on my first birthday: Terri, Jim, Dolores, Janet, Gary and half of Denise

A dear neighbor of mine lost his father recently, and I had the privilege to attend the memorial service.

It was a wonderful remembrance of a man I only met once, at the funeral of his wife in December. The pastor who conducted both services is an acquaintance I met doing some volunteer work at the high school, but I had never heard him preach. I sat mesmerized, first in December and then again on Saturday, as he told the story of the lives of these two people I never knew.

Later, at the luncheon, Jamie and I sat with some members of the extended family. I sat next to an older gentleman who couldn’t have been friendlier. He told me where he belonged in the family… married to the youngest sibling of my neighbor’s grandmother. He told wonderful stories about people I didn’t know, and I was enchanted. Eventually he said, “This is probably more than you want to know.” And I honestly had to say, “No! Please go on!” I felt like a part of the family, and it was a good feeling.

Dolores and me when I was about 6 months old.

I don’t get to see my own siblings much. I’m the youngest of seven, and the only one to move more than an hour away from Milwaukee. I haven’t lived there since I was 19, the summer I went home before sophomore year in college. My oldest sister, Dolores, is 13 years older than me. I’m not sure my siblings ever got to know “grown-up Judy.” I was always out of synch with them. They were married and having kids by the time I was in high school. I used to visit a few times a year when my kids were young and my mom still lived in her house. It got harder once the kids started school and activities. Eventually mom moved to assisted living, then the nursing home. Since she died a couple years ago (dad died in 1987), I’ve been to the Milwaukee area for a couple niece and nephew weddings and that’s about it.

Terri and me around the same time

 

I-94 does go both south AND north, but I guess things get in the way of them coming to visit us. They are busy with grandkids now. Maybe they just never think of it.

My working weekends doesn’t help matters… I have missed so many wedding/baby showers, baptisms, birthday parties and other get togethers. You’d think after so many years I’d have gotten used to it, but there still is a hole in my heart. That loneliness will not go away.

The elders in my family, on both my parents’ sides, are pretty much gone. I have an aunt, my mother’s sister-in-law, and an aunt and uncle (my dad’s youngest brother). I haven’t seen or talked to them for years. Facebook has put me in touch with some cousins, and I am hoping to get closer to them. We are having a family reunion in July that I am eagerly awaiting.

In thinking about family, I am especially glad that I had booked a trip for Joseffa and me to visit my niece Krissy in Denver. We will spend three days there in June. I can’t wait to get to know her three kids better.

I realized as I was thinking about last weekend’s funeral that I am now one of the elders in my family. If I don’t make an effort to get to know my adult nieces and nephews, the disconnectedness in the family will continue. I don’t want that for myself nor for my own kids, who are in a situation similar to mine … behind all their grown cousins.

So, I’m starting — taking the step of a trip to Denver. Then there will be the family reunion. After that, I will plan another something. Little steps, one at a time, that will bring me a little bit closer to the connections I miss.

The sibs a couple years ago: Gary, Terri, Dolores, Janet, Denise, me and Jim

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