Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Time Shifts and Sifts

Just when life seems to be cycling back, and breathing returns to normal, new challenges present themselves to us all. After wonderful times with loved ones, and memories that many never get to experience, the roller coaster we know as life deals us one more hard blow. It is no wonder that so many people seek professional counsel, and psychiatric chairs are full. Gone are the days of extended families and idle times over kitchen counters. Gone are the routine matters, discussed and elaborated until some decision or direction or peace about the subject is reached. Gone is the free counsel of wise sages. Makes me sad sometimes, and sometimes I wonder just how we got this way. I really need wise counsel with life's latest punch.

A lovely relative has just been informed that there is another mass in her breast. I pray that it is scar tissue or enlarged lymph nodes from an infection, but in my heart I know that once again, someone I love will have to fight the war against cancer. It takes my breath away. I haven't been able to call and took the coward's way out with a card and message of hope. She's my favorite aunt and is probably the real reason I am the way I am today.

This sweet aunt confessed to me about two years ago that she hated me from my conception. She was used to being the baby in the family, and the thought of having to compete with a new baby was not her idea of justice. As her sister's pregnancy progressed and a new mother's attentions were multiplied, her irritation with me increased. A few months later I was born, a fifteen year old aunt held me for the first time, and her teenager's heart melted. Aunt took another look at life, and learned early on that blessings sometimes appear in the form of squirming, crying, demanding little babies. She didn't care because she experienced her first taste of true love at that very moment. All of a sudden, she loved someone more than she loved herself. My birth was a catalyst for her life and how she would choose to live it.

While in college she became the giver of gifts to me and my siblings. I have no idea how she saved enough money to always, always be able to provide the special treats and presents of childhood. My first pony ride in the city was one of her treats. I begged her to just leave me there while she and my mom shopped. Vacations and outings were her norm. Activities were carefully orchestrated to include me and one or two of my brothers and sisters. Aunt was careful to show us that life wasn't limited to circumstances, and what a gift that has been. Her boyfriends became our boyfriends, and as she tells it, we chaperoned many a date night. She married her college sweetheart, moved to New York, and began a life of her own.

As years passed, Aunt would remind us to do our best and reward our efforts long distance. Many letters were exchanged, and I have feeling that in some box somewhere is every letter that was ever sent to her from her nieces and nephews. I suspect this because I also discovered just this year that my aunt keeps her calendars. Some people keep journals, or write down their life stories, but aunt keeps her calendars and has recorded important events for most of her life. These time lines of life become reference materials when we relive our past experiences. Years are quickly reviewed as subjects or events come up, and we are reminded that the intersections of our lives have been carefully recorded. At seventy five and sixty, we both look back and wonder how life passed so quickly. On the last day of this past visit, I saw a journal in an art store. It was painted by some clever person with a pencil and paper and eraser on it. When I saw it, I was immediately reminded that my aunt writes events in pencil on her calendars, just in case she makes a mistake. I left this journal as a parting gift. I left instructions for her to journal her life and its events and, of course, leave it to me.

Sometimes an individual reaches out and touches lives in ways that aren't fully appreciated until circumstances initiate the memories. My last visit with this wonderful lady made me realize that I had unwittingly started as her competition, melted her heart, and became a knew found love. As the years have shown me, we have traveled through so many stages of life together. We will always be aunt and niece, but now we can add friends the list. We have laughed and cried and argued. We have encouraged and helped and loved each other. Most of all, we had fun. I was the topic of conversation for her for so many years, and now she is mine. I pray that I will have the pure stamina it will take to be there for her as she fights, once again, her battle against cancer. Please journal, Aunt, and remember ten good times for every hard time to come. I look forward to reading this private collection of life through your eyes and heart.

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