Last week, Husband and I went to visit our neighbor on her 77th birthday. We took her a dozen fresh eggs from our chickens and a frozen rabbit. She and her husband enjoy talking, and they are really funny, so we sat in their living room and chatted for a while.
Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor have one daughter and two grandchildren, plus Mrs. Neighbor has several siblings who have children and grandchildren, and her family seems very close, both emotionally and geographically. Mrs. Neighbor talks about her nieces and nephews a lot, and she has a table full of their pictures. In the half hour or so that Husband and I sat there with them, the phone rang three times; her family members were calling to wish her a happy birthday. Mr. Neighbor told us, “That phone has been ringing all day. Started at 7:30 this morning.”
Mrs. Neighbor assured us that her family calls him on his birthday, too. Most of his family isn’t around anymore, but her family has adopted him, he says, and they seemed so happy to have all these people in their lives. They call, they visit, they go out to dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor.
And it made me wonder, when I am old, will anyone come to visit me? Husband and I have 19 nieces and nephews, but we haven’t been as involved in their lives as perhaps we could be. His are nearby, but mine are not, and even for the ones who live locally, it’s hard to get to every birthday party or soccer game or cross country meet or dance recital or play. And the ones who live an hour or more away, we see only a few times a year at the most. I know I’m not the perfect aunt. I get overwhelmed easily when there are a lot of people or there is a lot of noise. I have my own huge list of things to do, and sometimes the activities of the nieces and nephews must become lower priorities.
Do they know they are important to us? Do they know that when they are sick, I wish I could be there to bring chicken soup and cold washcloths, even though I know I’m not the one they want? Do they know about the days and years I’ve spent trying to live vicariously through their mothers? Do they know I wish I could be a confidante and friend? Do they know I have always wanted to be the favorite aunt, but grieve that I haven’t been able to be there with them as much as I’d like?
And in ten or twenty or thirty years, will they remember? Will they care?
When I am old, will anyone call me on my birthday?