October 10, 2012 |  Category:   family life

We spent most of last week with Mark’s sister and her boyfriend as they came for a short visit here and then drove upstate to visit their dad. We joined them upstate over the weekend. The girls adore their aunt; she might very well be their favorite person in the world. Their relationship is quite special and she and I were talking wistfully about a time in the not too distant future when the girls might get too old to come running into her arms. Their time together is always full of energy, laughter, hugs and at any given time, at least one of the girls climbing into her lap or clutched in an embrace. In 6 or so years they’ll be more interested in hanging out with their friends than they are with family. I was a kid once, I remember.


It’s hard having family 3000 miles away though we do a pretty good job of keeping in touch via various channels. It’s why our annual trips to Seattle are so important. I’m an aunt too, to my brother’s 2 young kids who live out in California, but our relationship is not as effortless. I hope that changes sometime soon though. It’s strange to have family out there that you don’t really know too well yet. I just wish that we could all be together more often and that distance, time or money wasn’t such an obstacle.
Our trips upstate to visit Mark’s dad are always wrought with all kinds of feelings. Even though its only a 4-5 hour car trip away, mentally and emotionally it often feels like a bigger trip than our west coast ones. It’s been a difficult 2 years of being in and out of hospitals. Right now he is in a nursing home. Nobody wants to say it out loud, but nursing homes are sad places. Maybe they don’t have to be, but in this situation it’s kind of sad. The visits themselves are good usually, but it makes you think head on about the past, the present situation, and also the future. His dad said something this visit about how he never imagined he’d be in this situation 5, 10 years ago. It was a wistful statement filled with some regret, but also of acceptance on a certain level. Sitting on the edge of that bed in the nursing home watching the girls read their books squeezed side by side in an arm chair in the corner of the room, I thought about the fact that someday we will be old too. That is still a ways away, but it’s hard sometimes not to look into the future when you are dealing with what you always thought was the future right now in the present.

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  • Christine Somers October 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    You have described family perfectly in your post. I, too, have family hundreds of miles away and must overcome the distance to stay connected. And yes, with some it is easier than with others. Good post.

  • Simone October 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    “When you are unable to understand, there is no why.
    When you are unable to accept, there is no why.
    When you are unable to forgive, there is no why.
    When you are unable to rest, there is no why.
    When you are unable to find peace, there is no why.

    All the noise and trouble, the rabble and riot, all the anger, the hate, the arrogance, the self-righteousness and blame, the learned opinions and reasoned explanations, the justifiable fear and rampant paranoia, are nothing but the ignorant invention of why.

    But there is no why.
    In the garden, old redwoods mingle with day-old dragonflies, and there is
    no question of why.”

    Karen Meazen Miller

  • Simone October 10, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    P.S. I don’t want to sound like a republican, but family is important.

  • Carrie Snow October 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I agree that nursing homes are sad places, but even more so that they don’t have to be. I know when my dad was in one (the beginning of his end), although Alzheimer’s was supposed to render him oblivious to certain things (so they say), he clearly became depressed in there. Of course the residents absorb the bleakness of the surroundings, the less than pleasant odors, the focus on the medical facet of their being, and so on. Some are fortunate to afford nicer places that aim to protect the dignity of their residents, but really those are not options for most. I predict things will change in that department in the next 20 or so years, maybe sooner. Let’s hope.

  • darra October 10, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    I just had my first child 3 months ago. I am enjoying every moment of course, but, more than ever I can’t help but constantly think about time and distance. Should we move closer to family or, live the life we chose? I also realize that this is the apex of the future I have been working towards, and that scares me a little. You put into words so well things I often think about but can’t put into words myself, thanks for that.

  • Nancy October 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Oh, I know exactly the feeling you describe about nursing homes. My grandfather was in a rehab facility for a few weeks, and it was sad to watch him come to terms with losing his independence. I wrote about it on my blog:

    I’m fortunate that my sisters and I have chosen to remain near each other, in the tri-state area. We’ve contemplated a move to Seattle but I don’t think I could be that far from them. I love the relationship that my kids have with their cousins, and with their aunts.

  • carla October 11, 2012 at 1:24 am


    i nightly glance thru so many blogs with images i find compelling, but yours is one of the few i truly READ. i like the way you express vulnerability – it is very honest. i thought this was a particularly well-written post. reminds me why we need to savor the here and now. thanks.


  • Christine October 11, 2012 at 1:51 am

    thanks for sharing..everything is wonderful..images, words..

  • Jane October 11, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, with my FIL being very sick. There’s something about our parents that makes us feel forever young, in a way – they’ve existed in our world since the day we were born, and although we know they won’t be around forever, we still sort of feel like they always will be. They’ll always be our parents, we’ll always be their children. But losing our parents cuts that tie, it makes our limited time seem so much more real – the people we felt would always be there, aren’t.

  • Summer October 11, 2012 at 11:09 am

    I want to second Carla’s comment. You’re my favorite blog to read, and I think it’s your writing style. It’s very honest and comforting.

    Upon retirement, my dad (a man of few words, and self empoyed) said something like….”It’s just so odd…such an odd feeling, because you work your *entire* life building a business and learning and doing all you can so that you’re good at your trade….all just to end up at the social security office and figure out how to fill your time before you die.”

  • Sabine October 11, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Beautiful and touching post, Jenna.

  • Tara October 11, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    “In 6 or so years they’ll be more interested in hanging out with their friends than they are with family. I was a kid once, I remember.”

    It seems to be cyclical, though, in that we usually come back around to value family even more – or at least in a different way – when we’ve become adults. High school and college are so friend-focused, but now I find myself living apart from my own and my husband’s family (we’re from the same hometown) and questioning that choice daily.

    To echo the others, great post.

  • RebeccaNYC October 11, 2012 at 11:56 pm

    As always, your post resonates with me…being a favorite Aunt, and the changes to that status over the years…watching my parents age, wondering what is next for them, how will we afford it…what will I do when I am their age since I have no children of my own to help me when the time comes. All things I think about often.

  • Von October 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    i found your blog by googling to get some ideas on ‘how to wear skinny jeans when your middle age’ so i don’t run the risk of looking like a 20 year old wanna be mess. I’ve been hooked on your writing and photography since.
    anyways, I’m about to turn 47 and yes my 14 year-old daughter’s life revolves around her friends these days and yes i’m ok with that since i too remember.
    and yes, there’s nothing like aging parents to get you thinking about your own mortality. it’s what brought me to accept i’ve fully immersed in middle-ageness when i had to start making major-life decisions for my mom who is diagnosed w/ early stage alzheimer. fortunately, my siblings and i have been able to locate a nice lady who can stay w/ my mom at her house 24/7 and is affordable…feel very fortunate. at this stage in my life, i try to practice simple living, find myself less distracted by material things, and take care of myself better so hopefully i can minimize the burden of my ‘golden’ years to my daughter and society.