Simona- my cousin

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First picture. Simona on her baptism day with a local friend.

Second picture.  Bunch of friends from the Baptist church Simona and her family attended on her older brother, Alin’s eighteenth B-day Party (not in the picture, in fact I do not have a picture of him). Simona and I are in the back, the two youngest kids there:)

In actuality, Simona is my third cousin on my mother’s side. Same as Mirela, but that’s another story for another time.

It was Simona’s father, Ionel, who enticed my parents to move all the way from Moldova to Transylvania, more precisely to the young city of Hunedoara, where a new steel factory just got built and jobs were “falling from the skies” so to speak. Moldova’s economy was in ruin, not sure if much of that changed today, and most of the young people migrated south, west and east all over the country, where jobs were easier to come by. Sergiu was the first-born in Hunedoara, (Alin and I were born in Botosani). My young parents moved to Hunedoara in 1976 and left that town only recently, moving closer to their remaining children in Romania. The move was unexpected and sudden due to my mother’s declining health.

Unlike me, Simona grew up in a much smaller family. Her only sibling was an older brother, Alin. The age and gender gap forced a lonely Simona childhood on Simona. However, during her adolescence that loneliness was well-balanced with a very active social life in the local Baptist church she attended. There she began her singing career and her lovely voice is also passed down to her one and only daughter.

Both her parents worked which it simply meant a better financial life, overshadowed by the high pressures for academic success. My parents never seemed to have time or interest about our academic success and we surprised ourselves how well we still did in spite of that. Simona’s parents on the other hand were hands on, diligent and persistent. Learning English was one of those academic demands and I was very glad she learned the foreign language, especially after I met Chet. I would take my letters and run all the way to her apartment eager to find out what Chet wrote to me. After words, with a  dreamy expression on our faces, we would lie down on her sofa or sit outside on her enclosed balcony wondering what a married life had to offer to our livers or how different American life was from ours. I would soon found out about both. I knew I was blessed with Chet in my life, and I saw the longing in many of my female friends but I couldn’t do anything about it except share pieces of this unique experience with some of them. Simona and I sure shared some nice times together:) Younger by a couple of year we hung out with each other only when we were allowed by our parents. I had a couple rare and precious sleep overs at her apartment and I loved the quietness, the books she had and the board games we played. Also the food, hmm, she always had good food:)

My first “majorat” as it is called in Romanian, which stands for turning eighteen, the age when you’re considered an adult in Europe, meaning you can drink (which we did not do) it was for Alin, Simona’s older brother-second picture. I was young both in age and mind, naive and gullible. In fact, Simona and I were the youngest two out of everyone there and tried hard to fit in and play along the fun games that were totally foreign to me. I lost a lot and tried to keep up a brave facade but I had a wonderful time that evening. The Christian parties of that time were very safe and had such an innocence to the whole experience, something I appreciated both then and later on in life.

Well, my little cuz (short for cousin) was a fresh breath of air for me, and I do remember one of my best friends having a crush on her, something that brought a touch of jealousy in my heart at the time:)))))

While in a three-day fever unconscious state, between the ages of 10-13 years old (can’t remember exactly), I do remember in one of my brief waking moments, Simona’s mother, miss Ghinuta, sitting with my mother by my bed side holding a bag of apples, apples she brought along for us. I always preferred fruits over deserts. I opened my eyes and they were talking to each other only to slip back into darkness for another twenty hours. Miss Ghinuta and her husband Ionel were always nice to me. Alin too, even though her liked to tease us any chance he got. At least his sense of humor was not dangerous and painful:)

Simona, if you read this, and I hope you will, I miss you and I look forward one day to see you and catch up on life:))))))

Thank you God for my cuz:)

Carmen the…

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First picture; left to right, me in my second or third grade, clearly uncomfortable:)

Second picture; Chet and I on our wedding day. The malnourishment made me light:)

Third picture; my family as of last week, Chet, Merrill, Alex and Meleah:)

Writing about one self its a bit deceiving; you’re either too biased or too hard on yourself and overall one sided.

I’ve had a few nick-names so its hard to pick just one. Is it Carmen the Dreamer, the Writer, the Fighter, the Captain or the Ice Queen? It’s all of them, I suppose.

