Monday, August 22, 2005

Enveloped by the Darkness…

Aunt Connie’s home is much bigger than Alfune’s. It is even a bit more suburban as it is located basically within the village limits. Looking newer than Fele’s or Alfune’s; Connie is still without running water and indoor plumbing (bathroom) – an outhouse is located on the side of the barn/garage with a light for late night use. Like Fele’s and Alfune’s you enter Connie’s from the back – with the kitchen being the first room you encounter. Just big enough to house a stove, dry sink, a small counter and a small table the kitchen is the entrance way to the home. As you walk forward through the kitchen door to the rest of the house – to your right is a small living room/extra bedroom, to the left is another bedroom and directly in front of you is a large living/dining/extra bedroom. There is an upstairs but we did not go there – I believe another bedroom is located there. From the large living/dining/extra bedroom there is a closed in porch that leads to the front yard. We will be sleeping in the large living/dining/extra bedroom tonight.

Time check – at this point in our trip it is Saturday, August 13th.

OK – you’ll need a pen again for this one too!

Under a newly built, covered patio with a very cool brick oven inside, sitting around a hand made picnic table we find:

Kosta (Connie – another sister to Grandma Mary Dapkus)…

Dana (Donna) (Connie's daughter) married to Tautvydas – and their two sons Oldest: Nerijus & Tautvydas who is turning 18 tomorrow…

Lolita (Connie's granddaughter by Regina who was found dead frozen one brutal winter) - married to Gediminas with their 13 year old daughter Agnes (our favorite)…

The 84 year old Aunt Connie, like her sisters, has had a very difficult life. She was carted off to Siberia and was there for 9 years. No reason that we are aware – back then it was simple enough for a jealous neighbor to make an accusation or for the party to just send a person away, as in the case of a teacher teaching religion or anti-communist ideas. It did not take much. When she was released, she was given a bag of potatoes and set out into the cold. With her husband, they planted the eyes of the potatoes, built a shelter and lived there for a number of years until they earned enough money to make the trip back to Lithuanian some time later. The experience left her nearly crippled as today she can only walk with the use of two canes.

But now she is happy to see us and scolds us for not bringing the children this trip. She is especially interested in meeting Adam, we are not sure why as she has only seen pictures – but she is still disappointed none the less. By the time we get there – it is nearly dark and Connie is ready to turn in for the evening. We say our good nights and head over to the patio where delicious Sislykai waits us! Donna, Lolita, Agnes, Tautyvydas, Nerijus, Tatvydas and Gediminas join us. No one speaks English – the boys do a little as does Agnes, but not enough to hold a conversation with us. So with Lisa’s father catching up with his cousins, we decide to go for an evening walk. The backyard is well lit by a street installed by the men of the family so that they can enjoy the patio late into the evening – because of this nice, ambient light – we did not realize the extent of the darkness outside of its warm glow. As we walk down the long driveway to the street – it begins to get darker and darker. Fog has also settled in with the rain stopping only a few hours earlier. Y the time we reach the street – we can no longer see the light from the backyard or even directly in front of us. The fog covers the light from the moon and the stars leaving us virtually covered in the darkness. I turn to look at Lisa and am surprised that I cannot even see her and she is standing a foot or two away from me! Agreeing that it is a better idea to turn back, we do and head back to the warmth and comfort of the light of the patio.

By this time it is nearing 11:00 PM, the mean have already retired for the night as they are planning to go mushroom hunting in the morning. The boys have wandered off somewhere and Agnes is sitting at the table drifting just a bit. We all agree that this is a good time to head to bed.

Our room is already set up for us, pillows and blanket neatly laid out on the pull-out beds. Just outside the room’s door, on the covered porch, is a bucket. We are told this is for our use should we have the urge in the middle of the night and it is raining. I make a mental note to hold it.

Once we settle in and turn off the light the giggling starts. I am not sure why – maybe it’s because we are so tired, perhaps it is the pee bucket located steps away from where we are sleeping. It could be the cow mooing in the distance or the fact that we are cold. In either case – Lisa’s father is making comments from his side of the room causing us to giggle and laugh harder. It’s one of the moments that you tend to hold as special for a long time – innocent and fun, a moment that is just shared between those involved with it.

Sometime around 3:00 AM or so we hear a trickle water into the bucket – this kicks off another round of giggles for another ten minutes or so and then we are off to sleep again.

We wake around 8:00 AM to the sound of a steady rain and immediately begin to wonder how we are going to get to church. There are no umbrellas to be found and the men are already back in bed from their mushroom. Finally as it is already 8:45, Donna pulls her husband from bed to take us. He does not seem happy about this as he pulls from the driveway to drive us to church – we agree that we will walk back and pray for a break in the rain.

Mass is nice – but in Lithuanian. It is very similar to our masses at home – so it is easy to follow along. The priest is visiting form a neighboring parish while their Pastor is away in Germany for a conference (I believe). Once the visiting priest starts his homily it seems OK as we note a few heads shaking approvingly, then the head shaking turns to throat clearing (the universal sign of disproval) and the actual coughing. Everyone in the church is much older than we are and very set in their ways – a couple of older ladies behind us begin to “tsk” and sigh loudly and it does seem like this particular priest is droning on and on. We find out later that he beat his point to death, much to the disapproval of the parish – we did not the absence of many coins in the collection plate later!

After church we walk back to Connie’s. Our prayers are answered as the rain has stopped. We run into Zina and her husband as we leave the church – she gives us all warm hugs. We are greeting back at Connie’s with the wonderful smell of freshly made potato pancakes and egg toast (a personal favorite of mine that we are unable to duplicate at home!).

With a heavy, warm breakfast sitting firmly in our stomachs – it is time to hand out he cloths and gifts that we crammed into the small BMW that bought us here. Along with the cloths, Lisa’s father has some eye glasses for his Aunts to choose from. There are various strengths meant mostly for reading. Connie tries out the three pair that he puts before her – putting each on and checking the local paper to see how clear it is. Picking a pair she watches as Alberti puts the remaining pairs back in the bag. She states that actually the other one was better and perhaps she should have both. Lisa’s father informs her that he still has other people to see and give glasses to. Then it comes out that she actually wants a pair for her friend who helps her out all of the time (for example by taking her to the hospital when she needed her kidney stones removed). Luckily we have four other pairs tucked away of the smaller reading glasses type and he gives her an additional pair to hand out. She is very pleased by this!

We begin to pack to head back to Kaunas with Donna and her family. It is an emotional good-bye with Connie as once again we are faced with the prospect of not being sure that we will see her again. Most week-ends during the spring, summer and fall, Connie will have company in the form of Donna and Lolita and their families. During the winter however – they only get there once or twice a month, mostly because it is difficult to get to the country through any snow that may accumulate. So for the most part, Connie is on her own during the most dangerous time of year. She does have other people who stop into to visit though, dropping by food, firewood and other material she needs. So both Donna and Lolita feel fairly confident that she will be OK – in either case, they are a phone call and 90 minute ride away.

Once again – we are off, headed back to Kaunas and the first free evening that we have had since arriving here. But rest assured – we fill that time with a run to Maxima and the sorting of cloths and gifts for the coming whirl wind week!

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