For a little over a year now I’ve been lamenting over a choice I felt like I had to make for a job. The place I had been working was sold by the company and there weren’t a lot of options in my little town so I took a job that was offered to me by another company. The kicker was that it would be a thousand miles away from everyone and everything I love. I didn’t feel like I had much of a choice because I needed a paycheck and so here I am. I’ve been here for a year and it’s not a bad place if you love big cities. As “city girl” as my friend Roxy likes to think I am, I am really just a small town hick from the sticks. There was a time when the big city appealed to me but not anymore. I like the slower pace and easier feel of my home town.
It’s interesting the circumstances we find ourselves in at various times throughout our lives. Change happens whether we want it or not and we simply have to hope we make the right choices and then adapt. Most of the time I stay positive but I would be lying if I said there weren’t days when I just feel crushed, where I feel like I will always be a thousand miles away from my Mom and my grown kids even if I know that isn’t true. A couple of days ago I was really depressed under the weight of these thoughts when it occurred to me that at least I have the option of changing my circumstances. There are people in our family, in our past, who didn’t.
My Mom is first generation American. The details are a bit sketchy but her Dad immigrated from Slovenia which, at the time was in Yugoslavia. He came for the coal mines and landed in a tiny town in Northwest New Mexico. He married and had 3 children, two girls and a boy. Sadly, his wife died when his son was about 6 years old, he was the youngest of the three. My Grandpa couldn’t take care of the kids the way they needed to be taken care of. Having to work at least twelve hours a day, they were alone most of the time. He had to make the heart wrenching decision of adopting the kids out to his wife’s family, but for whatever reason they wouldn’t take his son. The little boy wandered the mining camp most days and the ladies of the other families would feed him. He fell on the railroad tracks one day and cut himself pretty badly. Infection set in and eventually turned to gangrene and he died at six years old.
My Mom’s Mom also came from Slovenia. She didn’t immigrate initially however. She had a good life in her home country, was madly in love and engaged to be married at 20 years old with everything to look forward to. Her aunt, who ran what they thought was a boarding house in the same small town my Grandpa lived in, invited her to come and visit in America before she got married. She took her up on her offer, but little did she know she would not be going back home.
When my Grandma arrived at her Aunt’s house she very shortly realized the reason she had been invited. The “boarding” house wasn’t a boarding house at all and her aunt did not have the best intentions. She was a madame and had brought her niece over to put her to work as a prostitute. She expected her to cater to the men in the camp for money. My Grandma refused. She would not do as her aunt wanted but she did not have the money to get herself back home. She was stuck in a situation that I can only imagine was horrifying and it was about to get worse. When her aunt realized she wouldn’t work for her, she sold my Grandma. Sold her for money to my Grandpa, who was alone and lonely and 20 years older than she was.
She left her home, her family, her fiancee, every thing and everyone she loved to travel on vacation and was now realizing she would not get to go back. I cannot fathom that situation. The pain and the desperation, the anger and the heartbreak I just cannot even imagine. Her and my Grandpa ended up being married for over 50 years and had six children, two of whom died as babies. My Mom tells me that she thinks her Mom came to love my Grandpa over the years but not so much early on. My Grandma loved her children though and my Mom and her three brothers were always very close to their mother.
My Grandma only went back home to Slovenia once and by that time her children were grown and she had grandchildren. She met up with her former fiancee during that trip. He had only recently married and had very small children, having waited for her to come home for well over twenty years. He wanted her to stay, told her he would divorce his wife and they could marry and have the life they had planned all those years ago, but she refused. She loved her children and grandchildren too much to leave them and I think she loved him enough that she was thinking of his children as well. She came back to America, back to her family but I can only imagine the anguish she suffered all over again.
This small bit of family history is just the tip of the iceberg of course. I did know my Mom’s half sister, one of the daughters my Grandpa adopted out, her name was Angie. Her and my Mom and her brothers were always close as we were growing up. Angie’s sister Mary died in her twenties and so we didn’t know her but their history is in my fire proof box at home and there will come a time very soon when I will write about their life with their adoptive parents. I’m very grateful that I had the chance to know my Grandparents. I am connected to them and to my heritage in so many ways thanks to my Mom. I’m coming to realize how circumstances often times don’t reflect the whole story and how fortunate most of us are in this day and age to be able to make different choices if we don’t like the circumstances we are in.
I’ve been feeling trapped, bound by a paycheck that is necessary and unavoidable. But I’m realizing that there is always a choice. I made this one and I will eventually be able to make another one, one that brings me closer to my family. It’s my people I miss, the family and friends that have always been such a huge part of my existence. I visit as often as I can and I am staying positive that an opportunity will come to reunite with them permanently. In the meantime I will make the best of this decision knowing that it’s not forever and that this experience will spring board me to the next phase of my life. I think of my Grandma Jennie and her story often. I feel her presence daily and I believe that if it’s possible, she will have a hand in whatever comes next.