Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Aunt Myrt

Charcoal and graphite pencil on paper
5 x 7 inches

I've been away from home for a bit over a week, and when I came back, learned that my aunt is ill.  She is nearly 93, and over the last year, her health has been failing bit by bit.  I was able to talk to her this weekend for only a couple of minutes.  I am hoping this is just a temporary bug that she will recover from quickly.  At the same time, I know that the time is coming closer when she will no longer be around.

Over the weekend, I worked for a while on a large abstract landscape, but then found myself resisting picking up a paintbrush.  Finally, I got out my large sketchbook, thinking I'd just fool around with some quick black and white compositions for a while.  My aunt was so much on my mind that I got out a photo of her I took last year when I was visiting her on the west coast, and did this quick charcoal and graphite study.  It was what I needed to do.  Though I only spent about 30 minutes on it (and it shows), I felt calmer.  Someday, I'll do a portrait of her in oils. 

I call her my aunt, but she is actually the widow of my father's cousin, the son of my father's father's sister (you might have to draw a diagram to get all that, but it is intuitive to me).   To understand this, it helps to know how my family reckons relationships.  My mother's family does all the first/second cousin so-many-times removed thing, but I never have gotten the knack of that.  I grew up mostly around my father's family.  They determine relationships more by generation, with a little shifting here and there to even things up. 

There was the parent generation: so my parents and their siblings and cousins were all part of that generation.  They were all aunts and uncles to the kid generation, and often take on roles as "second mom" or "second dad".  Same with the grandparents: all of them, cousins and siblings to each other, were great-aunts and uncles and functioned more or less as grandparents to all the kids, regardless of which were the actual grandparents (though we had a very special relationship with our own grandparents).  Of course, I am not the kid generation anymore: there are two generations after me, and if I count the children of some of my older cousins, three.  And things are different now, as they are for most families these days. 

Myrt was one of my second moms, and the one I was closest to as a child.  My own mother has been dead for over 20 years. I am now older than my mother was when she died. Myrt filled the role of being my guide in my transistion from young woman to middle age.  In recent years, as I began to approach elder status, she has shown me the path of grace in growing old.  Though she has gone through many difficult situations in her life, she acknowledges the reality of things, grieves, and then goes on to enjoy the good things in her life. 

She is the last of that generation of my family, and I count myself blessed to have had her in my life for so long.  She is such a delightful part of my life.

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