September 13, 2014

My Great Aunt, in her 99th Year

I have a Great Aunt who will be turning 99 in the next few months.  Until recently, she lived in her home by herself, but was looked after by a caring nurse that came every day.  Earlier this summer, there was a fire in her home, it started in the kitchen, most likely the toaster oven.  Thankfully, an alarm system sent the fire department and she was pulled heroically out by a fireman.  Thank you, to all of you that help us in this brave way.

Her home, sadly, has become uninhabitable, and we needed to move her to an assisted living facility.  It is impressive, that at 98, she is able to live in simply assisted living, which is only for those that can function much more independently than in a nursing home.  The assisted living facility is nearby, and I have visited weekly with at least one of my children, bearing sugar cookies or chocolate cake.  She has always liked chocolate.

My mother, sister and I have spent a great deal of time cleaning and going through the house.  We are preserving family photos and mementos.  I'm afraid, though, that the amount we had to go through, has been greater than we expected and the task ended up being very arduous.  However, in order to be able to have pictures of one's Great Grandparents, it is very much worth the effort and also the respectful thing to do, not only toward my Great Aunt, but to my own children, who one day may like to see them.

Something interesting came about recently with regard to this particular branch of the family.  Over a dinner several months ago, we were casually informed that we are descended from James V of Scotland.  I had always been aware that our tartan from our Scottish ancestry was Royal Stewart, but my understanding and interest hadn't advanced any further.  Coincidentally, my Great Aunt married a Campbell.  The Campbell clan, unfortunately, sided with the British in 1746 and contributed to the defeat of the Scottish by the British.  As I went through the house, that made me wonder, if she and her husband had ever thought or spoken about that shared, but bitter history.  She thinks of herself as a patriotic American, she was a teacher of English and likes to read poetry in French.  We've honestly never spoken about her Scottish heritage.  But it does make me wonder.

I'm looking forward to visiting her and asking her more about her and our shared family and I feel fortunate to have her nearby, not only as a connection to my family's past, but as an opportunity to show my own children that it is part of our duty as family members to take care of and honor the older generations.  That it's important to take the time to preserve pictures, learn the names of the people staring back at us, learning how they tie us to where we came from.

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