Blooming and Blossoming Aunts and Uncles

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York photographs a lotus pond thick with lotuses at all stages of life.I’m running out of aunts and uncles. Last week my beautiful, brave Aunt Ilse died. Now I’m down to one aunt and one uncle. Plus another aunt who is really my first cousin once removed. Somehow, while I was mooning over all my cousins’ children’s babies wishing I could hold a grandbaby of my own, I hadn’t noticed the shifting of our family tree.

It used to be there were enough of them to fill every holiday, enough aunts and uncles to have favorites. My cousins’ parents. They weren’t at all like the parents of my friends. No, these adults were mine, as in My Aunt Bope and My Uncle Max. They showed an interest in me; perhaps they were seeking similarities to their siblings. If I did something remarkable, like get married or have kids, they gave me gifts. They gave my children gifts. They always seemed happy to see me. And at each stage of my life, I’ve loved being in their company. But over the years they’ve been disappearing.

There were only a few days between the joyful family event that brought my tribe traveling west to Colorado and then south to Ilse’s funeral in Florida. In between, in Ithaca, I met up with my photographer friends at a lotus pond. We took pictures of young shoots emerging from the muddy pond bottom, new pointy-leaf buds, and unfurling blooms already pinked out or still green like their stalks. Some of the flowers had petals opened wide and falling. There were old dried up, naked pods standing tall or bent downward. The pond was thick with lotuses at all stages of lotus life.

Stages. Changes that happen between life and death. The shifts I’ve made from thinking in terms of my tiny shrinking family (my single child left, one remaining uncle, one of this and one of that…) to considering the whole family forest. My cousins and my cousins’ children are now aunts and uncles. They branch out with partners and step-kids and “extendeds.” Thanks to all their blooming and blossoming, our tribe continues to grow.

And maybe it will be my funeral they gather at next. Or maybe, I’ll soar up into the sea of clouds above the magnificent flowering earth, and be the one to outlive them all.

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8 thoughts on “Blooming and Blossoming Aunts and Uncles

  1. Lucy Bergstrom

    Robin, you are so good at seeing the intertwinings of human life. Comparing them to a pond of lotus blossoms at all stages of budding, blossoming and fading is very apt. We all come from families, even if we don’t have much of one left as we get older. When my grandfather was in his nineties, he said “You have no idea how lonely it is when everyone you knew as a child is gone.” He and his 5 siblings had all emigrated to the US and had been each others’ lifeline in the new land. He was the second oldest, but survived them all – without much joy.
    I think we all derive great joy from being a part of family groups, whether they’re actual relatives or close groups of friends we celebrate holidays with and live our lives in close harmony with.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      Yes, Lucy, we need those groups, tribes of friends and/or family. As I keep saying I want to live to be a hundred, I have to keep in mind your grandfather’s words about being lonely when everyone you knew and loved as a child disappears. I also keep remembering older friends’ words about how they don’t bother to try making new friends because they’re just dying off anyway. Maybe those assisted living-type places aren’t going to seem so sad when the friends start to go. Maybe there’ll be some place where one can live with others and make home, make family when all else is gone. Sigh. Because there is so much joy to be found in sharing with others. And hopefully, if you don’t have the old shared memories, you can make new ones. Long after.

      Reply
  2. Elaine Mansfield

    Another poignant one, Robin. So precious to remember how fleeting it all is. My family has been reduced to no aunts and uncles, a few cousins, and no siblings. I stay in touch with some, but there are no family gatherings and no sense that we’re part of one tribe. It’s partly my pulling away and partly because we’ve run out of memories to share. I’m grateful for my sons and don’t forget what a gift they are. I’m also grateful for a strong community of friends, a few I’ve known since the 1960s. They were my kids aunts and uncles, and they still are.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I guess we create our family and community when there’s a lack. And now, it seems, you are the matriarch of your own small tribe. Maybe those sons and daughters-in-law will give you grandchildren? The community of friends must be growing tighter as people “age out” and die. As for running “out of memories to share,” well, you are definitely making new memories – I’m reading about a bunch of them on your blog site whenever you aren’t blogging about your old memories. Hugs, Elaine.

      Reply
  3. Diana Drucker

    Be grateful for the family you still have. I have no aunts, no uncles, no parents, no siblings, no children. My only relative is one nephew and a distant cousin.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      I am grateful, Diana. And like you, I think, I find people to fill in, to surround myself with and hold dear. Because I’m learning that we are all family. But yow – I think you win the record for tiniest family that I know of. This does make me ever more in awe of the possibilities and people’s resilience. And mortality. Hugs.

      Reply
  4. Wendy Pavliscsak

    Very Beautiful as always. You have a very special Gift. Love you Always

    Reply

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