I visited my Aunt Linda today, here in California-she is the widow of my mom’s brother Les, who died a few years after my mom. I’d always been fascinated by the fact that my mom and her brother were born seven years apart, on the same day-what are the odds? And, additionally, I met a cousin of mine, her son Kevin, whom I’d never met-and here I am 51 years old! I grew up in a military family, moving frequently, and I never knew much of my extended family as a result, but here was the opportunity, and I’m so glad it worked out!
The treasure trove….my uncle Les and my mom used to always refer to me as the family historian-I”ve always loved finding out about ancestors, recording events, the whole nine yards. And it touched me to my bones that my Uncle Les really did consider me so-and as a result, left to me, when he died, this treasure box that my aunt passed along to me yesterday. A computer paper box, very heavy, very plain looking-giving NO indication of the walloping emotions that lay inside…
My uncle’s death, also from cancer, shook me again when it happened-for himself, a man I loved, and for another link to my mom being gone-you will know what I mean when I say that. It was painful all over again, and I eventually put it into its’ place in my life, and continued on, as we do. Well, I have to say, this simple cardboard box, packed a wallop that was as overwhelming as could be. I waited until we were at our hotel to open it, and was not in any way prepared for what lay within. There are books that belonged to my grandpa, my mom’s dad, who was a Presbyterian minister, journals he kept from the 1920’s about his ministry, about his marriage, about my mom, letters he wrote, memorial cards from when my grandma died, burial information about his second wife, who was Scottish, and her sea captain father, birth and death certificates for all of them, notes and letters of family members when my brother Kysa died, when they found out about my mom’s illness 6 months later….it goes on and on. It will take me months, probably longer, to go through all the information. And I am honored that Uncle Les left this to me, that he thought so much of me that he did this.
There is so much more in that box then what is physical. Inside, I found that my uncle thought of me and who I was as much as I thought of him and who he was. That sounds simple, but I only met him a few times, and I hadn’t realized that fully. One of the first things I read in there was a note from him to his sister, my mom, saying how devastated they were to learn of her illness,and notes from other family from when she died. Pictures, so many of them, of forgotten days and memories. All good, and all too much to take in at one sitting. I had to put it away. The tears were as sudden and the pain as fierce as if it were all new. Inside this box are the papers that are my grandma and my grandpa, my Uncle Les, my mom, my brother..so many people who meant so much to me who are gone. And as I go through these papers, and build their stories, and renew my memories, I will be honored again that Uncle Les thought enough of me that he gifted me with all of this, and I will grieve again that these loved ones are gone, and I will celebrate that they lived, and I will add to my life and my memories by reading, and reading some more, and realize again that our story is just that–our story, and that each person who knew these same family members knew them in a different way than I did, and that will broaden my story of them, the living, and maybe add more to my relationship with them in this life. A moment to realize and grow and remind me to make this life I have count in as many ways as possible, a moment to know that I am blessed to still have opportunity to change me, to change my relationships, to build my story, to maybe have something of quality to leave behind me….
Thank you from my heart, Uncle Les, for gifting me with more of the story of my mom, of my brother, of you..