Ode to my grandfather, George Neverdousky (Neverdouskas)

Part 1

My fiancé likes to surprise me with unique gifts. Recently, it was a DNA test from the company 23andMe. That, after he bought me an acre of land on the moon should we decide to fly up, up and away one day. We’d been watching a program on public broadcasting (PBS) called “Finding Your Roots” off and on for the past year and I suppose he’d seen the wonder in my eyes, and heard the longing in my voice, each time someone found out what story their DNA told of their ancestors.  My own had been such a mystery and I think he felt sorry for me.

Like most of us in the United States, I had little idea of where I came from. Being a country full of immigrants it’s not uncommon for stories, histories, and even whole livelihoods to end abruptly.  So many men, women and children, having poor situations abroad, left everything behind in search of a chance in the new world – America.  My own relatives were no different. I knew from my family name I had a little Irish in me, and maybe a bit of English and Italian, but other than that, I would have called myself a Heinz 57 – meaning I likely had a little of everything in my DNA. 

My mother had never known who her father was either, which didn’t exactly help her or any of us kids with our familial histories. The story was told that after hearing my grandmother was pregnant with my mother, her own mother (my great grandmother) sent her from New York to  Jersey City to live in a home for “unwed” mothers until it was appropriate she return. The child’s father, my grandfather, was never spoken of and in the case my mother would ask, she was shushed. My grandmother would go on to marry another man and have five more children. 

My fiancé on the other hand, knows exactly where he came from. He was born and raised in Amsterdam, Netherlands where his family still lives, and we will eventually live more permanently. His parents were born and raised in The Netherlands, as were their parents, and their parents’ parents, and so on and so on. He is a Dutch man through and through; from his accent to his extra tall, lanky body and facial features. When we’re traveling people don’t even ask where he’s from. One look at him, and they all think – Dutch.

Within a month of mailing my sample to the lab, I had answers I never dreamed of. And the DNA to prove it. I scoured the pages of my results to see where in the world I could claim for my own…

And it wasn’t what I expected at all.

As it turns out, I’m not a “Heinz 57” as I had thought. In fact, I am 100% European with a whopping 67.6% Irish/UK, 24.5% Lithuanian (my mother’s side) and 7.9% Southern European (Italian/Sardinian). I come from just three areas of Europe with the majority being Ireland and Lithuania. 

The Lithuanian bit was new by the way….Completely new. And so the search for my grandfather began. 

Woman reclined, pencil and graphite

“I want to taste and glory in each day, and never be afraid to experience pain; and never shut myself up in a numb core of non-feeling, or stop questioning and criticizing life and take the easy way out. To learn and think: to think and live; to live and learn: this always, with new insight, new understanding, and new love.”
― Sylvia Plath

A reintroduction

“Change begins when the fear of not acting at all at last outstrips the paralyzing fear of  making a mistake.” – Alain de Botton 

In late 2018 I was in a car accident. Not a fender-bender type of accident, but the real deal. The kind that involves ambulances, scans, the closure of a highway and in turn, utter confusion.  Before that, I’d been working on a book; two, actually.  One was a photographic journal of my travels, complete with short stories to accompany them.  The second, a novel about modern love.  

My journey to recover my rattled brain, rattled bones and ligaments consumed much of the year 2019.  

After my concussion healed I managed to travel a little, but it was different.  Slow. And although throughout the year I casually made my way through France, Ireland, Sardinia, and retreats to the American deserts, I didn’t write about it.  I gave up my column at The American Magazine as I felt I’d nothing to say. I dug for creativity that simply wasn’t there. The more I dug, the more I tried to write, the more I felt like an imposter, a fake.  Unable to grasp words or ideas, I froze.  Insecurity crept in and its ugly little tendrils permeated my very essence. Much like a virus. 

I changed jobs too. It was a good change, which allowed me more financial comfort and security,  but with longer working hours. I used it as an excuse not to write, nor paint, nor photograph during my holidays. I was just there to “relax.” I even stopped bringing my camera and notepads in my carryon. I didn’t want the extra weight.  Or the risk.

Late in 2019, when I finally felt the tiniest, fleeting glimpse of creativity, the calendar rolled over  to 2020. And, well….you know.  

So I put my head back down and worked more. I was fortunate enough to have a job that wasn’t affected by the shutdowns, as I can work from my home office.  With spending time with friends, as well as any travel, out of the question, my days  became solely about work, self-care and daily walks with my dog.  By late  summer, like a lot of people, I was emotionally fatigued and lonely. I’d pick up my sketch pad and nothing would come out of the pencil. Or I’d stare at my empty computer screen hoping a story would find its way from the now decrepit tendril of insecurity, but its death grip hadn’t loosened.  

Until it did.  

I’d like to say it was all me, but it wasn’t. I had a nudge from someone who showed me there is still joy to be found in letting oneself take a risk.  

And now, after an over-two-year hiatus from writing, photography and sketching, I’d like to think I can squeeze the rest of my self out of the claws of fear: of making a mistake, of failing, of not being “perfect,” and put myself back out there creatively on OneStreetShy. And hopefully, back to my book too. 

So here’s to a better, more creative, and less solitary 2021 for all!

Water without sounds, A photograph of fine art.

Below is a photograph of Katsura Finakoshi’s painted camphor wood and marble sculpture “Water without Sounds.” It can be found at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, Germany.  Mr. Finakoshi deserves more exposure as an artist than he is given.

“If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something.” – Federico Fellini


Hazy shade of winter, a photograph

Ahhh, seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
But look around, leaves are brown now
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Look around, leaves are brown
There’s a patch of snow on the ground…
-Simon and Garfunkel


One’s entire life, a photograph

“How concrete everything becomes in the world of the spirit when an object, a mere door, can give images of hesitation, temptation, desire, security, welcome and respect. If one were to give an account of all the doors one has closed and opened, of all the doors one would like to re-open, one would have to tell the story of one’s entire life.”
– Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space 

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The dog, a photograph

“A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, The one I feed the most.”
– Geroge Bernard Shaw


Work, a photograph

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbor — such is my idea of happiness.”
― Leo Tolstoy