Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Loss, Love, And The Ties That Bind
We spent Sunday at the homestead, visiting once again with Alex's Uncle Sam, Papa's younger, 75-year old brother. We took up a meal to share and Sam showed us family photos from their childhood on the homestead. He's put them all on disk for us to keep, and what a treasure that is. We talked about families and all the things that entails - commitment, resentments, forgiveness, tolerance, aging and loss. Sam's wife, our Aunt Lois, died March 18, so it's been a tough stretch for the Bradstreet brothers. We cried some, but laughed as well. We found ourselves getting to know an uncle that we hadn't much opportunity to know and we are grateful for his generous nature. It felt too soon to have to say goodbye at the end of the day.
Out on the farm, the blackberries are blooming and honeybees are in heaven. The bees and the garter snakes both love the comfrey. Old-fashioned bearded iris line the small garden. Olivia's vegetables are growing, as are the weeds. We'll have to go up another day, when the ground isn't so soft from all the rain and help her with that. Olivia, overjoyed with her new camera, was much too distracted by picture taking to weed, anyway. Another day. Adam tried out the riding mower and Sam offered some tips for helping it to clog less. With just enough daylight left, Sam and Papa set out for a walk in the woods (or what used to be open pasture), both flooded with memories, both painful and sweet. Being brothers hasn't always come easily to them, you see. But the land and the house unites them, as do the memories of shared hijinks on the farm, the mutual grief as recent widowers, their resemblance to one another; each of these things serve to bind them.
At dusk, the kids and I piled back into our car, said goodbye, and we left Alex behind for a few days to do some work on the house. I found myself in tears, acutely aware, at that moment, of how fragile, agonizing, and incomplete family affection can be. Saying goodbye gets hard with so much recent loss, too. Time seems truncated and stingy. At least it does, until I think of those photos, the sepia and the gray, of boys holding cats, with belts cinching pants too big around the waist and much too short at the ankle, in front of the same shed, the same house, where now my own children stand. Seven generations of siblings have gone before on this farm. It is the keeper of all our souls.