Except for the very youngest and the very oldest among us, who doesn't have access to the easy communication that is email or Facebook? But I'm not entirely sure that access has made any one of us more accessible than we were 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe the only thing it's done is make our inaccessibility or non-responsiveness or falling-off-the-face-of-the-earth harder to live down or explain away.
Every year after my father died, I went to visit Grandma. I would take her all around Massachusetts and New Hampshire, enabling her to see nieces and great-nieces, sisters and sisters-in-law, nephews and their wives and offspring and grandchildren, high school classmates of my dead Grandpa. For a week, I would listen to her tell me the same stories from third grade or her 80s, bemoan the horrid fate that had felled my father, and criticize in the same manner and using the same words how terrible my stepmother had been to him. [One line in particular stands out. It was what she used when describing the insurance money my stepmother had received. "For $100,000, I'd have taken care of a rattlesnake." Me, too, Grandma. Me, too.]
She died in 1996, mere weeks before Eldest was born. I am ashamed to say that I didn't take her anywhere that last year. I hadn't visited her. In fact, I had fallen off the face of the earth, hiding out from my duties in reaction to what I had done in the previous 11 months: left a husband and started a new life with Pete, pregnant within weeks of both acts. [On that note, I really should be as forgiving of myself as I have found myself forgiving of others from that era. But that's another post or two.]
Eldest is 14 now. It was 15 years ago yesterday that God shook me in a most spectacular, yet ordinary, way. And so it is about 15 years since I have laid eyes on many of those people I used to see on my annual trek to Grandma's house.
It is the time of Christmas cards again. [Or, in my case, as I've yet to have Pete and the kids sign them, the 6th day of Christmas cards for me.] I'm not sure what made me take down a card that Pete had opened and already had on display, but that's what I did over the weekend. Reading the enclosed note from my Uncle Harry, I discovered that my Great Aunt Daryl is not only alive and well, but now living right in South San Francisco and ready to celebrate her 100th birthday in a matter of weeks.
It is not necessarily the oldest among us who don't have email accounts as supported by the fact that Aunt Daryl not only has email, but uses it quite adeptly. I immediately shot her a note of affection. And she very quickly sent one back. Which is how I found myself Tuesday night eating Brussels sprouts in an Aegis dining room, having spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting with her.
She was always an amazing woman, Daryl was. But there's more to reconnecting with her than just her. Sitting with her, I can almost imagine Grandma in the room with us, telling us those same stories again and again, sighing heavily over her lost son, and basking in the warmth of family.