Wednesday, August 15, 2007


A child's dreams are real;
a child believes what is said
and believes it to be literally true;
woe to those who abuse the trust of a child...

At this date, I'm on the road home. I've spent the last week in Ohio. And while I've been following the news online and keeping up on my email, this weblog has been left more or less alone. Today, the Roman Church celebrates the Feast of the Assumption, when the Mother of God was assumed (that is, taken up under the power of another) body and soul into heaven. The Eastern Churches have traditionally eschewed defining Our Lady's fate with the same precision, and refer to this as her "Dormition," or Falling Asleep.

Mary, my mother, remained childlike
throughout her life;
she believed the message of the angel...

But amidst the visits with family and friends, I've been dealing with some assumptions of my own.

Rosselot Farm, Brown County Ohio, Summer 1973
Rosselot Farm, Brown County Ohio, Summer 1973. Author, without Black Hat, at top row center. (From a family collection edited by Michael DeJonckheere)

Had I gone back four weeks earlier, I would have been able to attend the wedding of a cousin, who decided to have a "barn party," which is as good a way as any to accommodate everyone. There were over two hundred people there. I have nearly four dozen cousins on my mother's side, and many of us are still in contact. As long as someone is getting married or buried, we'll get to see one another. In our society, as many as three generations can manage to get together once or twice a year, like at Thanksgiving or Christmas. When the children are coming of age, it's often all one can do for two generations to pull it off, even on Christmas. At some point, a couple has to choose between one family or another. When a couple is divorced, the children have to make that choice.

But what would you have done to her
if I had left her among you?
You would have made her
into an idol, a goddess;
you would have fought to own her
to give your party
power over your brothers and sisters;
you would have used her words,
or her silences,
to prove your own point of view;
and you would have forgotten me...

Last Monday night, my two sisters and I joined our brother at his family's place for a barbecue. Even thought they're all there in Cincinnati, they hadn't been together since Christmas. Most of us have growing or grown children, and one sister is now a grandmother. I had to wonder how it was possible to be so far apart, what makes those drawn by blood eventually drift away. I never thought it would happen on my mother's side, of all places. But out of a family of eleven children, growing up on a farm in Ohio, the odds were that two or three would go their own way. Most didn't take up farming like their Dad, and three left the area entirely. Closer to home, three of us stayed in or around Cincinnati, but one of us left. Naturally, it's a long story. Isn't it always?

And so I cut short her pondering
and brought her into the place
where every question is answered...
A mother must allow her children
to become separate from her
and to make their own decisions...

But before I left, I called up my cousin Michael. I hadn't seen him in over thirty years. He was kind enough to give me a disk containing over five hundred photographs from the Rosselot (pronounced ROSS-uh-low) family collection, some dating back to the end of the 19th century. While I was there, we went through them, and reminisced about the time of innocence in our lives, those who moved on, and those who went before us. There were many images that I had seen over the years, some of which would be a good story in and of themselves. The oldest photo is one of Philomena Huber Evans, our great-grandmother, shown at left with her husband Anthony Evans. Her original White sewing machine now sits in the guest room of Pat's house.

She lives for ever
in my company in heaven.

For most cultures, and for most of history, family lineage was everything, as was one's place in the family. (In the Philippines, the siblings each have their own title; "Cuyo" for the oldest brother, "Diko" for the second brother, "Ate" for the oldest sister, "Dete" for the second sister, and so on.) The Jewish people at the time of Christ were no exception:

While [Jesus] was still speaking to the crowds,
his mother and his brothers appeared outside,
wishing to speak with him.
Someone told him,
"Your mother and your brothers
are standing outside,
asking to speak with you."
But he said in reply to the one who told him,
"Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?"
And stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father
is my brother, and sister, and mother."
(Matthew 12: 46-50)

We would endeavor to find our true family, and our true home, in Heaven. As to the one on Earth, there's plenty of time for that. Right now, I hear the highway callin'...

(excerpts from a poem by Richard Hobbs, †1993)

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