(Editor’s Note: As I approach age 60, I am “Counting My Many Blessings” by doing a daily countdown from 365. These are in no particular order, but, as you will see in days following, there is a method to the madness.)
Since I was born on October 4, 1956 (with the birth name of Carmen David Laurienzo), the REAL first full day of my life took place on October 5, 1956. It only follows that my note of thanks…my blessing for this day…would be to express gratitude to my natural mother and father. I was born into an Italian household in Cleveland, OH. My father, Joseph Laurienzo (2Mar35 – 2Dec92) was 21 and my mother, Orene Goldberg (8Apr39), a Jewish girl from Albuquerque was 17. They were young. She had been sent to Cleveland to go to a girl’s boarding school. Joe’s family were Italian immigrants. His father and mother had come by ship and then moved to Cleveland in the Murray Hill section, which is now called Little Italy. Joe was born in the same home I was born in. The families were close knit.
I am pretty certain that I was brought into a loving home and that my parents cared about me. But, after almost a year, Orene’s parents forced her to move back to Albuquerque with me. I never saw my real father again and, in fact, I never knew who he was until around the summer of 1974 when I had a chance to visit Orene, who had left me years before (I was adopted by my step parents in the early 1960s). I got to call Joe and speak with him…the only time I was able to. But, I am grateful for that.
The first time I had ever even seen what he looked like was when he sent me the photo to the right as I prepared to go on a mission. I still have the letters he wrote me while I served as a missionary in Japan.
Ultimately, I am grateful to have a knowledge of my posterity on my father’s side. The family came from Matrice, in the CampoBasso region of Italy. I am sure there must be relatives there even today.
I first came to Kentucky in 1992 and while here I had hoped to get up to Cleveland to finally see my real father. Sadly, by 1993, when I first had a good chance, he had already passed on. I have visited his grave site on a couple of occasions and have since met with my sisters and brother and have a good relationship with my long lost family.
As for my mother Orene, she left me when I was about 4 and I did not see her again until I was about 18. We have had an on and off relationship over the years, but that debt of gratitude for her bringing me into this world will always be there. I actually spoke to her for the first time in years on my birthday yesterday. She is now 78 and living in an assisted care facility in California. She was alert, she shed tears of regret and tears of joy through the conversation.
By the 1980s Orene had changed her name to Jennierose Lavender. She had a number of issues with life, but still wanted to have a relationship with her children and grandchildren. Though my wife and I were not in agreement with her chosen lifestyle, we have never kept our children from communicating with their natural grandmother.
As her days wane, I committed to her to once again renew my relationship by calling on Sundays. She is my mother. She carried me for nine months and brought me into this world. Despite all of the challenges and the journey she took, I owe her the gratitude for her sacrifices on my behalf and owe her the love and care in her last few years of life.
That is the real path to gratitude.