I am rarely self-indulgent and usually put others before myself and just get on with things. I admit that my Aunt’s death has hit me hard. When a person reaches their mid-50’s as I have, there’s only so much “memory” you can hold onto at one time. Memories are there, but they get buried or forgotten as time goes on and other things crowd in. Remembering is something I’m not very good at, unfortunately. Hubby or my cousin will say, “Remember when ….?” And I don’t. I will ask, “are you sure I was there?” I think Hubby thinks I’m cuckoo sometimes.
My family was always extremely close. My grandparents married young. My Mother was born when my Grandmother was only 19. After my Mother, my Grandmother would have triplet sons. Sadly none of them survived. One was stillborn, the second would only live a few hours, and sadder still the third would last a few months and then die from meningitis. I can still remember my Grandmother talking about how rosy his little cheeks were. After losing three sons, understandably my Grandmother was depressed. She told me that the doctor suggested she have another child. That baby would be my Aunt Mary Ellen.
My Mother and my Aunt were both close to their parents and stayed that way. When my Mom and my Aunt married, they remained close to each other and to the family. I remember going to my grandparents’ house every weekend. They only lived a little over two miles away so we were there usually every Friday or Sunday evening and sometimes both days. My cousins were even closer. My Aunt moved back home for a few years after her divorce, and then when she did move out, it was to a house up the same street from my grandparents’ house. We spent all of our holidays, summers and vacations as a group.
My Grandfather died when I was 12, and at around that time we stopped doing vacations together. My brother married for the first time when I was 14. We still had holidays and celebrations together, but as everyone grew up, the family connections got a little looser. My cousin Carole had her son Mark, and shortly after that she met her first husband John. Carole and John decided that Texas looked like a good place for jobs so they moved south. My cousin, Wesley also went to Texas to look for work. While in Texas, Carole would begin to add to her family, and my Aunt would miss her grandchildren. At around that time (1986), my Aunt’s employer Burroughs Corporation would merge with Sperry Univac and become Unisys. I don’t recall if she was laid off or if she decided to leave, but my Aunt decided to move to Texas with everyone else. It wasn’t long after that, that my lifelong bosom buddy, my cousin Charlotte would miss her family and decide to go to Texas, too. I was 26 when she left.
What had been a very close-knit group of ten in Rochester, New York had dropped to four. My brother has always had an odd habit of totally focusing on his immediate family. When he married, he stopped calling or visiting his parents and sister. Although he was still in town, we never saw or heard from him. He would show up on birthdays or holidays with gift in hand. I don’t see him at all now, but that sad story is a story for another day. My Father died when I was 28, and suddenly it was just my Grandmother, my Mother and me. I met my sweet Hubby when I was 29 and married at age 30.
When I started looking through pictures last evening to write a post about my Aunt, I was okay. As I sorted through and studied each photo, the memories started to flood back. It hit me hard how much a part of my formative years she had been. We stayed in touch with sporadic phone calls, emails and Facebook, and she did visit here a few times. It was different, though. Life tends to go on. There is a whole side of the family in Texas that I’ve never met. I’ve seen their pictures on Facebook, and I do try to keep up. It’s hard, though, when you are separated by almost 24 hours of travel and 1,500 miles. My Aunt’s genes are very strong. I look at photos of the young women (my Cousin Carole’s daughters) growing up in Texas, and I see how much like my Aunt they are. I see her face in some of theirs.
Getting back to the self-indulgent bit, I “lost” my family almost 30 years ago when more than half of it moved south and thus beyond my reach. That was a blow. Losing my Dad two years after that would spur me into seriously looking for my own life partner and soul mate, and I was very lucky to have found Hubby. Together we would create our own family unit and lives for ourselves. Losing my Aunt brought back the first “half” of my life as if it were just yesterday and not decades ago. Memories long buried or forgotten came roaring back. I had a wonderful childhood surrounded by loving and giving adults.
Images courtesy of Wikipedia and GoogleMaps