Born the first of twelve siblings, my life was both wonderful and hard. My birth wasn’t without its challenges. Shots of Vit. D and Iron for the first year or so, along other health issues somehow gave the doctor the right to pressure my mother into killing me. It wasn’t just my health issues that triggered such a decision but compiled to that it was his deep hatered towards christians. You see, I was a seedling of a very hated group of people in my part of the world at the time and I was not alone. In an atheistic world, being born a Christian was dangerous, and we have the scars to prove it.

A “sensitive soul”, with an over-developed ability or gift of empathy I collected other’s pain in my heart as if my life depended on it. The society’s abuse towards us made sense to me- we were a moral danger to a movement that thrived on egocentricity and cruelty. But our father’s abuse towards us never made sense to me. In times when one must stick with each other in an environment called “home”, meaning “safe”, he became our number one enemy, burning all my ideologies on “safe home” right out of my heart. However, beyond reasons I couldn’t understand and logic I couldn’t explain, except to call it hope, with every rare smile, joke or laughter my father had, a fragile hope seed grew in my heart “maybe he’ll change”. The hope lasted no longer than mere fragments of time until the next wave of darkness took a hold of him. Books, that’s where I found my refuge, not church, society or social interactions. That’s where I could dream freely and imagine the world I wanted to live in. I think I was a bit of a loner, yet with a great deal of charisma.

Being the oldest, I worked constantly skipping on childhood and adolescence all together.

Right after high school, I began working twelve hours shifts, seven days a week at an ice-cream and soda-pop kiosk, very popular at the time. I was very greatful for my $6 a month salary, it was similar to my father’s salary. I was not allowed to go to collage, due to my gender and lack of money, something that made me very bitter at the time.

God to me was just another tyrant figure, unhappy, abusive, not nice at all, yet someone I kept on hearing that somehow “loved me.” I wanted nothing to do with this God but didn’t dare communicate that to my parents. A missionary changed all that. He brought along with him stories of a very powerful and nice God, similar to Jesus in the New Testament (the church loved the mean and angry Old Testament God) and I fell in love for the very first time with God. Willingly, I wanted to have a relationship with this new image of God, not the one in the church. I began a new walk, a happy and light walk with God.

After the 1989 fall of communism revolution in most of the Estern European block, charitable help came into the country in the form of clothes, shoes, and monthly food supplies. “If I ever get rich, I’ll do the same.” A prayer shot up to the heavens from a thankful heart and put in practice soon after.

In 1993 I was rescued by this super handsome and tall young man, Chet, who was part of a missionary team from America. The engagement and wedding was a big source of gossip and wonder. We married on August 15th, in Romania. A very unusual wedding since the bride and groom couldn’t talk to each other:) Leaving Romania and coming to America on October 15th, was one of the most stressful things I lived through. Not because of Chet, my new husband, but everything else: leaving my family, who I no longer could protect, entering a new land with new traditions I din’t understand and no one familiar to communicate with. Halloween was a weird and dark first impression of American holidays, only the small kids dressed in cute costumes brought a smile to my face, all other gore did not. My parents-in-law were a hugeeeeee support during that time.

I had my first born, Merrill, in 1995, followed quickly by my second, Meleah, in 1996 and then our surprise, Alex, in 1993, (I was pregnant with Alex when I flew back to Romania to see Fanu in the hospital, but I did not know I was pregnant). I had a few jobs: babysitting, sells rep at the Gap, preschool teacher, writer, real-estate agent, home design and massage therapist. I’ve never been more fulfilled in my work field, like when I’m writing.

Most of you know that in January of 2014, I fell ill, an illness that almost took my life and I’m still fighting it, getting better each day, with the occasional relapses, which are still far too often than I like to admit.

I’m very happy now, even if in pain most days. Every day I’m greatful to God for allowing me another day on this wonderful planet and among my loved ones. Life is very normal, and calm (I need to keep it calm and stress-free) and mundane but I love it:) Thank you God for my life:)

 

Oana the Baby:)

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Number twelve, Oana is the baby and no matter how tough she presents herself, to us she’ll always remain the baby:) She’s the last one of the clan and my father’s weakness. Oana learned quickly how to work my father and did so without hesitation:) During his “angry episodes” she stayed away and kept quiet, avoiding getting hurt. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for her to see her siblings getting hurt, the way they did. Since early adolescence she became a mother figure in the house (since my mother lived mostly in Vilcele) taking care of the house, cleaning, washing, cooking and baking. She bossed her older brothers around any chance she had, standing up for herself or be left out in the dust. Oana learned at an early age to be tough and speak her mind- loudly:) She also had her older brothers there to protect her, if needed, which was a fantastic advantage.

After high-school Oana worked shorty as a waitress at a local restaurant, then went to Italy/Roma and helped out Delia, who worked long hours as a nurse putting long hours in. Oana took care of Delia’s children, cooked and cleaned. Eventually Delia found her a job taking care of an elderly lady, until she got married.

Oana met Alex, her husband, on the same Christian single site “Pom Verde” as her other brothers did with their spouses. The wedding was in 2014, a wedding I could not attend due to illness. Finding work, after the wedding, in Romania was tough and Alex looked for work outside their country’s borders. Eventually he found a job in Munchen, Germany and heavy hearted left a pregnant wife behind in Romania, seeing each other only through rare visits.

Alin, who lived on hour away, visited Alex when possible and upon seeing the shady neighborhood Alex lived in and the poverty level, Alin made its mission to find Alex another job. Eventually he did find one job in Ulm, Germany, and Alex moved in with Alin, able now to bring Oana there and reunite the family. Six months later they had twin girls, an excellent and positive surprise. You see, on either side of the families, we don’t have twins in the gene. The best moments in Oana’s life was holding her girls in her arms right after delivery and she fell instantly in love with her girls. Alex, who wanted girls over boys, got his girls:) Alin gained a family and young nieces as well:)

Eventually they were able to move into their own apartment and together they have a happy life. Alex works as a trucker and Oana loves being a mother and a housewife. Cooking and baking are her specialities and you can tell by the growing bellies of both her husband and Alin’s, who eats there almost daily:)

When I left, Oana was one year old and I only knew about Oana based on the information I received when I talked on the phone with my family or from the few visits we did to Romania. But I gained a lot of respect once I found out she was pregnant with twins. Somehow I saw that as a special blessing God put in her life. Seeing what a good mother and wife she is makes me a proud big sis and even though we haven’t spent a lot of face to face time together, I’m looking forward to do so in the future:)

What an awesome family I have:)

Thank you God for every singe one of my brother and sister:)

Fanu the Powerful

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1991-2002

Death comes to us all, how you greeted makes all the difference.

Fanu, short for Stefan, was the last Damean son, and number eleven in the long line of siblings. He entered this world in December 1991 and left it far too early.

Fanu had a generally calm personality, loved playing with his small cars, usually with his brother Alex, and loved to dream together about their future. Soccer was another game he practiced often in the dusty apartment courtyard of a gray and small town full of factory workers’ children. Life, as he knew it, was satisfactory even if at times shadowed by his father’s angry episodes. Fanu was still at an age where that meant little, just another day in his life, unaware of the grievances abuse brings once you understand what’s happening. In that regard he was spared.

A very competitive character, with a very giving nature, always making big plans of charitable gestures towards someone he loved or was in need. Unfortunately, we’ll never know what his life would’ve been like, but in a way he’s free of pain and sorrow now.

In the spring of 2002 (February) Fanu began having splitting headaches with a tremendous amount of pain around his left temporal area and began isolating himself in dark corners of the apartment. My mother took him to the local clinic where, without a proper examination, was prescribed some medication. It did not work. His fever became alarmingly high while the pain persisted and my mom took him to the local hospital. He was admitted for two weeks getting a daily dose of antibiotics (ampicillin) shots. He then was discharged but a few weeks later (March) when his fever and pain returned with a vengeance my mom and Delia took him to the emergency. Instead of admitting him the doctor in charge sent them to the contagious diseases hospital in Hunedoara. There they had to wait quit a bit, despite the fact that Fanu, now lying on a hospital bed in the waiting room, was crying complaining of intense pain on his left temporal zone. Upon examination the doctor discovered a partial facial paralysis on his left, and sent them immediately to a hospital in Timisoara specializing in contagious diseases and also known to be a good hospital. He was moved back and forth between couple hospitals (intensive care, neurology, contagious diseases) in Timisoara and misdiagnosed quite a bit. From being able to take small walks in the hospital’s court-yard anytime Alin visited, within weeks he became completely paralyzed, unable to eat solids while constantly on IV. The next time Fanu came back home, he was resting in a coffin.

In Timisoara’s hospitals he waisted away rapidly until May 27th when he died. My mom spent countless hours around the clock by his side, relived temporarily so she could rest by Delia and my brother Alin. By the time I came to see him he shrunk in size and all musculature mass was gone, he was paralyzed and no longer could talk, communicating by writing messages on pieces of paper. He was literally skin and bone and I could see the shape of his heart while beating, lifting a very thin layer of white and dry skin. He was no longer recognizable, only when I looked in his eyes I could see Fanu, the man. The suffering matured him tremendously. The diagnosis was never firmly found, but the whole thing began from a puss matter in his brain who by the end of his life spread all over his body in cancerous masses. Alin got really close to Fanu during that time. A few weeks before dying, no longer able to speak, Fanu managed to let my mother know that he knew he was dying. Grief stricken my mother kept telling him he’ll get better. Fanu insisted and by third time, Fanu asked my mother to open the door, because he wanted to go through. My mom opened his door in his room or the bathroom door.

“Not that one mom, the other one.” He would write while pointing to the ceiling.

“My boy, there’s not a door there, that’s the ceiling.”

“Sure there is, mom. There’s a long staircase with two angles waiting on each side and a closed door/gate right before it. Can you open it, so I can go?” My mother understood then. Her little boy was dying and God was waiting for him. Few days later Alin came relieving my exhausted mother for a well needed night of rest. Fanu died during that night. Upon autopsy, was discovered that Fanu had a very high number of cancerous masses throughout his body. Along his spine alone the Chief of Medical Staff who did the autopsy herself found three different types of cancer. Every organ was affected by cancer. She then asked permission for a brain mass autopsy and the results excluded mono or encephalitis (earlier perceived diagnosis) but his brain matter was full of foreign looking tumors, something she’s never seen before. Samples of cancers cell from along his spine, brain and other organs were sent to France for further study but we’ve never heard anything back. The rest of my siblings were advised to take test relating their lung health, don’t remember specifically the name of the test, just in case. The one that did came back fine.

His funeral was big.

My mom’s grief was immense and she argued with God many days after words. Fanu was a big loss for the entire family, unexpected, fast and deeply painful, however I’m glad that he’s no longer suffering and he’s at peace. To us he’ll always remain powerful for the way he faced it all. He didn’t complain and seemed to want to easy our pain any way he could.

Fanu, we miss you forever!!!!!! And can’t wait to see you, but not yet. Not yet.

P.S Few months later, Alin began having similar symptoms and the whole family was devastated. He went and had an operation in Bucuresti and removed non-cancerous tumor mass from his sphenoid canal the size of the end of a finger, formed due to stress and dust. The surgery was a success:)

Thank you God for our Fanu and the time we had with him. Thank you for allowing him to be with us even if for a small period of time. I’m truly grateful. Thank you for my family:)

 

Alex the Overcomer

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First picture left to right: Fanu and Alex- the two buddies:)

Second picture: Alex and his wife, Mia:)

Born number ten in our family, Alex came into the world only couple months before the 1989 Eastern Block revolution and the fall of communism. He was a happy child:) I do believe between Iulian and Alex my mother lost another baby. Due to the small gap of only one year and a half in age, Alex and Fanu (number eleven) had a very close relationship. The two buddies spent long hours playing with their toy cars, building imaginary adventures and charitable work plans together. Outside, in the courtyard, they stuck together and always picked each other on the same team, either for a game of soccer or tennis. It’s hard talking about Alex’s childhood without mentioning Fanu, since the two were very close. Their friendship was special:) Alex was only 13 years old when his best friend and brother, Fanu, died and he never got the opportunity to say good by to his little brother and best friend. He had a dream soon after and asked Fanu to show him his disection cut, which Fanu did so.

Soon after Fanu’s death my mother moved in Vilcele, full of grief, and left Alex, Oana and Iulian behind in Hunedoara at my father’s mercy who both starved and abused them.

After he graduated from high school, Alex left for Roma, Italy and lived with Delia, while working with Sami, Delia’s husband, in construction. There he gained his first electronic item in the form of a laptop. Back in Hunedoara he tried to go to collage but did not have the means to do so and settled for a job in the factory of electric wiring system from Deva, a city 30 minutes away from Hunedoara; also the same city Nadia Comaneci trained in.

On a Cristian single site “Pom Verde” he met Mia, who had the same last name, Damean. Thinking she was related to us, Alex began a conversation but it turned out she was not related and they began dating. One thing was very important for the both of them, a sign from God showing they were meant to be together and they got it within 24 hours of each other. After the wedding, a wedding I could not attend, Alex moved to Ludos, where Mia was from and worked hard trying to provide, but they lived paycheck to paycheck and Alex’s skills as an electrician only went so far. Mia’s parents lived in Portugal and the newly wedded couple decided to go visit them for a month, but soon Alex found work and they moved to Portugal permanently where they live to this day. It’s been three years already and they still love it in Portugal having lots of fun together any opportunity they get. You should see the pictures of the delicious foods they send us on a regular bases. Alex works mainly as an electrician as well as a maintenance man and Mia does make-up for weddings and special occasions part-time and recently got a job as a waitress.

The two of them sure have so much fun together, always visiting nice parts of Portugal or enjoying a nice evening out. Mia’s father works as a chef in a restaurant and the two of them visit him quite often:) Their lives are simple and full of happiness. I’m so very glad to see that.

Alex protects his small family fiercely from his abusive father and in general does not have much contact with him. He’s chosen to be happy. Good for him:) I applaud that decision. I’ve gotten to know Alex more so in his early twenties and I’m so glad I did. He’s a great guy:)

P.S “Pom Verde” web site was introduced to Iulian and Oana by Alex, where all three met their spouses.

Iulian the Invincible

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First picture left to right: Tibi (worried not to get hit), Fanu, Oana, Alex and Iulian:)

Second picture: Iulian

Third picture: my son Alex who looks so much like Iulian:)

Fourth picture: Iulian and his wife, Cornelia, taken a few days ago:)

Born the ninth in the family, Iulian is a sensitive yet strong soul. No matter how many times life has knocked him down, Iuli (short for Iulian), always gets up and walks right back in the middle of it. He’s a fiercely faithful friend 🙂 He’s also the one that looks just like my father and I know that’s not a compliment for Iuli. My son Alex has lots of Iulian resemblances, and I smile often when I look at Alex. Through him I feel like I have a piece of home:) Iuli’s adolescence, hunted by my farther’s angry outbursts, was not an easy one yet he but remained a very faithful son during that period.

After his high-school graduation in Hunedoara, Iuli moved in Arad with Alin and began collage but was forced to quit in the middle of it, due to Alin’s work transfer into Germany. Once Alin left, there was nothing left for Iuli in Arad so he returned in Hunedoara, where he attended, simultaneously, two collages: one for nursing and  the other for management. He graduated from both, but work was scarce in Hunedoara. Unable to find work in either field he spent a lot of time in Vilcele, where my parents had a house. By now my mom lived there round-the-clock, visiting Hunedoara and her children rarely. School kept my siblings in Hunedoara and summer vacation was spent in Vilcele. With his older siblings gone, some of them married while others working in different cities (as far away from home as they could possibly get), and his mother living in Vilcele, Iuli grew up around our father’s presence around while lacking a mother’s warm embrace. I think he spent a lot of time in Vilcele just to be closer to our mother. There he worked daily, doing hard labor around the house and garden until he met Ionel, and older man and the pastor of the local church, and shoulder to shoulder they worked in constructions where he got to know the man better. Quickly, Ionel became a father figure for Iulian. That’s where Iuli found refuge as he listened to the older man’s good advise regarding a healthy spiritual walk and healing his emotionally wounded soul. Ionel became Iuli’s adoptive father and to this day it remains so. Another refuge for Iuli was Adrian Bandila, a brother figure which brought a healthy balance in a shadowy world.

Through a Christian date line, Iulian met Cornelia, a very sweet and naturally beautiful girl. Cornelia lived in London, England with some of her siblings and worked there as well. Iuli left for England, eventually, where he worked in construction a few years but always kept in touch with Ionel and Adrian. Their wedding in Hunedoara was beautiful and Chet and I had the privilege to attend. After the wedding together they moved back in London where Iuli worked in construction a while but the past two years he’s worked as a medical male nurse in one of London’s hospitals, where he’s still employed.. Cornelia works as a preschool teacher.

The past year, both Iuli and Cornelia have gone through some very hard times, but have managed to pull through. Iuli had a nasty kidney stone that put him in an intense painful state and a couple unsuccessful minor operations. Despite it all, he lived life with great humor but it was clear to us that he was in a lot of pain, non-stop. Cornelia lost a lot as well, but that’s a personal matter and we’ll leave it at that.

I’m so very proud of Iulian, who stood tall in the face of so much pain the past few years. Any other person my have broken under such weight, but not Iuli:) Thank you God for the strength you’ve put in Iulian and I’m looking forward to see what’s in store for his future:)

 

Tibi the Lion

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First picture: Left to Right; Iulian, Leo and Alex.

Second picture; Leo, Denis his little boy and Nicole:)

Leo the Lion, that’s his nickname. Leo is short for lion. It comes from his dense golden hair he was born with, sticking straight up and giving him the look of a lion’s mane. Apparently my mother had to push quite a bit with Leo while in labor, because he loved the warmth of the womb and was in no hurry to come out. To this day I think Leo would much rather relax in front of a nice meal with loved ones than stress over other things.

Born number eight in our family, Tibi is more of an observer with a poetic talent showing great amounts of respect for humanity in general. There’s a touch of diplomatic language in Leo’s vocabulary and he tends to see the positive side of life, despite the abuse he also endured. He too has a fantastic ability to forget the bad stuff and focus on the good side of life, with an ease most people find charming. No wonder Leo and Sergiu ended up living closer to each other, their personalities are so very similar, along with their looks:)

One summer vacation, while in high school, Flesh and Leo went to visit Sergiu where Leo became a goalie, for a short period of time, in the same soccer team Flesh played. Unlike Flesh, Leo was more interested in the produce served after practice than the game itself and found himself kicked off the team soon after.

Right after high school, back in Hunedoara, he left for Bucuresti attending collage in tourism management. I have to point out one important fact I forgot to mention in the earlier posts: every single one of my siblings who attended collage did so on their own financial efforts, including boarding, food, and other expenses. To this day I wonder how they managed? I know Sergiu paid for two of my brother’s collages, but I can’t remember quite well which two. I also know that Sergiu helped out my brother’s with pocket money, Alin helped with housing and food and I helped with money now and then, focusing mostly on my parents  for many years. I helped my brothers far more once they were married. Okay, back to our story:)

After collage, moved by love Leo moved in Oltenia where he learned “that women were dangerous.” Next he came back home where he was met with a cold shoulder by my father which pushed him to find work and move to Timisoara. There he worked in a few places, mostly as a waiter, and according to Chet, whom in one of his visits to Timisoara ate at the same restaurant Leo worked in, he was the best and most polished waiter Chet encountered.

Leo met Nicole, his wife, while she worked as a waitress in another cafe and after few years of courting they married. Right after the wedding they left Romania and moved in with Sergiu and Brigitte, who just bought a house in Berlin, Germany. Sergiu helped them with the paperwork process, making their stay legal. He also provided Leo with a job in the same company Sergiu is the COO. A year later they moved out on their own and had a little boy, bringing us to date. They’re planing on expending their family soon and I can’t wait to see what else lies in their future.

In our family Leo is known for his great poetic gift, and he writes poems with great talent. Hopefully soon he can publish his own book of poems or Leo and I can collaborate on a book together. That would be fantastic:)

P.S Leo speaks 2 1/5 languages:) Romanian, English and half of German thus far:)