This past Sunday, our little family piled into the car and drove nearly 3 hours for lunch. Typically driving that distance for chicken would not have been considered. However, this past Sunday was different. We were driving to attend my Aunt Ethel's 90th Birthday Lunch.
Until recently, Aunt Ethel has been remarkably healthy. She is not on any medication, and complains when she must take ibuprofen for arthritis. It is widely believed among the family that my Aunt Ethel is simply too frugal to become sick.
Aunt Ethel was raised in a different generation. She does not believe in waste, and was perhaps one of the first proponents of recycling items through reusing them. Of course, she was motivated by saving money instead of the environment.
She has a system of folding napkins so that it can be used for four uses before it is thrown away. In the not so recent past she could still cut a pie into fourteen neat slices, even though the recipe only called for eight servings. As a child, we used to look forward to her hosting the family picnic. We quickly learned that we would stop at McDonald's on the way home after munching on our obligatory chicken thigh.
I do not want to insinuate that my Aunt does not have a generous spirit. She is extremely giving with her love, her stories and her time. She took in her grandson after his Mom passed away, and he had no where to turn. She never passed judgment or asked any questions. She simply offered love, encouragement and support. You cannot put a price on unconditional love.
My Aunt Ethel is my Nan's (my maternal grandmother) younger sister. Since my Nan passed away, Aunt Ethel has become more than a great Aunt. In many ways, she has become a living connection to our past. We all look forward to picking her up so she can visit with the family on holidays and at all other celebrations. In keeping with the family tradition, Aunt Ethel rarely misses any opportunity that involves cake!
It has become painfully obvious that Aunt Ethel is no longer safe living by herself. She is becoming forgetful and frail. Despite visits by the family and her friends, she is lonely. Hopefully her new living arrangement will afford her more opportunities to socialize, and she will be happier.
Despite living her entire life within the same 60 mile area, she is spending her actual birthday packing a lifetime of memories into a small U-Haul. She is being moved to another state to live in an assisted living facility near her son. She is leaving her friends, her church and her family. She is moving away from the cemetery where she buried her daughter and her husband. She is leaving her grandson and won't be here when her great granddaughter is born.
It must be difficult for my Aunt Ethel to leave a lifetime of memories as she moves to a new place. She will be closer to her son, whom she does not see frequently. He will feel more secure having his Mom close by so that he can care for her. All these reasons are valid, but it doesn't erase the fact that we will miss her.
This past Sunday, her family and friends all congregated for a combination birthday and farewell celebration. Almost everybody who was able to attend did because, I suppose on some level, we all know that this may be the last time we see her. It was a bittersweet as we celebrated 90 years of life and then we were all faced with saying goodbye.
Happy Birthday Aunt Ethel. I love you. I appreciate and value what you have brought to our family. I wish you nothing but love and happiness. I will miss you.
<---My cousin Dan with his Grandma (Aunt Ethel)
My Mom and Ethel--->
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