When I started to write Knitnana back in January 2005, I dedicated one blog post to the women in my mom's generation, her sisters and sisters-in law. I mentioned one photo, one that has gone AWOL in my household, and which I would dearly love to find again, of those amazing women, dressed in the big-shouldered 1940's suits and heels relaxing on a summer porch, some on the railing, others in Adirondack chairs, just home (probably) from church. Perfectly coiffed and looking like a million bucks! They were confident, they were sassy, they were bold.
Tonight, I'm desperately wishing I could find that photo again. Two of those women are gone, my mom and her next younger sister. Another's life is slipping swiftly away, too fast. She's the one I talked about, in that earlier essay, who helped her husband build their own home, and put hundreds of jars of food by every year from the garden. Her country house is surrounded by the daffodils she loves. More and more bulbs planted every year. Inside, the house is decorated in wildflowers (wallpaper, china, paintings, even drawer pulls!), what I'd say was her passion.
Do you ever get to say everything you want to say? I think I was able to when I lost my mom, as I was with her every day for the last three months of her life. When Mom died, this woman, her sister, stepped in and tried to fill the void (an impossible task, but if anyone could have, she could). For two years afterwards, I trekked to Vermont to spend the holidays with her family, taking the train (still my favorite way to travel). She didn't want me to spend the holidays alone and my dear daughter and I were estranged at the time. This aunt and I had much in common that my mom and I didn't - especially sewing, quilting, and other handiwork. She was always exasperating, opinionated, judgemental. But we'd talk for two hours on the phone, easily, on a regular basis, always finding something else to say, so that often her cordless would begin to beep, and she'd say, "Oh before it dies, I want to tell you..." Sometimes she got it all out, more often, not. "No problem!" she'd say, for she knew we'd be at it again soon. The next time, maybe we'd remember where we left off, or maybe not, but it all got said eventually. Often she'd accuse me of needing to "buy stock in the phone company!" But it was as much her fault as mine...we could both talk the other's ear off...
Just a few short months ago, the cough I'd always worried about that she brushed off as "normal in our family" turned out to be the signal of lung cancer I'd occasionally wondered if it might be. She'd never smoked. But so many in that generation did, how could she not have been exposed? The diagnosis was terminal: her decision, no treatment.
Now, the candle flickers in one who was once so sassy and bold. Every one of those gals believed this: it's the quality of life over quantity. None of them want to leave those of us left behind. But they won't linger when the time has come. Not these girls.
God, bless them all.