Last winter my Grandma Ditsch passed away. It wasn't tragic or particularly unexpected, but it was sad. She was 85, almost 86, and for the two years prior to her passing, I was convinced that every time my phone rang it was someone from my family calling to tell me that Grandma had died. It wasn't a hysterical fear; it was a practical one. With each visit that I made to Minnesota, I could see that Grandma was getting slower, having a few more health problems. That's how life is, or at least how it is if we're lucky. What I mean is we should all be so lucky to live long enough to have adult grandchildren and baby great-grandchildren who know and love us, to have been retired for over 15 years and to have travelled to Alaska to see Moose, Hawaii to visit a niece, to Branson, MO (multiple times) and Pennsylvania (where she saw some "Amish" who, she proclaimed, "weren't wearing black or nothin'", so I suspect they were actually Mennonites) with the local Senior Citizens group, and to New York City to see your granddaughter (me!)graduate from law school at Carnegie Hall. And especially we should all be so lucky to have these, and other people, surrounding us in our last moments, to know that there is no place they would rather be than with us for those last few days.
Yes, my Grandma Ditsch had people. And, I realized after that trip, so do I.
I'm not married, nor do I have any children, but I have family. Since my mother passed away 12 years ago, I've become very close to my aunts, uncles and cousins, which is nice because I grew up half a country away from them, in the Pacific Northwest. When I was young they were people I knew mainly from stories told by my mother, and who I saw every two years or so when she and I would travel east for a family gatherings. Our lives out in Oregon were very different than theirs in Minnesota, in part because we lived in a city and they all lived in farming or rural communities, but also because my mom had moved west in order to forge a different life for herself. Yet we were the same in so many ways, especially my cousin Paula and me. Six months apart in age, we fancied ourselves like the mice in that story The City Mouse and the Country Mouse, and during my visits, she and I were thick as thieves.
When I went to college, I picked a school in Minnesota and soon found myself spending long weekends and school breaks with my Grandma. She would drive down to Northfield, often with an aunt or uncle in tow, and pick me up from my dorm. It was kind of ridiculously sweet. Back at her place on the farm, she would make my favorite spareribs and sauerkraut for dinner (the noon meal) and we would spend the weekend visiting and watching Walker, Texas Ranger. It was during these years that I really got to know my family, and developed my own relationships with them which were not mediated through my mother and these relationships have only grown stronger in the years since she died. We're close enough that I make a trip out there once or twice a year to visit, and many of them have been out to see me in New York. Paula and are are still quite close, and it was our relationship that was the reason for my most recent visit.
More specifically, this guy was the reason for the visit:
His name is Broderick (Brody) and I went out there to renounce Satan in all of his forms and to promise to look after Brody's spiritual life, a.k.a. be his godmother. I'm not a terribly religious person, but being a godmother does make me feel that we have a special relationship. And it's touching that Paula has charged me with this task, twice now; I'm also godmother to her first child, Ethan (seen below reading some books I brought him).
It was a super fun trip filled with love and food and laughs, yarn shopping, delicious breakfasts and roller disco in St. Louis Park. Oh, and this:
Snow in early October? B.S., sure, but no matter. I'll always go back to Minnesota, because I have people there.