Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cemetery Stomping; Looking for My Sister

Laurie, Pattti, Michele
Today we head to Gettysburg, Pa. but before we leave Scranton I have one more item on my wishlist; I want to visit my sister's gravesite.

When I was only twelve years old, my seven-year-old, baby sister, died in an unusual, tragic accident. The accident occurred after we had been swimming at the local country club, in Marion, Va., where we lived.

Evidently, Patti headed to the car before the rest of us and somehow knocked the gearshift, of the car, out of park. The car began to roll, and I imagine that she was frightened and tried to jump out of the car. The car ran over her little body, and she died five days later, in our local hospital.

The moment in time I do not remember.
We will never know all of the details from that day, and I am sure that my memories are clouded.
This was evident yesterday. While visiting with my aunt and cousins, we were looking at old photos; I picked one up and said, "This was taken in my bedroom, in Virginia!" It was a photo of me, my two sisters, and three of my cousins. My cousin said, "Yes! We were visiting with you a week prior to Patti's accident. We got the call about the accident shortly after we got back home."

I was stunned. I kept looking at the photo, yet could not believe what I was seeing. It was definitely me, my sisters and cousins, sitting on my bed, in my bedroom. How could I not remember their visit? Spending time with my cousins was always very special, and something that I always looked forward to. We always had a great time.

Seeing this photo, I realized that it could very well be, one of the last photos taken of Patti, before her death. I now wonder what else I have blocked from my memory.

What I DO remember is being devasted, and profoundly sad. I also remember not wanting to leave my sister's side at the funeral homes. I was disgruntled that I could not be a pallbearer and that she was not going to be buried next to my Nanny.

Patti was to be buried in the cemetery that my father's father was buried in, where there were plots for my parents as well. That was all I knew about the cemetery and thought that someone that lived in Pennsylvania would know where I could find her grave. The only time I had ever been there, was the day of her funeral.

My dear, sweet aunt had the correct cemetery and my dear cousin sent me the address. They did not know exactly where she was buried, but we're pretty sure that she was at St. Mary's of Maternity Cemetery; strange name, huh?

So we set off to see if we could find her. We put the address in the GPS and headed out. When we were really close to our destination, we saw a cemetery and immediately stopped, thinking we had found our mark.

We both got out of the car and headed down different aisles of headstones. We were looking for "Bielik" and I prayed that I would find her. It was rainy and cold and the mosquitos were out in full force.

As I was walking along, reading headstones, I came upon two armed policemen. They asked if I had seen anyone with a hoodie on, run through the cemetery. I said no, and they warned me to be careful, as someone had just robbed the bank across the street!

We took that as a sign to leave and realized that we were in the wrong cemetery.

We continued on our journey and arrived at St. Mary's. My aunt told me that she thought that the cemetery's name had something to do with babies, and she was right. There was an odd area, with a large monument of an angel that said "Babyland." No headstones or markers, so don't even ask me what that was all about! It was weird.

But, the cemetery was pretty, like my mother had said, with many trees and rolling hills, so we started trekking through more and more headstones. Eventually, because of the rain and the mosquitos, and the size of the cemetery, we started to drive up and down the aisles. We never found her grave.

Eventually, we gave up and headed to Gettysburg. I was a bit disappointed but knew that I had tried my best. I also knew that I would be able to find the information and location of her grave, once I got home and went through my mother's papers. I should have done that before I left, but I didn't, and it gives me an excuse to go back again!

My sadness did not last long, as the next day, my cousin told me that he was able to locate the plot where my sister was buried through archives at the cemetery. (they were not open while we were there) and within a day, Joseph had found Patti!

He sent me photos of all who were buried there, and we quickly realized that we had been just on the other side of the main tombstone, where Patti was buried. Evidently, that particular headstone had names on both sides. The side facing us, during our search had two names, which we assumed were the only two names on the headstone.

BUT, we were wrong! On the other side of the headstone was the name we were looking for; Bielik, and as a footstone, there was a cross, with most of my sister's name on it. The cross looked as though it was made from wrought iron, and was leaning to its' side. It said "Patricia Lynn" across the "arms" of the cross and had said "Bielik" down the middle. Plain and simple, and now, thanks to my cuz, it is standing straight and tall.

