Tag Archives: parents death

Sentimental Musings: My Parents And “Animal Farm”

25 Dec

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I have to start this blog with a confession to my siblings, “I have Mom’s copy of Animal Farm.”

To be honest, this is a big deal.  When our parents died nine months apart, and we cleaned out their homes, we searched for certain important, sentimental items.  The 1946 edition of Animal Farm fell into this category.

In my family,  Animal Farm is not just an allegory about communism using farm animals.  Instead it is the basis for our parent’s relationship.  Dad lived in the Bronx.  Mom lived in New Jersey.  My Dad’s aunt lived near my Mom and shopped in the family bakery.   She decided that my Mom and Dad had to meet.

In order to appease his aunt, my Dad took the train, the subway, the ferry, who knows how many types of transit to travel to meet my Mom. (The timeline it took to get to meet her and the numerous transits increased over the years.)

It went well.  Mom loaned Dad her copy of Animal Farm to read.  Of course, after he read it, he had to make the return trip back to New Jersey to deliver the book back to her and discuss it.  This was the start of a great love story that lasted the 59 years they were married.

Obviously Animal Farm holds a place in all of our hearts.  And it was missing.  But maybe not so much.   I sort of remembered that Mom gave me the book when I was in college.  As an English major I had to read many books, so I often went home to see if we had any in our family library.  Animal Farm came back to college with me and has stayed with me for the next 40 something years.  However, I did not know exactly where it was in my house.  Actually, I just hoped it did not get lost in one of my moves before settling in my current home of 34 years.

So why am I writing about it now?  Two reasons. I have been thinking of this book a lot lately.  I have been focusing on how it starts off with the saying that all animals being equal, but ends with /the new dictate that some animals are better (or more equal) than other animals.  I have also been thinking about pigs running the government, not that I have any intention of making a political statement here.  I decided I wanted to reread it and wondered if I did still have it.

Reason two, I have been on a cleaning binge, which includes sorting through and giving away some of our thousands of books with the idea that we will downsize our home.  Since I am on winter vacation from work, I decided to continue my house cleansing and search specifically for this book.  Well I found it. There on a shelf, tucked between two larger books, was the green cover of slim book: Animal Farm. 

It is the Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1946 edition.  Not sure if it is a first printing, because it does not note that on the page.  However, it was in 1946 that it was published in the USA.

Finding it also confirmed my belief that I used it in school, because tucked inside was a mimeographed sheet explaining who all the characters represented. It is a great cheat sheet that was presented to us by our teacher.

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My true confession is over.  I hope my siblings will be happy to know that the book is safe.  Its pages intact and its importance to our family will live with this retelling.

Personally, I will now reread Animal Farm and compare the fate of the world now with the way the world was moving in the years after World War Two.

 

It is a GRAVE Matter…Really

6 Jan

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My parents and grandparents are all together.

Over the years I have avoided one important part of my estate planning.  Buying a gravesite for my husband and for me.

I know this is important. But the thought of buying a grave made me sad.  I do not know why. My parents planned ahead. They purchased their graves as part of a family plot in New Jersey. In this same shared area rest all four of my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles on my dad’s side.  When I was a child, no one was buried there. Unfortunately, now all but one of the assigned graves are now filled. 

At the time the graves were purchased, only my two uncles’ names were placed on the contract, as the cemetery would not allow  three names to be on it.  This left my father out. It was not a big deal until my mom died, and we found out that we had no authority to open her grave.  Same thing with my dad.  Luckily we are a close family and my cousins immediately did all that needed to be done. In fact my one cousin went out of his way to help all the cousins as he not only arranged for us to purchase perpetual care for the graves, he has also kept close watch on the care.  When we suffered the loss of our parents and his mother within a year, it was this cousin who made sure the that all three stones were placed properly. We are so thankful for his concern. As we suffered multiple losses that year.

Every year when I go back east, my sister and I make a pilgrimage to the cemetery.  Besides visiting all of our relatives, we take a short stroll to the resting place of my cousin’s other grandparents and relatives.  They are all so close together.  Remembering to bring the correct number of stones, is the hardest part.

Across from our parents, my sister and brother have a resting spot that includes their spouses. Unfortunately one grave is already occupied.   In fact it was this death about five years ago that started my quest and my inquiries about cemeteries.  But it has not been easy for me.

