Monday, March 8, 2010

Family Matters

We woke early Saturday morning, too early. We dressed in black suits, all four of us. There were ties to tie and even cufflinks to insert into pretty little French cuffs.

We drove to the airport. The kids began to argue. Tears came to my eyes as we passed over the Richmond Bridge.

“Can’t you two just not bicker for one day?” I pleaded.

They tried. But they were tired and apprehensive. They had never been to a funeral.

We flew down to sunny Los Angeles and were greeted by rain showers. It never rains in LA. But it was raining on Saturday. We made our way to Forest Lawn Cemetery. We gathered under a tent, my cousins and a few dear friends.

My Aunt had been cremated so her ashes were placed in a small wooden box. Flowers adorned the table.

We were told to remember my Aunt. I did. Tears welled in my eyes once again. I looked over at my young son. He had tears in his eyes as well.

It struck me that although my Mother is still alive; my boys never really got to know her. Kyle was only a year when we were actually told she had Alzheimer’s. And I do remember Mom coming to the hospital when Will was born. Her caretaker drove her into San Francisco just hours after Will was born. It is my last full memory of my mother. She was delighted to meet her newest Grandson.

But my Aunt quickly tried to take my Mom’s place in my children’s eyes. She was the matriarch of my side of the family. And they loved her.

Her own Grandchildren generously shared her with them.

The three cousins came together as a family once again, at a place we used to visit every Easter. My sister died 16-years-ago. I desperately felt her absence. Our other cousin lives in England. The journey was too long to make. But her beautiful flowers and note sat right next to Auntie. She was with us in spirit.

Every Easter my Mom and Aunt would drag us to Forest Lawn and we would bring flowers and place them on the graves of their parents, Mutti and Vati. These were my Grandparents. The Grandparents I never had a chance to meet.

It felt significant sitting under the tent and honoring my Aunt. I could finally mourn.

When the service concluded, the cousins and the cousin’s kids went to visit the rest of the family buried at Forest Lawn.

We walked over rows and rows of buried souls and finally found my Father. My Sister lies next to him. My heart aches. I am so glad I am with my family and all my cousins.

Next we paid our respects to the grandparents we never knew. My Aunt and my Mom always made them so alive for us. My cousin snapped a photo. I understand his desire for the photograph. That’s where our rich history began, with them. I know he wants to remember them, although he never knew them. I know he wants the connection to them and to the rest of his family. He wants to feel them today and he wants to send the photo to our other cousin in England. He wants the family that was so strong to continue through the generations. I understand this. I love him for this.

The rest of the day passed with food, conversation and little too much wine.

The four of us left late Saturday night for a small hotel room in Pasadena. I didn’t sleep much. I shared a double bed with my husband and Kyle slept in the other double bed. Will was relegated to the cot that flanked our beds.

We woke early again Sunday morning to return home. I was happy, truly happy. I looked around the small room and I understood why. I was with my family and nothing makes me happier.

We landed in Oakland and Kyle shoved Will at the airport gate, “Move faster,” he said. Will turned to Kyle, “Stop acting like such a butt.”

My husband turned to me. “They could barely last a day, and now they need to get it all out!”

He was right. I was home and home felt normal again.


7 comments:

  1. Holly Hollingsworth DillenburgMarch 8, 2010 at 10:50 AM

    Terry,
    I'm so very sorry for the loss of your auntie. In reading your account of the weekend, it's clear she was much more than that. What a beautiful heritage you have. And I love that the stories that were told to you by your mother and auntie still live on through you. Please keep writing this. It may seem unimportant to Kyle and Will now, but one day they will look back and be so grateful that you provided them with an honest depiction of who their family was.....and moreover an authentic, beautiful picture of their mom.

    So honored to know you~
    Holly Hollingsworth Dillenburg

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  2. I'm so glad you were surrounded by your family. What a sad day. Alzheimer's is heartbreaking, and I don't think I knew your sister wasn't alive. I'm so sorry, for All your losses, yet so glad those boys were there for you (hubby included in that), with both their tears and their bickering. Sending hugs...

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  3. Terry, I'm so sorry about the loss of your aunt. The way you wrote this really got to the essence of the loss: there's the loss and the bittersweet memoriies of the other family members also there at the cemetery, and then there are the living, the boys bickering, the crammed hotel room with your family. And you, waking up happy to be alive. This balance, this love in the face of loss, I'm sure is also a legacy of your aunt's.

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  4. Terry, I'm so sorry about the loss of your aunt. The way you wrote this really got to the essence of the loss: there's the loss and the bittersweet memoriies of the other family members also there at the cemetery, and then there are the living, the boys bickering, the crammed hotel room with your family. And you, waking up happy to be alive. This balance, this love in the face of loss, I'm sure is also a legacy of your aunt's.

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  5. My heart is with you, friend, today and as you built your life from here on without your precious auntie. I SO appreciated the mention of the fussing teen boys...boy, do I live on that street. I find myself thinking, 'is nothing sacred?!" but then I have to remember that they are kids...teens....and this is the normal for them.
    Thank you for your honesty and bravery. Know you are in my heart today. Easter will be hard this year but I will be thinking of you. Don't forget it.

    Judy
    justonefoot.blogspot.com

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  6. Terry, thank you for sharing these beautiful words with us. I am sorry that you had to experience the loss of your aunt, but glad that you were able to honor her memory with your family by your side - right there as reminders of the life that surrounds you even on a dark, rainy day.

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  7. Terry, That was a truly beautiful tribute, and a journey of the healing soul. Thank you for that, as a reminder of how to live gracefully through a difficult time, and still keep all your parts intact. So much to balance there in an inner life, but you did it beautifully. I'm so sorry you lost your Aunt, and I think of Georgie so often, the days of the twin (but not!) classic cars, and Debbie and I talk about you both, and Debbie always gets a little teary eyed over that, for both you and Georgie. Maybe it is the only child thing for her, and she can't imagine losing something she never had, but I can see it runs deep in her, for sure. And I remember your Aunt and your Mom together (yes, I capitalize Moms and Dads!), and I always felt the special closeness they had. My Uncle stepped in like that when my Dad got ill with a similar loss of his faculties. I'll never forget him taking Jesse out to teach him to fish, catch and release of course, but a man must learn to fish. It is rich and sweet, and crushingly sad, but we must live all those things in the same breath, every day, in varying proportions thankfully, and you captured that so well in this writing. My love to you and all your family. It is so great to be back in touch...Love, Malcolm.

    P.S. I am reminded just now by looking at the date, that tomorrow is the anniversary of my Mother's passing, and I remember on that day Terry that you called me in the morning. I was in our den, and it was raining outside, and I picked up the phone and it was your sweet voice, filled with such deep compassion, and it was so comforting, and I could feel your own remembrances of your Dad coming through since you had only lost him not long before, though you kept your attention on me and how I was doing. I actually felt better, and it was likely the same energy then as it is now in this piece, of just living and breathing through the tough times, with grace. I'll never forget it my friend, and I hope you are feeling it from me now, these many years down...;)...yup, a wink...we live on.

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