Posted on: February 19, 2012

Friday night was the last night I will ever spend at my family’s apartment. My Aunt and Uncle moved to be with their son and his new wife in a different state. They were, in distance, the closest family I had around. I grew up with my cousins, the boy is just a little older than me and the girl is just a little younger – between the two of them and me and my siblings, we used to have a house full during the summers. We used to play cops and robbers when we were little, used to go to the beach together, used to explore the woods behind their house together. We are related by birth but friends by choice.

They’d moved here a few years ago after my aunt had a series of bad strokes. When they first moved and my aunt was in the hospital, my uncle and my two cousins lived with me for a few months before they got their own place. I loved having them here… it was a little tough to get used to, just in terms of space (I don’t have a lot of it), but I loved talking to my Uncle about when he lived in DC in the ’60s, loved chatting with my girl cousin (we’ll call her L) through the night, loved cooking for more people than just me. It was crowded but fun, given the reasons they were living here.

After they got their own place, I would visit every other weekend at least, sometimes every weekend. Their apartment was like a time-warp – before I knew it, the whole day had passed just hanging out. We would lounge around, Uncle would make chai, sometimes we’d cook together, sometimes we’d order take-away, but there was never any pressure.  We would just chat, laugh, they would fight and I would stay out of it or just try to diffuse tension, whatever was necessary. I helped my aunt do her therapy – L would walk with her, and I’d follow with the wheelchair to make sure she didn’t collapse. She wasn’t very mobile, so when I came over, L and I would try to make sure we took her somewhere – even if it was just to Target. She’d lost all interest in shopping but we still thought it’d be nice to get her out of the house for a bit. But mostly, I think it was therapeutic for my Aunt to have me around to stop the natural family arguments they would have. She told me a few times that she liked when I came over because it made the house ‘lively.’ She said she liked the sound of laughter I brought to the apartment. That meant so much to me to hear that.

British ended things on Dec 22, three days before Christmas. I had no plans for the holiday so I packed a duffel and went to their apartment for the weekend. I have spent every weekend since then at their place. I would show up Friday and leave Monday morning, straight to work. Since my Aunt and Uncle didn’t know about him or the relationship we had, I didn’t cry in front of them. L knew, and when I told her what he’d done, she said with a shrug of her shoulders, “Well, really, what else was going to happen? Were you going to really move there??”  And of course, at that point, I was thinking that that was exactly what was going to happen.

But in any case, every weekend since Christmas, I’ve been with them. I learned a lot from being there. My Aunt is fairly physically debilitated after the strokes. I cannot imagine what it must be like to be mentally functioning and know exactly what your limitations are. But my Uncle does everything for her. He takes her to the bathroom and wipes her when she’s done, he bathes her, he puts her to bed, he cooks for the family – he does all these things, partly out of love and partly out of duty, and he does it all with no complaints.

While they were packing up, my uncle gave me this clock as a ‘gift to remember them.’  They’ll never know the biggest gift was just being there for me when I needed it the most. I wasn’t left alone to cry by myself, I wasn’t wallowing in my own misery – when I was there, all of that still weighed on my mind, but much less so since there were other things to think and worry about. My issues seemed so stupid when my Aunt can’t even go to the bathroom on her own.

When I hugged them goodbye yesterday, my Aunt and I both cried. They’ve only been gone a day and I already miss them.


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