It was convenient for my siblings to buy for all of them as they  live in New Jersey.  But for me it is different.  My husband is from Missouri, and we live in Kansas. We have no family here.  Our daughter lives out of the country. And though our son lives near us now, who knows where he will end up.  So we have been indecisive about what to do.

Where should we eventually be buried?  OY! The best was to ignore this nagging and difficult choice.

This fall one of my close friends, a walking buddy, spent an entire walk telling me about the arrangements she and her husband recently made for their final home.  She also wanted to be sure her children would have no worries. The decision is made and paid for in advance.  It made me start thinking about our grave matter once again.

To be honest my husband does not care where we end up.  “When we are dead we are dead,” he says. “It won’t matter to us at all.”   But I think it will matter to our children if they do not have to worry about this decision in the midst of emotional turmoil.  It is hard enough when a parent dies without having to make this decision as well.  I knew my obsession had to be dealt with when I found myself reading the cemetery plot ads in the Jewish Forward.  That was a bit too much even for me.

As I am interested in genealogy, it was important to me that  our descendants  to be able to find us. I have seen the joy of discovery as people find the graves of their grandparents, great grandparents and even further back. It is so wonderful to have these in one place. So even though we belong to two synagogues, and we could buy plots in their cemeteries,  I do not want to be alone, away from everyone. It might be crazy, but that is how I feel.

The issue came to a head this past November, when my husband’s stepmother died.  She always planned to be buried on one side of my husband’s dad.  He and his first wife, my husband’s mother, are already buried there, as well as my husband’s grandparents. But things did not go as plannned.  Even though there are four empty graves in the plot, my father in law had never designated her to be buried there.  And with my father in law and his brother both deceased, the four plots are owned by the five adults in the next generation.  Since we are out of contact with my husband’s cousins, we were not allowed to bury her in this grave. It made for a tense few days. But the cemetery’s executive director would not  allow it.  (We assume the cemetery must have had lawsuits in the past over similar issues! )

No matter,  she had to be buried in a different cemertary.   But at least it was with her family. A cousin of hers who had purchased multiple plots donated one to her.   I was glad she was not alone.

This situation, the days of trying to figure out what would happen, increased my determination that our children should not have to deal with the issue of a grave site.  I was so upset. I do not want my children worrying about where to bury me. I want it settled.

But now I had a plan.  It is stupid for us to go to New Jersey especially since there are four perfectly good plots in St. Louis.   I am on a mission.  I am working with the cemetery to track down my husband’s first cousins.  It seems we are all joint owners of these four graves. I want two of these plots. It is stupid for them to stay empty when they can be used.

Even the woman I am working with at the cemetery agrees it is foolish to leave them unused.  But she says it happens often. Families drift apart and move away.  The original owner is long dead.  And the ownership continues to pass on to the next generation involving more and more descendants. And the cemetery is stuck, unable to let anyone use the graves.

Well one thing I have learned through my interest in genealogy, and my great contacts on the “Tracing the Tribe Facebook” group, research.  The person at the cemetery told me she could not find my husband’s cousins.  I took that as a challenge.  Within 90 minutes I had their names, their spouses’ names and the names of their children.  I have sent that information on to the cemetery’s office for them to be contacted.  (My research did remind me that my father in law and his brother died just over a month apart.  Even though they had not spoken to each other in perhaps 25 years, they had this connection: One died two weeks before 9/11 and one three weeks after. )

I have another back up plan as well.  My sister in law in St. Louis also has a group plot with her brothers and parents. When I unloaded my stress over finding a grave, she told me that they had some extra plots.  “You probably could buy two plots from us, if that would make me feel better and calm you down,” she laughed as she made this suggestion.  But my loving niece understands.  She promised me that she would come to visit ” her crazy aunt” in St. Louis.

My new year’s resolution for 2017:  I am focusing on resolving this grave matter.   I hope to find my husband’s cousins and come to an agreement about the graves.  Or purchase two plots from my sister in law’s family.  It is my resolution to buy two graves…   NOT that I want to use them anytime soon.
Update: we have two graves with my sister in law and her family in the St Louis area. I am at peace. My children will have an easier time with this knowledge.