I’ve had an unusually high (for me) amount of familial loss this year, made worse by the fact that the bulk of my family is about a 12-13 hour drive from where I’m currently residing.
I got to go home to Alabama over Christmas last year, and got to see most of my family. My oldest sister’s kids had the flu and they didn’t want to pass it, so we didn’t get to see them, and my mom and aunt have basically been on the outs with their oldest brother most of my remembered life, and last Christmas was no exception to that. Looking back, I kinda wish it had been, or that I’d been able to connect and forge the same sort of bond to my uncle’s kids as I’ve managed with my aunt’s daughter and family.
In January, my Uncle Ray passed. He’s had issues for years, a combination of PTSD from military service and seeing things I don’t even want to imagine and a love of alcohol to escape those demons to the detriment of life and family. He just… completely let himself go. By the time there was enough worry for a wellness check and medics got to him it was too late, and I’ll always hate that I didn’t get to spend more time with him during the good parts. That my memory of him is a family reunion and some old photographs and fantastic hugs.
At the beginning of September, an old family friend passed away. I’d known her… gracious, since I was four, I think? She opened her house to mum and me for a few months after some mess with one of mum’s ex-boyfriends, and her oldest kid watched me a handful of times after when mum would be working weekends or overnights. She was a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast, and lost control of her bike. She was at least wearing her helmet, but that doesn’t always save you. Mum met her through Daddy, I think, and some of his other biker friends, and those friends of Daddy’s have been an extended family to me for almost my entire life. I can’t even count on one hand how many of them we’ve lost to motorcycling accidents though, either because they were being stupid and not wearing helmets, intoxicated, or otherwise lost control of their bikes, or because someone else was being stupid and not paying attention and either hit them or ran them off the road. We almost lost Daddy to one of those idiots that doesn’t pay attention a few years ago, and we lost one of my brothers-in-law after he lost control of his bike for reasons we’ll never figure out. The only saving grace to his passing was that he’d just dropped his oldest child off, because I don’t think my sister could’ve handled losing both of them.
Earlier this week my Nanny passed away. I guess she’s not really my Nanny–she’s Daddy’s mum and Daddy’s not actually blood or marriage related anymore, but then my family tree is basically made of the brightly coloured branches of people we’ve found and loved and glued on of our own accord, and not because silly blood or marriage ties compelled us to keep them and call them one of us. Still, he’s the only Daddy I can remember, other than C-Dad, and he’s helped raise me and so she’s my nanny, end of story. Nanny lived a long, full life. I didn’t even know she was sick–she broke her leg a few weeks ago, but she was 82 and that’s not the most unexpected thing ever, and the last I heard from my sister she was recovering as well as could be expected at her age. But she got to see her grandkids mostly become adults (I’m the second youngest, at 27, and the youngest just turned 25 or 26), got to see the oldest two get married and have children, and she out-lived Pe-Paw by just a little under a decade (cancer is an asshole). So I’m not sad she was taken from us too soon or any bullshit like that, because she got to see a lot. I’m sad I didn’t get to see her one last time when I was at home over Christmas, that I didn’t get to tell her a last time how much I’ve always fucking loved her tea cookies, that I didn’t get to follow her around the kitchen and write down all of her amazing recipes and help her shell peas and wash greens and make sun tea or listen to her gossip on the phone with her church buddies (old ladies gossiping after church was basically the highlight of our Sundays growing up–she had this old rotary phone with a cord that could stretch almost across the entire house, and she’d be on the phone for hours after lunch chattering to her church friends) or just hug her damn neck one more time and tell her I loved her.
It’s times like this I hate being so far from home that making a trip back to go to a funeral or memorial isn’t even something I can contemplate. One day I’m going to find a recipe for tea cookies that tastes almost like Nanny’s, and I’m going to dunk them in a glass of tea and think of her.