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Messages By: hamadryad

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November 3, 2005, 6:20 pm CST

What my family has given me...

Interesting topic...  My parents divorced when I was very young and my father was awarded custody of myself and my brother (not easy considering that I am a female and this was 1970!)  I grew up in my grandparents' house in a small town in Michigan.  My paternal grandparents had seven sons, all of whom lived no more than 20 minutes away from each other as adults.  I have a total of 29 cousins on my Dad's side (not counting myself, of course) and we all grew up pretty much in each other's back pockets.   


Our Gramma was and still is the HeadBossLady of the family.  What Gramma sez goes!  She raised her seven boys on a farm and ruled them with an iron fist.  They all had chores to do before and after school, were expected to get good grades, had to learn to play a musical instrument, and take their turn being Altar Boy at Mass.  She waited til her youngest was in school full-time then went back to school herself and became an RN.  After the boys were grown and Grampa irritated her one too many times, she didn't fight or fuss, she just took her savings and went out and bought herself a house on the other side of town where she could have things the way she wanted!  :)  Funny thing is, that Grampa came over every day after work, ate supper there, and only left long after dark!  Eventually, he stopped going back to the farm and pretty much moved in.  They were "separated" for 18 months.   


From Gramma I learned that women can and should be strong, independent and fearless.  That it is perfectly acceptable to set standards and expect them to be met.  I also learned that if you want something, you should go and get it for yourself and not expect others to do for you.  She is 94 years old now and when she says "frog" Grampa and every one of her 7 boys, 30 grandchildren, and umpteen great-grandchildren start hopping! :)    


I just re-read that bit about Gramma and realized that it doesn't even begin to truly describe her.  Besides working all day at the local hospital, she was helping to raise two of her grandchildren (me and my brother.)  She made a place in her home for her handicapped younger brother, John.  If you caught her sitting down I guarantee that she was working on knitting, crocheting, quilting or sewing something for someone.  (She always had a project in her hands while watching TV.) Probably 85% of all our Priest's Vestments were made by my Grandmother!  Not to mention the Altar cloths and such.  She had a hot meal ready for us every night at 6 pm and 3 hots on Saturdays and Sunday.  Thanksgiving and Christmas were HUGE!  Everyone came to Gramma's house and squeezed together at three long tables set up in the expanded diningroom (Gramma had a wall removed so that the old livingroom became part of the diningroom.)   Gramma gave love to us all.   She still does.   


From my Dad I learned not to give up.  Not to give in.  After he was awarded custody my mother snatched us kids and ran.  For two years we were separated from our family.  When my Dad finally found us, we were in separate foster homes in California and were on the "available for adoption" lists.  My Dad had sold everything he owned and gone into debt hiring private investigators to look for us.  The fact that he found us was sheer luck.  He had sent copies of our photos to every social service agency in the country!  By happenstance, our foster case-worker recognized those old photos of us as being her clients.  She contacted my Dad and soon we were back home in Michigan living in Gramma's house because Dad had sold his land and home trying to find us.   


Dad is a reticent man and has never been one to say "I love you." He isn't a "huggie" kind of man, but I never once doubted his love for me growing up.  He worked midnights and slept while I was in school.  When he got home, he spent time with us; wrestling, tickling, laughing, or just sitting side-by-side watching Bugs Bunny or old Godzilla movies.  He gave up everything he had to find us.... our mom had dumped us on a doorstep on the other side of the country within days of stealing us from him.  Even at 8 years old I recognized his love for me.... it was not a "huggie" love, but it was the real deal.  But I missed hugs.  So, one of the things I take from my Dad is a "what not to do." :)  I hug my kids every chance I get and tell them at LEAST once a day how much I love them, how proud I am to be their mother, how blessed I am that they are in my life.   


Everything good I learned about family I learned from my Dad and my Dad's side of the family.   


From my mother I learned suspicion, self-doubt, self-loathing, distrustfulness...  Thanks to my Family's love and some REALLY good therapists I have managed to get past that... (although, if I am to be honest with myself and you, I still have trust issues when I meet new women... making girl-friends has always been difficult for me... I have always chosen guys as pals.  In the last two years I have conciously cultivated friendships with women and I have three girl-friends now though they are not as close to me as my male friends have been in the past... Hey, I'm a work in progress! *grin*) 


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