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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Curse of the Gypsy Polish Woman

Each family has their inside jokes and fables, but usually they are based on some facts.

In my family, we tease and joke about being Gypsy Polish women.

My Great Grandmother followed her husband here from Poland. They came through Ellis Island and in order to afford to make a new life here in America were forced to leave their oldest child behind in Poland. Like many they could not afford much in Brooklyn and lived with the bare basics. They embraced their catholic faith and produced child after child after child. Somewhere between 11-14 children. Some died at birth which was typical of the times. She was from what I understand who "wore pants in the family" and all of us since tend to be as strong willed. My grandmother, her daughter told us fabulous stories about growing up so poor in Brooklyn- stories that have shaped who I am. Apparently, my Great Grandmother was tough- really tough. My Uncle told me that years later when my grandmother had grown and my Great Grandmother lived with them, they all moved to Texas . Apparently, my Great Grandmother was bitten by a rattle snake. She calmly wrapped it up and disappeared to her room and rocker. Her leg swelled to enormous proportions and it was clear she was violently ill- she threw everyone out of her room. 3 days later she appeared quite restored and ready to work around the farm again. This is one of many stories of her ability to overcome.

Her daughter my grandmother was apparently the runt of that enormous litter of children. She was born with spinal bifida- and way way back then was one of the first successful cases where they closed it and she maintained her ability to walk. She also a few years later had a huge swelling on her neck and they removed bone,skin, hair- very much like what we would refer to today as an absorbed twin fetus- She by her 60's had fought cancer a few times, had a 90 degree curve of scoliosis/ and kyphosis. She had organs that were not in the right spot..She was in so many ways the toughest old lady. I remember playing on the floor with her and at 75 years old she could criss cross her legs yoga style.. do the splits! She amazed me. Out of all her siblings she was the sickest and she lived the longest- many died in their 20's and only 3 made it past 60.

Her daughter my Mother was also uniquely tough. A year before my Mom was diagnosed with cancer(age 55ish) she had a 25 foot Maple tree in her yard and she did not like where it was planted- so she moved it. Yep, she spent a week digging all night long(was too hot during the day)dug the massive root ball out, rolled it on to a tarp and dragged it to it's new location in her yard. The tree lived and did fine. My Mother frequently would impress me as a child with her ability to focus her mind on the most impossible tasks and she would do it- Nothing stopped my Mom when she was on a mission.

I in turn have shared these stories with my daughters who are now the youngest gypsy Polish women. Sounds pretty neat, who doesn't want such neat ancestors, these ladies were smart, determined and unbelievably hardy.

The curse is, for all that courage and strength, comes a heavy dose of weirdness. My Great grandmother lived for codeine and booze. I remember a story that later in life my grandfather had to go fetch her from jail for public drunkenness. She was a woman who still believed in folklore and we actually still have the crow she mummified and made clothes for to protect my Mother from it.(if you walk and cross by a freshly dead black bird she felt it meant an early death, so by treating the bird as if it were blessed and alive it might prevent the early demise). For despite her moments of magnificent strength and endurance came long periods of darkness, illness and fatigue.

My grandmother's curse was that she was not emotionally stable. Not in a bad way as she got older, harmless I would call it. I loved her as a child and she had a child like quality that made her our favorite. But she was a hermit and often did not feel well and self treated with sugar and booze.

Then my Mother- my Mom was smart, very very smart. She also believed in aliens, in multiple lives, strange mix. She also was incredibly likable when she was well. She spent years drinking- she raged. She was not exactly the warm and fuzzy type. The older she got the weirder she got and the more she hid at home, like her Mother and her Grandmother.

Now to me. I have my gifts- and despite my lack of interest in academics my IQ was high enough to shock my family. I am determined like the women in my family before me. Trying analyze myself is tough but I have some of the physical strength of the women before me, some odd health issues, and I have the curse- I am a little colorful. I get more colorful as I age, and more aware that I have not escaped the curse. My addiction issues thankfully are not booze or drugs but I still have a few.. At this point in my life I know what is coming. All the stories that have been shared have in many ways foretold my future. Will my hubby love me still 20 years from now when I become the neighborhood cat lady?

Sara and Abby are exceptional- their IQ tests both indicated exceptional(beyond genius)levels. They have some odd health problems and now we have finally found a Mitochondrial depletion in Abby- they too have inherited the curse.

As we are learning about Mitochondrial Disease I have to wonder about this folklore, could the curse possibly be Mito that has been passed down to all the women? . All these women who had odd fatigue, history of addiction, amazing strength, multiple illnesses and life threatening disease..and eccentricity. Could it be genetic? As the researchers feverishly study Mitochondria and their secrets are learned they are finding huge connections. To autism,mental illness,all sorts of neurological diseases,vision, hearing.. the list is ENDLESS. Could it be that our Polish gypsy curse is just genetics? The folklore in my family is the story of our genetic blueprints- it brings great gifts and handicaps. Sara and Abby understand the risks of passing this genetic blueprint on.. we may be the end of the curse.


babyfoodsteps said...

Really enjoyed this post as my brain has been wrought with similar thoughts and analyzed similar connections... ahhh and what do you know... I have some Polish sprinkled in my ancestry as well! ;)
Thanks for sharing and for being so open and honest in your journey!

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