Go kiss Uncle and Aunty

20 02 2011

Friday I went to a funeral and cried. Not for the deceased Barbara, an artist friend who I wish I’d seen more of in the retirement home where she lived, but for life. I was hoping I would see Nancy, and I did.

Nancy was Barbara’s neighbor and my late father’s late cousin’s widow. Although I hadn’t seen Nancy since both our men died about seven years ago, I recognized her sitting two rows in front of me by her tall Chinese stature and her impeccable attire from head to toe.

As the service ended, I went to say hello, knew that she would have a welcoming smile. “Rebekah!” she said. In a couple of sentences she brought me up to date on her in-laws. “It’s sad,” she said. “We’re all leaving.”

Then, another voice behind me said hello. It was Rita. Rita, Barbara, and I were Arts members of the National League of American Pen Women in Honolulu. I had not seen Rita for a long time either. As I browsed Barbara’s prints and paintings on display, Rita followed and chatted about a lot of things, as is her way, and offered me Kleenex while I was still trying to process my grief.

When I paused, remembering to be in the present, and decided to really listen, I found that she was telling me I should teach art to children. That it was so important. I allowed that I had thought about it, that others suggested the idea too, even before I left my last full-time job a while back. That I might start with the neighborhood kids who live down the road from the studio.

Satisfied that she had finally “reached” me, Rita proceeded to suggest exactly how to go about it—tools, supplies, age group, language, jokes to tell—and said she would send me her teaching materials. Rita still teaches in another part of the island, and, of course, teaching art was one of Barbara’s careers. “Okay … thanks!” I said, and gave her my mailing address.

Fifteen minutes later I met some of my “big” cousins (Mom’s side) for lunch. I brought some old black-and-white photos from the Fifties so they could identify the people in them. Looking at the pictures of us as small kids and teenagers set off plans for the next family reunion in 2012.

I am a member of the third generation in Hawaii, and today there are three subsequent generations of this family.

The first relative I told about plans for a reunion was 13-year-old Jai, who found me on Facebook and asked me to be his friend. Jai is the adopted son of one of my first cousins. Jai and I chatted online last night—I have never met him in person—and he wanted to know how many relatives there were, how many cousins he had and was there anyone his age.

I wrote I didn’t know the total number because there are a lot of babies now, and that’s why we needed to have a reunion. I wrote I would look up the information and let him know this coming week. Promise.

Copyright 2011 Rebekah Luke
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