Here's to my mother, Rosetta Lachman, whose brilliant smile guided us through the good times and the bad.
Some of us are fortunate---others are not. Every day the lucky ones read about horrific family situations and wonder how anything like that could ever happen.
But the people living in these disfunctional, sometimes violent families know all too well. I remember a fellow I dated back in the 1980's. His was an alcoholic family, given to vicious arguments at family dinners once his parents and siblings had consumed more booze than they should have. He only indulged in a glass of wine now and then. Once he said, "I can't stand going to those family events because I know all too well how they end."
My sister and I were so lucky. We had a wonderful mother and a wonderful extended family. Our dinners were filled with humor, horsing around, love and everything that goes with the sort of families depicted on the old "Father Knows Best" show of the 50's. I was 17 and my sister was 12 when our father, only 49 years old, was felled by a heart attack. We never knew of Mom's struggles to keep her head above water financially because she soldiered on. There was little insurance, as Dad had his first heart attack when he was 44 and was never able to get more insurance after that. Still, our apartment was filled with laughter and we were raised believing we could do anything we set our minds to.
Until we were adults with our own lives and families, we thought everyone had families like ours. The old Three Musketeers motto "all for one and one for all." We did lose track of the aunts, uncles and cousins on Dad's side after several years, but Mom's family remained close knit---they were always there for each other. Some in Chicago, some in Los Angeles and one in Phoenix. Mom, born in 1909, was the youngest of ten children. Her brothers and sisters were all dedicated to each other. Many lived into their mid and late nineties, including Mom who nearly reached 97.
I remember the first time I witnessed the back-stabbing possible between siblings. I was in my thirties when I experienced the treachery that existed in my second husband's family. The stories I heard about why they were not in communication with each other seeme so foreign to me. Apparently, his grandfather had been notorious for not trusting banks. The family figured he had a minimum of $25,000 stashed in his apartment in the 1960s. The old man died and while the funeral arrangements were being made, one of the sisters stole the money, then embarked on conspicuous spending within a few weeks. The others stopped speaking to her. His mother's brother cheated her in a real estate deal, then sued her for commissions due to him for selling her an apartment building she lost because of cooked books that he was aware of. One more scratched off.
His mother's younger sister borrowed money to cover her husband's gambling debts. When it wasn't paid back, the two sisters never spoke again. This was so shocking to me, but my ex was used to it and accepted it as normal.
Today as I sit at my computer, time has passed and all of those older members of Mom's family are gone. I reflect upon how much it meant to all of us to be raised in a loving, positive atmosphere and how it helped to shape our lives. My cousin and I remain close, I write books with my sister and consider her my best friend, another cousin just told me they're moving to Las Vegas and I stay in touch with another cousin in Chicago. But the days of those crazy fun-filled family dinners with up to 40 people at a clip are gone, too. I miss them.