Tuesday, August 12, 2014

... permanent homes of stone and family...

“Let's talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes 
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth, 
Let's choose executors and talk of wills”

~ William Shakespeare, Richard II

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=vcsr&GSvcid=115092Writing that it’s been an emotional week… an emotional month is perhaps an understatement.  I’m not exactly sure where to begin. Nothing really starts in a graveyard but perhaps nearly everything ends in one.

Just last week, I took a trip to Pennsylvania, my father’s hometown to see the very few family members we have left and to see those who are buried in the graveyard that my dad wishes to call *home*. It’s up to me to make this happen. I take good notes about everything, and one day through my own tears I’ll have to take out the notes, completely unable to pronounce the Polish words and the Polish name of the funeral home.

My father’s brother passed away a few years ago. He wasn’t interested in genealogy like my father is. He preferred not to pick up rocks and see what was crawling underneath.  But together, Dad and I piece together his history—parts exciting, parts incredibly messy that might have been better left under a rock. On these father-daughter trips, we often find ourselves in the cemetery. 
We found it funny that a ladder was stored behind the angel.
My father has very few living relatives. His family, like our name, is Polish… from Poland although we’re not exactly sure where. When you’re little you don’t care much about your family’s past; and, when you realize that you do indeed care, all those who *know* are those of the past… those who have left us behind. When you’re little you don’t learn your native tongue and you go around saying you just want to speak English but you pick up on words your mother only says in Polish like gotchies.

Joseph, my father’s baby brother, was only three months old when he passed. He is completely un-documented. His name isn’t even on a headstone.  We rely on my father’s childhood memory to even know that he once existed. A few cousins have been able to confirm this… 
Some families have fights and refuse to speak to their relatives. My dad learned of two cousins at his mother’s funeral. He hadn’t even heard it mentioned that he even had these relatives.
I take notes and once again I document. This time I did something a bit better. I joined Findagrave.com and entered my family members including Baby Joseph into the site. I added pictures and as much information as I knew.

I penned a little poem:

The name is hard to pronounce.

It is as Polish as my unknown grandparents

who passed long before my birth,

who remain as far from me as that small, southwestern village,

bordering Germany,

pronounced Spruceslava.

On a website, my father researches his parents’ obituaries.

Their names are not listed…

as if they never existed

as if our last ten members stemmed from a history


My father was ten

visiting grandpa in White Haven Sanitarium

distanced through a screen porch,

distanced by a disease hard enough to knock down a Pennsylvania coal miner,

abbreviated to TB.

“Am I like her?” questioning Dad about her

memory of “Poland has greener grass”

lying about her age,

being robbed of family photos and birth certificates….

pronounced bap-she in her Slavic tongue.

On a website, I research the origin of my name,

my last connection to a dying clarity

where memories lie deep within

the mind

of Alzheimer’s.

An offering of a chance

learning the root of the name

“the land of spiders”

and the suffix “the child of”

both an articulation of my existence.

I like to envision my ancestors

traveling to Spruceslava and then to America,

freeing themselves from arachnids,

searching for the American dream,

while pronouncing our name correctly.


  1. That is a beautiful poem! It is great that you are writing these things down! We wish we had recorded some of the stories older relatives told, because you lose the details over time, but you never realise how little time there is!

    1. Thanks. I've been a mess recently... I cry and I can't find words to articulate. Sometimes poetry works better.

  2. We have an impending death in the family. We are in the watching stage.

    It is good that you reminded me to ask questions before it is too late.

    Thank you!

    Hugs, Euphoria

  3. My dad and I talked about death often. We both knew that he was going to die young and he did! He was 65 years old and I was only 20. My mom was a mess and the arrangements were up to me. I knew EXACTLY what he wanted. It is a good thing you keep records. I too wish I knew more about my dad's side of the family. He was really close to his brothers and sister but they all passed on as well. I really like your poem.

    1. I've finally reached a point where we *sort of* have a plan. At least my mother won't fight his wishes anymore.

      I'm sorry you lost your dad at such a young age for both of you. My dad is 76. I still need him, please and thank you universe.

  4. This is a lovely post. I lost my dad 6 months ago today, and realise now, too late, there is so much I should have asked him. I'm not making this mistake again - tomorrow I am invited to afternoon tea at my 84 year old aunty's sheltered accommodation with my mum. We are going to share stories and photos of family members from the first World War. I count every minute with them a blessing after losing Dad so suddenly.

    Every positive thought to your dad, and your good self.