The porch light was burning and I could see the silhouette of my aunt and uncle in the screen door as I pulled into the driveway.
I had been back in my hometown for two days and a visit with my dad’s siblings was already long overdue.
As I climbed the steps to the house, memories filled my mind of years gone by: climbing those same steps, arms loaded with Christmas presents as our noisy, fun-loving family gathered to celebrate another holiday; my aunt’s dining room table always piled high with all kinds of mouth-watering food; my wedding shower in her beautiful sunroom; all the cousins packed in to celebrate my aunt and uncle’s 60th wedding anniversary a few years ago; and many, many more.
If those walls could talk, they would tell the story of a large, imperfect-but-loving family who have made it through the best and worst of times together with our faith and sense of humor intact. These rooms have been filled with so much laughter, even during times of sadness, such as the first time we gathered there for dinner after my dad died in 2002.
The grief was palpable when everyone arrived that evening. My dad’s larger-than-life personality left a gaping hole and the silence of his laughter and deep voice seemed to scream louder than anything else. Tears brimmed and hearts ached at the sense of enormous loss. He had always been the one to say, “We’ve got to enjoy this. There are no guarantees. This might be the last time we all have the chance to be together.”
We never dreamed that he would be the first to go.
Yet…shortly after dinner was served, one of us said something funny. Someone laughed. Then another and another…until soon we all were laughing…laughter mixed with tears to be sure, but the laughter was a welcome relief nonetheless.
It’s my family’s way.
I was enveloped in hugs the second I walked through the front door and as soon as I sat down in my aunt’s beautifully appointed living room, I could feel myself relax, as if all was right with the world. I felt so safe and protected.
This house is a haven to me. I left my hometown 17 years ago and have lived in 11 different homes. My mom sold my childhood home back in 2004. So, when I have the chance to come back to this familiar place, it is truly comforting and special to me.
For almost two hours, we talked, laughed, and reminisced.
These dear ones make me feel as if I can do anything and have always been incredible cheerleaders in my life.
I study their faces, so aware of the changes of time…and so grateful that they are still such a big part of my life. I treasure the minutes and all too soon, it’s time to go.
There are more hugs and promises to get together again soon and I walk to my car, tears filling my eyes.
Thank You, Lord, for the precious gift of TIME with them. Their bodies have slowed down but their spirits are still as strong as ever. I can’t imagine my life without them.
I start the car and back out of the driveway, giving a final beep of the horn and a wave.
And they do what they have done since I was born…they stand in the doorway and wave back until my car is out of sight.