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A terrible hunger
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My Baba was born and raised in Montenegro. Or maybe it was Bosnia? It’s hard to tell and the border lines have changed so much since then. It was all Jugoslavia during her life there. She has told so many stories. I hope I will remember them because she is gone and now her last child, my uncle is dead. I go to his funeral tomorrow. It is likely the last traditional Serbian Orthodox funeral that I will attend. Unless some of my much younger cousin die before me. But, it’s unlikely they would want that type of farewell. Except perhaps my one cousin who is basically a nun, although not ordained. My baba had a very hard life. She tells stories about the army coming through her small town and taking all the food they could find. So they became adept at hiding it. Once they managed to hide a goat under the bed and it never made a noise. She was made to build roads by moving rocks, as were all the townspeople. She watched as the army lined up her father and brother and shot them. She held her brother’s intestines in her hand while she watched him die. She says it was for 2 days but I’m not sure time has the same relevance to her. She counts a person’s birth from the day they were born as one – because it is their first year of life. So when she died at 106, was it really 105? Or did she even really know the year or day of her birth? Unlikely. She had a younger sister. During the war and the lack of food, her sister died in her arms, of starvation. I have often wondered if that kind of cellular memory travels down through the genes of a family into the next generations. I hoard food. I have a pantry and always enough food to last a very long time. My frig is always full. I did come from parents who went through the depression, but I think my fear of not having enough food may have started with Baba. Food is a really big thing in Jugoslavian culture. I think most ethnic culture regards food as the best way to show love and to spend time with loved ones. We certainly do. So, I will get on a plane tomorrow and go see my uncle for the last time and watch as they put him in the ground. I will stand for the hour or two or three of the incredibly long and ritualistic viewing/mass and then the actual service the next day – all in Serbian, which I do not understand. It’s probably better that I don’t understand it. I can space out. Maybe I’ll write an essay in my head. I went paddle boarding and wrote 2 chapters of a book I didn’t know I wanted to write -all in my head. I came home and put down the outline, but I haven’t written them yet. I just keep doing this, writing daily, saving the essays and putting them in a folder on my computer. Someday I will go through them and embelish each a bit, and maybe have a book, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter, because I am hungry for creativity. I may crave art of all forms more than food. Well if that were true, I’d be skinny and I am not. But it is a hunger I have for painting and gardening and pottery now. For my uncle’s funeral, I painted a likeness of him in watercolor. I painted a bad one first, but then this one I really like. I fixed the bad one and then made another. His wife, my aunt, and his two kids can each have one. But, then i kept going and have painted or sketched a likeness on a card for all 7 of the grandkids. I really love art. So, I have something to give and that helps me. It is sad that he is gone, but he didn’t really recognize me for the last funeral, his sister, my aunt. It’s just so odd to not have a single sibling of my dad alive. When painting my uncle, I was also painting my dad. I also painted him at different ages and I remember him as a young man. I am the story teller, the historian to my cousins.

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