Our mystery had been solved, and I cannot thank Joseph enough for his persistence and kindness in helping me locate Patti's grave.

I am not sure how I feel about her "marker" and am honestly shocked that it is still there. I am sure it must have been my parents choice, but I am not sure when the last time was, that they visited her grave, and if I should install something more permanent.

Some of the letters are missing and some are broken. I suppose that I could find meaning in that, as she has been missing from my life for so long, and that she left so many broken hearts behind.
I suppose that I will have to ponder that decision and talk to my siblings, but one thing that I have learned is that when you are a gypsy, cremation is definitely a viable option.

FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor
#chronicillness  #bebrave  #chronicmylogenousleukemia  #Bosulif  #leukemia  #lovemylife  #cml #travellingwithcancer #family #familypriceless #graveyard #missmysister #cemetery

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

First the Coal Mine, Then the Family!

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I could sleep in almost any condition, in any place. Since my leukemia diagnosis, seven-plus years ago, that has not been the case. Sleep often alludes me, mostly due to feeling crappy from my meds. BUT, last night I slept great; it was cold in the room, and our maintenance guy brought me a nice heavy comforter, coupled with the fact that  I was exhausted,  I was out like a baby. Perfect sleeping conditions; I was so rested and grateful! lol (I am guessing that I would be a perfect candidate for one of those weighted blankets. Have you ever tried one?)

Anyway, today the plan was to meet the family at 1 pm, but due to unforeseen circumstances, that time was pushed until 4:30 pm, which left us with a few hours to explore.

We decided that we had time to visit the Lackawanna Coal Mine, a place that I had been to decades ago, but Joe had never been. The tour was both fascinating, and disturbing. Going deep down into the earth, (300 feet) where coal was mined until 1966, gave me a feeling of utter despair. I can hardly even wrap my head around what it must have been like to mine coal for a living, a very meager living at best; day after day, week after week, year after year.

It was cold, dank, dark and depressing, not to mention the element of danger that miners faced every single day. Many men and small children worked for as little as 8 cents an hour; I cannot even imagine their life.

The Lackawanna Coal Mine opened in 1860 and is the largest of four coal fields in Pennsylvania. It is this mine that put Scranton on the map, as many Europeans immigrated to the area to work in the mines.

The tour was educational, fascinating, and a little, tiny bit scary;  however, I will admit that it was not as scary as some of the cave tours, that we have done.

Coal mining was not for the faint at heart.

After the coal mine, we headed over to visit with family. I have not seen this part of my family in many decades, and was so, so excited. While I was born in Scranton, I did not live there very long. My family led a bit of a  "gypsy" lifestyle; we were the ones that moved away, and continued to move, and move and move!

The upside to this lifestyle is that it helped me to develop tolerance and adaptability, it built my character and strength, increased my sense of wonder and allowed me to experience many different cultures, right here in the United States. What it did not do, was allow me to remain close to my extended family.

I often envy those who have generations of family, still living close enough together to gather frequently. I miss having "the village" and am saddened that my children did not grow up knowing their relatives.

Most of my family remained in the northeast, so the further we moved away, the less I saw of them. Since it was my mother's dream to visit "home", before she passed away, I knew it was something that I must do. It was in my heart, as much as it was in hers to reconnect and feel the love, up close and personal.

Pulling up to my aunt's house, the first thing I saw was her.....waiting at the door for us to come in. It warmed my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Walking up to the door of her home felt just like it did, so many years ago, when I was a small child.

She still lives in the same house; it was like going back in time. I remembered every little nook and cranny and even noticed that the swimming pool that was no longer there.

(My aunt is technically my mother's aunt. My dear nanny's sister; wonder why I love her so?)

It was so fascinating watching her; she had so many of the same mannerisms as my mother, and they look so much alike. I have been told that I fit into that category as well, and that is fine by me! Two of my relatives commented that they would have known me anywhere, as I looked just like my mother! lol

Our welcome could not have been warmer, and our visit could not have been sweeter; even though we are all grown up now, our roots and history are still connected. We had the best time sharing stories, new and old, and looking through photos from long ago.

I was so happy and appreciative that my cousins and their families were able to be there to visit, share memories and stories, and catch up on years past. Reconnecting with family is priceless!
Oh, and Old Forge pizza is the bomb, and so is the sausage and pepper dish that my cousin made!

