Over the weekend, my Aunt G passed away. The funeral was yesterday.
We had not seen/talked to her in quite some time and a few years ago, she stopped sending holiday cards. Families. Complicated things. But still, sad. I'm not sure how to explain it, other than that my whole life until SP entered the picture, my family was 8 people: mom & dad, brother, grandma & grandpa, and aunt & uncle. My mom's dad died before I was born and her mom walked out on them when my mom was very young, so I never had grandparents other than my dad's parents. My mom has one brother, but he has lived in CA with his wife & 2 kids my entire life. I've seen them maybe 4 times in my life. So really, my only aunt was Aunt G. My only uncle was her first husband, W. I have no understanding of what it's like to have cousins. Aunt G didn't have children.
Yes, there were some changes over the years, but those changes didn't start until I was 28 years old. Eight family members became nine when my brother married P, and then 9 became 11 when my niece and nephew were born. Aunt G and Uncle W divorced and Aunt G married J, but at that point, J wasn't really an uncle, just Aunt G's new husband.
Now my grandparents are gone. Uncle W is gone, Aunt G is gone. There are no more ties to the traditions from my youth. No more grandma's house. No more holidays with grandma's blue & white china. No more crazy Thanksgiving pinecone turkey centerpiece I made in Brownies and I glued the felt beak-wattle on upside down and every year everyone made fun of me and my artsy crafty inabilities. No more cookie baking with grandma and Aunt G. No more cross-stitch talk with Aunt G. No more lingering over cups of hot tea and trays of homemade cookies in grandma's kitchen while figuring out what we're all going to bake next.
As I said, family dynamics often can be difficult. I find it very hard to forgive, to let go of anger, to move on. As I talked to my brother Monday evening, with his help, I came to sort of let go of the issues of the more recent years and instead remember the good things from years past.
|Little me, so unimpressed with coconut on the bunny cake|
Like every holiday when Aunt G was in charge of using the electric knife to carve the turkey/ham. She'd always stomp on the floor in grandma's kitchen and that was "the signal." The signal to dash upstairs for a "mistake" - the piece of meat that she "accidentally" messed up cutting that we'd get to sample before dinner while we carried all the food to the table.
|Aunt G in grandma's kitchen carving Thanksgiving turkey|
Like all the late night penny poker games at grandma's, sitting next to her (or dad or grandpa or mom) and learning to play poker when I was 6 or 7 years old.
Like the camping trip to Maine when I was 4 and her and my dad showing off the fish they caught.
|Aunt G & fish she caught in Maine|
Like the fact that she was at every "major" event in my life - high school graduation, birthdays, weddings, etc. And when I broke my femur and things were difficult in every sense, she came over every day to help.
I've cried several times the last few days. I'm sad she didn't get to live longer (she was only 63), but then again, she smoked, a lot, for 40~45 years and at times, for years at a time, drank a lot. It really affected her lungs and heart and I think she really suffered at the end. That makes me cry.
I'm sad because sometimes, I think she wasn't happy, I think maybe because sometimes, it's hard to live with consequences of decisions and actions, but only you can fix things. Other people can't fix them for you.
I still have a crochet throw blanket she made for me when I was 7 years old. We still use it. It was on my bed growing up, it went to college with me, then it was in storage while I was in Japan and CA, but since I moved back to Pittsburgh, it's been on the bed or a couch. The colors don't really match my decor, but it doesn't matter. Sometimes the comfort of an old blankie and the memories it has are more important than it matching the color of your furniture.
I hope Aunt G is at peace.