The number in my title have significance really only to me. But being the generous individual I am, I'm gonna try to explain them now to you.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while now will probably figure out -since I have not been secretive about my age -that the sixty six represents little old me.
The plus nine though is the number of years between me and my oldest first cousin on my Mom's side and the minus nine is the number of years between me and my youngest first cousin on the same side of my family tree.
The countdown of those 18 years began on April 16, 1935 when my oldest cousin, Nancy, was born making my grandparents two of the happiest people on the face of the earth.
How do I know that, you ask, since I didn't come along for another 9 years and didn't realize how big of an event my cousin's entry into the world was for a few years after I arrived on the scene too?
Easy! Because as early as I can recall my grandparents talked and talked -and showed me pictures too of my oldest cousin -what a cute, absolutely adorable baby, toddler, little girl, slightly older child, teenager, etc -you get that picture don't you -that she was. Even my Mom joined the chorus there too often telling me how exciting those early days as an aunt were to her.
Then, a year later, along came my cousin Barbara, and she too qualified for the royal treatment from grandparents and aunts and uncles -and yes, there were loads of old photos to be shared with me from early in my life of that cousin too!
But two years after Nancy, the family was blessed with a royal entrant when my cousin Carl was born! Carl was -I firmly believe to this day -the child who totally stole both my Grandmother's heart as well as my Mother's!
I do apologize if it sounds like I am grumbling here, exhibiting a bit of jealousy because that isn't my intent because before I ever did develop a tad of jealousy off and on concerning any of my cousins, that didn't come about till I was probably close to being in junior high and those ideas only came from the fact that my Mom would not allow me to get my learner's driving permit when I turned 16! (You see, my uncles -fathers to Nancy, Barb, Carl -as well as three other cousins who came along over the years -told my Mom they may have allowed Nancy, Barb and Carl to get their permits at age 16, but they weren't going to do that with the three cousins nearest my age so, if Mom knew what was best for me, she shouldn't let me get my permit either. And then, of course, they let those other three cousins get their licenses all before I got mine at age 18. Dirty rotten ratsofras ya know!)
Anyway, back to my progression here. The fourth grandchild was my cousin Joan and well, I guess the grandchild arrivals were becoming something one maybe gets accustomed too -the number of photos of subsequent grandkids does drop off as each new one comes along.
Unless that is, you happen to be the fifth of the series and you just happen to be born in the home of your grandparents and you and your Mother continue to then to live with said grandparents too.
Yeah -that would be me! I was number five and of course, because I lived here with Grandma and Grandpa, it was only natural I guess that I did get a bit more attention from them over the years. Well it makes sense to me anyway. My apologies though to my cousins who maybe kind of, sort of, got left out in the rain a little bit. I do know it wasn't that they loved me more just that keeping track of who belonged to who gets a little harder to remember as people age and also, I know too what a rotten little brat I was -frequently- -back then too so I'm quite sure there were many, many occasions when my grandparents really, really loved the rest of their grandchildren oh, a heck of a lot more than they did me! Yes, I really, really, really was or often could be, that bad!
But anyway, maybe this happened to be sort of an equalizer with my cousins and the attention thing, but three days -yeah a mere three days that I will never ever live down -my cousin Ray, was born! He dearly loves to antagonize me whenever he can now that I am his much, much older cousin ya know! But it did go a good ways for a while anyway to prevent me from getting totally spoiled early on.
With Ray's entrance into the family we thus begin the minus nine I mentioned and two years after Ray, along came his baby brother, David.
With those seven grandchildren, five of them were children of my oldest uncle (Bert) and his wife (Nellie), one belonged to my middle uncle (Ralph) and his wife (Hazel) and then there's me -the only child of my parents and by the way, my Mom was the only of the three daughters of her parents to have a child. That left my younger uncle (Clarence) and his wife (Mary) who finally presented my grandparents with the last four of their grandchildren starting with Ken, who was two year younger than our cousin, David, then Susan, two years later, Tommy came along two years after his sister Sue and then, last but definitely not least, 18 1/2 years after Nancy, there was Becky who is a year younger than her brother Tom!
Today, all of my Mom's immediate family are gone. Between 1967 and 1986 - gee, a year over the 18 years it took for my cousins and I to arrive is all there was between the passing of Uncle Bert down to Uncle Ralph with the other four in between.
Along that way, we also lost my cousin David too, in 1982 -when he died, then a week and a day later, Aunt Ethel left and a week and a day after that, her husband also passed. Needless to say, the month of March in 1982 was a terrible time for my cousins, for my surviving Uncle, and all the rest of us within the extended family.
So what's the point of this post tonight? Giving you the birth order and death order, of sorts, of my aunts, uncle, etc.? Maybe you can look at it that way.
