My mother once told me that when she and my father got married there were 200-plus people at their wedding, most of whom were family. Like most children, I never thought about a time when our family would stop growing and start shrinking. Children assume everyone they love will be around forever.
In actual fact, I’m lucky. Most of my family lived long and full lives. I was 15 when my great grandfather passed away, in my 20s when my great grandmother passed. One grandmother lived to 98, the other to 94. And I was an adult when most of my great aunts and great uncles died.
I’m thinking about this today, because my last remaining uncle just passed away this week, at 96. He was married to my mother’s younger sister, who is gone about four years.
Despite there being so many people these days who live to 100 and even past 100, by the time someone reaches their mid-to-late 90s, we begin to prepare ourselves for “that” phone call. And yet, when it comes, we are still shocked. At least I was when my phone rang early yesterday morning.
But I think what jolted me the most, is the realization of just how few members of my immediate and extended family are now left. My grandparents are gone, my parents are gone, my aunts and uncles are gone. What remains are cousins and their children. If there was a family wedding now, the head count would be decidedly less than at my parents’ wedding. At least in terms of family — and, for that matter, even close friends. Every one of my parents’ friends are also gone.
That is the reality of life.
We’re all so busy, and caught up in our own lives, in our own celebrations, in our own dramas and melodramas it’s like we live in a universe of our own. When I was growing up, the young ‘uns didn’t move away, like happens these days. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have family living all over the place — in different cities, different provinces, different states, different countries, even different continents.
When I first moved to Toronto from Montreal in 1985 I could count on seeing the majority of my family whenever I went back home to visit my parents. Not anymore. Not even before they all started to pass away. We’re everywhere.
Which is probably the only reason I’m still on Facebook. At least the few of us who are left can keep in touch and keep track of each other. We text, we call and we do see each other whenever we can, which isn’t as often as we’d like, because we’re scattered around. We try our best and we work at it. And I am so grateful for that.
Here’s something Rod Stewart said that I think just about sums it up: “You go through life wondering what is it all about but at the end of the day, it’s all about family.”
So make the most of the time you have with each other because really, it’s fleeting.