When fortunately one tragedy happens to pave over the memory of another…
No really, I’m Italian, is a phrase I’ve repeated more times than I could ever count. The reason this statement had to be repeatedly stated was due to the disbelief one would express upon hearing it from me the first time I would say, “I’m Italian”.
Blonde hair, green eyes, alabaster skin, with freckles…”I’m Italian”.
Ok, ok, I get where it might seem unlikely, but then I would explain that my mother’s mother was the product of a German mother and English father, and my father’s mother was English as well, therefore accounting for the light hair, skin, and eyes. I would go on to further explain that both my father’s father and mother’s father were as Italian as can be.
While I may have been born with features from the one side, I truly believed with the male line so strong, my personality favored the Italian side. I was certain my hair trigger temper, and animated way of speaking, proved this point.
So there you have it…No really, I’m Italian.
Fast forward to my approaching 50th birthday. In an attempt to avoid any well meaning surprise parties, decorated with “over the hill” banners and gag gifts, I thought let’s have an adventure worthy of marking such a significant milestone.
Now I already told you my half time theory in my other post, so what better place to celebrate the new beginning of my 2nd half of life, than getting in touch with my roots on a solo European journey.
Obviously Italy it is! Also I figured England. I chose these two since I have ancestors on both sides from these places and feel the most connected to these nationalities. Germany would have to wait. Brilliant! All that’s left to do is narrow down where exactly I should visit in these two countries. I’d like to get as close to my actual roots as possible. A real full circle kind of experience.
To assist me in pinpointing locations I may have an ancestral connection to, my oldest daughter thought it would be fun to send an early Christmas gift …ancestry dna…what a great idea!
I spit in the tube, filled out the label, and mailed it off promptly. A few weeks later I would really experience the full impact of my daughter’s gift.
It was 1am in a midtown Manhattan diner, and I was about to dig into some cheesy fries, as I got the ping ~ your results are in~ “my results are in” I loudly shared with anyone within earshot.
I pulled them up and began to read, my friend across from me waiting to hear, along with the waiter, and surrounding tables.. just like I thought, pretty much a three way split of nationalities….the smallest slice of the pie, German. Then a considerable sized piece of English. And my biggest slice…Irish. Wait. What?! Where’s my Italian?
“Where’s my Italian?“ became the $100 question. It turned into a lively debate amongst the staff and fellow patrons about the accuracy of these tests. As well as inspired dna result tales of what happened to friends of friends and so forth. I thought there must be an explanation. I mean, clearly I’m Italian…Right?
Not being able to grasp a quick reasonable explanation, but truly believing there must be one, I dramatically, and rather playfully, resorted to the most obviously scandalous, and declared “my whole life a lie”. I then proceeded to share that revelation with the Uber driver, the hotel doorman, and the folks in the elevator on the way up to my floor.
When I woke that morning, my first thought was (you guessed it), “where’s my Italian”. I grabbed my phone, pulled up the ancestry dna app, and gave things a more thorough review. It turns out that aside from the breakdown of your dna story, ancestry also provides you with dna matches. I had been vaguely aware of this, and knew to expect a ton of 4th and 5th cousin matches.
As I read about how relationships are measured and what categories they fell into, I realized that amongst this long list of unfamiliar names, were matches with so many centimorgans between myself and them they fell into the half sibling, first cousin, and aunt & uncle ranges.
Time for answers. Time to call my Aunt Holly…my teller of truths, the one person I could always count on to give me the straight story! From my earliest questions of trying to figure out the family dynamics, to where do babies come from, to any taboo topic that fell under the category of “things you want to know but are too embarrassed to ask”, she was my go to.
I was in Penn Station waiting for my train by the time I got in touch with her. She was, as always, very matter of fact. “What could this possibly mean?”, I asked her as I finished the dna results tale from the evening before. “Well, Deanna..it’s obvious what it means!”, was her response.
