As we approach Thanksgiving 2018, I have taken tome to reflect on those things that I am thankful for, probably more than I have in the past. As a 62 year old, I have a great deal to look back on and to be thankful for. So, for the next week, through the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I am doing a post each day to express my gratitude for the various segments of my life. Some of what I write may be more personal than others may want to see, but to me, these are the main things I want to express my gratitude for.
I want to start out this week long effort by expressing my gratitude first and foremost for my life’s journey. Each of us must walk the paths of our lives’ journeys. Nobody else can walk this path. Interestingly enough, our journey is not really our own until we leave our parents and our homes. We all start our journeys on the backs (or in the hands) of others. And that initial part of the journey may very well lay the foundational footpath for our own personal journey.
Being a Christian and believing in a pre-existence and an after-life is always helpful to me in understanding and appreciating my journey. I believe that my Father in Heaven let me know what treacherous and difficult paths would lay ahead of me as I came to earth. I accepted that knowing as well that I would be blessed with guidance from Him along the way as well as the ability to choose which way to go. I don’t believe for a moment that God laid out a specific course for me to take. Rather, he set things in motion for me to take paths with many forks in the road.
My journey began in Cleveland, Ohio in early October 1956. I was born into an Italian family (my birth name was Carmen David Laurienzo), but to a Jewish mother. My father, Joe Laurienzo, was a the son of a migrant Italian name Carmine Laurienzo. From all I know, Joe was a hard working individual. He lived in the same home as his father on Murray Hill Road in the Little Italy district of Cleveland.
I will never know for sure how my Italian Catholic father met and ultimately married my German Jewish mother (Orene Goldberg, later to be known as Jennierose Lavender). But, I was conceived and was, at the time, the beginning of the third generation of Laurienzos to be born in and live in the house on Murray Hill Road.
And thus began my amazing journey.
By the time I was 10 months old, in August 1957, my journey took a turn. Giving in to pressure from her staunch Jewish mother (Marion Goldberg) in Albuquerque, Orene left with me while the Catholic side of the family was all celebrating the Feast of Assumption Festival…one of the biggest annual events in this little corner of Cleveland. I was essentially snuck away, never to meet my natural father, who, I came to find later on, was heartbroken. Just a little over one year later, Orene was being remarried to the second Joseph in my life, Joseph Kravetz, in a fairly social Jewish ceremony. They were married in Albuquerque on Dec. 21, 1958.
As a very young child, i had already experienced some major directional changes in my journey. And this would ultimately be the way of life for me for at least the next 15 years of my life. Orene and Joe K ended up having a son together in 1960 (Aaron). Then she left us. She left Joe Kravetz alone to raise my younger half-brother Aaron and me.
As a young four year old, I am sure that somehow I managed to blame myself for her leaving. As for Aaron and me, we ended up with a number of babysitters to take care of us while my Dad worked. Some of them would come and go. It was a tough rocky road for these two little boys.
Joe Kravetz eventually participate in some single-adult parent organization (or something) and later met Marjorie Biel (nee Tudor), who had become divorced and had a young boy (Danny), 16 days younger than me. I believe that they both married out of necessity more than love. Nonetheless, as a young child, I was piggybacked into this relationship, which brought forth two more children (Gary in 1964 and Sherry in 1967).
Through adoptions, all of us became Kravetz kids. But it was a hodge-podge family. Dad worked all the time for a drug store chain. Mom (Marge) was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and would take us to the Kingdom Hall a couple of times a week. She diligently sought to make sure we had a religious upbringing. She had health issues and struggled in her relationship with Joe. But, kudos to both of them as they made the courageous choice to stay together, despite deep-rooted differences and a great deal of family dysfunction and challenge (Danny was “mentally retarded” – a term used in the 1960s/70s). Aaron and I could be unruly.
Between 1965 and 1974, we had moved four different times to four different cities due to my Dad’s job transfers. More rocky, rutted roads for my life journey lay before me. New homes, changes in schools, new friends, leaving old friends. It wasn’t easy for any of us. By the time we were in Bozeman, Montana, I had run away from home twice to get away from the dysfunction… I was ready to journey forth on my own personal journey and off of the piggyback roller coaster ride I had experienced.
I will say here that Joe Kravetz and Marge did the very best they could with what was handed to them. They both had their emotional baggage and the five children, who were, without choice, along for the rocky ride, had to learn to deal with it all, and we all did in our own ways.
I had always been the prayerful type. I believed in a God and I prayed for a miracle on many occasions. Mine came in the chance meeting of some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bozeman in the summer of 1973. The one week that I spent visiting with this family from New Jersey every day set me on my own path and in my own direction…one that would ultimately get me asked to leave my home as a 17 year old in Murray, Utah in the summer of 1974.
So, finally, in 1974 I began my own journey, making my own choices on my life’s direction….both good and bad.
After graduating high school in Murray in 1974, I had to make many huge, life-altering choices. I came to one fork in the road after another, knowing full well that the choices made at those crossroads were ones I could never go back on and “try again.” That’s the funny thing with choices.
After choosing to be baptized into the LDS Church in January 1975, I had made choices to leave jobs to take on other “grass is always greener over there” kinds of jobs. Then, it happened… the first big big big choice. Do I serve an LDS mission or do I take the really good paying job? It would have to be one or the other. In the long run, I chose to serve and this really set the direction for my life journey from then on.
Since that time, my journey has meandered in many directions. Life has had many challenges, ups and downs and frustrations. But it has also been filled with joy, happiness and smiles. Bottom line, I have had a wonderfully rich life and over the next week will show my gratitude to the many things that have crossed my journey’s path.
I am very grateful for my personal journey and for those that have spent part of their journeys walking by my side on mine.