My heart is full.....thanks, guys!

FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor
#chronicillness  #bebrave  #chronicmylogenousleukemia  #Bosulif  #leukemia  #lovemylife  #cml #travellingwithcancer #family #familypriceless

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Scranton: Gravesites, Trollies and Parks, Oh My!!

My Nanny and Grandpa's House
Our first full day in Scranton started out a little overcast but quickly turned sunny. After my brief encounter with my nanny and grandpa's house last night, I was highly motivated to return, so I had my poor husband drive me around to all of my old haunts! Back to nanny and grandpa's to get photos, over to gramma's (my father's mother) to get more photos (both long deceased) and photos of the hospital where I was born.

My Grandmother's home was still standing but certainly could have used some TLC. According to one of the neighbor's, who wondered what the heck we were doing, it now housed a "bunch of girls." And the hospital, across the street, was also still standing, but no longer functioned as a hospital.

My Grandmother's house
I remembered the hills of Scranton as though I had never left, and marvelled at how everything seemed so familiar, despite decades gone by.

After sufficiently reacquainting myself with my past, we decided to go to the Trolley Museum to take a trolley ride. What a great little history lesson, especially the part about my husband's beloved LA Dodgers, who used to be the Brooklyn "Trolley" Dodgers!

You see, long ago, in order to get to a baseball game, people rode on trollies.  Since people were always crossing the trolly tracks; dodging the trollies, their team name was coined the Brooklyn Trolly Dodgers in 1895.HAHAHA

Who knew? Certainly, not me!

Another little tidbit that I learned on the trolly was that Scranton is known by the nickname, "The Electric City" because America's first electric trolly system was developed there in 1886. All of these trivia facts were new to me, as all I previously knew of Scranton was that I was born there and that my grandparents lived and died there.

The ride was a great way to see how people used to travel and took us through the woods, the city and down to a ballfield and I highly recommend the attraction, if you are ever in the Scranton area.

Next, we decided to check out the Lackawanna County Court House and grounds; it was just beautiful! So clean, with flowers everywhere; we strolled around and found a little diner and had lunch. Right across the street was "The Times" building where my father's father used to work. All of these memories kept popping up in my head. I tried to envision me, 53 years ago, strolling down these streets with my mother. It was so strange, yet so familiar.

After lunch, I had built up the courage to visit my nanny's gravesite; I had never been there, as I was only six when she died. Thanks to my sweet cousin, I had a map. He kindly circled the graves of my ancestors, and we headed to the cemetery.

Finding her grave was easy. The feeling it gave me, not so much. I was a bit disgruntled and disappointed; her headstone was very plain with her last name across the front, and then down low on the base, her first name, the year of her birth, and the year of her death, and that was it! I expected so much more for someone that meant so much to me and was loved so greatly, by so many. The cemetery felt sterile and empty. It was a very lonely place. I left feeling unsettled.

Apparently, my grandfather had a girlfriend, at the time of my grandmother's death; evidently, there were "skeletons" in our closet! lol

Since there was still a bit of daylight left, and I needed to brighten my mood, I drug us over to Nay Aug Park. Nay Aug was a place that my parents always took us when we used to visit PA. before my grandparents passed away. There used to be a zoo, now there is only the empty building, but there is a fabulous pool, water slides, and a tree house, built in a tree; I guess this is "progress", some things have changed, but so much was still the same.

The hiking trails were still lush and green, and we enjoyed walking down to the waterfall. I wish that we had had more time to explore the park, but it was getting dark, and I was exhausted. It was definitely time to head back to the hotel.

I felt quite satisfied with our day, as we had hit all of the important landmarks that I had wanted to visit while in Scranton; I was amazed at how so many memories, from when I was a very little girl, were still embedded in my soul.

It was a good day.

FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor



#chronicillness  #bebrave  #chronicmylogenousleukemia  #Bosulif  #leukemia  #lovemylife  #cml #travellingwithcancer

hahahah The Office!

Friday, October 26, 2018

When Getting Lost is a Good Thing!

So,  as I mentioned yesterday,  we drove into Scranton, Pa., last night. I was just too tired and emotional to share this part of the drive, until now.