And just like that I realized my hot blooded (so called Italian) temper and fast talking ways, actually were attributed to my being the fighting Irish and having the gift of gab…hmmm…now a lot makes sense. Including these green eyes and freckles.
I reached out to my closest match, a female about ten years younger than me, and between her responses to my questions and the memories of the past my aunt shared, I began to piece together the story of my paternity. By the time I pulled into my train station, I didn’t just have an Italian dad, I had a bonus Irish dad…and the latter came along with an additional six siblings. Add them to the baby sis mom blessed me with, who I always knew about (wellll…almost always knew, she was about three, I was about 10…I can explain, another time though) and I’m now one of eight! Well this is unexpected.
Fun fact…four were younger, but two were (barely) older! While the younger four were products of my father’s marriage with his eventual life long wife (I should mention he passed away three years prior to my discovery) and presumably “settled down” years, myself and the older two were all born to teen moms, impregnated over the course of a year. Two of us he was never aware of, and one mom he married. However the young marriage dissolved fairly quickly.
Alrighty then, this isn’t too weird. Oh wait, it gets weirder. He spent his whole life a town away and raised those four half siblings, 3 sisters and a brother there. A town I frequented regularly. Some might say they were my old stomping grounds. Dammmn did I stomp them grounds!
Can’t get much weirder than that. Right? Oh but it can…My oldest sister was raised in another neighboring town. Well most of the time, you know, except when she was living in the SAME town!! Like come on now, seriously!
Basically the only sibling not running around the same hood, was my brand new big brother, whose teen mom was a hippy chick flitting through town. She was in a far away state by the time she realized her mother-to-be condition, and gave him up for adoption, which landed him smack in the middle of the mid west.
So why did my mom not name daddy dearest and instead provided me with just enough info to mange to track down Italian dad, as an angsty teen? I believe bio Irish dad was just a one time, hazy, backseat memory and my own hippy dippy mom thought she couldn’t possibly be wrong claiming I belonged to the 19 year old musician she’d actually been dating for months. In all fairness this was the end of the sixties…’nuff said.
Not wanting to throw Italian dad under the bus, I should explain the reason for him needing to be tracked down 14 years after my birth is not a reflection of his unwillingness to participate in my arrival on this earth. It is however a story for another day. Not only because I should resist the urge to veer off on a side story, but also because it is a story worthy of standing on its own and deserves to be told independent from this dna debacle tale.
Spoiler alert though..it has a happy ending. Kind of can’t help but give that part of that story up when I mention during this part of this story, that the hardest part of this whole experience was having to tell Italian dad about Irish dad.
What happened when I did, you ask…I received, hands down, some of the best parenting I ever received in my life. He said everything that the one time abandoned, repeatedly rejected, uncertain of her place in this world child, that sometimes still lives inside me, needed to hear. And for that I will be forever grateful.
The new sibs…A stand on its own story if ever there was one! More shall most certainly be revealed, but for now I will say that with some the relationships have progressed farther and faster than others, and some are completely resistant to anything at all. Regardless of how fast or slow the bond is forming, with each one I’ve met, I feel a connection. A connection to them, and to their children. These are my people and I’m so grateful to know them or at least know they’re out there.
Speaking of my people, there’s been some changes to my birthday itinerary…. Goodbye Italy and hello Ireland. Goodbye solo adventure, and hello a few new siblings trip!
Wow, that was a lot to come out of one little dna test. Ohhhh, but wait just a stinking minute!! Didn’t I say my grandfather on my mother’s side was all Italian? Shouldn’t that count for something? Hmmm….I guess there’s a part two coming in the next blog post and it obviously starts with the question, “where’s my Italian?”! 😉
It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I’m thinking about my mothers…I’ve had grands, and greats, and almost adopted, steps, and in-laws, and like a mom mothers, but I never had a Mommy, not even a Mama or a Ma.
