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April 24, 2010

Is blood thicker than water?

IMG_7964 She’s the only person left on the planet who changed my diapers.   She remembers the day I was born.    She lives across the country; and I see her very rarely.

At 91, she moves a little slower and shakier—but she’s as sharp and salty as ever.   She calls to tell me off-color jokes; or to be sure I'm okay when California has another disaster.  She never fails to remember---and send a card---on every holiday, on my birthday, and my children's birthdays.  She reads like crazy but she doesn’t use a computer— and she has no idea that I recently wrote a post about how I wish I had more of my mother’s clothing.

So it was an amazing sign from the universe when I last saw her, she happened to bring along a dress of my mom’s that she wanted me to have.   I’m thrilled to have my mom’s dress; and  over the years she’s given me so much more.

When my mom died of cancer at 41,  I was only 18---not old enough to appreciate or understand the depth of their relationship---of what women can mean to each other.   Years later, I learned that this was the person to whom my mom confided her secrets, and asked to watch over her 3 children.

Our father took great care of us; and she had her own family.   Still, she kept her promise to my mother….to this very day.

She’s the closest my kids ever came to having a grandmother.   They call her “Aunt Helen”;  because that’s what I call her.   But we’re not related by blood; we’re related by love.

My mother had a sister;  Aunt Helen is the sister my mother chose for herself.  I feel grateful my mom chose so well; and I wish everyone could have an Aunt Helen.

Back in the day, “aunt” was what we called women who were close friends of the family.   There's no other  word in the lexicon to describe these close ties—with people who are closer than friends but aren’t relatives.

With families that are fragmented and scattered and blended, we aren’t all lucky enough to have families who are there for us -—geographically, physically or emotionally.    But if we’re really really lucky, we have friends who define what family truly means—-even if our mothers told us blood is thicker than water.



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