Wednesday, September 07, 2005

How I spent Labor Day weekend

I have an aunt, on my father's side, whom I never met until I was in my 30s. My mother and father split before my mother even knew she was pregnant with me and, after accidentally running into my father and his new wife and kids when I was two at my aunt's house during the holidays, my mother distanced herself, and us, from my father's family, seemingly to protect herself and us.

My father had been having an affair with another woman and, when she became pregnant, he told my mother that he didn't want to leave her to raise a child by herself. Of course, he already had a child with my mother, who was 4 months old (my brother, Steve). I have a half-sister that's 3 months older than I am. My father has five offspring -- my brother and I by my mother, and two daughters and a son by his second wife. Five kids that he never lent a hand in raising, I might add.

I never laid eyes on my father until 1976 -- I was 21 years old. I didn't see him again until 1989 and we have an acquaintance type of relationship now. I'm the only one of his 5 kids who pays him any attention. I invited him up for Thanksgiving dinner last year, and my birthday party this year. He seemed delighted to be included. He's earned what he has from all of his kids, though.

Anyway, my aunt...

It turned out, after I met her in 1989, that her daughter lived in the same town in Massachusetts that I lived in -- at the same time. Small world, eh? At that time, she lived in Billerica and we lived in Pepperell, completely ignorant of each others' proximity.

After Massachusetts they moved to Connecticut and then to Floria. This past spring, after too many hurricanes in Florida, they moved back up here where the family is. It's been great having family around -- something I've never really had outside of my kids.

Last week they drove up and we took them to The Garden Factory (where my son works) and spent a buck or two on shrubs and perennials to put around their new home. They couldn't get everything they bought into their van, so we kepts some at our house and promised to come down Labor Day Weekend to help plant.

Wanda (my aunt) has a husband, Bob, who is quite the carpenter. Lisa has long wanted to learn woodworking so we struck a deal that I would help my aunt plant shrubs and bushes, and Lisa would hang with my uncle and try to learn from him.

We got there Saturday around noon-time and found that my father and step-sister (Vanessa, who is 10) were there. We sat and chatted for a while, then got to work. I had an entire afternoon of one-on-one with my aunt, and I cannot truly articulate how much I enjoyed it. We spent the night, and went back at it the next day the same way.

Let me tell you something -- I just turned 50 a month or so ago, and sometimes feel like I'm 80 with all of my aches and pains. I've got a touch of arthritis in my right thumb and pinkie, and am still having problems with my hips and back from that fall back in March. I'm hot flashing like crazy these days, have nights when my sleep is restless and my allergies bother me tremendously.

But this 71 year old woman yanked and tugged on large tree roots, was on her hands and knees planting and pruning, and even pushed an old, heavy trunk up 2 full flights of stairs all by herself. Aches and pains? Yep, you bet she gets them, but she ignores them as much as she can, and continues to really live each day to the fullest. I so respect and admire this woman!

But more than anything else, I feel such kinship with her because I finally was able to see that, in very many ways, she and I are cut from the same cloth. It used to bother me that I looked so much like my mother but after looking at pictures of her in her youth, Lisa and my aunt both agree that, while the resemblance is there, I don't look as much like her as I think I do. Of course, I don't look a thing like Wanda, but this apple didn't fall too far from that family tree.

What an odd feeling, to have family around that close now, but how wonderful, too!

I'm going to love having my aunt living so close to me.

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