Heart’s Desire

My Father’s Side of the Family Around 1918

My Father’s Side of the Family Around 1918

When I visited my brother a week and a half ago, he brought out two boxes of old pictures and papers relating to my past—except it was his past, too. From left to right, the pictures are of:

  • My Uncle Emil (twin of Alex)
  • “Mama” or my paternal grandmother Margit
  • Margitka, my Aunt Margit
  • Stará (Old) M., clearly a member of the family, possibly the same as my Father’s kindly Aunt Valera
  • My Father, various called Ellek, Elek, or Alex (twin of Emil)

Shortly after this picture was taken, Grandma Margit and her husband Emil Sr. abandoned their children in Prešov-Solivar while they went off to the United States. Little Emil, Elek, and Margitka were cared for by Valera. My father tells me stories of picking mushrooms in the Tatra Mountains and hunting for frog legs to feed his brother, sister, and aunt. All three children made it to Cleveland some ten years later.

As a result of fending for himself in the mountains of Slovakia during the postwar famine, my father always had an insatiable craving for meat. When he came to America, he and his brother indulged in that craving—and that’s what killed them. Sometimes it’s best NOT to have your heart’s desire.

I visited Czechoslovakia with my parents in 1977 and met Valera. She was the only Slovak in the family who could still speak Hungarian, so I was able to communicate with her. I would like to think she was the pleasant looking Stará M. in the above photo.


“Things That Might Have Been”

Saint Bede

Saint Bede the Venerable

In the waning days of 2015, here is a simple poem by Jorge Luis Borges entitled “Things That Might Have Been.” Think of them as a head start for your New Year’s Resolutions.

Things That Might Have Been

I think of things that weren’t, but might have been.
The treatise on Saxon myths Bede never wrote.
The inconceivable work Dante might have had a glimpse of,
As soon as he’d corrected the Comedy’s last verse.
History without the afternoons of the Cross and the hemlock.
History without the face of Helen.
Man without the eyes that gave us the moon.
On Gettysburg’s three days, victory for the South.
The love we never shared.
The wide empire the Vikings chose not to found.
The world without the wheel or the rose.
The view John Donne held of Shakespeare.
The other horn of the Unicorn.
The fabled Irish bird that lights on two trees at once.
The child I never had.