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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Generation Gap

I’ve recently become borderline obsessed with finding out as much as possible about my family history.  Where did we come from?  Why did we come here?  Who are the people who make up parts of who I am?  I blame my obsession on the television show, “Who Do You Think You Are?”  Of course this search looks a lot easier on television.  I’ve been searching through Ancestry.com with a two week free trial to try and find as much information as possible.  Then it occurred to me; in this age of technology where so much information is available at our fingertips with a few clicks of the computer mouse, I overlooked a wealthy source of family information.  A living breathing relative who has a mind like a steel trap.  So, I called her up and went to visit.
Auntie has always been the person in our family who can tell you when something happened.  Not only that, but she can tell you what you were wearing, and what the weather was that day.  I’ve always been told I’m a lot like her.  I tend to remember things with details that surprise a lot of people….including myself.  See, Auntie, my great-aunt, is 85 years old, and although it’s quite possible that she’s still got decades left in her, I just want to make sure I learn as much as she’s got to tell me while I can.  I would hate for all the stories of our family’s history to be gone when she is.
This past decade hasn’t been the best for her.  She struggled with anxiety that made it impossible for her to stay in her own apartment.  She moved into a retirement community, and has basically hated it ever since.  She hasn’t been the same fun aunt she was as I was growing up.  She’s been sad.  Many times she’s been downright depressed, and I hate seeing her this way.
I admit I don’t visit her as much as I should….Mother and Aunt  do, but the rest of us….not so much.  Auntie never married or had kids of her own.  She took care of her parents and some of her siblings who fought and lost their battles with cancer far too young.  One of those siblings was my grandmother.  I never got to meet Grandma……but Auntie was always there.  She was a surrogate grandmother to my sisters and I…..always there for us….it’s our turn to be there for her.
She’s gotten to a point where she does not like to leave the place she’s at.  She has missed holidays, birthday parties, and countless other family events because she can’t bring herself to leave.  We tend to get angry with her when she refuses to come; we roll our eyes, and just get aggravated with the fact that most people would be thankful to be as healthy as she is….but she wishes she could have taken the place of family members who have already passed away.  What does our anger help?  Nothing.  Our anger isn’t what she needs.  She needs to not feel alone.  She needs to not feel like a burden.  She needs to remember why she’s so lucky to be there with us.  She needs to be reminded that she hasn’t been packed away at this retirement community and forgotten.
I went there this evening to hear what stories she could tell me about our family.  I went there to absorb whatever I could from her.  I did learn a lot about my family, but I learned something about myself too.  I miss my aunt….and I love spending time with her.  Tonight we laughed and joked, and time flew by so fast.  Granted, she had her moments.  At one point she told me that she wanted to kick the doctor who put her there in the shins, and she wished she would die in her sleep.  I politely told her that if she said that again around me I would kick HER in the shins.  Yep, I said it just like that….and she smiled.  We were members of two different generations enjoying each other’s company, and making each other laugh.  I went there to see what I could get from her, and got so much more than I expected.  I hope I was able to give her something in return.
We’re going to make these visits a weekly date.  Maybe we can learn from each other….she’ll teach me where I came from, and I’ll teach her that there’s a world out there that she’s missing out on.  Who knows, maybe she’ll even come explore it with me one day. 

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