Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not Good-bye

We arrive at this gathering--
my dad’s family…
my family, but not.
Not like my mom’s, the Italians,
who I see every week…
who I play with, who I know…
No, this is the other side --
loud, boisterous, always joking.
Eating strange-smelling foods
like pierogies and kapusta.
and I, the quiet little niece
from out of town.

A summer cookout at Aunt Helens.
She, the oldest, the magnet that pulls us together--
four sisters, five brothers, countless cousins.
My Aunt Lucy opens her accordion,
the music erupts…
I hear the singing, the laughter.
I am 5 years old, standing on my dad’s feet
as he steps and spins me to the polka beat.

Fast-forward five decades…

I arrive at this gathering today…
to see this family, my family.
Together again.
We hug, we reminisce,
we come to honor this lady--
our magnet, our glue.
And somewhere from the depths,
words I remember from childhood
tumble forward:

“Dobranoc Ciotka Helen,
dopóki się znowu nie spotkamy."

“Goodnight Aunt Helen,
until we meet again”

© Ginny Brannan January 2013

(When my dad's family parted after a visit, we never said “goodbye," it was always, "dopóki się znowu" Actually, in my less-than-perfect Polish, I remember pronouncing it as"dobe vee gin ya")

Not exactly poetry, but am sharing anyways. 
We said our farewells to my dear Aunt Helen this week, the oldest in my dad's family, she passed at 95.  I loved hearing how she became a Red Socks fan at 85 and would watch all the games! She was the glue in the family, the one that stayed in touch, the one that came to my graduation, my wedding, the one that always sent a card and letter at Christmas. So I do not say goodbye, but say instead "...until we meet again."


  1. smiles...became a red sox fan late in life eh? that is cool...sounds like she had personality....smiles....i am sorry for your loss but i like your approach to it...

  2. she sounds like a wonderful woman ginny... sorry for your loss..these family gatherings sound like lots of fun and good times on becoming a red sox fan at 85..way to go..smiles

  3. Until we meet again sounds so much less sad to me too. I like how you used the actual polish phrase in the poem. It adds a lot of depth to it. I enjoyed the realness here.

    1. Thank you. I know very little Polish, it was the language the adults spoke when they were all together (and sometimes when they didn't want us kids to know what they were actually talking about!) Had to look up the actual spelling.

  4. I really enjoyed your poem. My grandmother has become a sports fan late in life. When she came over to visit she had to finnish listening to her game on the radio.

  5. Ginny, I really like the two contrasting elements here. The first being the childs perspective, the second being the adult. Returning to the same family plot as before, except this tie as a grown up. Maybe this says that 'growing up' is a realisation of all that has passed, including time, experience, and family. Sorry for your loss Ginny, and these word express a great sentiment and love

  6. How touching...what a beautiful impression she left on those who knew and loved her.

  7. Damn it, Ginny, I don't what it is, but you made me cry at the end of this poem. The Polish farewell and its translation right after did it, the good-night not good-bye thought, the "until we meet again" thought. I know I may be over-sentimental, I'm one who tears up at the movies, and I am sobbing as I write this, not with sadness, no, but something in me touched.

    1. Aw Sam, much appreciation for your comment. Am honored that my simple little capture touched you in such a way. I always liked that about my dad's family, my Polish side, that we never said "good-bye." No finalities, always trusting that we'll meet again, and trusting still the same in death as in life. Thanks again, my friend :-}

  8. My condolences...Aunt Helen sounds awesome. I think maybe many families have that one person who is the 'magnet' and 'glue'. I really enjoyed reading your capture of this memory.

    1. Thank you. Being my dad's older sister, she really was the glue, especially after losing my dad at 16. She was my contact, my "family newsletter," always keeping me up on what the rest of our family was up to.

  9. Such a wonderful, poignant response, Ginny. It's funny how we have "family" and "family" and how they differ. When my mom remarried and I was 7 (my dad was killed in WWII when I was 3 months old--my poem was not about him) I became part of a new family and it was so hard to acculturate. Each has it's own personality, its own identity. Now I wish I had known them better as an adult. You give me a lot to think about.

  10. Victoria, I was wondering if anyone caught (or understood) that phrase: "my family, but not". My mom had 6 siblings, their spouses, and I, 9 cousins all in the same town. We were and still are a close-knit bunch. Then there was dad's side, with 4 brothers, 4 sisters, spouses, and 26 cousins--most of whom lived out of state. That 60 miles might well have been 600. The cousins, all older or younger, and I always felt like odd man out. Then we grew up, went even further on our separate paths. But Aunt Helen tried to bridge the gap, keeping me up on family news. I came to know, understand and appreciate them, even if we still don't have the same closeness as my mom's. I guess we are each are shaped and molded by our childhood, our environment, even our location as to who we are bonded to. It is only as adults when we look back with at least better understanding and acceptance. Thanks for your comment, Victoria.

  11. Half-Italian, half-Polish; quite the contrast of cultures there, so no surprise that you didn't fit into one so well as the other - who would? This is a tuching tribute to someone who sounds to have been a wonderful woman; someone I would love to have met, I think.


Thank you for reading my poetry and sharing your thoughts.