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Another Day in the Country

Thoughts on losing the AND

© Another Day in the Country

A few weeks ago, my cousin Ginny, who listed Ramona as her hometown, died. She had been undergoing chemotherapy, but it was a massive infection in her abdomen that ended her life.

In my extended family, we haven’t lost a cousin for years and years. Ginny is the first to go among the lot of us who are now retirement age.

It’s always a shock, a great loss, to lose a loved one that is connected with an AND.

When my sister and I arrived back in Ramona 25 years ago, Aunt Naomi, Ginny’s mother, had already lost her AND — Uncle Kenneth.

It had been quite an adjustment in the community for Naomi AND Kenneth to just become Naomi — for the friends they played cards with and for the relatives who had connected their names together for more than 50 years.

And now in our family Mack AND Ginny is just Mack after 53 years of AND holding them close as a unit.

I lost my AND through divorce instead of death. Pat AND Ted became Pat. It was a difficult adjustment for family and friends — AND for me!

The AND had been in place for more than 30 years and fit like a glove. The AND was as comforting as a favorite blanket but unfortunately had become as uncomfortable as a pair of shoes outgrown.

I’m lucky, because my sister moved back to Ramona with me on this Kansas odyssey, and another AND was formed.

Those “girls from California,” were also sisters: Pat AND Jess. We get mail addressed that way. The other day someone apologized.

“I suppose I should have sent a greeting to both of you,” the writer said, “because you live at separate addresses.”

“Not to fret!” I replied. “We share the news.”

It is such a blessing to have an AND in your life.

Through the years our ANDs diminished. Hank AND Gertie became just Gertie and then she, too, came to the close of her journey.

Mom AND Dad were soon just Mom after their arrival back in town, and then Mom “left the planet” as she used to say.

It is the ANDs that are so familiar. The ANDs that enrich our days. The ANDs that we wonder how we can do without, and who inhabit our memories long after they are gone, because they have become such a vital continuing thread in our days, whereby we measure time.

Miraculously, we do find ways of continuing on after the ANDs are gone.

All of my mother’s generation in our family is now gone — all of my aunts AND uncles deceased.

With Ginny’s demise I am reminded of the fragility of my generation — the cousins, who are bound together by our relationship to one another.

We are blessed to have so many ANDs still present: Joe AND Janet, Steve AND Maureen, Keith AND Vicki, Gary AND Carol, Johnny AND Kathy, Glenn AND Lois, Georgia AND Ed, James AND Jeanette, Alan AND Meg, Becky AND Ken, Tim AND Marylou….

The list goes on, a familiar comfort like our familiar comfort foods that nourish us — mac AND cheese, potatoes AND gravy, ham AND eggs, peanut butter AND jelly.

These are all the familiar go-to’s when we need sustenance, reassurance.

The minister who officiated at Ginny’s memorial service said that we were celebrating Ginny’s life at this somber occasion, with all the relatives in black.

They read her favorite Scripture, Psalms 23, and played a favorite song and told a few favorite recollections.

As we gathered together later, we reiterated what we knew of her and blew the stories across the room to another like wafting perfume in the air.

But in no way did it take the place of Ginny — our loved one lost. It was simply our way of comforting each other and attempting to hold on to the threads of our existence until such a time as we relinquish breath ourselves.

When I found out that Ginny was deathly ill, I gathered together the things I knew about her and pondered her life journey.

She always wore lots of rings on her fingers in celebration of life, so I went hunting through my jewelry drawers for rings that would fit my old fingers, then I put them on to remind myself to remember Ginny in her travail.

When I returned from her funeral, I took all the extra rings off except for one on my pinky finger. That extra little ring stays, for now, to remind me of Ginny’s life, and how fleeting the time we all take for granted as we spend another day in the country.

Last modified March 8, 2018

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