But I've something on my mind tonight as I think about my family -those I grew up surrounded by and who I loved as a child and still do for that matter.
About seven years ago though, my oldest cousin Nancy, who was worried then about me because I had then been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer, had raised three kids as a single parent, and a few other things along the way, began to call me off and on -just to check up on me because with the death of our Uncle Ralph, Nancy had kind of taken on the mantle of the matriarch of the family. Yes we still had our youngest Uncle's wife left then too -our Aunt Mary -who, over the years I had become very close to her and Nancy knew she and I communicated fairly frequently too. But from that time forward, Nancy and I came to know each other pretty much all over as we rehashed things we remembered about our parents, our grandparents, about her siblings, and our other cousins -things that happened to us as little children, as teens and young adults until we each branched out and went a bit our separate ways.
Not a bad separation -no anger, no feuds really just life moving us farther apart. In some instances it would be geographic separations -miles and miles and no mutual place it seemed to come together unless this or that cousin could maybe make it back here for the big extended family reunion of the descendants of our great-grandparents from time to time.
And so, over those years a lot of lack of communication, not putting forth the effort any of us should have put aside to do just that with each other and so we're now left with people who know each other by name, yes and how we are related, yes to that too, but unless we have kept in some form of contact over the past 25 -30 years, all too often we only know and remember the person as we knew them back then.
And that is just downright wrong as well as being sad at least in my opinion.
Which now brings me to the real reason for writing this saga, of sorts.
Because you see my cousin Nancy - let's call her the leader of the pack -and I -two cousins who rediscovered each other better seven years ago and who have continued to try to stay in touch, especially the past six months when she began having more health issues as did I and both of us ended up by early August with yet another diagnoses for each of us of cancer.
Both of us going through chemo -again for me, first time for chemo for her (although she had come through kidney cancer and the loss of a kidney, breast cancer and then bladder cancer over the past three years) and we began calling more frequently, comparing notes and issues about our chemo treatments. Trying too, to bolster the other up but that wasn't all that hard to do with Nancy as she had a strong faith, a very positive attitude as well to the treatments, to her prognosis as well.
And in truth, we both were dealing quite well with the chemo -no major problems for either one of us.
So imagine then my shock when I came home from getting my third chemo infusion today to my daughters -both of them were here -and Mandy telling me she had some news for me but it wasn't good news. There had been it seems, a phone call today while I was at the Cancer Clinic, happily sleeping away the 5 plus hours it takes for my treatments.
The call? It was from my cousin Nancy's husband, Howard, to tell us that Nancy died, very suddenly this morning.
Shock? Disbelief? Grief?
All of that and more.
I know my Faith tells me, tells all of us really, that we should rejoice when someone passes on to our Heavenly Father and I am doing that. Truly, I am because I do believe that Nancy shared my faith and that of our ancestors and that's what they believed too.
But this does put a whole different spin now -and for a long time to come too -because Nancy is no longer here for me to talk to for hours -or until the cordless phones (either hers or mine) would decide enough and go dead on us!
This also brings to mind, even more than ever before -probably because yes I am rapidly aging, the memory is fading a bit, even beyond what I jokingly picked up from blogger Janine -the dreaded "Chemo Brain Drain" thing - but with age also does occasionally come a bit of knowledge too.
And it's that tiny bit of knowledge that I have acquired -mainly over the past seven plus years now of my conversations, my communications with Nancy - and that is how important it really is to maintain contact, as much as is humanly possible with as many of one's family as can be reached.
Yeah - to quote the old Verizon tagline -"Reach out and touch someone!"
Learn as much as you can about who those little kids you grew up with are today and get to know them and yourself too, as much as possible, in that process.
Family is important! If you've not had the best of relationships, stop - look back and take stock of things and see if what drew you apart is of utmost importance now in the general scheme of things or have enough years -and changes -gone by and the spats that may have separated family in the past are of a lesser consequence perhaps today that some fence mending can be done and the family relationships perhaps retrieved, repaired?
I don't think there are any major squabbles between my cousins and myself -none I can recall now anyway if ever there were any -but yet, we still grew apart over the years.
And I know from how good I always felt after sharing calls with Nancy, with my late Aunt Mary too, and how much I miss not being able to be close -geographically or in contact via phone, e-mail, facebook, chat, whatever -with too many of my cousins still here, that I can try to maintain some semblance at least with them for whatever is left of my life now too.
Dedicated to the memories -and they are many -I have had given to me over the past 66 plus years by my cousin, Nancy Louise Eld Lang.
Always in my heart, Nance -today as before -and for the rest of my days to come. I know where you are and just hope in time, I will be able to find you there too -again.