Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Last Generation

My sister sent an email out to us that the hospice people were giving my aunt a week at the most. She sent it out yesterday afternoon. Last night she and my brother called to say my aunt had passed. When I was growing up she and my cousins lived two blocks away from us.

She was the last. Now in my immediate family we no longer have any fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandfathers or grandmothers. Of course we are parents, aunts, uncles and two of us are grandmothers but there's no one left above us.

I remember when my mother died I whispered that I was an orphan even though my father was still living. Four years later, my sister asked me to come to Phoenix because Dad's mental health was failing and she had taken off more sick or vacation days than she had and she wanted to know if I would come. I had left Xerox the year before so I was free to come and I flew in to Phoenix on December 2nd. When I entered my Dad's bedroom, he was getting dressed - to look at him you couldn't tell he was sick but the voice inside my head said 'he won't make it to Christmas.'

Over the next few weeks, I could see what my sister meant by his mental health failing as he was moody, sad, upbeat and changeable. One morning he was sitting at the bar isle in the kitchen with his cousin when he keeled over and crumbled to the floor. Gone. Just like that. On Christmas Eve.

That left my aunt. My dad died in 2000 and I didn't speak to my aunt for a long time until my cousins were here for a family reunion. I actually didn't attend the reunion but Mr. Honey and I were at the zoo and happened to run into my cousins. One of my cousins admonished me for not keeping in touch with my aunt. She told me how they stayed in touch with my parents and the least I could do is stay in touch with my aunt who missed talking to me.

It made no sense to point out to my cousin that staying in touch with my parents wasn't a hard thing to do since they lived in the same town and went to the same church and did things together while I was in Chicago. Made no sense to say it because it made no sense that geography couldn't be overcome with a phone or an email. So I started calling and emailing. And the first time I spoke with my aunt in over five years, she broke down in tears and said over and over how good it was to hear my voice.

Yes, I'm an idiot but she forgave me by not admonishing me and I could tell from the conversation it wasn't even on her mind. A few months back my cousin thanked me for being consistent in keeping in touch even though I didn't get to speak to my aunt every time I called and not all the emails were returned. I am grateful she yelled at me.

Of the three girls and one boy that made up my mom's sibling group, Bay was the one who got the sense of sass and humor. I remember one time she was in the car when she was stopped by a police officer. We all knew Officer Gunn (yes, his real name) he lived down the street from me. He came up to the car and said to her. "Mrs. Patton, you didn't come to a complete stop at that sign." Without missing a beat she answered, "Officer Gunn, the sign said 'stop' not 'stay.'"

Without her here, my sister, the eldest grandchild, becomes the matriarch of the family. I kidded with her about that last night and asked her if we needed to call her something else. "Ma'am"she said. "start saying ma'am."

Without her here, I don't know where the anchors are. My sisters and brothers and I are close and my sisters and I are especially close so I guess that's where I will look - but it's not the same. We always had someone in that last generation to turn to. But now it's us. I'm one of the youngest, so we should be here for a good long time to assist the next generation - except none of the last generation made it to 80 years. Bay came close at 77, my father at 72. The generation before that made it to the 80's.

I've marked the next reunion on my calendar and I will make sure my brothers and sisters do the same. I have cousins I've never met in person on my Facebook page and we keep tabs on each other. And I've learned a valuable lesson about keeping in touch with family which I will remember. I am looking forward to meeting them next year.

The good news is now that generation is complete and together in whatever Heaven is and I'm certain that if there are stop signs in heaven she'll come to a complete stop, turn off the car and stay.


Anonymous said...

This is a lovely comment on your aunt and you. It's sad to see a generation pass, but good to know that they are all together again.

Beverly said...

Indeed it is both sad and hopeful. I cannot imagine how lonely it must have been for her to not have her siblings around her even though there were children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Susie said...

I'm so sorry for your loss Bev. This past year I also lost my father's last sibling, having lost my dad the year before. You made me laugh and cry with this post. Memories and humor will get you through it. It does me.

Melodye said...

What a wonderful tribute and a wonderful lesson as well.


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