Oh well, can’t waste my time longing for what never was, nor will ever be. Luckily I did have a Grammie and a Mimi to step up and in when my 17 year old “mom” dipped.
Mimi, who was 5’ nothing with big boobs and a tiny waist, was born in 1900 to German immigrants. She was one of a kind and she was Grammie’s mother. Grammie, who had her proper Englishman father’s height and clear blue eyes, but Mimi’s wild head of curls and stubborn streak, was my mother’s mother.
These are the two most influential women in my world. It’s because of them I know that even though sometimes mothers leave (and come back, and leave again, and so on), that sometimes people who say they love you, stay. It’s because of them I know that unconditional love is a real thing. They softened and smoothed the rough edges left by the carelessness of others.
It was the beginning of the summer of 1990, Mimi and I were having lunch in the backyard when I saw her hand begin to shake. I asked her what was wrong and she tried to say nothing. The shaking grew more violent and spread up her arm, her fingers uncontrollably twisted around the rosary beads she prayed on regularly, and almost always held.
She was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor and remained in the hospital until summer’s end, passing away just weeks after I gave birth to my first child. So grateful for the just shy of twenty years I had her in my life.
Grammie remained my constant. She was there to celebrate every joy, and ease what burdens she could. She loved me at times, both in childhood and adulthood, when I was not very lovable. I thought she’d always be there. It seemed impossible there would come a time she wasn’t.
And then came the beginning of the end. The “end” spanned ten years. From diagnosis, down to the final days, I observed this woman of strength and dignity surrender the things she could no longer enjoy and accept the next phase with a graceful ease.
I was the lucky one. It was that last Friday evening I was alone with her that she experienced what hospice commonly refers to as the rally. For the last several weeks she had either been withdrawn, not speaking at all, or agitated and picking at the bed sheets nervously. Tonight was different as she sat up straight in her bed, pillows propped comfortably around her. Her pale blue eyes, that always so easily betrayed her emotion, whether it was with a flash of anger, or a deep sadness that could break your heart if you looked too long, now sparkled with life I hadn’t seen in months.
I had brought along a writing assignment to work on as I sat at her bedside, since typically her interaction was so minimal. This night she had surprised me when she turned to me and asked what I was doing. I explained the premise of the piece and then read it to her. It was personal and spoke of regrets and accountability and the gratitude to move forward and do better. She listened intently, and with a gentleness about her not frequently witnessed by many, she assured me of her love and pride in who I had become. Then much to my surprise she asked me to pray with her. As I held her hand in mine, I leaned over and laid my head on her chest. Together we said The Lord’s Prayer. With her free hand she smoothed the hair back off my forehead in a comforting gesture that took me back to childhood.
Afterwards we spoke of that childhood and many of the happy memories it held. From the exotic travels she took me on, to the simplicity of laying on our backs Christmas Eve watching the patterns dance across the ceiling from the twinkling tree lights. We laughed belly laughs about things that only we thought were funny, the inside jokes that stemmed from a life experienced together.
As it grew later and she was becoming tired, she occasionally glanced towards the corner, once asking me who the people over there were. I assured her it was only the light playing tricks with the shadows. I could see the energy draining from her and I was exhausted as well. I laid her bed back to the reclined position and readjusted her pillows. I tucked the blankets around her with care and pressed my lips to her forehead. I lingered there a second and appreciated the moment of connection, the sense of being grounded. As I pulled back I looked at her and realized she had always been what grounded me. I touched her face gently and I thanked her.
That was the last time she ever spoke. She slipped into a catatonic state and by Sunday I received the call telling me she had begun the active phase of dying. That’s how specifically hospice can break it down for you. They suggested the process could be anywhere from a few hours to a day or two.
I was in the garden with my youngest child when I took the call. “Do you have to go now?” She asked me as I hung up the phone. I gathered my thoughts as I looked around at the flats of pansies waiting to be planted, “no” I said “In a little bit, but not now”. Other family members were at my grandmother’s bedside now and I needed to be where I was, present in this moment out in the sun with Tia, our hands in the dirt. It was through participating in this springtime ritual of living I would gather the strength needed to be present for the dying.
