My niece handed me this photo while visiting my brother at the nursing home. This is us, a little more than 61 years ago. At the time of the photo, I was 4, my brother was 16, we were visiting him at the seminary, where he was studying to become a priest. He later changed his mind and left the seminary when he was within a year or two of ordination. He now suffers from Parkinson’s disease, and a host of other issues attendant to that particular affliction. He is in a nursing home.
I also visited my oldest brother, who is another year older. And his wife of 52 years. And his daughters who are now in their 50s – well, one won’t be until mid-August. My oldest brother is still healthy and active and independent. I stayed at their house for two nights. We had a lovely North Carolina 4th of July Barbecue. Lots of family, and tons of fun. It was so nice to feel that I belonged in this gathering.
My sister-in-law’s brother, who I haven ‘t seen for 50 years, told me I look like my mother. Amazing to “meet” someone who knew my mother. Even more amazing to be told I look like her! Later, my other brother told me I look like my Aunt Bo (short for Marthabelle). My mother’s sister, the home economics teacher with her black hair pulled into a bun, occasionally the white roots showing, and the ever present red lipstick. I didn’t really consider any of these comparisons to be compliments, but I probably should. Both of those women died so long ago, I still think of them as “old ladies.” My mother didn’t even live long enough to be old!
Yesterday the brother with Parkinson’s left me a voice mail. He thanked me for making that long journey to see him. He said it meant the world to him. He said it meant a lot to a lot of people. It meant a lot to me!
It was good to hit the road. It was good to stay in cabins on my way out (see photo below). They were an adventure. But I did stay at hotels on the way back. It was so good to see my two brothers. (My third brother was unable to come.) It was so good to see my sister-in-law. It was good to see my nieces and great nephews and great nieces. One of whom is named Mary, born on my birthday. In a Catholic family, if your name is Mary, you could never be so conceited as to think a child named Mary is named after you, but I find it a happy coincidence. She does too.
I am so grateful to be home. I am so grateful for my little life. I am so grateful I am retired. I am so grateful for my little house. When I walked into my home on Sunday night after a 3,000 mile journey, it looked like it is just where I belong! It looked neat and tidy and full of so many things I love. I usually think it is a mess, but I don’t after being gone. I have renewed appreciation for all that my life is, and that, I think, is the real point of taking a trip!
God has been so very good to me.