Thursday, October 25, 2018

The Family Reserve continued...

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about my family in Virginia.  It was inspired by my Uncle Carl, but became more about the whole family and music that reminds me of our story.  I don't know if the person from Raleigh who read my original tribute to Carl was a family member or what...  Maybe they found my post from January 2015 because they knew Carl's wife, my Aunt Betty, was dying.

This morning, I got the news that Aunt Betty passed yesterday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.  It came in the form of an email from my sister, Sarah.  I had awakened at 4:40am, having had a vivid dream about househunting and cleaning.  I needed to answer the call of nature, so I used my iPad for light and checked my email at the same time.  It's not so often anymore that I get emails that aren't about sales, so I immediately noticed Sarah's name and the subject line... "Sad news".  What followed was a very brief message reporting Betty's demise.

I sent an even shorter reply thanking Sarah for letting me know.  Then I left a message for my cousin, Lori, who also reported Betty's death on social media.  Betty was Lori's mom.

I didn't have an especially close relationship with Betty.  I always remember her as a no nonsense nurse who had a bit of a quick temper.  In fact, my most vivid memory of her was being yelled at when I was about eleven or twelve.  I don't remember exactly what happened.  All I recall is playing with Lori and another cousin, Suzanne, and I guess-- being four years older and bossy-- I must have told Lori she had to go into a closet.  Lori apparently didn't want to go into the closet.  She told Betty, and Betty yelled at me.  I distinctly remember her snapping at me in a harsh tone, "Lori doesn't have to go in the closet if she doesn't want to."  I felt hurt and embarrassed in the wake of that rebuke.  

After that incident, I remember thinking less of Betty for a long time.  She just seemed kind of mean to me, so I tried to avoid her as much as possible.  But I also know that she was very career oriented and worked hard as a nurse for many years. As I got older, I started to appreciate her more.  I remember she and some of my other aunts very kindly hosted my wedding rehearsal dinner.  I had originally asked another aunt if I could have a potluck dinner or something at the family homestead and they decided to host a buffet for us at the local country club.  It was a very kind and generous gift from my aunts that I will never forget.

I have a great picture of Betty at my wedding reception.  Her head is on Bill's shoulder as he watches me sing.  Bill looks very moved, and Betty looks like she's sharing the moment with him.  It's a really sweet photo that shows my aunt's soft side.  I wish it wasn't in storage.

I also remember that Betty and another aunt, my late Aunt Nance, who was also a nurse, both sprang into action just before Bill and I recited our wedding vows.  My father-in-law, who was Bill's best man, had locked his knees and was about to faint.  Both of my aunts noticed and managed to help him before he hit the floor.  We stopped the wedding for about twenty minutes while Bill's dad recovered.  Our weird wedding photographer went into combat mode and got pictures of the whole incident.

Sadly, just a few years later, both Nance and Betty would have dementia brought on by Alzheimer's.  Nance died in 2010 of a heart attack.  I managed to see her less than a month before she passed away and I'll never forget how she looked.  She'd lost a lot of weight and was kind of wandering around.  Less than a month later, just after Christmas, she was suddenly gone.

I remember telling Bill on more than one occasion that as I got older, I started to see my relatives in more realistic terms.  In most cases, that meant I saw more negative aspects of their personalities.  It used to be that they could do no wrong.  As I became an adult, I saw them in a more realistic sense.  In Betty's case, my impressions of her became more positive.  I stopped seeing her as someone who was "mean" and "strict" and started seeing her more as someone who was ambitious, driven, and basically very good at heart.  She was a loving mom to her two children and, from what I could tell, she was a sweet grandmother to her five grandchildren.  I know they'll miss her.

The last time I saw Betty was in November 2014.  She and Carl were at our usual family Thanksgiving party, which I was attending because we were having a memorial for my dad.  Betty had Alzheimer's at that time, but didn't seem that sick to me.  I learned from talking to Carl, who passed just a few weeks later, that Betty's illness was becoming pretty bad.  I'm sure the last few years have been hard for Lori and her older brother, Jeff, and their families.  I know they'll miss their mom and grandmother, but I'm also sure they're grateful that Betty is no longer tormented by dementia.

Anyway... it now makes sense why people were reading about Carl a couple of days ago.  I guess Betty was on a downward spiral.  My cousin said she pictured Betty being welcomed to Heaven by Carl and that the two of them waltzing past the pearly gates.  I don't know if that's what really happens when a person dies, but it's a nice image, and one I think I'll keep.

Moving on...

We're going to Wiesbaden this weekend to look at houses.  I think we have five showings scheduled so far.  In preparation for our move, I started doing some cleaning.  I am not the world's best housewife, but sometimes I stumble across some good tips.  I think I'll share one I found yesterday.  Of course, most people already know about this...

Last night, Bill was trying to figure out how we're going to coordinate everything.  I found myself getting irritated, because a lot depends on whether or not we have a new address after we pack up the old house.  I have pretty high hopes that we'll find something this weekend, but you never know.  I know Bill is stressed out because we have a month to make this happen.  We've had worse moves, though.  We'll get through this, even though it's going to suck in the interim.