The Ties that Bind

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.

cuckoo bird

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.

Thousand Islands

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.

rochtotexasWhat 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.

familyeditMy cousin said something to me the other day when I told her she was “a good daughter”. She said “we learned from the best, didn’t we?” Yes, we did.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia and GoogleMaps

Life Experiences

I was inspired by Suzie’s post yesterday about life experiences. You can see her original posting here –

I have not been to any of the exotic places she mentions in her post. In fact, I haven’t been anywhere much at all (parts of the United States and Canada). I am not much of a traveler. My life experiences are more basic in nature. Some of you might say they are boring, but I feel very blessed to have experienced them all. Here they are in no particular order:

  1. Receiving my first college degree at age 55 and graduating with the highest honors. Walking across that stage 37 years after I graduated from High School was just as exciting as it would have been at age 20. In fact, I am glad that I waited so long. It meant more to me.
  1. Marrying the love of my life on a cold, rainy November day 25 years ago. 25 years this year, people. In today’s world where some marriages don’t even last 25 weeks, 25 years is a big deal. We’ve been through a lot together, but who hasn’t in 25 years’ time? Walking down that aisle I felt such calm and peace come over me. I wasn’t nervous at all. My brother (who gave me away since my Dad had died two years before I got married) was shaking life a leaf. I had no fears or concerns. It felt right (and it was).


  1. Giving birth not once but twice. I felt the miracle of life twice, and I knew such joy when I heard those first cries. When son # 1 arrived, I was the one who announced, “it’s a boy!” When son # 2 came along, we knew ahead of time that he was a “he”. I had had amniocentesis because at age 36 the doctor declared I was at “advanced maternal age” and he suggested I have testing beforehand to make sure all was well. I would develop pregnancy-induced hypertension with son # 2 and end up out of work 7 weeks before my due date. My delivery with son # 2 was also more difficult (for both me and for the baby). I was not aware of the distress that the baby was under, but Hubby was. He could see the baby’s heart rate monitor; I was blissfully unaware. The doctor would end up using vacuum extraction to coax son # 2 into the world. Today, I am so proud of the handsome young men who call me “Mom”. I couldn’t have asked for better sons. babies
  1. Learning to drive and passing my driving test on the very first try. I learned to drive in a 1976 Oldsmobile Delta ’88 Royale. It was my Father’s car, and it was a boat. I remember the first time my Mom let me drive it on a country road and her cringing when she thought I was too close to the mailboxes on the passenger’s side. I did not take my test in that car. At age 21 I bought my first car – a small hatchback – a 1979 American Motors Spirit. That car was so easy to drive and maneuver.

spirit5.  Spending all major holidays and important celebrations when I was a child with my extended family – parents, brother, grandparents, cousins and aunt. Some of my happiest memories are of those family gatherings and all of us seated around the same table. We didn’t have a lot, but we had each other, and we always celebrated together. We took vacations together, too. We spent summers camping in the Thousand Islands so my Dad and Grandfather could go fishing. I miss so many of them now. Death or distance separates us.


  1. Having two loving, supportive parents. My folks were always there for me. When I think of my childhood or childhood home, I see my parents. My Mom working in the yard, baking in the kitchen or sitting in her chair, reading. My Dad cutting the grass, painting the house, working on the car, napping in his recliner. My dad worked hard and was home every night. My mom was a stay at home mom who greeted me with a smile every day when I came home from school or work. They were my biggest supporters, and I never felt unloved.

mom-dadWhen I married, I gained a second set of parents.  My in-laws were nothing but supportive.  When we started out, they were always there to lend a hand.  When son # 1 was a baby, Grandma and Grandpa did daycare duties.  I can still see Dad sitting in his chair with my son, patiently reading the same Sesame Street books over and over again.  I remember one book in particular (Big Bird looking for something red). My son started Kindergarten already knowing how to read. When we bought our house, they were there to help us get settled. Over the years they were always there.

mom-dadflorack7.  All the time I spent with my cousin while growing up. We were inseparable. My parents called her “our second daughter”. She spent lots of time at our house. We laughed at the same things. During the summers we’d ride our bikes “to meet each other”, and then we’d either ride back to my house to hang out or ride on to my Grandmother’s house to hang out. It was hard losing her daily presence in my life when she moved from New York State to Texas. Her half of the family went to Texas in the mid 80’s. She’s now in Michigan (having met her Michigan-born husband in Texas). She’s closer but still too far away to see often. We still enjoy each other’s company, and when we do talk it’s as if we’d never been apart. We still laugh at the same things.


  1. Stolen moments with my trucker husband. He’s only home 34 hours each week. We have to make the most of what we have. We usually try to have a meal out together if we can. It’s nice to go on dates even if it’s just out for a burger or a coffee. If we can’t manage that, we snuggle up together and watch old re-runs on TV.

I would not have had the memories or the life experiences that I have had without the fantastic, loving and supportive family that I have. Family is everything to me.