|Grandpa Lash 1899-1955, gift from Aunt Ginny|
My aunts arrived in town Saturday. One, Mother's eldest sister, from Denver and the other, her youngest sister, from Chicago. These visits are all too seldom and all too short, but the emotions they evoke leave deep, lingering impressions. Due to distance, I didn't see much of these aunts while I was growing up, but they and my uncle, (Mom's brother at whose home we all met), are the last tangible links I have to my late mother. Three members of an ever shrinking group who knew Mom from the time she was a child, knew her in a way I never could. I believe it comes as a shock to most all children when they discover their mother's had a life before the day they were born.
Sitting around the table with my aunts and my uncle and cousins, the memories and stories flowed. Tales of other times and of people I never met who were nonetheless part of my family's history. Tragic ones about my grandmother, (their mother), dying in a kerosene explosion leaving seven motherless children. Eerie ones like the time great-great grandmother died, and at noon as the post-funeral meal was being served the heavy, wooden farm table broke in two and collapsed. Mostly though, we laughed at the anecdotes of childhood pranks and eccentric relatives and neighbors. And at ones about their school days and importantly, (to me), stories about my mother as a girl and young woman, before marriage and motherhood defined who she was.
As I looked at their dear faces, and heard their laughter as they were swept away with their memories, I found myself wishing Mom was there with her brother and sisters reliving those long ago days along with them. Instead it was me, and while I treasured every moment, and laughed til I cried and my ribs ached, there was the slightest twinge of guilt. This must be akin to what is called survivor's guilt, it seemed unfair I was enjoying this visit so much while she was gone.
The visit is over, until hopefully next year we will all gather again. My youngest aunt brought letters Mom had written her over the years to give me; will future family historians even have that luxury? With the advent of e-mail I'm thinking likely not. Both aunts also brought me family photos and articles I've been pouring over. But with the aunts came something else just as important, more important actually--that indescribable sense of belonging. Of being part of this circle, no matter what the future brings we are and will remain family. For that I'm eternally thankful.