The hospice nurse gave us instructions on how to proceed in caring for Grammie in these final hours. Once she had left, only myself, my Aunt Holly, cousin Haley, and my mother remained. Usual differences placed aside and each woman’s desire to be there for their own personal reasons respected by the others.
The hours stretched out and rolled into the next day. It seemed fitting that the sky was gray and subject to occasional downpours. I had put music on in her room from the big band era she loved, and my tears began to quietly fall as I sang along softly with ‘Till We Meet Again.
We had been taking turns sitting bedside, however as longer stretches elapsed between the breathes she struggled to take, we had all gathered around to say our final goodbyes. I sat to her right and held onto her hand. Eventually no more breathes came and within moments her skin grew cool to the touch. She was gone. Death had come quietly. She left this world with the same calm, dignified strength, by which she had lived. I glanced toward the corner and thought to myself that perhaps just as we had surrounded her to bid farewell, Mimi and the others were now welcoming her.
It is with so much love and gratitude that I wish a Happy Mother’s Day to my Grammie & Mimi, who I’m sure are together again, and never really too far from me.
Ok, so I referred to my second post as my “introductory”, however the only thing I ever really introduced was the blog ideas I won’t be doing.
Next in an attempt to actually introduce myself, I somehow got the bright idea to start in the beginning ….as in the beginningest beginning possible …cue pregnant teen mom, her tale of woe, leading into my own twisted toddler years…Some really fun tales indeed, but upon giving it some actual consideration, this is not where I want to narrate some linear unfolding of my life story. So, three additional posts in, with a quick “delete, delete, delete”, here we are again.
I am banking on the fact that this is a brand new blog, which I haven’t even taken the time to complete my website for, and the chances of it getting more than a visit or two, are super slim. Those who are passing through, thanks so much for that and you are the witnesses to my early on, ever changing whims. The hope is that I will eventually hit a groove, and perhaps crank out something consistent, in the form of at least mildly entertaining. I find myself mildly entertaining on a regular basis, so here’s to translating that via an online blog. Haha, probably easier said than done. But we shall see…
Ok, so introducing myself for real…You can call me Dee Dee, or Dee, it’s short for Deanna. I spent years trying to shake the nickname Dee Dee, and now here I am, in middle age, embracing it. Ahhh, middle age…yup, that’s where I’m at. I’ve always said I believed I’d live to be at least 100, and I still believe it. Now that I’m fast approaching my 50th birthday (and I do mean fast, “time flies” is a factual statement), I truly consider it the midlife mark. All good though…so what if I’m in the senior years of my first half of life, I’m about to be in the infancy of my second half! And the awesome thing is, I DO KNOW NOW, what I’d wished I’d known then! Something tells me this is gonna be fun.
I get it, I know there’s all this society pressure on women that shames us into hating ourselves for getting older, that youth is the prize, but in regard to that I say…oh please, eff that!!
I’m plenty young. I’m young in all the ways that matter most. I’ve got tons more to learn, to see, to experience. I wasn’t always this young though. You know when I was old? When I was 25. I was so old then. I would look in the mirror and see the beginnings of fine lines around my eyes, and bags underneath them. The lines forming around my mouth, exaggerated with every drag of the cigarettes I chain smoked.
At 25 I had three children under the age of 5, the oldest with special needs, a crappy marriage < sorry to my ex for writing it like that, if you ever happen to read this. I mean really, I accept a lot of the responsibility for the “crappy” part.
When I wasn’t busy trying to embrace the role of wife and mother (key word “trying”), I waitressed and bartended. I was a slave to addictive behaviors that popped up in a multitude of ways and I was basically bluffing my way through life. Damn, that exhausted me to the point of numb. Yeah, I was old.
