You know what? I come from good stock. I didn’t always appreciate that…heck, I didn’t even know it for a long time. And even when it did begin to dawn on me — I have good roots, and I had an incredibly good childhood, I don’t think I gave credit where credit was due. I grew up in a functional family and it never occurred to me to celebrate that.
I come from a large family, one of seven siblings…sadly, now six. Mother was one of 10 children, but a sister died in infancy. Dad had 5 brothers and sisters. That makes for 13 aunts and uncles, 12 of whom were married adding an aunt for each uncle and vice-verse. Naturally there are scads of cousins sharing one or the other set of grandparents. The grandparents are all gone now and we remain…their legacy.
I hope we do them proud.
Some of them were first generation Americans. Pappy Kubasik spoke eight languages and assisted immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship. Pappy Bruce worked in the steel mill in Johnstown, His parents survived the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Yes, I hailed from good stock, and they hailed from Scotland and Italy, England and Slovakia, staunch Presbyterians and strict Catholics. Our family was a melting pot of its own. Perhaps that’s why we were taught tolerance and acceptance.
I can’t say we were taught exactly, it’s just the way my mom and dad lived. Bigotry was unheard of in our house, there was neither racial nor religious bigotry. The religious part owing to the fact Mom was Catholic and Dad was protestant. My first taste of prejudice came from early years in catechism class. Only Catholics were going to heaven I learned. Huh, what about my dad? I remained faithful to The Church until I became a born-again Christian at the age of 16. Then I followed a new path, one that was by no means free of prejudice. But I couldn’t see it. I was far too busy trying to do the right things to please God as instructed by people.
In my young adult years, stories of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, Uncle Tom and his cabin, the shame in killing a mockingbird had dramatic effects on my heart. I’ll let you know when I’ve recovered. The Holocaust became a reality to me through Anne Frank’s Diary, Corrie Ten Boom’s Hiding Place, and Shindler’s List. I don’t expect to recover from those stories this side of heaven.
But the lifestyle truths my grandparents passed on to my parents, who in turn passed on to us kids, keep me putting one foot in front of the other. Pappy Bruce said to always do someone a favor if you can. You’ll be paying back a kindness done for you that you couldn’t repay at the time. There’s an expression for that now: Pay it forward. I’ve seen it lived out. I hope my kids have too. Pappy Kubasik admonished his 9 living children: Right is right if no one’s right, and wrong is wrong if the whole world’s wrong. He exemplified integrity, developing good character in his children, who demonstrated the same for theirs. My Grandma Bruce was a saint. I know this because my mother thought the world of her mother-in-law. Not one unkind word or hint of tension passed between them. We loved going to Grandma Bruce’s. Grammy Kubasik, in spite of being widowed in her early 40’s was jovial and fun and I always knew she loved me.
I’m writing this because I did not voice appreciation for my upbringing enough. I don’t remember telling my grandparents how much I loved them. I’ve never thanked my parents for teaching me right from wrong and good from bad just by living it out. Wait, I take that back. Those last days with mom, I did tell her she was a good mom to me — to all of us, but I was just speaking for myself. I thanked her for so many things. She smiled and nodded. If she’d had the strength she’d have made a joke.
So Dad gets to hear, or at least read my thanks and appreciation before he’s on his deathbed. I trust I’m not getting this in right under the wire! You never know when someone’s in their 80’s. (That’s supposed to make you laugh, Dad.)
For all the years delay in speaking my gratitude, perhaps choosing right, doing good the best I could, and teaching my children the same, serves as thanks enough. I hope so. I really hope so.