Touching Our Past in the Present
Just after Christmas, a package arrived in the mail. My sister, T.O. sent pieces of jewelry from my mom’s jewelry box to “J” and Baby . Also included was an item for me; a set of rosary beads. Now these beads are not holy nor sacred, but I simply could not put them down. I sat in the living room for a couple of hours with them wrapped around my hand as if they were the treasure of the Sierra Madre. Why? I realized that these rosary beads serve as an emotional and physical connection to my mom who died alone in a care facility at the end of July. Holding them in my hand opened up doors to the past and allowed memories to flow into my present.
I called my sister this week to thank her for the delivery. As we spoke, she pointed out a detail on the beads that I had missed. These beads were engraved with the letters “OAG.” These were my grandfather’s initials… sort of.
Fun story: My mom’s dad went through life thinking his name was Oscar A. Gagner. Shortly before he died we (he) discovered that his first name was actually Joseph. Regardless of my grandfather’s actual name, these beads were obviously his beads, and my mother had kept them all these years. NOTE: There was a momentary question as to whether they belonged to his sister, Ora, but the middle initial does not work.
What a GIFT these simple beads of faith are. They not only gave me a direct connection to my mom, but they also connected me to her beloved father. Their memories from the past flooded into my present.
Memories of Oscar shuffling through the house with a soft little whistle, or the Canadian Mist whiskey and ginger ale on the rocks (a Highball) while watching wheel of fortune. Peanut butter on his toast every morning covering every possible nook and cranny on that toast. The first stop every Christmas Eve at my grandparents’ house on Woodland Street, and endless games of cribbage.
And memories of Patti cooking like an Italian woman even though she had not a drop of Italian blood; she learned from my father’s mother so as to keep my dad’s culture alive; Pasta fajioli, eggplant parmigiana, and homemade gravy! Flawless and distinct handwriting on birthday and Christmas cards. And crying at the drop of hat because she was happy, and those legendary guilt trips (hail to the queen). I miss her!
I plan to keep these beads the rest if my life, and maybe someday one of my kids or grandkids will have memories flood in about the crazy pastor who cooked liked an old Italian. Or maybe they will remember the never ending flow of Star Trek, Pooh Bear, or pop -culture stories that ultimate lead to sermons about his beloved Savior. Maybe it will be songs from The Moody Blues, or Louis Prima and Keely Smith. A church office full of toys, Mickey Mouse, and trains, or the celebration corner of New England’s twelve Super Bowl championships!!! And how I still played cribbage just like Oscar.
But more than anything, I hope and pray that my kids and grandkids (and you) know that we never die alone.
42 is always with us!