Aunt Katherine

So you’ve got this valley, where all of your great aunts and normal aunts and even your mom grew up, and the family is so entrenched in the culture that there’s nothing that could pull them away. Even when they ARE pulled away, they’re still there.

You’ve got your grandmother, who was the youngest of what seems like dozens, and you’ve got the log cabin they grew up in, and you’ve got the mountains they always looked at, every morning, EVERY morning, yet they never got sick of them, and you’ve got an entire legion of cousins and second cousins and they’re all still there. They’re all still holding tight. They’re all still representing the homeland and keeping it real.

You’ve got Great Grandma Johnston. She is barely a distant memory, but you remember the time you didn’t want to kiss her goodbye and you remember that it wasn’t long after that she died and how it’s taken you over two decades to understand that there’s no need to feel guilty. You were just a kid – a kid who was a little afraid of the super old.

And you’ve got Great Aunt Katherine. 93 years old. Your grandmother’s oldest sister. Another mother, really.

The mountains are turning brown and the pass is nearly at its safest, but traveling from city to city in western Wyoming is dangerous for your family, your memories constantly bumping up against your vehicle, too many to stop and consider and, so, you veer right and hit the pedal and dive through the barrage.

Sometimes you miss things. And sometimes, you have to let them go.

Because, after 93 years, your grandmother’s oldest sister took stock of her life, of those memories and that valley and all of those sisters and that log cabin and then considered the connections she’s made and said, “You know, that’s probably about as good as I could have hoped for.”

You might not know how it happened. In fact, you’re not surprised at all. All you know is that a keystone of the family has passed. You were close enough to feel the memories bounce off of the windshield, landing safely, looking as we passed, and understanding that we were on our way to meet family, and that there would be more chances in the future to reconnect.

With the rest of the family around. Somewhere a little more dignified.

Godspeed, Aunt Katherine. I never knew you as well as I could have. But, then again, maybe I did.

This was lovingly handwritten on June 15th, 2010