Showing posts with label family history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family history. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Good-Bye To My Parental Hero: Who's Yours?

By Katie

People say that kids need good role models. Some would say that parents are the best role models kids can have and so these parents need to always be aware of their words and actions.

But what about role models for parents? It's a tough job bringing up little ones. Some days the task of lovingly rearing one's own children to accomplished adulthood seems downright impossible. It is on those days that a mentor is needed -- a superhero parent, of sorts. Someone to remind you that you are not alone in fighting the good fight of bringing up kids with manners and ones that will eventually sleep in their own beds. Alone. All. Night. Long.

All parents have these role models, even if they have never stopped to think about it. Maybe it is a parent of their own, or a spouse, or a friend who has "been there, done that." These people encourage us, either openly or subtly, to be all that we can be for our families.

Aunt Betty and Emilia in 2009
I lost my leading superhero last week. Elizabeth Valentine Powalski was the nicest lady to ever grace my presence. She was born and died in the same house on Felton Street, 86 years apart. She loved kids -- especially babies. She left this life clutching a rosary, a prayer on her lips.

She was my great-aunt -- the youngest sister of my grandfather, who I lost less than a year ago, and the ninth to die out of ten Powalski siblings. I didn't spend a lot of time around her as a child, or speak with her frequently as an adult. I saw her on Thanksgiving each year and at family weddings or anniversary parties. But I thought of her often, especially in these past five years that I have been a parent, and she will always be close to my heart.

She influenced me with her kindness, with her stubborn spirit, and with the dry way she told Polish jokes at her own expense. Aunt Betty was fun to be around, plain and simple. All of these personality traits are aspirations of mine, but not the real reason I grieve her guidance.

When I was expecting my first daughter, determined to be a good parent despite the realization that I was going to have to do it alone, Aunt Betty understood. She had a been a single mom too -- long before the Angelina Jolies of the world made it trendy. As a kid, I never really knew why Aunt Betty never married and I was too afraid to ask. I sort of forgot about it. Aunt Betty was Aunt Betty. No explanations needed.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Memoir Monday: An Angel For Emilia

By Katie

** Memoir Monday is a weekly series that features pieces of my memoir-in-progress that covers my first pregnancy. Click here to see past entries. **

During that December trip home, my Mom and I went to visit my great aunt Betty. She is a frail, white-haired Polish woman in her late 80s who scoots and hunches over when she walks. Aunt Betty is a devout Catholic. Aunt Betty is devout Polack. She will be the first to confirm both things.

As a pre-teen, Aunt Betty had given me my first and only rosary when she caught me admiring hers. To tell the truth, I thought it was just a necklace -- a beautiful string of beads with a bleeding Christ medallion hanging from the end. I went to Catholic high school for a year where I learned how to use my rosary to plead with the Virgin Mother to talk to her Son about the ails of my life and see if he could help me out. I liked the part of praying the rosary where I could assign a bead to each person I loved or each issue that troubled me. I hated repeating the phrase “fruit of thy womb” fifty times. All I could think of were those dumb guys on the underwear commercials dressed like grape clusters.

The gift of the rosary from Aunt Betty mainly just hung from my bedpost. Something about the shiny pink crystals being within reach in the dark was comforting to me as a young woman.

Photo via The Wooden Wagon
Aunt Betty could be found at Polish-language mass each week at St. Stanislaus cathedral. Her Christmas cards always featured the virgin Madonna atop a donkey on her pilgrimage to Bethlehem with a message from the book of Luke, which many Catholics maintain is the most accurate of the Gospels. Aunt Betty made meals for the sick and poor. Until she could not drive any longer, she ran errands for people in the neighborhood who couldn’t get to the store. She had a dog named Rufus.

Aunt Betty was a single mom. Her only child Steven was about my dad’s age. Over the years I never knew the real deal with that story. At one time I believed that Betty’s young lover had gone off to the Korean War and never returned. I had also heard something about a bowling tournament in Ohio that led to a baby boy nine months later. I didn't know the details. I knew better than to ask. All I knew was that I had always admired my Aunt Betty, no time more than now -- my first Holy Advent season as a single, pregnant non-virgin.  ­­­­­ 

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