Day 25 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for the Levins

Sometimes it’s hard to a Levin. Especially when other peoples’ choices make it hard for you to maintain relationships with them. The Levins are my father’s side of the family. A group of extremely bright, ambitious, argumentative sports fanatics. I love them all. I don’t see them very often except for the occasional gathering, and maybe that is partly my fault. The tensions brought on by my father and sister and me have made things slightly awkward for all and I haven’t figured out a way to stay connected consistently. 

I never knew my grandfather, Robert Levin. I became acquainted through other peoples’ stories. He died of a heart attack shortly after I was brought home. He is one of the reasons why my parents were able to adopt me. At least that is what I have been told anyway. He was a self made man from the beginning. Apparently, the Levins were in the office furniture businesses, but his uncles weren’t interested in making him part of it. Rather than try to do something he wasn’t crazy about, he went to law school at Boston University and worked to pay his own way. He played the saxophone and met my grandmother at an afternoon tea. He became a lawyer, started his own practice in Quincy and moved to Weymouth with my Nana Helen. They had four boys trying to have a girl. 

My Nana Helen was an amazing woman. She was extremely bright, had incredible tenacity and pursued law school herself. She also was very beautiful, I used to tell her she looked like a movie star in her wedding photo. She would always laugh at me. She wasn’t crazy about living in Weymouth from what I hear so my grandfather thought a shack in the middle of the state forest was an awesome idea. Let’s just say that didn’t go over well. The cottage is still in the family. It does not resemble the shack it once was and a person could live there all summer very comfortably. Just ask my uncles. 

My cousins are amazing. I watched them graduate from Thayer, go to Boston University, graduate law school and become accomplished attorneys. My cousin Andrew was just listed in Boston Magazines Top 100 attorneys. Another cousin decided he wanted to join in the fun, went back to school and is part of the family practice. All of them are successful and all worked very hard to get where they are. It’s impressive when you work hard yourself to get to a certain level in one’s career. I can appreciate it.

I have mentioned in previous posts that my relationship with my father and sister are strained. When I was little, my dad would pick us up and take us to our Aunt Minna’s for a holiday meal. Either Passover or Rosh Hashanah we would go and be with our cousins. Cousins I hardly knew. My father didn’t socialize with his brothers and every time I would see them, I felt like it was like starting at square one with them. It was awkward but by the end of the evening, I  would be following Gary and Andrew around or teasing Ben and Robbie. (Yes, I know his name is Rob but I can’t help it) When we would first arrive I would be stuck to either Laurie or my dad. And then I would find Nana Helen. I would sit with her and talk with her every time. I loved our conversations about computers, family history and of course, Israel. She was always going to Israel, and I would ask to see her when she got home. Of course I could see her when she got home, we could go shopping at Jordan Marsh and spend the day together. Well, with Laurie too but still…

When my father left in 1987 without a trace and with other peoples’ money, he took my connection to these relatives with him. Laurie, feeling uncomfortable and very envious herself would say things to me that would make me even more anxious about upcoming family gatherings such as how they looked down on us. It was hard on everyone and my uncles were very angry. Not with us, but with him. I didn’t know this at the time but when you don’t know what to say to someone, sometimes you don’t say anything. I was 15 years old, missing my father and hating him at the same time for putting me in this position. 

My aunt Minna would still have her dinners, and would send my cousin Allan to pick me up. I know he probably didn’t want to drive to Plymouth to pick me up and the car ride was pretty quiet. Last year I thanked him for being so kind as to pick me up back in the day. It means more to me today than it did when I was 15. I would get invitations to different things but it became harder and harder to get myself to go especially after my sister left when I was a freshman in college. My last two connections were gone. I had to make connections and build relationships on my own. I wasn’t a little girl anymore relying on someone else to make them for me. They were all gone.

After I had gotten sober again, I recommitted myself to getting to know my relatives. I came to the understanding that they did in fact care about me and my sister, because they showed me. When I started to talk to one of my uncles about opening my adoption papers, he turned to me and said “If you need me to, I will stand with you in court. Let me know and I will be with you.” I still get choked up when I write that because this was a man I didn’t think cared about me at all. My cousin ended up being the one with me when we opened them. It was one of the most intense moments of my life and I am grateful Larry was with me for that. 

I care when they get sick, or have hard times in their lives. I do my best to be available and to let them know that they are in my heart. I don’t see them every day, but I love them. It hasn’t been easy and I wish I was closer. I received my invitation to the annual open house and I already have it on my calendar. I hope I have shown them how much I appreciate them, and I look forward to seeing them soon. 


Day 24 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for faith

Faith is something I find hard to come by at times. It’s the reason why I chose “Faith” to be Isabelle’s middle name. I needed to be reminded when I said her name to have it. It took me a little while but I found it after she had her first surgery. The Rabbi at Children’s would come and visit us, and I would ask questions on how could I keep it in spite of the unknowns hospitals tend to bring out in people. She was very patient and told me that all I could do is see what today brings. And then she would hand me a little challah and electric candles to celebrate the sabbath with. She brought a humanity to our situation that allowed for some hope to come in. Plus, those were good challahs.

Faith can also mean one’s religion. For example, my faith is Judiasm, my husband’s is Catholicism. I love being able to share my experiences and traditions with my family, and I know Chris enjoys sharing some of his too. Last night we spent the evening with our three girls, eating latkes and celebrating Hanukkah with other families. Addie won the dreidel game, which is something I never managed to do, and Izzie had fun wandering around eating applesauce. Every time we are in that hall- whether I am teaching Sunday school or at Friday night services- every time I am there I look over and see the framed certificate of all the names of the men who donated their service money to rebuild the synagogue. My grandfather’s name is on that list. My grandmothers, mother and aunts were/are members of the Sisterhood. They taught sunday school there, and hosted onegs (onegs are like a little ‘reception’ after the service. It’s how we celebrate the sabbath as a community). It warms my heart to have the children named after them celebrate in the same rooms. My family has been part of the synagogue since the 1940’s. And here we were, a mixed family of 5 enjoying latkes. It was awesome.

When Hanukkah is over we can get ready for Christmas and it will be Chris’s turn to share his traditions with us. I truly appreciate his willingness to raise the girls in my faith, and I do my best to honor him by having the tree, etc. I still am not a fan of the Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, but as long as the girls enjoy it, I’ll make sure I am writing another incredible blog piece when it is on!