I was born in Scranton, Pa. nearly sixty years ago. I did not live there long, as my parents provided a bit of a gypsy lifestyle for me and my siblings. When we were young, we went back to visit extended family often, but once we moved to California, those visits ceased; it was just too far, and too costly.
Some of our extended family continued to visit us throughout the years, but as life happens, our physical communication became less and less as time marched on; but we always stayed in contact through letters with photos, and occasional phone calls. I know this may seem barbaric with today's instant and constant communication opportunities, but when I was a child, phone calls were very expensive, and a special treat, so they were saved for holidays, special occasions or bad news.

My dear sweet mother, and my nanny.
Now, to understand why the next part of this story is so remarkable, I must tell you a little bit about my past. My mother's mother was my "Nanny". My Nanny was the most important person in my world; she loved me more than any person has ever loved me, and she died when I was only six years old. I do not remember much of my young childhood, but I do remember how she made me feel; her love was profound.

I cannot put into words this feeling, but what I can tell you is that as I am writing about her, there are tears streaming down my face. I have never been able to talk about her, without tears in my eyes, and an ache in my heart. The sadness that I feel over losing her, has never gone away. Just try and imagine how remarkable she must have been to have left such an impression, on such a little girl.

Anyway, back to my nanny has a sister; my Aunt Helen. Technically, she was my mother's aunt, but she has also always been my aunt, and her five children, my cousins. My Aunt Helen (almost 94), has always been dear to both my mother and me, and we have stayed in contact, throughout the years. My mother's greatest wish, before she passed away, was to go back east to see my Aunt Helen, and my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Ron. She also wanted to visit my sister's gravesite; this never happened. She was never well enough to travel.

So, we are making this trip to fulfil not only my heart but to honour my mother's wishes, too. I have not been to Scranton in over forty years, and not to my nanny's house in fifty-three; a very long time ago.

My Nanny's house.
As we approached Scranton, our GPS began going crazy and there were so many streets, routes, highways and interstates that we were both confused and frustrated, and did not know which way to turn. Since Joe was doing the actual driving, I was trying my best to navigate.

We ended up taking a wrong turn, and when we were getting ready to turn around,  I saw Moosic Street; my heart jumped,  I said, "WAIT! That is the street that my nanny lived on!" Now you must remember that I have not been on that street since I was six years old! I asked Joe if we could please, just keep driving down the street; I am pretty sure he thought I was nuts, but he obliged.

Exactly the same!
As we continued down that street, I just knew in my heart of hearts, right where her house was going to be, so I just kept watching as we passed house after house, and right at the bottom of the hill, just as I remembered there it was; in the exact spot I expected, looking exactly the same as I remembered; it was so surreal.

 I was shocked; as it has been so, so long. The last time I was there, was right before she died at 56 years old, from pancreatic cancer. I just cannot get over how my mind recalled those memories, so accurately. It was as if I had been there only yesterday.

 I knew that I would have to return the next day to take photos, but right now we had to find our hotel.

Ironically, our GPS picked up our location, and we realized that we were only a short five miles from our destination. Gratefully, we did not have to backtrack and get on the highway and navigate all of those busy roads. I silently thanked my Mom for diverting our route, joining me on this journey, and leading us safely to our destination.

After checking in and getting situated, I signed onto the internet and checked my mail; there was an email with a contract that I needed to electronically sign. As I proceeded to the bottom of the contract, I hit the "sign electronically" button, and before I could even touch the keyboard, to sign my name, "Ann Marie Bielik" popped onto the signature line; for those of you that do not know, that is my mother's name! Needless to say, I was astounded; I showed it to Joe and he just shook his head, with a bewildered look.

We have no "logical" explanation why her name appeared on that signature line; I had not spoken her name out loud, she had never used my iPad, and I had never written her full name on my pad either.
We just truly believe that it was her way of letting us know that she was with us on this trip; and that she was very happy that we were there.

Stranger things have happened, right?

FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor

#chronicillness  #bebrave  #chronicmylogenousleukemia  #Bosulif  #leukemia  #lovemylife  #cml #travellingwithcancer

Monday, October 22, 2018

Drive to Scranton!

After a good night's sleep, a lovely breakfast and a brief visit with my aunt and uncle, we got into the turkey pecked car, and headed to Pennsylvania. I was born in Scranton, although I did not live there very long, however, I do still have another aunt and cousins in the area that I have not seen in a long, long time. I am anxious to reconnect with them and to give them all a great big hug!

