It is my most vivid childhood memory. I’m five years old. I am wearing a white cotton blouse with an eyelet ruffled neckline and turquoise and white polka dot skort. A little sprite sitting on the back of a big pale yellow hog behind a god. My braids flying behind me in the wind. My arms wrapped tight around my uncle Windy.
Uncle Windy was wearing a leather bomber jacket. This was back when the only guys who wore bomber jackets were pilots and motorcycle riders. He was tall and rough around the edges and absolute putty in the hands of little girls.
In November I made a trek to the Midwest to see my aunts and uncles. Aunt Fran (my dad’s sister in law married to the perfect uncle, dad’s little brother John) is very ill. And dad’s big brother Bill very old. And mom’s big brother Windy was showing increasing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, putting extra strain on his wife June.
I’ve long felt a special attachment to my aunts and uncles. During my 17‑yeare estrangement from my mother (who now, suffering herself from Alzheimer’s, has forgotten she wasn’t speaking to me) it was these wonderful men and women who made me feel connected to a larger family. Still important. Still cherished. And not at all a black sheep. Just a little, curly, cuddly, blessed sheep.
So with them all getting older and less firm, I needed to see them all. Just in case.
Tonight, for the first time in years, Aunt June will go to her single bed and just three feet away, the other bed will be empty.
And tonight I’ll go to bed knowing there is one less person in the world who loves me just the way I am.