Dear Aunt Dianne:
It’s been almost ten months without you here and sometimes it feels like yesterday when we were watching The Pioneer Woman together and wondering how she hasn’t had a heart attack yet from all that heavy whipping cream she uses.
I try not to cry a lot over the loss of you because you know how everyone calls me the basketcase drama queen. I try not to dwell on the grief and that’s probably why it’s been shoved into a tiny hard ball in the corner of my chest somewhere, unraveling in the weirdest moments, like the other day when a little girl at Walmart yelled: “bye, Dianne!”
Of course she wasn’t talking to “our Dianne”, it probably was spelled with one “n” instead of two, but simply hearing the name spoken out loud when it’s so hard for us to say it sometimes, for fear we will break and never be able to be fixed again, was enough to leave me standing in the aisle of cheap and ugly purses with tears in my eyes. Seriously, though, I know you’d get this – why are the purses at Walmart so ugly these days? I wish you were here to tell me of a cool one you saw on QVC.
When we come to the house to visit mom and dad, I still instinctively look at your chair and expect to see you there. Instead, it’s empty so I set my purse and camera bag down and wish you were there to ask me to move it all so you can sit down and catch your breath.
Watching you fade away physically those last few years, feeling as if family far away had abandoned you, was hard. But it was also a blessing to have you close, even on the days we butted heads over silly things, usually because you were more stubborn than a mule. The people we once knew as family may not have seemed interested in talking to us, the cut or rejection and betrayal was deep, but if none of that had happened then our side of the family would have missed out on eight years of laughter and fun and being reminded to always keep in touch with our childlike selves.
I could never figure out why you seemed to be the black sheep of the family, you know that. Maybe it was because you smoked for years, even after Grandpa died from cancer, making us all wonder if it had been the cigarettes that killed him. Maybe it’s because you were loud and inappropriate and fun when others were sometimes more serious. I’m really not sure why you were the proverbial cast out and you never were either, which is why I think you always felt you were in the way when you weren’t.
The kids have been growing fast since you have been gone. Jonathan misses you terribly but I don’t think he knows how to talk about it. He withdrew into himself for a while and started thinking deep thoughts about death and who else he’ll lose soon. School became hard and eventually we pulled him from the school we’d all wanted to love but couldn’t anymore. So now he’s homeschooled and we wish you were still here because we finally have the time and ability to travel down and see you and Mom and Dad whenever is needed, not only when a schedule allows.
I think a lot about all the wasted time. All the time we could have spent with you but didn’t. But then I think about all the time we might not have had with you if you had never moved in with Mom and Dad and I’m grateful. The loss of others was our gain. I wish those boys could have had the time with you we did. They never rejected you, Dianne. They were simply never given the chance to know you, for whatever reason and reasons we may never know. Had they been given that chance they would have loved you, I know.
So we keep moving on, Mom and I pausing ever so often to cry because you aren’t here to watch Wheel of Fortune with or tell us about the latest gadget you saw on QVC. The Lyme is getting better for Dad and he’s discovered sugar triggers mood swings so he’s backed off of it.
Grace seems to not remember you most days but when guests come over she’s as matter-of-fact as ever, letting them know that was your chair, you lived here, then you died but that you existed. It’s good that she knows you existed but I wish she had had the chance to really know you and remember all the good about you.
I’ll close for now because I’m sure you know the rest – the losses we faced, the complexity of the feelings about the one loss, the mixed feelings you would have had too. And I’m sure none of that matters to you anymore because the things of earth have passed away and Joan and Jesus are holding you now, in a place where there is no more pain.
Love you and miss you more than ever,