the last time we were in pittsburgh we had the opportunity to go with my parents and sister to duquesne university to see the tamburitzan history and culture center. it was a pretty cool pilgrimage for me because my grandfather on my dad's side was one of the first members of the duquesne university tamburitzans. the tamburitzans are still around today, much larger than they were in 1937 when my grandfather was a member. they are a song and dance company that specializes in performing folk songs and dances of eastern european countries. being a croatian, my grandfather fit right into this group, playing many of the stringed instruments of croatia and the surrounding cultures. the tamburitzans continue to tour today, and to find out more about them, check out their website here.
here he is in the above picture; he is in the middle on the top row. he passed away when i was 3, so i don't remember him much, but i have certainly heard many stories about him, and have always loved his love of music. and so going to this little tamburitzan 'museum' and seeing his picture on the wall and his name all over the place was a really satisfying experience.
while i was there i had the strange sensation that i had been there before as a child. i remembered the large room, and i remember lots of people being there, including my grandma and my cousin, karen. no one else remembers this, although karen seems to think it might be possible that we were there with grandma. but no one else can verify this.
was i there? or was it some elaborate deja vu? i don't know, but i felt very connected in that moment. i'm not sure what i was connected to, other than an unknown past. what i do know is that we are all connected to our mothers and fathers, our grandmothers and grandfathers; connected with invisible ties beyond our knowing. we follow them in our genes; we mimic them in our dna; we relive them in history.
in one sense, we are all connected, you and me. we breathe each other all the time. our skin keeps falling off all over the place and becoming the dust and detritis that fills our lungs. you are part of me, there's no denying that. and yet, the connection we have to our forebears is different; it is more than dust in the lungs. it is the very spark of life that animates these ashen bodies. it is the spirit that moves us. we are ourselves, yes, but these selves are no selves if they are not also some sum of what has gone before, what has led to this very moment, this very you. i am nothing if i am not made by those who have gone before. all my choices are mine, i choose to believe, but all my self is not. i am yours. i am jack's. i am oprah's. and i am, in some spiritual way, grandpa's.