The Mediator: Crushing Grapes and Narrowing Rifts

Simona watched as a dark shadow crossed her grandpa’s face. The conversation had briefly touched on Daniel, and the whole table grew silent. Then conversation picked up again with the nervous focus of people trying to change the subject. “Isn’t this lamb wonderful?” and the conversation continued. Grandpa just glanced at the door. He was not one for many words so Simona and the others might never know what he was thinking.

Daniel, her father Augustin’s brother and Grandpa’s first son, had not been at the family table in 15 years. When communism was a reality in Romania, there was no ownership of property. Now since 1989, attempts to restore such things land ownership were undertaken. And reverberating conflicts were visible in families through out rural Romania.

Simona’s dad had lived on the land and helped his grandpa with the vineyard all his life. Living on the land, with wife and children, all had a hand in the growing the grapes. Daniel had pursued a degree in engineering and had built dams and been involved in Ceausescu cement and building focus.

As land ownership was being re instated, chaos and conflict occurred in rural families. Does the land title follow to the first born? Does it go to the son who worked the land? What about the daughters? Over 300 sibling murders clearly showed that the conflict had escalated to violence and cleavages between families were widening.

Simona decided at that moment, over lamb at Easter Sunday dinner to be a third sider. She began as a go between- shuttling back and forth with stories between brother and brother and grandpa. “Remember the time you and your brother went fishing with your dad&?” she began with good memories, then gently carried words of healing, possibility between the men.

Over a course of months, possibilities came into focus. Perhaps both brothers could work on the land and live there? Maybe some engineering and water skills could assist with irrigation and the grapes? Could the families have a meal together and reconnect? Being a third side takes time, and patience. Simona wanted things to go faster, concerned about Grandpa’s health. Today, a year later, Grandpa looks younger. The brothers work together on the land. Daniel and his family live near by as they begin summer construction on the family property. And if you watch your wine store, you might see a wine named for Simona.

Simona’s family will not worry about the court’s decisions around land ownership. They have their own family understanding through Simona’s efforts as a shuttle mediator. The third side is there for all of us. And it is especially powerful with those we love.

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