My aunt died this past week, and the funeral is today. She, my uncle and another aunt, along with my sister and her family and my brother all live(d) in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, OH, about 45 minutes north of me.
My mom used to live there, too, before she died 3 years ago. For the last 3 years of my mother's life, I drove up there weekly. Initially, we would go out to lunch and go shopping, or do errands, whatever my mom needed or wanted that week. She was using a cane when this started, then went to a walker, then a wheelchair, but we still continued to go out. When it got so that she could no longer get in and out of my minivan with my help, I would just hang out with her for the afternoon, going to whatever the program was that day at her nursing home, or sit outside and talk, or go to the little ice cream parlor they had there. We had ice cream together less than a week before she died. I cherish these times we had together.
My mom had two brothers. The aunt who just died was married to the only one of those three siblings who is left. My other aunt I mentioned above was married to my mom's other brother. My sister and brother are more involved in our extended family than I am. They call the aunts/uncles more than I do. They get together with the cousins sometimes, both the ones who live in town, and the ones who come to town to visit. I generally just get together with them if one of my siblings calls me and says they are getting together with so and so, do I want to join them?
I have lots of excuses, not very many reasons. Distance is one excuse. Though it is definitely farther for me, I could do it if I really wanted to. Time is another excuse. I have too many things I am involved in. Everyone is busy. What makes me a special case? Fatigue is yet another excuse. I used to go up there to see my mom every week, even during a period of time when my fatigue level was much worse than it has been lately. Phone calls are quicker than driving up for a visit. For some reason, I have aways disliked making phone calls, though once we are talking, I generally enjoy it..
There are not very many of our parents' generation left, and all are in their 80's. Our generation ranges from the mid 40's to early 60's, including the cousins. When our mom died, my sister and I talked about the fear that the family would lose its cohesiveness. We have tried not to let that happen, but I must confess that my siblings all make more effort than I do (there is a fourth sibling, a brother in Texas [Hi Eric, Ruth and Clara]).
The title of this post, 'Love 'em While You Got 'em', is a reminder to me and to my readers that we can't turn back time. Life is not forever. We all make our own choices of how we spend our time, energy and other resources. We set our own priorities. I could choose to make contact with my family a higher priority. I can say that I will do that, and I really would like it to be true, in theory. In actuality, I know myself well enough to know that I likely will not change much.