Yesterday, we celebrated my Aunt Anna’s 90th birthday. (Thanks, Courtney for sharing the photo.)
On the way home, I was confronted with a simple fact, I love my family. Forgive me for being a bit surprised at the depth of my feeling. My family isn’t fluent in the language of feelings and neither am I. Collectively, we’re a pessimistic, stubborn, undemonstrative lot. Years before when visiting my Grandmother Hendricks in the hospital, she first commented on “how corn fed I’d become.” Totally in character and dead on. She also said how much she loved her family. This statement was totally uncharacteristic and I figured she had to be sicker than we thought. I’ve also never forgotten it. It was a rare moment when she spoke from her heart.
When we were young and in the thick of family potlucks, birthday celebrations, hay rides, weddings, baptisms and funerals, time seemed to stand still. My large family provided companionship, connection to something larger than the self and belonging. We cousins ran in packs, like wild little animals and for the most part we loved our tribe. We’d run in to grab food or a drink and race outside again to join the little marauding horde. Yesterday, I see all of us sitting on the other side of middle age, or rapidly crossing or approaching the land of senior discounts, gray hair and wrinkles. How can this be when only yesterday we were all young and time stood still?
Years ago, I had no awareness that this day would come and that we would celebrate my Aunt’s birthday without my Dad, her twin. I never thought that I’d see my best friend cousin, Gwen with hair of gray or that lots of us would pause in our conversations to pull the right word out of the lifetime of memories trapped in our heads. We are all so much older now. Maybe we’re also wiser, not just because of our lives filled with experience but because we have learned how valuable this imperfect family of ours is and always has been.
How recently we celebrated Grandma Hendricks (Grandma Gen’s) 90th birthday. On a warm, August day, her patio tables filled with food, we ate, laughed and posed for pictures. Our lives were full of promise. Choices stretched before us on a gently laid ribbon of time. The ribbon is no longer a gentle one. We cling to the ends of it lashed to a time that races. It’s been a heck of a ride.
What we took for granted was a blessing that we didn’t comprehend. What some times felt like obligation was really a gift.
In the corner of the Hall, a display of family photos was a tribute to Anna and family. Looking over the photos, my Dad, the absent twin was still very much present. My aunt and dad are as identical as two fraternal twins could ever be. Time and death can’t alter that. I’m sure that Anna’s husband, Harold, must have also enjoyed the celebration. How much he would have loved holding his great grandson, Roman on his knee. I’m sure he and Dad would have talked World Series.
Our family has its shadows, those parts of ourselves that cause trouble, the things that separate and divide. Our German stereotypical traits are not all pluses. Yesterday, I saw that it doesn’t really matter. It’s okay to be on different pages. It doesn’t have to sever the connection unless we think it does. Our perception of what family is and how it functions is what feeds our need to come together and still mark those family milestones.
And so, to copy a line from Grandma,this middle-aged, corn-fed gal says “I love my family!” And, I do. Thanks for being there. It has made all the difference in a world often full of challenges and shadows. Family, you have been an anchor, an ever-changing constant, a place to come home to, a tribe to which to belong. You mean the world to me.