She went to sleep, after a full life. And even though she had a long time on this earth with family, friends, art, travel, service, plus an amazing companionship with my Uncle Bill – it still is hard to say goodbye.
I always thought of her as genteel. She had grace, and manners. She wrote thank you cards. She was considerate. When Christmas presents turned to checks (as they do when kids get older), she always sent something personal too. I will treasure my handmade ornaments and the embroidered ABC’s she made for Declan.
I’ve often thought Aunt Kitty would have made an amazing blogger had she been born in a different age.
She sent notes from their travels, which where far-flung, and often, and always interesting. On a recent field trip with Declan to a historic house, I was able to explain to the tour guide what one of their unknown gadgets were – because Aunt Kitty had a vast collection of such things on her kitchen wall. As I was growing up, I marveled at them often. One of my fondest memories of childhood was making homemade ice cream in her backyard. This was before we had those plastic balls to kick around; we had to crank and crank and crank – really work – to be paid off with fresh treats.
When their only son, my only first cousin, moved away from home, he settled near where I went to college. I had visits from Aunt Kitty and Uncle Bill more often than my mother during those years. In some ways it was awkward. I was figuring myself out. I was spreading my wings. I was intimidated by these lovely people who were so far beyond mid-terms and weekend parties and silly college drama. But we made time to see each other, because we cared. And those visits also gave me a sense of home, a sense of family.
It wasn’t until later, when I was more comfortable in my own skin, that I saw Aunt Kitty more clearly. There was grace, always – but also an underlying impishness. Such a lovely smile. I still remember the first day I ever saw her be judgmental to another living creature, someone she didn’t think was dressed appropriately for a special occasion, and I have to say – I loved it. It showed she thought she could share deeper thoughts with me. It showed she was human. And the fact that she complained about the clothing choice by punching my leg repeatedly and rolling her eyes made it all the more enjoyable.
We moved to Denver 17 years ago. Aunt Kitty and Uncle Bill have visited us several times here as well – the most special occasion being upon the birth of our child. In fact, Declan’s first genuine smile ever was for Uncle Bill. I am not sure who was more surprised – him or us. But the bond between their generation and the new kids was formed – and continues on with my sister’s child, my nephew.
Getting back to Maryland is hard sometimes, with our busy lives. But we try. And since both Bryan and I grew up there, we know what we like. We like sitting on a dock near Aunt Kitty and Uncle Bill’s house, whiling away the afternoon, and eating Maryland crabs. I can’t tell you how many trips have been planned around that singular event.
And after crabs, we would go back to Aunt Kitty’s kitchen, and she would pull out some fantastic dessert she had created (I wasn’t kidding, food blogger to the core) and we would share the yumminess till the sun started to set and we had to get back across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ahead of traffic.
Aunt Kitty had been fading for a few years. This didn’t stop her – she went out to family dinner with everyone just this past Easter. But her death wasn’t wholly unexpected.
That didn’t make it any less startling when the call came on Saturday. Aunt Kitty isn’t here anymore. I felt the pressure of it in my chest, like a big hand was pushing on my heart and trying to make it stop beating.
Then we told Declan. And I started telling him things about her I should have already told him, some of which I included in this post, some of which I am keeping close – like that last piece of candy you want to savor just a bit longer.
And when you remember all that, she isn’t gone. She’s still here, right in my heart, where she always was.