I learned yesterday, via Facebook of course, that my Aunt Harriet died. This was my mother's brother Davis's wife. Both of Mother's brothers, Davis and Jimmy, died before Mother did and Jimmy's first wife died years ago. His second wife is still alive, I do believe.
"Have you ever seen this picture?" she would ask me. "I love it." And she would touch it with her fingertips.
My mother loved her childhood. She never wearied of telling me stories about growing up on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Her brothers were the loves of her life. After her father, that is, who never, as long as she lived to tell, could do any wrong in her eyes. Except for one thing. He was too harsh by far with her brother Davis. That, she would admit. Davis was the middle child. His older brother, Jimmy, was by all accounts a golden boy. He had talent in art and excelled in school. He was well-behaved and everyone adored him. And Mother was the baby and the apple of her father's eye and the only girl so she never had to fight for attention. But Davis- well, tucked into the middle there where he was and with a wicked sense of humor which often found its target in pranks which got him into trouble, there was no way he could ever get the validation of his father the way the other two could. And he suffered for it and he got punished for trying (I am playing armchair psychologist here) to get his parents' attention any way he could. I'm sure that my grandfather believed in "spare the rod and spoil the child" and when it came to Davis, he did not spare that rod at all.
Even Mother admitted that.
It's so odd. I remember when I was a child and we would all get together, my grandparents, my mother and my brother and me, her brothers and their wives and children. We would usually all meet up in Vero Beach, Florida at the Sea Cove Cottages, long since gone.
We would play in the Atlantic and on the beach and in the pool, we would sleep sandy and close in the little bedrooms. And I, who had no father and whose mother was so unhappy, would look at my aunts and my uncles and their families and I would think how happy they looked. How perfect my cousins' lives appeared to me. No. That's a lie. Not perfect. Just normal. And normal seemed perfect to me then.
Of course, as I've grown older, I've learned that my cousins' lives were far from perfect but I still think so fondly back to those vacations, to my aunts and uncles, to my cousins. Two of them are gone now too. One, my cousin Bruce, Harriet and Davis's son, who died years ago from cancer, and before he died, his sister, Maryanne, who was murdered.
So much tragedy. How do we humans contain it all? I do not know. And then, we die. Not to be shallow or anything. But it is the way of it.
Harriet actually visited in this house. She had come down to spend time with Mother not long after we moved here and she and Mother came out one Sunday morning for pancakes. I'm glad I got to see her. Despite all of the sorrow and horror she had had to face in her life along with some serious health problems, she was upbeat. She was cheerful. She loved my house.
And speaking of, I spent a good part of the day today with Lily and Owen and Gibson. We went to Target.
That's what Gibson looked like wearing a barbecue chef's hat, drinking an Icee.
Owen was wearing his Power Rangers costume which looks like this.
Lily had taken that picture earlier when he was posing before doing his death-defying leap off of her headboard onto the bed which gives me a little heart-attack every time he does it.
Besides Target we also went to the Big Library, which is what we call the main branch, lunch at Welcome-To-Moe's, and Publix. It was a long day and by the end of our time in Publix, Owen wanted to get out of there and get home. "I feel like I'm breaking," he said.
"I do too," I told him. "Hang on. We're about done."
One of the things I realize about being a grandmother is that I have a lot in common with my grandsons. I don't really care what other people think and I like to wear whatever makes me happy. And when I hear music, I like to dance, no matter where I am.
And I hope that my grandsons remember these things about me. I remember things about my own grandfather, born in 1888, that are as present to me as what I did yesterday. Perhaps this is a sign of older age. I don't know. I remember how when it was time to go to bed and I was six years old, he never kissed me, but would show all the affection he could show by brushing my face with his own bristly face.
It wasn't perfect and I have no idea if it was normal, but it was him and he showed me the pictures in his National Geographic books and I remember that too, especially the picture of Early Man hunting the Wooly Mammoth. I will probably think about that picture on my deathbed. That, and my grandfather's bristly face.
Family. Again and always. The way the DNA entwines and ladders itself forever and ever as long as the blood shall survive.
Good night, y'all.
Happy Friday. Be at peace, Aunt Harriet.