Hug Them While You Can

 

The two lovely ladies flanking my brother Mark and I are our only remaining aunts, age 96 and 91.

 

With all the craziness in the world today, we all can be so busy and concerned with the things we want or have to do and or accomplish that we can forget to appreciate the  people in our lives who make life worth living. The people who have been there for us in the difficult times, who have celebrated with us in the good times, who have shared their hard earned wisdom, who love us in spite of our flaws, and without who ours lives would not be nearly so rich. Sometimes these people live close by and yet we can’t seem to make the effort to keep in touch. We can spend hours a day on Facebook or trolling the internet but find it hard to carve out a few extra minutes to write a note, send a letter or even pick up our cell phones to have an actual conversation with a friend or familiy member we don’t get to talk with often and see even less. Political disagreements can fracture friendships and familial relationships that took years to build. That breaks my heart but not my spirit.

For me there is nothing like personal interaction, face to face, sharing memories, consoling losses, celebrating accomplishments and catching up with friends and family that hold a special place in my heart. I still write old-fashioned letters and send greeting cards (often with personal notes) to friends and familiy and cherish those I receive in return. I attend my high school reunions in California and love to catch up with my classmates and reminisce about those we have lost along the way. We make every effort to see our grown children at least once a year even though that could mean travling to Japan, Alaska, or Equador as they move around every couple of years as military officers. There is nothing like being able to hug them, talk about what is going on in their lives, and share meals around a kitchen table like we did when they were kids. I lost my brother to a motorcycle accident when he was just 24 (I was 23), a painful lesson about how quicky our lives can change and how important it can be to keep in touch and hold friends and family close whenever possible.

Twelve years ago this month, my husband and I were on the way home from our weekend anniversary trip in Vermont, when I got a call from my Aunt Eldyne (on the far right in the photo above). She was calling to tell me that my mother had passed away overnight at her retirement home in Minnesota, just days after placing my father in a memory care unit nearby. I had purchased a plane ticket to travel to Minnesota weeks before to visit them both, and was scheduled to fly there the following day. I missed seeing her and giving her one last hug by just one day. My aunts LaMae and Eldyne are the last remaining siblings in Mother’s family. Dad lived another 4 years, though he moved to a facility near my brother in Idaho during those final years. Mark was able to visit him a couple of times a week and I would travel there a couple of times a year as did my sister Cheryl when she could. We were all with Dad in his last days and and were able to give him a final hug. In spite of his cognitive challenges, he knew he was loved.

Only two of my mother’s siblings remain, Aunt LaMae who is 96 and Aunt Eldyne who is 91. They both continue to live in the same retirement home as my mother in the  small town of Roseau, where they all grew up. I have traveled to Roseau several times since to visit my aunts and cousins who continue to live in the area. My most recent visit was just a couple of weeks ago. I talked my brother Mark into meeting me in Minneapolis and making the seven hour drive north to Roseau. It was fair week and I hoped we would have the opportunity to see more of our cousins as well. And we did. Though we were only there for three days, I was so happy to see my aunties as well as lots of cousins, that the long travel days on either end were more than worth it. We played countess hands of pinchole and 99, shared meals, met some family members for the first time, and exchanged hugs that I will long cherish. You gotta hug them while you still can!

 

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