Friday, September 18, 2009


My aunt and uncle came by and took me out to lunch today.  I come from a rather compact family that now has sprawling fingers all around this continent.  My mom was an only child, so my dad's sisters and families are my only family.  However, those four offpsring of dad's parents produced 23 grandchildren and I have no idea how many great-grandchildren.  And the center wheel of this family is the dad's next closest sister, Auntie, who keeps track of every single one of us, knows our birthdays, anniversaries, what our kids are up to, etc.  She's organized and positive, and quite possibly the mother I wish I'd had.

Not to mention the fact that she and Uncle Don have been married for 52 years, and have the best marriage I've ever seen.  Bar none.  I'm not kidding. My uncle was diagnosed with macular degeneration over 20 years ago, which made him retire from his management position at Boeing when he was just barely older than Beve is now.  For the next two decades they've hiked in the Yukon, visited Machu Picchu and Easter Island, taken a cruise to New Zealand and Australia, spent time in Ireland, Costa Rica, and driven (or I should say, Auntie's driven) all across this continent.  As his eye sight has worsened, only the most perceptive would know.  Now he's just about completely blind, sees only shadows and light, but still manages to hike, fish (he's an avid tie fisherman, though he has to have a buddy tie his flies now), and doe all sorts of handiwork around the family cabin at Whidbey.  It's pretty remarkable.

I sat across the table from them at lunch and listened to Auntie read the menu to him.  She read everything once, and he decided...just like that. He listens well, my uncle.  He's had to learn this.  Most of my life, he was a bundle of energy, the one who sharpened all the knives in our house when they visited us in Pullman, or fixed the screen door a little brother had pushed through.  When Beve and I took our small children to Auntie's house, they were interested in two things: the miniatures she kept in glass shelves, and the noisemakers Uncle Don kept in his bedroom.  He brought them out to make them squeal, chase them through the house, and generally wreck havoc on my notion of well-behaved children that I wished to show to my extended family.  But Uncle Don just laughed, and Auntie just dodged them as she whipped up more cookies, a full-blown meal, even if we'd just dropped in.  Every now and then she'd say, "Don," in a certain tone of voice, but that is about as much of a fight as I ever heard between them.

Uncle Don says what he thinks, even if what he thinks is neither politically correct, or tactful.  He knows we're believers, but he makes no excuses for the fact that he not only isn't, but thinks the idea of a God who might walk on water, heal the sick (or the blind!), and most especially raise people from the dead, is ludicrious.  And you know what?  I utterly love him.  And my Aunt, who would rather cut off her tongue than say anything controversial, never quite gives away what she believes about anything beyond this earth.  And I utterly love her as well.  I love how they care for each other, are intentional with their lives, have an open home and open hearts with all of us, from my mother, whom they visit every time they're east of the mountains even though she no longer knows them or can communicate in even the simplest sentences with them, to their youngest niece, whose toddler son they help celebrate since his own grandmother, my youngest aunt, died when she was barely older than I am.

It's always good to be with them.  It's a breath of fresh air in this world of troubled relationships and easily disposable families.  I'm glad to have them in my corner, I always am.  And you know what? I see a whole lot of Christ in them, in the way they treat others, in the way they treat each other.  I might never tell them so,  but He's present in lots of hidden places.  And a marriage that thrives after 50 years, that's not a very hidden place, is it?

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