Whew. Over six months since I’ve written anything here. I feel good about that. My life has been busy, but happy. I’m finally feeling like I’m in a place where I can breathe fairly easily. Mostly. Mostly because I’m worried for my mother. And for hers. My Nan’s health has been declining for some time Read More
Two days ago, I found out that one of my favorite Great Aunt Jill had died.
Her husband, my Nan’s brother, died while I was bursting pregnant with my eldest.
I realized as I received the news of Jill, I have no actual memories of my uncle, even though he survived to my thirtieth year. As I was reading my other Gran’s diaries today, I realized I have no memories of any of my mother’s aunts or uncles aside from Jill. Nan is the last. Her sister, who my mother is named for, became a nun. And helped people. Before she killed herself in her fifties.
Her half-brother is mentioned in Gran’s diary on April 10, 1987. The entry suggests my Nan’s half-brother had died and we went to the funeral. I have no memory of the funeral – even though I would have been 12 at the time.
And Jill’s husband – the only memory I have of him is going to his funeral about two weeks before my son was born. The only memory.
But I remember his wife. I remember her very well.
He and my aunt had five children altogether. They lived in a small house not far from the local children’s hospital. Their last child, Sandy, has Down Syndrome. I’m sure it was hard on their marriage – five kids alone is a pressure, but a special needs child only adds to the mix. They did their best though. The four eldest all got married and all had children who are close in age to me.
As I said though, I have no actual memories of my uncle. I’m not sure why – but he was either very antisocial or not physically well. Seems to me it was the latter.
But Aunt Jill…she was a very vibrant woman. When her son was born, it was common to ship children with Downs away – she wouldn’t allow it. She spent the better part of fifty years working with him. His mental age is around the level of an eight-year-old. But she can take full credit for it. He wouldn’t be the man he is today without her. He’s very polite – and since she’s been in the home, he’s also been in a home. He has a job. And once a year, he makes a trip to the Elvis festival. He even has his own costume.
The thing I remember most about her though was that she listened. She was always very social – she knew how to work a room. She always made a point of speaking to everyone. If only for a few minutes. And people would go out of their way to speak to her as well.
I always made a point of seeking her out. She always had something interesting to say. We had a large family – but I likely only saw her once every two or three years. She had a memory – and despite having over twenty great nieces and nephews she knew all of our names and what we’d been up to. And she always had the biggest smile.
I hadn’t seen her for a while – but I sent regular letters and pictures. I don’t know if she enjoyed them – she couldn’t write back. But I hope so.
I’m not even through the first book yet…there will be more. But if you’ve missed the grandmother diaries – you can catch up.
Image Credit (Edited): Nuttapong / freedigitalphotos.net
This post originally appeared on Live by Surprise on August 24, 2015. It has been edited.
Sometimes I just feel like America is doing it wrong.
Don’t get me wrong—I am proud to live here—and I’m happy for all of the freedoms that we have. I just feel like I’ve seen other countries that have some things more…figured out.
Look at the things we do to our environment—the way we continue to expend, consume and waste. The packaging. The bottles. The garbage that we create. I wonder what kind of planet we’ll be leaving our children.
Case in point—my recent trip to New York City. In complete contrast with my trips to Vancouver, Canada and Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Granted, there are probably a lot less people in both cities. But people in those cities are respectful. You can feel safe most places that you go. Even in the Red Light District in Amsterdam, I felt safe.
NYC. The traffic. Everywhere. All the time. Angry people driving. Frustrated people. And although the city has a fantastic subway system that can get you pretty much anywhere, there are still cars on the streets. Very few of them (except the cabs), had more than one person in them. Even the cabs though – were only carrying one passenger. It feels very…selfish.
In Amsterdam and Vancouver, you can ride your bike, and feel safe. Drivers are respectful. They pay attention and look out for you. The cities have made efforts to include cyclists and pedestrians in their transportation plans. There are bike lanes.
In New York City, you’re taking your life in your hands just crossing the street. Although there appear to be laws against stopping in the middle of an intersection, I kept seeing it happen. The people of NYC are used to it. They just wait until the cars stop moving and then weave in between them. Because when traffic starts again, they barely move anyway.
I have to wonder—if bicycles were given priority—if cars were taken off some of the streets, would it decrease the problem? Would the traffic lessen? Surely it must be easier to store a bicycle than it would a car? And cheaper? How is it so many people in New York have cars anyway? Where do they keep them? Are they coming from elsewhere? And if so, why not make them take mass transit into the city? Why aren’t our politicians lobbying to reduce the congestion?
Perhaps it’s just wishful thinking. I would like to see fewer cars on the road. Hubs and I are down to one car. We commute in together. If one of us were to get a job elsewhere, one of us would be taking public transportation. We don’t live in NYC. Our city hasn’t quite figured out cycling yet and where it fits—but we feel fairly safe cycling in our little borough. When the weather permits, we cycle to get our groceries. We cycle for exercise. We cycle for recreation. In the Netherlands—where people continue cycling well past retirement. They’re healthy. And happy. And it’s good for the economy. And the air.
There are so many reasons to move to a less car-dependent society. We just have to start making a cultural shift. We need to start valuing the air we breathe.
What are you doing to help the environment? What are you doing to help mankind? Can you do something different? Will you?
This post originally appeared on Live By Surprise on June 23, 2015. It has been edited.
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