Now just about double that age, add in a shit ton of life experience, self discovery through both bad choices and good, and today you have me…A happy, fairly well adjusted, life loving, youthful woman. Today I show up and actually am the things I present myself to be. I am a mother. I am a marina manager. I am a friend who has incredible friends. I am a partner in a relationship. I am a lover of things that feed my soul, and excite my senses, from the music I listen to, to the places I travel, to the coffee I drink. I am so mutha f*ckin’ alive today, and I feel the good and the bad, with an intensity far superior to the anesthetic numbness I embraced during those early years when I was old.
And that my (hopefully there’s a couple of you) readers, is a brief synopsis of my story thus far. There’s so much more to tell though…because you know, the devil is in the details…😈
Virtual hugs & salty kisses xo
So this will technically appear as my second post, but in reality it is my third. It should really have been my first. My introductory if you will. I’ve never been one for doing things in order.
I have contemplated a blog for quite a while now. I did one a few years back. It was fun and successful, but that is because it was on a specific event and to a targeted audience. I was a lay person on a medical mission team. We traveled to Ecuador and stayed in a remote Amazonian village, Guadalupe. While there we used the local clinic, along with a box truck converted to a mobile operating room, to perform many relatively simple procedures. Gallbladders, Goiters, etc. I was allowed to scrub in, I held the hands of nervous patients, I was taught to pass without contaminating, I helped in any way I could. I was given the opportunity to be the proverbial fly on the wall listening to some of the most brilliant medical minds of our time, discuss future planned advancements in their mission work. Truly an incredible experience. Definitely one worth writing about.
Enough about that though. That was then, this is now. I’ve done some local mission work since, but none that has taken me out of the country. I had always planned on eventually traveling to Africa to continue that particular journey, but for now life has stalled that plan. Perhaps someday, never say never. When and if I do, I will no doubt write about it, however past trips and possible future trips, does not provide me something current to write about today. So, back to blog ideas for the present time.
One, positively brilliant-if I do say so myself, idea I had for a blog, was what I would have called… “Jade’s jaded adventures in Wonderland”…it would have been a chronicle of my tinder date experiences. Fun, fun!
Several years ago I went through what was a pretty horrific divorce. There I was in my early forties thrown back into the single girl world. Suffice it to say things had changed a lot since I had dated last and I was not only terribly out of practice, but a little knocked around emotionally from the level of betrayal I had experienced. Well, might as well jump into the dating pool with both feet. I quickly learned that nobody seemed to meet organically anymore. I downloaded the trending app, chose some pictures I thought were not only flattering, but represented my well rounded lifestyle and wrote a brief bio introducing myself to the online dating world.
I would soon come to find that the tinder men fell in two camps…1-looking for a “hook-up” or 2-looking for “the one”. Falling somewhere in between that myself, I erased my bio and changed to the tag line “I have no plan beyond coffee”. And that was the truth!
Oh the stories I have. Every blog post would be the details of a date in all its sitcom worthy awkwardness. Sometimes I could hear the laugh track in my mind. A select few made it to a second date, but a third was elusive. I occasionally accepted one, but would later bail. Good times!
Well, look at that, I’m back in the past again talking about what I could’ve done! Obviously I never did get around to putting pen to paper, or fingertips to keyboard, on that idea. And eventually a planned third date was kept. That gave way to a fourth and fifth and then the weeks rolled into months. Before I knew it, I had found myself in a relationship. There goes that blog idea.
So, my first post divorce relationship…almost three years of on and off again drama. Teenage angst in midlife never looked so good. He’s a story that might be worth telling, but I haven’t found my words yet. It was a complex connection, one that would take more space than I have here to explain. For now he shall stay privately tucked away and placed in a safe spot, maybe to be looked at later on another platform. We’ll see.
