Uncle Rex posted these pictures—old pictures—that have generated a fair amount of family Facebook commentary the last week or so. Which has got me to thinking about my aunts and uncles—people my children will probably never know.
So here goes. A tribute—in short.
Aunt Bonnie. You were the rodeo queen. I always had the feeling there was something special about Bonnie that had a lot to do with the fact that she could apparently handle a horse just as good as Grandpa. I mean really—Grandpa! I remember Christmas morning, sitting on the stairs in the old house, really early, with Bonnie. I don’t know if she got us up, or if it was the other way around. I’m pretty sure we weren’t supposed to be up yet, though. Also, we stayed with her once, and she showed me how she did laundry—everything, every day. (You have to realize that at our house things were sorted by shades of colors. We had the red/brown load; the dark blues, the light blues, etc.) I asked her what if she had a ten pair of jeans and three white socks—in they went. Big deal, she said. I was so impressed. Imagine—having all your laundry clean, every day. No mountains to fold. I learned from her that sometimes it is better to have it done, than to have it perfect. It was probably that same visit, I was watching Braden quite a bit, and I think that’s when I decided—all I really, REALLY want, is this—I want to get married and rock my babies and watch them sleep. It was so overwhelming, this feeling—the realization that motherhood was exactly what I wanted someday.
Uncle Rex. When I was, I don’t know. Little. There were a bunch of us cousins at Rex and Bett’s house. I don’t know who all I was trailing, a group of cousins thundering down the hall, and we went past the bathroom. I remember Aunt Betty Lou was sitting there, crying, and Rex was kneeling on the floor in front of her, holding her hands. Of course he asked us to move along, but not before I caught this glimpse—of a man that loved his wife; a man that was going to fix things. My world felt infinitely more secure in that moment. I don’t know how many times I thought back on that scene over the years. It touched me then, and still does.
Scott and Terri. I was never sure if Terri was happy because she was inherently happy, or if it was because she married a man like Scott. I always admired him—we all love our seminary teachers, and he was one of those guys; He and Uncle Rex always had that look—I don’t know, that countenance—they were men who held the priesthood with respect and authority, and treated us and women in general with respect and kindness. They embodied the type of man I wanted to marry. And can I really not mention the waterfights? Terri was always good for a waterfight—did any other grown woman ever join in the general melee as happily as she? And I have to mention. The first time I ever saw an adult brushing teeth (sorry Mom, the secret’s out, your’s were in a cup in the bathroom, so were Grandma and Grandpa’s) we were up at a Campbell reunion, and these two were brushing their teeth in the bushes, and it surprised me. People really do brush their teeth, for their entire lives. Did I think I only had to do it until I reached the age of eight or something???
Becky. You know, the clearest memory I have of Becky is at Woolworths. I must have been little—I was standing in the shopping cart. She talked my Mom into buying me this ridiculous, duck-bill brimmed hat. Or she bought it herself, I don’t know. I just remember that Aunt Becky had this mysterious effect on my mother, insomuch that we walked out of a store with something we didn’t absolutely HAVE to have. That and her crazy denim cutoffs. Becky could always make me laugh—and she made Mom laugh too.
Necia. Went to France. Spoke real French! I was feeling short and ugly one day—Mandy was tall and had beautiful hair. Nena was pretty and everyone liked Ginger better, you know those days when you felt like the ugly duckling. And Grandpa told me that Aunt Necia always felt like the ugly duckling, and look what happened to her, Kimber—she grew up to be a beautiful missionary, and married a great guy, etc. And you know, his little speech worked. I would always go back to that—that Necia had felt this way, and look how great things turned out for her. I really thought she was one of the most beautiful people I knew. And now that I’m older, and I realize that her life isn’t as perfect as I imagined it, I still look up to her, maybe moreso, because I see that the struggle to find peace with your own life is ongoing, and she’s always miles ahead of me, and still going.
Gene, I never really knew. We went to visit him once in Grande Prairie, and had dinner with his family. Randy was a little the same—Kathy, now Kathy made me laugh, too. She made us all laugh. And I admired that, because when I was little, I didn’t know anyone else who had lost a baby. I thought she must be pretty special to be so happy, even after her baby died.
Tim and Karen were like parents to us for a while there. We lived with them after the fire. I remember Tim keeping us in line out on the farm, and Karen in the house. I remember once when Scotty got Tina to drink dish soap and Karen gave him this look, but didn’t freak out like I thought she would. She was probably the calmest mom I knew. Firm, for sure, but calm about things. I always thought I wanted to be that way, too.
Wilfred. Watching him do his makeup in the bathroom before a rodeo. And always freaking us out at dinner with his lighter under the table, or putting his hands in a flame, or driving down in the ditch.
Shane and Sharon. Sharon showed me, one day, how the notes on a piano followed the notes on a staff. With the hymn “Sweet hour of Prayer”. For some reason that hymn, that day, made music click for me. I started from there and learned how to play more and more hymns. I’m no concert pianist, but I can fill in when the only other option is acapella on Sunday.
As I sit here, this list doesn’t say what I meant it to. Because there is this feeling—this overall sense I had as a kid that I was safe—that I had a refuge in the Forsyth family. I’m sure I was just another knothead, running around to all these big people. But to me, I was safe there, at Grandmas, and in the world in general. If I had been ripped out of my home, and set adrift in some strange place, the first thing I’d have done was call any one of these people, and at the time, I had no doubt that they would have moved the moon and the stars to help me. Now I understand that they all had families and lives and were infinitely busy and worried about so many things, but as a child, I didn’t see that. I thought of the aunts and uncles as a bulwark surrounding us, just there like gravity and atmosphere. There for nothing more than to protect and serve, I guess.
I look at my own nieces and nephews and I know that I haven’t been anything like that for them—not like my aunts and uncles were for me. The difference isn’t in specific acts—I wasn’t showered with birthday greetings, or Christmas gifts, or anything like that—it was just the togetherness, regularly enough for us to see them interacting in positive ways. Being cheerful. Do I smile at the children in my life enough? Do I laugh with them? Do I defend them when someone says something unkind?