I can remember when I was a girl, and later a teenager, we would occasionally have relatives come to town for a visit. One Grandmother already lived with us, but my other Grandmother would sometimes come from Colorado. An aunt and uncle might even join our get-together. Beds and rooms were given up, hospitality was paramount. The TV was off and the focus was on being together. It would be a fun time with card games, laughter and reminiscing about old times. Fantastic smells from the kitchen soon emerged as the traditional meals were prepared. I can still feel the hugs from my aproned grandmas, and hear their voices in my head. It was a loving and fun gathering.
My grandmothers have both been gone over 30 years, my mom almost 5 years. 7 out of her 8 siblings have also passed. I long for those relatives and the happy chatter that would fill my parents’ house.
Family ties have always been important to me. A few years ago, my sweet husband and I went to visit the one remaining aunt and her daughter in Colorado. We had a lovely time and even though it had been decades since we were together, it was as if we just picked up from where we left off. My aunt reminded me so much of my mom I just kept staring at her. I was so glad that we went.
I reconnected with another aunt (by marriage) through Facebook a couple of years ago. We message each other every once in a while, and I got the crazy notion to just descend upon her in Texas. It had been 26 years since we’d seen each other. When I messaged her about it, I was unsure if she was keen on the idea and I thought maybe I had made a mistake. As she realized that I was sincere though, she became very excited and said that she just didn’t know if I was serious or not.
As the time came, I sat in the airport a little nervous. Was I crazy? If things didn’t work out between us, or if we felt awkward, we were both stuck in an uncomfortable situation for 3 days. We had our own lives now, and our paths hadn’t crossed for so long, perhaps we were just two people connected by my uncle, her husband, who was gone now.
The Uber dropped me off at a place that my aunt and I agreed on and she would drive me the last 30 minutes to her house. When she pulled up, we embraced and as I heard her familiar British accent, I knew everything would be all right. It was my Auntie and even though I had grey hair now, I was still her niece.
The next few days were spent enjoying each other’s company and meeting some of her southern friends at a social. They were lovely, friendly ladies and my aunt was definitely a force there. I was also able to help her with a few things and I never tired of her telling me stories of my grandma and mom. I recorded some of her stories, so I could share them with my family back home. She’s a wonderful storyteller and had me laughing into the night. Here’s a lady with a British accent, living in Texas and can do a wonderful impersonation of my Hispanic grandmother. All done with great respect and love.
Sometimes we procrastinate reunions with relatives or other times a distance is created by disagreements or misunderstandings. It can be very emotional and upsetting, and may feel easier to just ignore it. A void is felt and no matter how many friends you might have, rarely do they replace family. Unless your family is made up of toxic people, it’s hard to leave behind and to quench the yearnings for them that you might have. There are experiences and traditions that define only your family. Whether born into it or adopted, your family belongs to you and always will. It’s common for us to say we need to go visit a family member and decide to “do it later”. We’ll do it when there’s more money or more time or when it’s more convenient. The sad thing is with some families, the time they end up getting together is at a funeral.
What if I had decided it wasn’t really necessary or important for me to go visit her? Or what if my aunt had decided she was too busy for me. We both would have missed a wonderful experience, not only with each other, but in reconnecting with our past. Reconnecting with loving memories and a history that makes us family. Here I am, old enough that I am a Grandma, but still loved calling her Aunt, and it made me reflect on my nieces and nephews (on both sides) that are all grown, but still call me Aunt. I appreciate that and I appreciate them. It’s like we are in a cool club and I get to be part of it.
Whatever our income or social status or situation, when we scrape away all of the outside layers and years, what life really amounts to is our relationships with others. Make that call or write that letter. There is someone that you would love to see and reconnect with and someone who would also love to see you.