February was a busy time on several fronts. The local Art Gala that had taken months of committee work and preparation for me as an organizer and participating artist was a great success. The hard work, anxiety and anticipation over. Just a few days later, my brother and his wife arrived in Georgia for a visit with my parents down across the border in Northeast Florida.
As many know, my brother John is my sole surviving sibling. It was so nice to have another person with whom to reminisce about all the great times of our childhood and beyond. John’s wife, Gigi was a long-time close friend of my late sister Manette, so she is also very connected to our unique family history. I love to be able to say, “Remember when…” with John or Gigi adding details or mention a long-lost friend I might’ve forgotten, or maybe even tell me a story that I didn’t know. Those moments of sharing our collective past are cherished. I’ve forged many new and strong friendships over the past three years in my new community, but nothing can replace The Memory Keepers. Having two sibs gone makes that all the more poignant.
This past week marked the fifth anniversary of Manette’s passing. She was 17 months my junior and although we were different in many ways we were very close and had shared a small bedroom in our hometown of Hackensack. We laughed, argued and yes even had a few “fist fights” on occasion. Of course I always got in trouble as I was older and should’ve known better. She was smaller than me, but was quite a scrapper.
Manette was the kind of person who wanted to save the world. She dedicated herself to many causes in her personal and work life. I often felt that sometimes people took advantage of her helpful nature and desire to guide others to better lives. But that is how she chose to live her life. In her demand for privacy many did not know just how ill she was and when it fell to me, the Family Communicator to inform others of her imminent passing, I was met with complete shocked silence on the other end of my sad phone calls.
Manette had married young and had a son, Zac, and some of my best memories are of the time I spent living with them in their two bedroom condo when Zac was just a little boy. Zac passed nine months ago making those memories even more special as he was a great Memory Keeper and storyteller and loved to recall those early years when we occasionally tussled and I got called out once again for being older and therefore presumed wiser. In many ways I was more of an older sister than an aunt.
For a time back in the early 1970s, our family lived in Boulder, Colorado. My sister’s dream had always been to have a horse of her own and during our nine months in Colorado, Manette found a way to foster a horse in our backyard that conveniently contained a small horse stable and acreage. I wrote about Manette and her horse in a post I’d written for my former blog site and relayed that story at her Service. When a close friend of her’s called and asked if he could have a reprint of what I’d read, I sent him my handwritten notes. That story went on to be featured in a horse rescue anthology and I will share at a later date.
In losing Rich, I lost another Memory Keeper of 30 years. These days, I find my mind filled with memory flashes almost like those GIFs that just keep replaying promising something more if we just keep watching. On this day, known as “March Forth”, however, we are called to move ahead and try new things and forge new paths. So far “Year Two” of widowhood finds me in a better place. The void never gets filled, but the bottom and edges get a little softer. It helps to keep those Memory Keepers active in my life as I continue to create new ones.
Happy March Forth!