We grieve because we love.

The dying generation.

The ladies in this picture are sisters and they happen to be my grandmother (Maria) on the right and my great aunt, Ticuta, on the left. In the middle stands uncle Ionel, my aunt’s husband. My grandfather passed away few years back from Alzheimer’s.

Both sisters had strokes within days of each other, couple of months ago. Sunday, 11-10-2019 aunt Ticuta passed away.

I look at life as a wonderful novel and for some their story may have ended their flesh and blood walk on this earth. It’s impossible not to feel sad at its finality. But strong memories continue their story and recollecting them is my way of spending time with the beloved departed ones.

Here’s one of those memories.

Ibanesti village stands quietly in the Bucovina region of Romania situated north of the country.

Head wrapped in a bright scarf and one hand shielding her eyes from the sun above my aunt stands in the middle of a potatoes field searching for me. In addition to her children and her chores I’m her responsibility for the time being as I spend few summer days working the fields along side. We’ve been weeding and picking these nasty bugs off every leaf for the past four hours and although there’s so much left the work is coming to an end for today. Heat waves dance over the land and her small but mighty frame rests a moment and I can’t help but smile towards her. She does not smile much, too engulfed in her never-ending chores life offers to a peasant but when she does my world brightens and I nearly tear up with overwhelming joy. I can smell dust and dried grass lingering in the air for the ground under our feet is cracked from lack of rain. She looks up towards the sun and her lips move, most likely in prayer. We need rain for the crops to grow, so I too begin to pray. As a child I don’t like the rain much but I sense its importance.

“Carmen! Gicu! Geta! Time to go home!” She waives us over and like separated aunts we happily cluster joking and pushing each other in cheerful teasing. The walk home is shared between gulps of lukewarm water once freshly pulled out of the well and I look forward to dinner.

But dinner in the country does not come quickly. First we must feed and give water to the cows who have just returned from the pastures, brought back by the village boy delegated with such a task. So I help carry the buckets of water after Gicu, one of my cousins, pumps it from the well. I see in the far distance, Geta, another cousin, lifting hay with a fork and bringing it in the stable. Today I must milk the cow, that’s my task, and I take the small wooden stool, I grab the aluminum bucket and set myself underneath the enormous belly hoping she’ll not kick me. The smell of cow manure gags me for a second yet years later this will become my best memory trigger to such times as these. I wash her nipples and began to pull, but its not as easy as it seems and my cousins start to laugh, teasing my clumsiness. I’m a city girl, and I feel it now in every bone of my body. Every day they work hard yet still manage to laugh and tease while I struggle to keep up too proud to admit defeat. So I try again and pull harder with more success.

“Here. Let me show you how it’s done.” Geta offers. She sits down and starts milking with great ease and as the while liquid slushes out quickly the smell of fresh milk teases my nostrils, followed by stomach gurgles. I’m really hungry.

“Lean your head on her belly gently, this helps her relax, then grab hard like this and pull like this. Now you do it.” I nod, ready to prove my worth. I lean my head and start to pull. I’m rewarded with a great sound of liquid hitting the bucket, Geta smiles and the cow moos happy. As I milk her, head agains her belly, my eyes see past the open stable door and into the courtyard, where Mitica, my youngest cousin only about five or six years old helps his mother by bringing the fire wood so she can start supper out in the summer kitchen. It’s too hot to cook inside and during the summer all the meals are cooked outside in the summer kitchen which is a clay oven next to a wooden table situated underneath a lush grape vine. Aunt Ticuta is starting the fire with some matches and soon the soft polenta, the universal bread in these parts of the country, is well on its way. Then she fries pieces of pork meat and my mouth is watering as the fumes reach me, and Geta hurries to help with the salad by picking lettuce from the nearby garden. Fresh made plain yogurt completes the simple meal and I become impatient with my chore.

Come on girl, help me out here!” But the cow turns and looks at me with her big eyes and I can tell she’s saying “What else do you want me to do?”

Once around the table we bow our heads and pray out loud over the meal then sit down under the shade of the grape vine busy eating. The fire was put out but the smell of aches lingers. We tease each other with mouth-fulls of goodness and settle down only when my aunt advertises us there’ll be whipping coming our way if we don’t. But like a bee hive we slowly start it up again. And life keeps going on in a beautiful continuance of love, hard work, and laughter.

Family members of the dying generation mean the world to me. Despite grave injustice against them some brought on by the socialist/communist party others by life circumstances they always worked hard and looked at life as God’s precious gift. The thankful attitude and their tendency to see the positive side of life taught me to be strong. I love that! I was taught that by them! I will treasure it forever. If only I can do as good of a job, now that’s my turn, and make the world around me better. I’m trying:) These are the people I’m mostly proud of, the older generations, that sit invisible behind this two ladies in this picture. My family back home and some here:)

Everyone of us needs a strong and healthy foundation to stand on and I hope you have such a great foundation. If some of these great people have passed away, remember them well, and be proud to have encountered such wonderful human beings:)

God Bless.

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