In my endeavors to renovate my den, I found this picture of my family taken in Summer 1983 at my grandparents house in Cherry Hill. I was 6 years old--a rising first grader. My second cousin, Kate, is there with her grandfather, who was my great Uncle Ted. My brother, my dad, my mom, Kate's dad, my granddad and my Nana are all in the photo. I think Kate's mom Linda probably snapped the photo.
I remember the weekend visits to my Nana and Granddad's house when family was in town. How I loved to talk to my Great Uncle Ted about everything and hear all his stories from Titusville. I loved, loved when my cousin Kate would visit. We are the same age. She was my most favorite childhood cousin playmate.
There are nine of us pictured, only three of us are still alive. Two-thirds of my family in that photo are gone. When I realized this, I felt terribly lonely. The kind of lonely you cannot shake and that fills you with impossible regret because you don't regret a choice you made; instead you regret all the choices that were made for you and around you and that led to permanent things, like death. It's impossible to have made a different decision or gone a different because it wasn't up to you. It's not that it is anyone's fault that they are dead; but all the things we do in life do, in some way, determine our ultimate outcomes.
I know I am rambling. How I wish everything was different! Kate lost her grandfather and her Dad. I lost my grandparents, my dad and my brother.
As I write this, I don't know how to turn this blog into something uplifting or how to dig this piece out of the hole of sorrow. It isn't that I am depressed or in utter despair. It is just that the lonely feeling I have isn't something that I don't think will magically leave. I cannot change the outcomes of the people in that photo. But, I think, what I can do, is remember them all and tell my kids about them. Each of these people in the photo have somehow made me who I am today and in turn, influenced who my children will be as they grow.
My granddad was not the easiest of men. There are so many things about him and his relationship with my brother that I struggled with as a child. But, still, he loved me. And I think he taught me so much about how to love difficult people and how to see beyond their limitations. He taught me to love my vegetables and how to grow them, too. He loved nature. When I see Chloe at her best camping or hiking, I think of my granddad and how much he would have taught her.
My Nana, well, she was an adventurer. I thought about her today when I was thinking about my own future--what ever is next in my career. She went back to college when my mom and her brother were adults. She never stopped living or learning. Her paintings are tucked around my house. Whenever I see my kids with a paintbrush in their hands, I think of her.
My Great Uncle Ted was my Granddad's brother. He was a charmer and had this way of loving and being proud of his family that was so big. Like when Ted came to town, you were guaranteed a great conversation, a witty banter and to know that you were, indeed, a star shining in the sky. He loved his difficult brother. He adored my Nana like a sister.
My cousin Kate an her dad Bruce--well I never saw them enough. Kate and I were such great cousins and even better penpals. Somehow we grew up and got married and had babies and now our babies are nearly flown and grown. I always think of how much she just adored her dad and how visibly her dad adored her and her mom, Linda. It was a like a roadmap of love right on display.
My Dad and my brother, well, they are everything. My Dad adored my Uncle Ted and fought with my Granddad, endlessly. But, my Dad, never ever ended a visit without telling my Granddad he loved him. I want my kids to know that love does not mean agreeing, it simply means loving. My brother, well, when Kate wasn't there, he was my best playmate and best ally in the long car ride to Jersey from Bucks County. He endured the warm car which would be over scented with my Mom's Red Door perfume and cause both us to sneeze.
And my Mom, well, she is the one who gave me all these wonderful people. It was her family who loved me so hard. What a gift my Mom gave us!
I had so many "greats" and "seconds" and great family friends of my grandparents that I always thought were family. I had so many summer days in Cherry Hill having picnics and Shirley Temples and good, interesting chats. I miss that; but I know the feeling and the memories are things that are impossible to miss because they are always right there for me to share with my own kids.