rejectomorph (flying_blind) wrote,

Short of a Century

One of my cousins called this evening to say that my father's oldest surviving sister had died this afternoon. That leaves only his one older sister and one younger brother from that generation of his family. All of them are in their nineties. My mother has one younger brother still living. Remembering all the aunts and uncles who have gone, I'm struck by the fact that I will soon be a member of the oldest generation of my family. It seems very strange. They were supposed to fill that role. I remember when my maternal grandmother died many years ago, the last of her generation on either side of my family. It was only then that I noticed that my aunts and uncles had become what I would think of as elderly. I suppose that people seldom think how they will be entering that state themselves, until some event reminds them of how much time has passed.

The last time I saw aunt Naomi was several years ago, when she and my father's older sister came here for a visit. They told stories about growing up in Manhattan Beach and Walnut Acres, and about their later life in Catalina. I can't remember most of those stories, or those I heard earlier. They seemed only amusing anecdotes at the time. Now they are vanished history.

I don't think anyone from my part of the family will be able to attend the funeral. My parents certainly can't travel that far, especially not in this weather, and my brother and sister and I can't get away. My swarm of nephews and nieces never really knew their great aunts and uncles, most of them having grown up in this part of the state. My parent's generation of the family has scattered itself across the west in recent decades. Most likely, my aunt's funeral will be attended only by those of her direct descendants who live nearby or can get away, since they are now scattered across the entire country. It occurs to me that I am unlikely to again see many of my relatives on that side of the family. The last time any appreciable number of us were gathered together was at my grandfather's funeral, more than twenty-five years ago. My mother's family is almost equally scattered, so I will probably see few of them again, either. My atomized generation no longer has much to glue it together.

So, tonight I'm thinking about distances, and the passage of time, and all the unvisited grave sites in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Ventura, and in Arizona and Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, as well as Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Switzerland, and other places which have passed from the family memory. Now the list has grown.

Naomi Hanson

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