The drive to Scranton was full of sights that we do not normally see; lots of hills, trees, old farmhouses and barns. We were also enjoying a bit of fall foliage, although most of the trees were still green. Luckily, it was an overcast day, so there was no sun on our face, and very little traffic.

My uncle suggested a great place for dinner on our way, so we stopped in Port Jervis, at The Grill, and had a nice, relaxing dinner. Since I was already tired, and a bit wore out, I ordered comfort food; a Thanksgiving Panini. It was SO good and hit the spot! If you are ever in the Port Jervis area, I highly recommend it.

Once we were back on the road, it wasn't long before we were crawling. Apparently, there had been an accident on the road, while we were eating dinner. I felt fortunate to have been behind it, as opposed to in it. 

Eventually, we made our way to the Econolodge, in Clarks Summit. Now, keep in mind that I am saving pennies so that we will be able to go to Europe in March, and stay a bit longer than we did last time! 

I booked this trip six months ago, through Choice Hotels; something sort of like, but in my opinion, much better prices. Of course, since I was pinching pennies, I went for the pay now, no refund price which was shockingly low; like $154 for three nights, including all taxes and fees.

The guy that checked me in was like, "WOW! You got a great price!" I replied, "I know!" Lol

Of course, my great price was at the bottom of the barrel type room, so I had to cajole my way into a room with a tub, and a room with a "balcony!" Hahahaha....The "balcony was on the second floor, and overlooked a small stream that ran into a culvert! Lol BUT the tub was deep and the water was hot!

There was a refrigerator, a microwave, a table and chairs, a desk and a king sized bed; there was also a hole in the wall and the wimpiest blanket you have ever seen! (I did get a comforter from the maintenance man the next morning)  BUT, it was clean!

We slept well enough; the room was dark, the location convenient and the two dudes that ran the place were doing the best that they could, so for us, it was a win.

If you are a super picky person, I would not recommend it, but it suited our purpose perfectly!
FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor


#lovemylife #travelingwithchronicillness #leukemia #cancer #travelingwithcancer

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Turkey Talk in Boston!!

It wasn't too much later that we figured we should try and get some sleep; of course, Joe was out like a light almost immediately, but I tossed and turned until about six am; which is never fun. I am guessing I was probably just too excited to be here, to fall asleep.

Sooo, despite being tired,  I am going to "buck up, buttercup" and let my joy at being with family, fill my tank; with joy in my heart!

While we were getting dressed for the day, in the upstairs bedroom, we heard a strange noise; we looked out the window and saw a TURKEY pecking at our rental car! I am sure that he saw himself,  and thought that he saw an enemy, but fortunately for us, his flock came and corraled him before he did any damage. 

Once downstairs, my auntie made a delicious asparagus frittata and the best bacon ever! I don't usually eat breakfast, but this was too good to pass up. 

I know that they had high hopes of taking us for a walk on the beach, but God interfered with their plan, on my behalf, and sent rain. I was the perfect excuse to sit and visit, and listen to the rain, ALL day! For me, it was perfect!

Sitting on the screened in porch, listening to the rain is a calming, cleansing experience.....the smells and sounds of rain, bring peace to my soul. 

Spending this time with my aunt and uncle is very special to me. My uncle is my mother's youngest brother, and he and my aunt and I share a very special bond created by our cumulative love, admiration and deep sorrow from the loss of my mother. We all loved her immensly and miss her terribly; it is comforting to me, to be surrounded by people that feel her loss as much as I do. 

This trip was a trip that she so wanted to be well enough to take. Once she passed away, I knew that I would make this trip in her honour. I am sure she is here in spirit!

Tomorrow, we head to Pennsylvania, to visit a great aunt and cousins that I have not seen in decades; I am very excited to be seeing family, that has always been close at heart, yet, far away in miles. So I had better head to bed, and hope to get some sleep tonight.

What a glorious time we have had. I cannot thank my aunt, uncle and cousin enough for their love, their hospitality, their stories and most importantly, their love.

FaceBook: CML: A Place for Hope and Humor


#lovemylife #travelingwithchronicillness #leukemia #cancer

Bricks for the Brave!!