I’m in Maryland for the week, unexpectedly.
I lost an uncle to cancer, reunited with family I hadn’t seen in literally years…
… I’m amazed that I’m old enough to say years and actually mean it…
And I’m taking some time to look through some of my father’s things.
I had seen this photo before. My grandfather, in August of 1942, on a boat on the river with his childhood friend and loyal companion. It’s an iconic photo for me, that shows a man I love living a life I never knew. He was 20 years old, unmarried and on the brink of heading into a world war. This was a part of his life he didn’t talk about much, of his family and the farm he called home.
But I remember the first time I saw this photo I asked my father, “Who took this picture?”
He didn’t know.
And it bothered me.
Who was behind the camera? What story did they have, what had they witnessed? What had the two of them done that day together, on what I imagine was a hot, humid day on the Miles River.
And then, today, I found my answer.
It was his sister.
My great aunt June was 22 that summer, and absolutely beautiful. She always was beautiful. She had a fierce spirit, full of love and a depth that made her seem ageless to me. She was young forever, in my eyes.
She was her brother’s best friend. She gave my grandfather the nickname Buddy, that followed him his entire life. When my grandfather passed away from cancer in 2007, my aunt June told me she had lost more than her brother. She had lost her best friend, given by her mother.
It suddenly made sense, that she had been the one to take the picture. Of course they had been together. They were together 60 years later, lightly bickering in my grandfather’s car, commenting about his driving. 60 years saw the loss of their spouses, their cousins, their aunts and uncles and their parents. Friends came and went, children came, then grandchildren. And somehow, they managed to treat each other as they always had, with a love that only siblings seem to know. A love I am lucky to share with my own siblings.
They were like peas and carrots, Forest Gump would say. And they shared so many memories, so many moments that were never shared, that died with them. My grandfather was 84 when he passed away, and aunt June was 94. They lived long lives, and will always be terribly missed.
My hope is that they are together now, reliving those wonderful years on a boat somewhere, enjoying the sunshine.
I realized this week that unfortunately, it seems that the only time family gets together anymore is for weddings and funerals. And it shouldn’t be that way. I don’t ever want to be that way with my siblings. Despite how drastically different the 4 of us are, I hope we are always in touch, always.
Remember, to spend time with your family. Your cousins, your parents, your siblings… Everyone. Make memories, make laughter. You’ll need those moments, to survive, when they are gone. And they will need them when you are gone.
Remember to love always.
And remember, for both of my grandfathers, my uncle, my father’s first cousin… That cancer absolutely 100% sucks.
We definitely need a cure.