Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Hell of a month
It's the last day of January and already I've met the year's sadness quota. On December 28th we buried Aunt Julie, three years almost to the day after Grandma B died (December 29th). Lisa passed on January 19th. And then Great Aunt Sissy on January 28th. In many ways Sissy's death has been more difficult than Grandma's. My relationship with her was less complicated. She was full of pragmatism--not like Grandma at all in that way. And I am sad on Maureen's behalf because Sissy was getting to know my daughter through letters and photos. Sissy was less than a month away from her ninetieth birthday. How could I have expected her to be around for Maureen's life? I supposed I did not. But I'm having trouble imagining Mo's childhood without a Sissy in it. She was such a larger-than-life character in my own childhood, driving from Vermont to North Carolina on the spur of the moment. Her letters and visits such a treat. We are surrounded by reminders, artifacts of that love. The snowflakes that hang from my kitchen window. The blue pillow in Mo's bedroom. The little bluebird of happiness on the shelf. Stacks of cards and letters tied with ribbon, each decorated with a hand drawn cartoon of herself putting a letter into a mailbox.
The quilt she made us as a wedding gift. You should have seen how twisted and gnarled her hands were after a lifetime of use. First as an Army nurse in World War II, then as a nurse on the homefront working nights and raising seven children with Uncle Bob. Always crafting, cooking, knitting, quilting--and writing letters by hand. She was a prolific letter writer. Sissy corresponded regularly with dozens and dozens of relatives and friends. When she moved in with Margie and Ken several months ago, I wrote I was sure my letter would find its way to her as the USPS owed her for keeping them flush all these years. She was the glue that kept my dad's family together and informed about each others comings and goings. She was the memory keeper.
I dug through my wedding photos to find a picture of Sissy.*
I love these photos of her with Uncle Rich: Marjorie Amber Brigham Miller.
Here are Sissy and Aunt Julie.
And here is a great photo of my Grandma Brigham, although she was totally self conscious about the spot on her cheek and hated having her picture taken. I think she really looked beautiful that day.
[*How much has our photographic technology changed in the past 10 years that my wedding photos are a physical collection of photographs in a box rather than a couple file folders on my computer!]