Dad grew up in Zebulon, North Carolina, with two younger sisters. My aunts, Sandra and Susanne, still live in eastern North Carolina and made the journey last week to visit us for several days. It’s a long drive, but they each brought a daughter along for the trip and were able to travel on Monday and Thursday with two full days here. Susanne and her daughter Amy stayed in Cornelia and Sandra and her daughter Susan stayed at Mom and Dad’s.
I loved having them here. It was good for Dad to have the sibling teasing and memories. I’m not certain Mom ever understood who they were, but she always loves company. Aunt Sandra was her usual bright and bubbly self, and she interacted with Mom the most. She said that she was glad to “be able to give Ruth a hug and talk to her. I was there if she wasn’t.” Aunt Susanne (or Susie, as Dad calls her) has begun some dementia issues, too, and was much more quiet than usual. Because of her confusion and their stay at the hotel, I didn’t see her as much.
There was a lot of laughter and remembrances. Because I only visited my grandparents and that area when I was young, I didn’t remember most of the locations and the people they were discussing. I loved watching Dad take on his older, wiser, protective brother persona.
In recent years, their visits have become too few and far between. The last trip they made back east together was when Uncle Staley (Susanne’s husband) died in 2012. My daughter Jessica and I went along to assist Mom so Dad could be more available to Susanne. It was a very difficult trip, not only because we all loved Staley so much, but Mom was very confused and didn’t tolerate the travel very well. The next time Dad made the trip was in 2017 with my sister Carla, but he really missed his usual travel partner. We’ve not been able to talk him into another trip since then.
There were two poignant moments for me while they were here. The first came at breakfast Tuesday morning of their visit. Dad was saying how glad he was for them to have made the trip. He said, “I really wasn’t sure I’d see you again on this side (of heaven.)” Whew. He was matter-of-fact, but I about lost it! The second moment was saying goodbye, knowing this would be the last time I saw Aunt Susanne unless I made the trip east.
I texted with Sandra after she returned home and asked if she would share some of her thoughts from the visit. She said things haven’t changed in the Bunn household. She felt completely at home and enjoyed all the love given to Mom. She thought Dad looked great – “one fit 90-year-old” according to my cousin Susan – and enjoyed the chance to hike Anna Ruby Falls with him. She enjoyed going to Amicolola State Park with Dad, Susanne, Susan, and Amy, although it was exhausting for Susanne. “Being with my siblings was great, even though I don’t know when that will happen again – maybe 2021.”
I’m so glad they still have each other. It’s amazing when you think about it – all this time and long distances through the years hasn’t dimmed the love at all. What a precious gift!