I was getting things out tonight for my annual Christmas party, and I polished the large silver tray given to my aunt (my father's sister) and uncle on the occasion of their marriage by the provincial secretary of Ontario--it's so inscribed, and it's beautiful. I felt badly because I barely remember them. Their daughter has problems and is in a nursing home and not capable of taking care of herself, so I've gotten power of attorney and am trying to handle her affairs long distance, though her bank is very balky. But then it struck me that somewhere in my teens I stopped seeing the Canadian branch of the family--my father's people. I remember my grandmother fondly, though she was most neurotic when I think back on it, and the spinster aunt who lived with her and suffered severe rheumatoid arthritis. One aunt, at 95, is still in Toronto, in assisted living, but she thinks I'm practicing medicine (that was my dad). And I knew my mother's sisters and brother, but one of those aunts died young and I only saw the other sporadically--I do remember that when the three sisters got together, they giggled and were very silly. And I remember once in graduate school, my brother and I and Joel drove all night from Missouri to our cabin in the Indiana dunes--and we stopped to see my uncle, who was a favorite of my brother's. But my memory there is vague. I never knew either of my grandfathers, and when I was very young my mother's mother was in her own home in Kankakee but my only clear memories of her are when she lay in a nursing home in Chicago. I look at my relationship with my grandchildren--and even my parents' relationship with my children--and realize how different it is. I don't think--and I hope--my grandchildren won't forget me quickly. Of course I plan to be around for at least another twenty years, so that too makes a difference--I do have the long-life genes on both sides. But it's sad that I never felt that closeness to the people from whom I came. I feel the heritage, especially the Scottish side from my father--my mother was German, and I love the food but feel no affinity for the culture, as I do for the MacBain clan. But the people are only vague shadows, and that saddens me. Is it that we live differently these days? Was it distance? What made the difference. I don't know that I'll find out.
Christmas is not a time for sad memories, so I'll move on. I got a hurry-up young-adult book assignment today (though not yet the topic) and have a column and an essay, all due in January, so there goes revision of the mystery. And I've still got to read all those westerns. I'm too busy to dwell on the past. And too happy about the present.