I am part of a generation and culture who is increasingly disconnected from extended family. I didn't grow up near my grandparents or any other family for that matter, so I didn't have the luxury of playing with cousins or aunts and uncles dropping by. I was also never good at keeping in touch with my "greats", apart from an annual Christmas letter and picture.
But they all love me to pieces. I have visited with four different great aunts this weekend. One is completely dedicated to taking care of my sweet great grandmother, who lives with her. Her main support system is a dedicated group of sitters and she enjoyed having me around. Two are sisters who took me to dinner, where they antagonized each other like teenagers, bugged me about getting married, and had me laughing with their stories. Back at her house, one of the sisters talked to me like I was her best girlfriend. The fourth great aunt lives with her husband and was tickled to death (I've been in the South just a few days and listen to me!) to take me to brunch and cook for me. She considers me a grandchild as she has no children of her own. I am leaving here with Christmas ornaments from her collection and any books I want from her shelf.
I struggle to make connections sometimes... To listen to their conceptions of race, to bridge the technology gap (one aunt was amazed when I showed her a picture slideshow, ordered her an out of print book, and found a local store where she could buy her favorite shoes by using what my uncle called my "miracle box"), and to explain the complexities of my own life while trying to understand theirs. But somehow I understand my own life better by being with them. I can't really explain it. I came from them for a reason.