Longing for Love
Updated: Nov 3, 2021
Love is a slippery and elusive creature. We crave it. We want it. We need it, from our earliest moments to our very last. We are social creatures. We need to belong. We want to feel cherished and valued.
As infants, we rely upon our primary caregivers, our parents, our mothers, our fathers, do shower us with unquestioning love. We need to be nurtured. We need to be reassured that someone will always be there for us no matter what. That unconditional love can give us what we need emotionally to grow up to be strong and balanced.
Unfortunately, we don't always get what we need.
If we didn't get it, it's very possible that our parents didn't get either, cycling back into the mists of time. How can we be whole and happy when we come from a place of pain? How can we know who we are and where we are going if we don't understand where we've come from?
Just as we emerge into the adult world with pain and trauma, struggling through broken hearts and mismanaged lives so those who went before us suffered in the same way. We are the children of broken people; ancestors that struggled and suffered not so differently from how we've suffered.
If we can go back and connect with these people, work through their pain just as we work through our own; seek to connect with compassion and empathy the broken people that went before us and wish them healing and love in whatever form they are and wherever their spirits have sought safety and sanctuary.
In one of my most recent Tarot readings, I talked about the nesting dolls that my great-grandmother brought with her from Budapest when she came to America. I loved those as a child and I know they mattered greatly to my grandmother as a visible memory of her mother and a link to a past that she never experienced. Unfortunately, I don't have the original nesting dolls. I don't know what became of them when my grandmother passed, but I hope whoever took custody of them is cherishing them. I've picked up my own set but it isn't the same. Mine aren't vintage and haven't been handled with the loving hands of multiple generations. I don't have a real physical link back to that part of my heritage but I know that my grandmother and great grandmother may sometimes peek out of my own eyes or in the eyes of my children. They live on in our current generations, carrying on distant tales of a past that becomes less substantial and more slippery with each re-telling.
Can we seek out just one link in that chain? Separate out just one shining thread from the lot? Connect with just one lost soul?
My father's father's mother, Ethel Van Dyke, came to America from Hull, Yorkshire, with her new husband, Herbert George Loveday. He was an aspiring composer even as his career advanced within the confines of the Anglican church. I know so little about the two of them, but even less about her. I can trace my great-grandfather's career through his musical tours and published music, but Ethel left a much smaller paper trail on this earth.
My father has only one memory of meeting her in her apartment in Jamaica Heights in Queens when he was seven years old. He remembers that the place seemed dull and uninteresting with no toys or anything much to entertain him. His grandmother seemed cold and distant. He was happy when they left.
I've reconstructed her life as best I could from online records. Her brother, a British merchant marine, died in the first world war when his boat was attacked by a German u-boat. I know that she married by great-grandfather, the widowed struggling musician, not long after she lost her brother.
The two of them immigrated to New York where my great-grandfather was quickly promoted to choir director in the posh St Mary's in Tuxedo Park, New York, weekend getaway town for some of New York City's society folk.
By early 1917, everything seemed to be falling into place for the two of them. My great-grandfather was steadily publishing his music. He'd booked several successful performing tours. Ethel Van Dyke was pregnant with the first child for both of them.
And then my great-grandfather was killed by a rich and successful New Yorker, a stock broker and tennis champion, leaving my great-grandmother completely alone in the world.
She managed to get a decent settlement out of the man who killed her husband. Estranged from her family in Hull, she found an apartment in Queens and settled in with her newborn child. The two of them lived there throughout my grandfather's childhood. She never worked or was involved in a long term relationship. Sometimes she would take in a boarder to help ends meet but it was mostly just her and my grandfather, until she could ship him off to boarding school.
(He hated boarding school, said all the rich kids would pick on him as the "charity case")
When he was adult and moving out on his own, she presented him with an itemized invoice for every penny she'd every spent on him, fully expecting him to reimburse her for her expenses. In time, he did her pay her back for his own childhood costs.
Although it had only been the two of them, they were never close. He characterized her in the same way my father did: distant and cold, without a maternal bone in her body.
What happened to you Ethel? Parents that you didn't communicate with; a brother that died too young; a husband who died in a sensationalized, tragic event, was it all too much? Did that all trauma and loss leave you in a state where you just couldn't feel anymore? Did you wall yourself off so that you just couldn't be hurt again?
I never met Ethel Van Dyke. She died in her New York City apartment in the late 1950s. Her only son had moved his young family out to Long Island by then and their infrequent visits were difficult.
I don't have a clear image of who she was. I picture her as tall and blond, like my father and grandfather, but I'm not even sure if that is accurate. From the stories I've heard of her, she can't have been happy, or did she have a rich life with friends and contacts in the thriving atmosphere of New York? Maybe she had a routine she enjoyed, weekly shopping, talking with neighbors, living her life. I don't know.
But, I see you, Ethel Van Dyke, with your burdens and your pain. I've had moments where I felt cut off and alone; where I built my walls so high that I thought I would never be hurt again. I've struggled in unfamiliar places, trying to build a support network out of nothing and trying to find that sense of balance and trying to create order out of chaos.
Wherever you are, I hope you've found peace. I hope you are surrounded by love and no longer cut off from the spirits of those who should have been at your side to support you through the long years of struggle. I wish you serenity, Ethel Van Dyke. I hope you've found sanctuary and rest on the other side of the veil.
I am grateful to you for raising your son alone; for doing the best that you could, alone in a overwhelming city without friends or family close at hand. You had your ghosts and your demons. You had struggles that I truly cannot begin to imagine.
I see you, Ancestress, and I greet you with love and gratitude. Peace and love to you.