sad your family had that kind of heartbreak Rositta. It's one thing to leave because you want to start anew for a better life but entirely another because of war.

Thank you for sharing your story.

SeaSpray said...

Thank you Elaine. It would be so very interesting to speak with our relatives now. I wonder what they would think of everything today too?

Yes..i am always careful about the meat. I'm all for hockey puck hamburgers! ;)