Thursday, July 23, 2020

When time no longer matters, all that matters is time...So I put all the pieces together where they belonged.

 Dear Patti Jo,

Thank you for being my cousin, for being the loving, kind, beautifully gentle soul you are.

You've been such a gift.

I want to tell you now, while there is time.

I can't remember how we started talking about a visit and family reunion in 2018, but I will always be grateful that we did.

You opened your heart and your world to us. I was searching for peace with my dad, peace and understanding with our family's past, and comfort in my childhood memories of Duluth.

You gave those to me and more.

You've been a bridge to my dad in the world beyond. You've shared his messages and comforted both him and me. To you he has always been Uncle Mickey, which I always thought sounded funny as a kid.

With you and through you, I've started to understand our family.

I feel so connected to you, though we've not been back in each other's lives for all that long. I mean, you've been in my life since I was born, but I didn't really know you.

When I was a kid, you and Johnny and Stevie were teenagers, which in my eyes meant all grown up.

By the time I was old enough to have memories of visiting Duluth, you were all out of the house. We'd stay with your parents every summer, but I didn't know you so much as know about you.

We spent so much time with Auntie Jo and Uncle Howard. So many of my childhood memories take place with your parents.
Hanging out on Jo's houseboat, and eventually growing out of being small enough to sleep under the table. On the beach looking for agates and staring out at what I believed was your mom's island--the beach you took us back to that first summer.

Or just running around on their property, sitting on the rusted out tractor, admiring Jo's paintings, spray painting gravel in the driveway to look like gold nuggets.

And in your voice, your cadence, your accent, I hear your mom. You're uniquely yourself, but I also love the occasional flashes of Aunt Jo that shine through.
You are a memory keeper. And you happily opened your box of memories for me. That's my Lake Superior childhood painted on Aunt Jo's wall.

I know, through you, that I look like our great grandmother.
I now have a better understanding the generational trauma that pressed down on our parents, and with you have the goal of living and parenting differently, such that we might break patterns.

I treasure the fact that you know and love my kids. They each immediately felt close and safe and at ease with you.
An enchanted connection
You have a youthful twinkle in your eye, and endless creativity. You set up outside tables and chairs with goodies and art supplies.

You have an adventurous spirit, a house of treasures, of personal art, of interesting wonders.
Your sense of humor is the same as ours, and we revel in it.

I am overjoyed that my kids have been agate hunting, and that they know what snot agates are, and that they, too, have waded into the cold waters of Lake Superior, and dug in the rocks, and giggled in joy with the golden sun at their backs.

They've run towards the lift bridge to see it going up, to watch the amazing spectacle of a massive boat going underneath.

You've endured so much trauma and pain in this life, and still, you are kind, gentle, and seek the good in humanity. You're positive and good, and make it a point not to harm anyone or anything.

You save animals. You work, in ways small and large, to bring light and joy to others.

You introduced us to your kids and their kids, and now we have so much more family than I did a few years ago.
I love that you still have Aunt Jo's rolling pin. I don't know why it looms so large in my memory, except  maybe that it took me so many years to actually get from one side of the room to the other on it, and to proudly be allowed to add my name.

At some point, I needed so badly to make peace with my dad on the shores of Lake Superior. I needed to return to my Duluth family, though the people I grew up visiting were gone.

But connecting with you was, in a sense, like coming home. I have family there, stretching back generations and leaning forward into new generations. My kids are now part of this.
Watching you talk to my mom, hearing your exchange of stories, I understood that you had a whole relationship before I was ever in the picture. You remembered me as a baby being dangled in my mom's skirt.

My parents knew you and loved you long before I was born.
I remember when my dad and I visited your mom in Florida during what was to be her last winter. She made him red Jell-o with bananas in it, because she knew he loved it. I had no idea.

And it struck me then that she was his big sister. She knew a lot about him that I didn't, and she nurtured him as her baby brother. They were family.

My first thought when I read Jen's news was selfish. I love you so much. Betty loves you so much. We only recently got you back.

What a blessing and a privilege to have someone such as you in my life.

That love doesn't dissipate, but thinking about goodbye really hurts.

We were supposed to be together a week from today, heading into a third delightful family reunion weekend. Covid canceled our plans.

You're one of this world's kindest, most beautiful souls. I see who you are, and I love you for it. All of it.

I know you're in pain, and I wish I could ease it.

You've given me the gifts of your love, your friendship, family.

I love you now in this world, and I love you into the next, my dear cousin.