As I wrote about last week, I was pretty much in despair leaving the kids. I don't do well separated from them. I recognize that I'm an odd one, and that I should be able to be away with them without hyperventilating at the thought. Youngest -- or Mr. Little Legs as Aunt Margaret dubbed him this summer -- had the hardest overt time with me going away. I tried to avoid having my panic attacks around him before I left. Daughter wept the right words and keened the right actions, but she's so resilient that I knew she'd hardly notice my absence. Eldest was truly sorry to see me go, and he missed me a lot, but, as he said over the phone when asked what he thought about Madagascar 2, "I am 12, Mom."
All four of them -- the kids and the dog -- had a better time with Aunt Ginny than they have ever had with me. They rose to the challenge of explaining what they do and when they do it and with whom they do it and how they do it. [All right, the dog was mum on that, but she'd have spilled it all if she only knew English.] They breezed through three days of school and then had four days off. They went to movies! They ate out! They brought pizza and Chinese and fast food and bagels in! They rented movies! They went on a freakin' safari! In short, they had a blast.
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When I was 8, my cousin Bruce, the 9-year-old fifth child out of a total of eight, was hit by a car and died three days later. My parents left the five of us at home to go comfort Bruce's parents and siblings. It was a heart-wrenching time and that heartache never healed for my dad's sister. Never.
One of the home movies we have comes from that period of time when my parents were in New York amidst the horror of the death of a child. The youngest child was 5 years old. In fact, Bruce died on Christopher's fifth birthday. The oldest child was 14. My parents got all the kids out of the house, taking them to an amusement park. The movie shows the kids whirling on rides. I never understood that action: the visiting of an amusement park during such a time.
I think I understand it a bit better today. We want to shield our children from the pain swirling around us. We want to shield them from seeing the adults they love shattered in the face of death. We want to show them that there will be normalcy.
Uncle Ken was 77. He had lived a life so very full. The hole he leaves in us is tempered by so many grand memories and an understanding that life ends. And life goes on. He suffered mightily in the end, so we have the comfort of knowing that the pain is gone. There's a great deal of comfort there. Not enough to fill a hole completely, but it'll do. It will have to.
I am back. I am grateful to have known that crotchety old man with the quick wit. My life is better for having known him. My children's lives are better for their father having had a role model for what a good man is. Death doesn't take any of that away.
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I am blessed, truly blessed, that my sister put her life on hold to come up here and be my children's amusement park. I've no way to repay the ever-increasing debt of what I owe to her and her husband for what they've done for me and mine. I am glad that my "me and mine" overlap with her "me and mine."