Daddy lost a sister this week. As I'm typing this, he and mama, along with several other relatives are riding in a rented van toward Moline, Illinois where they will lay to rest my aunt Ruth. Yes, we are again saying goodbye to a loved one on that side of the family, just a few months after burying two uncles. I know it's that season of life when age is catching up with daddy's generation, but the reality of that is very troubling to me. I just hate losing all those folks who colored my childhood with their presence and influence. More and more their presence is my life is more memory than contact.
Daddy's almost the baby of the family, and not until recently did I begin to realize that means that as long as his health is good, he will likely witness the deaths of most of his siblings. I can't imagine how difficult that will be, especially since he and his brothers and sisters are so close. Growing up poor on a farm in southern Illinois, they relied on each other for everything. They scratched out a living and made their own entertainment. Together. They shared clothes, shoes and toys, and the older kids helped the younger ones. There were chores and hard times but lots of laughter, and when you listen to them tell stories about their childhood, it doesn't take long to figure out that they were richer than many others who had more money.
The call about aunt Ruth came early yesterday morning, although I actually saw a family post about it on FaceBook before mama had a chance to get hold of me. Since then, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the deaths in my family in the past few years and the stage of life I'm at right now. Time is flying. Way too fast. Loved ones are slipping away, and my hair is grayer than it used to be. God bless Miss Clairol. Life is moving so fast I sometimes feel as if I might just fly off the face of the earth if it doesn't stop spinning so hard. I feel the soldiers of time crawling over my back and running me down. There's so much to do. So much to experience. And there are people who won't be there to experience it with me. My emotions have been all over the place in the past 36 hours as I process this.
Driving down the road this afternoon, I was caught by surprise by a single tear that slid down my cheek unexpectedly. A single tear for the ones lost, the weariness I'm feeling from taking care of Papa T. and the things I would do differently if given the opportunity. Opportunities not taken. Words I can never take back. And yet there are smiles, too. Smiles for the dares and challenges accepted, for the people who enrich my life and the memories they've given me. If I close my eyes, I can recall warm summer nights in grandma's yard, sprinkled with the laughter of my cousins as we played hide and seek and the light of captured fireflies flashing in a fruit jar. I hear the voices of aunts and uncles solving the world's troubles and cranking out homemade ice cream. I see and hear it all and smile. Time is moving quickly folks. These are the days we must savor. We must hold them in our heart.
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