I’ve tried to get better at dealing with change as I get older. In some ways, I think I’m better at it. Life has handed me some doozies, and you get, well, used to it I guess. In some ways. In other ways, you never get used to it. It’s almost the only thing you can count on, at least that’s pretty much how I’ve come to feel at this point in my life. We have a tenuous friendship, me and change. Sometimes change brings me unexpected goodness. Sometimes not. It strokes my cheek and then it slaps me, then it strokes me softly again to make me better. A masterful bitch, that one.
I had a wonderful pre-birthday celebration of my life and my 20 years of wellness last weekend, the truly very specific details of which I won’t share here, except to say that I felt really, really loved and really full of joy. Secrets whispered, songs sung, laughs and hugs and kisses exchanged, sometimes with people I had not seen in years. Each person walking through the door was like a gift, like a special ingredient into a crazy stew, and I ate it all up.
My real birthday is this Friday. I had plans to get the sitter and go out to dinner, but those plans have changed, as plans do. Adjust. Change. Even when it’s a little uncomfortable. If you don’t change direction, you’ll end up going where you were headed, or something like that, right? I thought about getting some other people together but I’m not really motivated to do that, with the non-stop snow and cold dumping on us here in Northeast Ohio. Tonight my son asked about the cards that were sitting around and I told him I had sort of a birthday party for adults here last weekend, and he said why didn’t we have a party, and I decided you know what? We should. So Friday night my date is my best guy – my son, and we will get some kind of cake and stay up late and watch a movie, snuggling under a blanket on the couch, maybe get a pizza. This sounds right to me. I cancelled the sitter immediately.
I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning lately and I ran across some very, very old photos of my Dad that I barely remember ever seeing. They’re pretty cool and show him at sort of the prime of his life, around 30 or 32 years old, not yet married or a father, still a car salesman who could hustle with the best of them to make a not-always-honest buck. He taught me everything he knew about buying cars, and though the game has changed a lot since his days, I changed with the times and am still the one who handles almost all the car buying deals for my family and close friends, if they ask for my advice, help, or even to completely handle the deal. Women are really bad at buying cars because they are not empowered with the information about how the transaction works, and thus often lack the confidence to go about it properly; or they’re backed into a corner with a broken car and an emergency, and feel obligated to take whatever someone gives them. I’m glad I’m able to cut through that, and I thank my Dad for breaking me in that way.
I also found a letter amongst the things of my Dads that I don’t recall ever reading before. I mean, I have sort of an extremely foggy and vague recollection, like maybe I glanced over this once a long time ago when I got it, but it’s really fuzzy. If I ever did read it, I didn’t understand or retain anything in it. The letter was from my estranged uncle some years after my father’s death. To say the relationship between my sister and I and my father’s family after his death was acrimonious would be like saying sometimes Sonny Corleone could be a tiny bit testy, and I don’t remember the specific circumstances that caused my uncle to write me this letter, except that I had inquired of him about the family history. I intended to obtain more of that background from my grandmother before they forbid her from continuing to talk to me, and then she died, but he coughed up what he knew in one long, typewritten letter, complete with scratch-throughs and white-out and wrong words blacked out and retyped, it’s so old.
What did I learn? I may not really be technically Greek, that’s what. So that’s kind of a big deal. Bit of an identity shift. I’ve always identified as Greek. I look Greek and it was the more dominant culture in my childhood – my Grandfather was Macedonian, but he died before I was born. And Dad’s family spoke a mix of Macedonian and Greek – not quite bi-lingual, but a sort of Mediterranean version of Spanglish I guess. But, I knew more Macedonian words growing up than Greek because that was the predominant language. We taught our dogs commands in Macedonian when I was little – my Dad’s idea, as he said no thieves or bad guys would be able to command the dogs that way – and I didn’t know the English words for “canteloupe” and “olives” until probably high school. But it was the Greek festivals we went to regularly as a family that I loved, the “kiss me I’m Greek” t-shirts, the sound of the bazouki as I danced, the amazing food. My Grandmother attended the greek orthodox church and baked koulourakia. I remember a few stories my grandmother told about her childhood in Thessaloniki, which is in Greece, but not a lot. There was something about her running from a wild boar that they would tell around the table that made everyone laugh. I remember also them saying that it was during the end of the Ottoman Empire when she was born, and that she had a Turkish birth certificate.
If my uncle’s information is right, she was actually born in Macedonia. I mean, she was Greek, there were thousands of Greeks there, but the town he said she was born in is Bitola, aka Manastir. How she got to Thessaloniki, two hours away, and when, I have no idea. Shit is so messed up with so many different family name changes (though I finally learned how the made-up word that is my maiden name came to be, so that’s interesting), I doubt there’s any concrete way to research it properly, and I have no connections or contacts with anyone who is left on that side of the family if I even wanted to attempt to trace things.
I recently pulled out my Macedonian cook book and had decided to make some more of those recipes this year. Guess I’ll be keeping that resolution. But I wonder tonight if I am still really “greek” as I have always identified, if she AND grandfather were actually born in Macedonia. I guess I am, but it’s yet another shift.
Change directions, adjust. Bend your knees to absorb the impact. Stay grounded and ride shit out. That’s my plan.