Yesterday I found myself reliving a piece of my childhood. My father was driving, my mother was in the front seat, and I was wedged in the back with my two sisters.
Even though my sisters and I are now all in our forties, have seven kids between us, and my dad was actually driving my sister’s SUV, I couldn’t help but feel like I was 11.
If we were in the old Volvo with a bag of cow manure from my uncle’s dairy farm packed in the trunk for my dad’s garden, it would have been 1977 all over again.
“Where the heck are you going?”“Why are you using the GPS?”“Why are you taking Route 347 and not 25A?”“You know dad, we might get there a bit faster if you drive a tad over 30 miles an hour.”“It’s so hot back here, you think you could put the air on.” These were the “oldies but goodies” my sisters and I serenaded our parents with.
It always amazes me how quickly we revert back to our younger selves whenever we have the chance to be just the five of us again.
But unlike in April, when we were celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday, this time it was a sad occasion that had us crammed five to a car.
My mother’s sister, my Aunt Fran, lost her battle with breast cancer on Tuesday.
As we finally made it to the funeral parlor and the jokes about my father’s parking ended, we got out of the car. We were laughing and kidding each other as we went to the trunk and one person took the basket of pictures my mother had assembled, and someone else grabbed the large poster board filled with tributes that people had left on a special Facebook page devoted to my aunt’s memory.
It is a family tradition to handle all serious and hard occasions with laughter. We’re not criers. We’re doers. We handle our grief by doing what has to be done.
My sister Sandi and I spent the day before getting the tribute board ready. My mother kept busy putting pictures in frames and helping to organize a scholarship in Frans memory. My sister Wendy made sure to order food so that if people came back to the house, there would be something to serve. It’s hard for any of us to stand still for even a moment.
I walked in and felt very much like one of the “Brovetto” girls, even though I haven’t used that name for 20 years.
I loved seeing so many people come and share their memories of my aunt. She would have loved the picture boards that her son and his family had done, and the video tribute her friend put together.
Fran would have been happy to see so many of her students, past and present gather around and tell stories of her jingling keys and her insistence that anyone could dance, and of course her complete intolerance of the word “can’t.”
I kept busy searching out people that I had heard her speak about for years but never met. And enjoyed seeing others that I knew but hadn’t seen in years. I smiled, comforted, told stories, and even occasionally teared up, but never, not even once, completely lost it.
I kept busy so that I did not have to feel the pain and the deep sense of loss.
But it’s there. Like a dull toothache that you know is going to explode in pain but you keep medicating so you can postpone the inevitable.
The service was over and back in the car we went. Once again the laughter and complaining began. We went back to my mother’s house, met up with our own husbands and children and enjoyed some time together.
I resisted the urge to call Fran to tell her about it.
Today I had moments when I cried. Moments when the pain reached the surface. I couldn’t manage much more than that.
I’m no longer the 11-year-old in the backseat. I’m now the mom in the front responsible for my three kids.
I feel so blessed to still have both of my parents, who though they drive me batty at times, I dearly love. But I’ve lost my safety net. The woman who was there to smooth out the edges between my mother and me. A person who was such an important part of my life all of my life.
I miss her.