I can’t believe the date today is already the 19th, and the month is almost over. This month has shaped up to being one of the most trying ones in my life. I started with my dog being diagnosed with a Mast Cell Tumor, which sounded like she had 2 1/2 legs in the grave. Jim was even teasing her when she would wander in the woods around our house prior to surgery if she was “picking her spot”, and he didn’t mean to do her business! We lucked out on that one; her biopsy came back with the cancer being between a Grade 1 and 2 (not 3 as expected), and it will most likely not reoccur in her lifetime because of her advanced age. My middle son Joel was so excited, you would have thought he was getting a new pet or going on vacation. I guess he feels like I do about losing one, and when it doesn’t happen it is in a sense like getting one.
Just when I thought life was good and was so looking forward to spending the weekend with my sister and her family at a dude ranch in upstate NY, she calls me the evening before we’re leaving (6/10), and tells me my favorite aunt had passed away earlier that day. I was so stunned I didn’t realize what she had told me until she started with the details. I cut her short because I didn’t think I had heard her correctly and what she was saying didn’t make any sense.
We called her Auntie (pronounced Ante, like upping the ante in poker), and for the longest time when I was growing up, I didn’t know her first name (Barbara). At the time, I was the youngest member in the family, and doted on because my parents had had so much difficulty conceiving me. Auntie would take me to her house and play “house,” letting me use real food, take me swimming, play with her animals, and she would even get on the floor with me and play Barbie’s. I loved my visits to her home, but they became fewer over the years as I started school. As I got older, I would only see her a few times a year (birthdays & holidays), and it wasn’t the same between us. It would be the usual adult/child “How’s school”, etc., and then I would go off on my own. My step-Grandmother for whatever reason kind of took me under her wing and taught me how to cross stitch, embroider, etc., all things she loved that I still enjoy. My mother and sister Cathy had already taught me how to knit and somewhere I learned how to crochet, probably from Grandma.
It was during my high school years that my Grandmother had a series of strokes, and eventually didn’t recognize us. She was moved into a convalescent hospital, and I completely lost touch with her. She was no longer the Grandmother I had known growing up. Although she hadn’t passed away, it was as if she had because she was so changed. When she actually did pass away, it wasn’t as upsetting to me as other deaths have been. I think if it had happened sooner it would have been harder for me.
Auntie and her husband Uncle Jimmy moved in with my Grandfather, which was just up the street from me. I had graduated from high school and was in college at this point, and even though I still lived at home, I didn’t see them much. My mother and Auntie became closer at this point, and I would hear more about what was going on more so than being a part of their lives. It really wasn’t until I was on bed rest with triplets that I reconnected with Auntie. My relatives and friends helped take care of me and things around the house during this time.
I started to visit Auntie every couple of weeks after my mother died, and it helped her and I ease that void that had been left in our lives by her death. Ryan, my oldest, was five years old at the time, and she doted on him like a grandson. Her grandsons (twins none the less), had grown up out of state, so it was nice for her to spend time with Ryan doing every day things, something she didn’t have the luxury of doing with her own grandsons.
She would love to see the boys, and especially enjoyed going to hear Ryan play his trumpet at band concerts. The last one we invited her to was the same day that Ryan had a track meet. I asked her if she minded my picking her up so she could go to the track meet, have dinner with us, and then go to the concert. She said that would be fine, and not to fuss for dinner. I decided to listen to her suggestion of making sandwiches, but was thrown into a tizzy that afternoon when I was making the macaroni salad and discovered I had no mayo! Our neighbors are health nuts, and I knew there wouldn’t be real mayo to borrow, so I made a quick trip (1/2 hour) to the store for some. I finished in the nick of time to pick up Joel and Chad from school on time, and head off to get Auntie. She was the only one at the track meet dressed in heels and her Sunday best, but she walked across the grass regardless as if she had on jeans and sneakers (which I don’t think she owned a pair of either). We rushed home afterwards, and she was one step ahead of me pulling out the sandwich makings and the like for dinner, telling me I shouldn’t have fussed so, although I could see she was pleased I had. We ate quickly, and scooted back to the school for the concert. Auntie sat in the row ahead of me, and I could see she was enjoying the music. Little did we know this was the last time that all of my family would have with her.
The week leading up to her passing, Joel was chosen to play his recorder for Flag Day, 6/14. This is also Chad’s birthday, and we said we would call Auntie and invite her to attend. I thought she and I could take Chad out to eat afterwards before he headed off to school. We never had a chance to make that phone call because she passed away.
Yesterday was another tear-jerker day for me; Chad graduated from his preschool class. I was fine during the ceremony until they showed a slide show of the last 2 years, and it started with the most wonderful shot of Chad. I burst into tears, and felt the Kleenex box land in my lap at the same time as Jim started laughing at me. I cried through the whole thing (good thing the lights were out), and I’m tearing up now just thinking about it. He can’t wait to go to Kindergarten, and I get a lump in my throat just thinking about sending my baby off on the bus. I was the same with Ryan and Joel, but I always knew I would still have Chad, but now this Fall it will truly be the last time.
Last evening, we hosted a picnic at our home for all of the leaders and adult volunteers involved in Cub Scouts. There was a crowd of about 24, so I was glad I had something to do to keep me occupied, and not think about things. It was between dinner and dessert that one of the couples we have become friends with told me to stop bustling about and come sit with them. They are moving on to Boy Scouts, and who knows when we’ll see each other again. Of course I got teary eyed and followed them out to the pool where the last few stragglers were having nightcaps and the men were smoking cigars. The party ended when the last guest left at 1 am, so I guess it went well.
This morning it dawned on me that all these things have the common thread of marking how time has passed over the years. You don’t always realize this when you are in the moment, but you should enjoy even the most mundane tasks, because someday you won’t need to do them anymore. Chad is always reminding me that “he’s five and can do everything now”. This may be true, but I don’t have to like the fact. I always was wishing for that day, but now that the time has arrived, I’m not liking it so much. Yes I have more time in some respects, but I don’t like the feeling that I’m not needed as much.
I’m sorry for the length of this entry, but you guessed correctly if you realized I’m trying to make up for lost time. Guess what? You can’t. Just enjoy each moment before it ends.