|My parent’s wedding photo.
Spending the first 10 years of my life living in sunny California, I was saddened when our parents told my two sisters and I that due to our father’s employment and desire to be near his mother in her later years, we were leaving our ranch home in Long Beach to move to Boston.
Our grandmother, whom we adored, owned a triplex on a dreary residential neighborhood with a state mental institution at the end of the street to be found by a relatively short walk up the steep road, difficult to navigate in the snow and ice of winter.
In 1958, we left that California home, which my parents rented long term to the baseball player, Gil Hodges from the LA Dodgers. Moving into the main floor of our grandmother’s triplex in Boston was traumatic. I felt frightened by the neighborhood, the school, the mental patients who wandered aimlessly in the streets during the day and were prompted to return to the hospital at night by the sound of an earsplitting horn.
In a perpetual state of terror, I remained quiet and to myself focusing on my studies. My father meant the world to me.
In those days, children didn’t speak of being frightened, fearful that parents would disapprove of weakness. His gentle demeanor along with his frequent hugs and kisses went far in helping us get through.
In October 1960, my father was killed in an industrial accident, living three days with third degree burns over 98% of his body.
Life was changed forever. How could I live without him? He is buried in Boston. Soon, I will visit his grave. I still miss him today.
A few months later at Christmas, my mother and 16 year old sister who was granted a driver’s license only days before we left, drove us the long scary drive back to California. We spent Christmas Eve in a dumpy hotel in Lubbock, Texas. No gifts, no celebration, only sorrow filled hearts. I was 12 years old. My younger sister was four years old, sent ahead on an airplane with my mother’s parents, our grandparents, who’d come from their home in California to Boston for our father’s funeral.
We moved into an apartment while waiting for Gil Hodges’ lease to run out. It was almost another full year, requiring us to change schools two more times.
Moving back into that house was angst ridden. At that point, the emotional toll over the loss of this beloved man was almost more than we could bear. Each of our lives became fraught with sorrow but somehow filled with an unstoppable desire to survive and… to succeed.
In our own ways, each of the three of us sisters, found a determination only grief can manifest. Today, the three of us couldn’t be closer, loving and respectful of one another and able to laugh together as with no one else.
In 1976, the last time I was in Boston, my sisters and I returned to visit our grandmother and family members (with whom we’d stayed in close touch over the years) and to visit our father’s grave.
Returning on September 14, 2014, once again I’ll see our few remaining family members, my dear cousin and my treasured uncle, my father’s brother, who continues to enjoy life at the age of 94. And, once again, I’ll visit my father’s grave. The prospect of this visit fills me with a deep sorrow that tightens my throat, as the tears flow freely.
This, is why we chose a cruise ship from London that ends in Boston. Tom, an ancestry.com buff, has pieced together not only his roots but mine as well. He’ll be at my side both in love and in his desire to complete some of the missing pieces in my family history.
Many of you have known such loss, easily relating to my story. Recently, a dear friend on Facebook shares her loss of a sister and in her grief, I am brought back to my own, as some of you may feel on this part of the journey with me.
Life is short. Life is fragile. Life is filled with ways in which we can heal and which in essence, becomes a choice. It’s a choice to celebrate the life of the ones we’ve lost, of the ones we’ve loved and to carry with us the gifts that their lives gave us, that linger on forever.
Here’s the link to our hotel in Norwood, Massachusetts, close to Boston. The hotel required payment in full for the good rates we received for an upgraded room for these dates: