by EZ II
This is an early chapter in a book called "Finding Sova" that I am working on.
| I guess this story starts with me as a little girl who adored her father. He was my hero and I truly believed he could do anything. He was a tall, handsome man with dark hair and eyes and dimples to die for. He loved my mom and never strayed from his duty to his family and country. He was the son of German immigrants or at least that’s what I always thought growing up. I was half German. His grandparents, my great grandparents had immigrated to Cleveland Ohio and had raised their four children, Susan, my grandmother was the eldest, Mike and Phil were in the middle and then Theresa was the youngest. I don’t remember my grandmother, Susan. She died when I was four years old. But I do remember my great grandmother, Mutti, who maintained a very serious façade, but clearly loved her great grandchildren and always welcomed me onto her lap with a smile.
I have very little recollection of my great uncles Mike and Phil. This was due to the fact that alcoholism had run a deep canyon of grief and dysfunction in the family and my father had made it his mission to stop the train. No alcohol was ever allowed in our house and to my knowledge, my father never took one drink of anything alcoholic. The family get togethers with the German side of the family always involved a lot of beer and my father just wouldn’t participate. In fact I think great Uncle Mike owned a bar
Geography also played a role in who in the family we hung with. We were in a small town on the west side of Cleveland. Most of the extended family were firmly ensconced on the East side of Cleveland. We did visit with and hang with my father’s only sister, Betty and her family who also lived on the West side. On rare occasions my Great Aunt Theresa, my grandmother’s little sister would be at my Aunt Betty’s and on even rarer occasions, we would all truck over to my Great Aunt Theresa’s little house in Euclid Ohio where her husband Uncle Bob would play the piano and we kids would go down in the basement and hang out. Most holidays we spent with my mom’s side of the family who were all very conservative WASPS that never even thought of serving alcohol with dinner.
While my father was dark haired, my mother was blond. Her side of the family hailed from Norway and England. Her father’s family went back to the American Revolution. My mother was an only child and my father only had one sister, so both were equally committed to having a large family. It was the 50s and our family of five kids was not that unusual. I was the second of five. Three girls and two boys. All the kids were blond except for me. My hair was the lovely shade called dishwater blond which translated to brown with blond streaks that came in the summer and disappeared in the winter. Of all the kids, I was one that resembled my father’s side of the family. That was fine with me as I adored him. He was my hero.
I can’t remember ever not knowing my Aunt Theresa. She was not a constant presence in my young life, but I do remember as a small child loving my Aunt Theresa and her husband, my Uncle Bob. I also remember when I heard that my Uncle Bob died. My parents went to the funeral, but we kids stayed home. My earliest memory of her is having our picture taken and Theresa telling me to blow kisses at the camera. This didn’t make much sense to me, bur I did it anyway to please her.
My parents called on Aunt Theresa to watch us kids when they went to Europe for the first time in 1965. She suffered from migraines and immediately came down with one. My grandmother was a nurse and she came over and gave her a big shot in the butt of morphine that made her feel better. I watched with fascination when my gramma stuck a big needle in Aunt Theresa’s butt. I stayed in the room outside her door reading a book waiting for her to recover. She never forgot that and always praised me for caring enough to sit there waiting for her to recover. She called me her guardian angel.
Theresa was a small woman. At five foot three she probably never weighed more than 120 pounds. She had brown curly hair, a turned up nose and big brown eyes that sparkled mischieviously . She had quite the gift for gab and loved to tell stories of my dad as a small boy and then as a young man.
Growing up I often felt like the black sheep of the family. It was more than the hair color. I had an older sister who was a hard act to follow. As I transitioned from 7th grade to 8th grade I went over to the dark side. I started smoking cigarettes. I remember clear as day the feeling of disdain I felt in the 7th grade towards the 8th graders who smoked. Then I remember being an 8th grader and loving smoking my cigs. Winstons and teaching my girlfriend to smoke, starting her off on Tarrintons because they weren’t as strong. It was 1969 and the world was full of rebellion and I wanted to do my part. So I smoked. I made sure to taste a few beers also and to find out what it felt like to be drunk. What was this evil thing my dad was so afraid of. My girlfriend and I finished off a six pack of Strohs beer in her backyard one night It didn’t make much of an impression on me.
One night, my whole family went over to my Aunt Bettys for dinner and Aunt Theresa was there and all my sisters and brothers, my cousins, my aunt and uncle, my mom and dad and I remember we were seated all around the living room visiting. My dad was next to me and he reached down into my purse and pulled out my cigarettes and waved them in the air. “What do we have here.” He proclaimed shaming me in front of everyone. My Aunt Betty made a face and sucked in some air in a gesture of disgust. My mom got that look on her face and my sister rolled her eyes. I was 13 at the time and my dad was just hanging me out to dry in front of the whole family.
In the midst of that I heard my Aunt Theresa’s voice, “You come over here and sit with your Aunt Theresa. You’re just like me. I used to smoke when I was younger also. “ I looked over and she was patting the seat next to her. With those words the clouds parted, the scene was defused and I was safe. She smiled at me and I smiled at her and went and sat next to her.
You go thru life and you meet and greet a lot of people. Some are related to you and some are not. Some you connect with and some you don’t. I don’t know that there is any underlying rhyme or reason to it. But when my Aunt Theresa broke through the disapproving grey cloud of shame that my father was attempting to create with her bright smile and loving words, she caught my heart forever.
Over the years, Theresa told me many stories about my grandmother, her older sister Susan. How pretty she was and how much I looked like her. She also told me about my father and that was one place where we totally agreed. We both adored my father. She adored him as a child that she had helped raise and I adored him as a daughter being raised by him. We came from opposite directions and met in the middle in total agreement that he was the best guy around.
Theresa was not born in the United States. She had come to the United States from a small village called SOVA iat the age of 5. She remembered SOVA and often told me stories about it. Her remembrances were those from her childhood and colored my impressions with a childlike wonder that draped SOVA in a special idyllic quality that was missing in my everyday existence.
When my parents planned their trip to Europe, I knew they were going to Germany and I asked my dad if he would try and go to SOVA. He explained to me that SOVA was not in Germany. That it was in what was called Yugoslavia. That he couldn’t go there because it was a communist country behind the Iron Curtain and Americans couldn’t visit. That was the first I knew that SOVA was not in Germany. So we were Germans, but our family didn’t come from Germany. This added an additional mysterious and intriguing aura to this place called SOVA. My Aunt Theresa pronounced it SHOVA, my Dad pronounced it SOVA.