When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time at my aunt and uncle's home in a town called Glasgow. I had three male first cousins who were teenagers when I was born, and they ran me up and down the neighborhood in a big black English perambulator (buggy) showing me off to the neighbors. I was adored. I was spoiled...and I loved them all wildly.
Then when I was nine, and the boys were all grown and married, some with children of their own, my uncle died suddenly of a heart attack. To say that the family was damaged is an understatement- we imploded, especially my father. They'd been like brothers and it turned my father's world inside out. He changed. He became dark and angry. It was a bad time, one that didn't change or abate for an entire decade.
I won't elaborate on exactly what happened, but at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I almost went to Glasgow to live with my aunt. The public reason was that they had advanced biology classes that my hometown high school didn't, and that it would be a great academic opportunity (which it would've)...but the real reason was something totally different. In the end, I decided to gut it out and stay with my friends, particularly Hopkins, because I figured we'd never get through our respective personal Hells without one another. In retrospect, the observation still stands.
Again, for many reasons that I don't want to commit to a public forum, my aunt decided toward the end of my senior year that she would move to Phoenix to live with my grandmother. She left a chair with us that was a favorite of my uncle's...and most of the family besides her didn't know that when the chair was moved from his office to the house after his death, that's where I was when nobody could find me. What very few people know is that I often sat in that chair when it was in his office, watching him work. The chair is in the formal sitting room at my parents' house; the chair stayed with me, a physical reminder of the happier days in Glasgow.
When her health failed, my cousins brought my aunt back to the Greater Nashville area, close to where they live. She wasn't happy there. It's cold. It's damp. She didn't have much independence, and her health continued to decline. My other aunt would come to visit from Indianapolis, and we met them a couple of times at a restaurant in Glasgow when she was visiting. The last time, my older aunt was clearly very deeply depressed. She'd always carried a degree of sadness since my uncle died, but this was different.
A few days ago, the cousin with whom she lived returned home at lunchtime and found her dead in her bed.
That morning, I'd been to the animal shelter in Glasgow to pick up an Airedale for rescue. It's about two blocks behind their old house, and for the first time in my life, I felt an eerie disconnection from the place. Later that evening, I found out why when the eldest cousin called to give me the bad news. With her death, a chapter of my life closed, one that was not entirely happy, but one that was not entirely bad, either, and certainly one that held a lot of profound memories for me.