|Maternal Grandmother Agnes|
But then I found myself telling my dinner companion more about my grandmothers. The one I did know, Agnes (photo at left), was divorced from my grandfather, a rarity and a scandal back in those days--the Forties and Fifties--and especially a scandal among Polish Catholics, who are among the most conservative and steadfast Catholics anywhere. I barely knew the man she had been married to, my grandfather, nor did I know know why my mother seemed not to like him, or why we almost never visited him. I remember that at his funeral--when I would have been about fourteen--my mother and her older sister were dry-eyed and grim, a younger sister was full of tears. I wondered why there was such disparity in how they were reacting to their father's death.
BEING PROUD OF GRANDMA
Only many years later--and I mean, decades--did I learn that this man had molested my mother's older sister, and bothered my mother once but didn't do more than scare the hell out of her. The youngest sister apparently didn't even know about this. My mother said that when her mother--whom she idolized--found out what he was up to (I do not know the details), she began sleeping on the couch, and soon after moved out, taking her children with her.
As for the other grandmother who died two years before I was born? According to family lore, I am a great deal like her. My middle name, Blanche, is for her own Bronislawa, the Polish equivalent. I know that she left a relatively well-off family in Poland by herself to come to America, and met and married my grandfather here.
|Rule breaker Bronslawa Drozdusky|
Everyone in the family said I was most like my father's older sister, Jean, who left Pennsylvania when she was sixteen and went to New York City on her own, and made her way. When I knew her, she was a waitress in a restaurant near City Hall, and worked there until she married one of the customers. It was from her suitcase when I was twelve I found and read Bonjour Tristesse, barely understanding what was going on. I adored my Aunt Jean. Even when my mother was with Aunt Jean and me, people on the street used to think that Jean was my mother. I sounded like her too. Today I am noticing how similar our hair styles are in the pictures here--all waves, with bangs--even though the styles suit our times. And I notice my mother has one of those Marcel waves too.
|My aunt Genevieve|
The stories of these women are my history. They are who I come from. They inform and influence who I am. And it is comforting to know these things, to know about them, to feel them living though me.
IT'S NOT JUST THE COLOR OF YOUR EYES
This rumination came about today after reading David Brooks this morning in the New York Times. He was writing about Mitt Romney. What Brooks had to say has a direct connection to what it is like being a product of a certain family, and having that history written into your DNA. Brooks wrote:
"Romney’s salient quality is not wealth. It is, for better and worse, his tenacious drive — the sort of relentlessness that we associate with striving immigrants, not rich scions.
"Where did this persistence come from? It’s plausible to think that it came from his family history. The philosopher Michael Oakeshott once observed that it takes several generations to make a career. Interests, habits and lore accrue in families and shape those born into them." [Emphasis added.]Brooks then related a brief history of Romney's family, taken from the book The Real Romney. Romney's not going to be my candidate of choice, but you can read into his history the tenacity that is a hallmark of the man today. In understanding the man, what matters more are not the particulars of Romney's Mormonism--which we certainly quibble with--but the exodus in his history, and the dogged determination to overcome odds.
|High school senior Lorraine|
Source: The Wealth Issue
See Also: Romney urges single woman to give up her baby--or be outcast from LDS