Back to the Mermaid inspiration for this blog…I live in a small seaside community. I have always felt drawn to the water for as far back as I can remember, and not only am I a stones throw from it at all times here in my hometown, but my current career consists of my being surrounded by boats, beach, and the sea. What a place to call your office. Resisting the urge to say “hashtag blessed” right now. < corny, I know! I am though…blessed that is. While individual details of my life, standing on their own as a singular experience, may look particularly challenging, I have been gifted with the Grace to see the good side of most things. The beauty in moments. I live a life I like, and I’m as happy alone as I am with a partner. As a matter of fact, I was beginning to think maybe even more so being alone.
Ahhh, but then it happened. This local boy sailed into my life, and everything changed. He was a fine sailor, who had been right under my nose. I didn’t find him on an app. I didn’t resist a second or third date with him. This sailor is far from perfect, but perfect enough for me. He is the sailor who I wrote of in my second, now deleted, post on this blog.
Why did I delete it? It was too out of order, even for me. And it was a sweet, personal memory. Not one to be shared from a place of hostile retaliation directed toward a past lover of his. It is real, and true, and mine to be held near to my heart always. When and if I share the tale, as it is my story to tell, it will be from a place purely of fond recall.
Now, about this past lover of his, enter “the mermaid”…yes, she fancies herself a mermaid, hence my previous mermaid hating post. Now I’m not usually the sort to display, or even have, such animosity toward an ex lover of my current lover. This one however, warrants an exception. Aside from mentioning that I landed here in WordPress due to her creative tagging of my boyfriend in some outlandish blog posts, I shall not use this time and space to shout out her list of atrocities, I’m just going to ask you to take my word for it.
As previously mentioned, being a lover of the sea, I am also a lover of the creatures that dwell in it. Seahorses hold a particular fascination. While their appearance seems almost magical enough to be as mythical as a mermaid, they are in fact real. Aside from being fascinating in all the very factual ways they are, the mythology behind them is equally delightful. As highlighted in that previous post the folklore between Seahorses and mermaids stands in sharp contrast to each other. It doesn’t take any deep pondering to see the points I am making there.
There you have it. I was upset with a meddling mermaid and took to a safe outlet to express my frustrations. I wrote a silly story, as opposed to acting out in any other way. In doing so, I was reminded how right it feels to express myself through the written word. I don’t lay claim to being any great writer, the next Hemingway I am not, but I can string together some words in a cohesive thought pattern to tell a story. Oh, and I’ve got stories…
If anybody stops by to read this, and hasn’t been bored to tears already, please stop by to read my next post. I have new ideas brewing for the direction of this blog. Not a one having to do with mermaids. I do owe her a debt of gratitude though for the inspiration. I guess it’s true, inspiration can be found in the damnedest of places…
Virtual hugs & salty kisses to y’all
When we think of mermaids we tend to think of Disney’s sweet Ariel. She is as kind and good as she is beautiful. She saves a drowning sailor and falls in love with him as she does so. She loves him so deeply that she is willing to sacrifice anything for them to be together…ahhh true love…but, yeah…no. That is not an accurate depiction of long standing folklore. In fact, it is the total opposite.
Mermaids are bad luck to sailors. To glimpse one is an omen of danger. To actually interact with one can mean doom. They summon the storms that cause ship wrecks, they drown sailors and trap them in an underworld where they are treated as slaves. The mermaid may initially appear as beautiful. They hide behind long flowing hair and a siren song, but upon closer observation they reveal their true form. They are hideous monsters. Their ugliness matching their horrific intentions.
Luckily there are Seahorses. The Seahorse is a magical, unique creature. They are powerful. Sacred to Poseidon. Greek mythology tells us that it is the Seahorse that keeps the sailors safe, and who stays by the side of a drowned sailor to accompany him from one world to the next, assuring he meets no further harm along the way. Now that sounds like true love.
With all that in mind, it’s no wonder that as much as mermaids are bad luck to sailors, the Seahorse is the ultimate symbol of good luck for a sailor.