Sunday, December 30, 2012

Being a Duck

Grandmother and Granddaddy Duck
I am a Duck.  I come from a long line of Ducks- my Grandmother was a Duck (her maiden name).  I have heard all of the good Duck jokes, and even told many of them myself.  We all collected Duck treasures.  And we all spent time learning what it meant to be a Duck.  I spent many Sundays at the homes of other Duck relatives growing up... there were lots of Duck cousins, although not many my age.  Apparently, this wasn't just a tradition for my generation.  My Mom spent every Sunday going to her grandparents house for a meal.  Everyone's presence was "expected".  How I love that tradition now... but at the time I remember wishing I had more kids to play with.

Mostly, I remember being at the home of my Uncle Otis and Aunt Betty.  They hosted family reunions and many big luncheons at their home on Duck Drive.  I remember playing with their Corgi, Ichabod, and laughing with Uncle Otis as he smothered me with kisses.  Aunt Thelma pinched our cheeks in the stereotypical way.  Uncle Bobby and Uncle Bud made me giggle at their silly jokes.  I remember playing with their pool table... I loved it all.  I loved being part of a "bigger" family.  I loved being a Duck. 
Aunt Betty and Uncle Otis

As we grew up, those "bigger" family events dwindled.  Part of it was the nature of life- the cousins had babies and families of their own... and each individual Duck child hosted their own immediate families for holidays.  I saw the (great)aunts and(great) uncles as I was able to... and of course saw them all again at my Grandparent's funerals. 

Sadly, I missed Uncle Otis's funeral.  I remember Mom calling me to let me know he'd died- I was a freshman at UNC.  It was right as exams were starting- Mom told me to stay there and take my exams.  She insisted that Uncle Otis would want me to do well on my exams rather than drive home.  So I stayed... and I went to Linda's on Franklin Street to toast Uncle Otis with some friends (on my way to the library, I'm sure.)

When Dan and I moved to Winston in 2002, we knew 4 people.  Our friend Chris Lieu who was here in Med School, a friend-of-a-friend Joy (who became my contact to the world here!), Aunt Betty and her daughter Roz.  I vaguely knew Roz, but I was looking forward to reconnecting with Aunt Betty while being here... and knew I would like Roz, too.

Keith finally talks to me now.
Our first Thanksgiving, Dan was on-call at the hospital and we couldn't go home.  Roz insisted we join her family at her home for Thanksgiving Dinner as Dan was able to sneak away for a meal.  Roz had 2 teenage children- Keith, a high school freshman who had no time for his "old lady" cousin; and Courtney, a college freshman.  I tried to charm Keith into being my friend, but it took about 3 years until he actually would say more than "hey" to me.  That Thanksgiving meal was the beginning of a beautiful tradition.  Our families have spent many Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easters, and beyond together since 2002.  I so envied people with "big" families growing up... and loved that Match Day gave us a bigger one here in Winston.

Aunt Betty showered both Dan and me with her love.  She was our "grandmother" here in town... and both of us were thankful to have her as we both had lost our own grandmothers.  We picked her up for meals, errands, appointments... or sometimes we'd join her at Brookridge for a meal and get to meet all of her friends.  We loved that she "showed us off"... and she did proudly... until the birth of Elizabeth Jane when we became known only as "Elizabeth Jane's parents."  Her son told me the other night "You know Mom adored you, right?  But not nearly as much as she adored your daughter."

As I said my goodbyes to Aunt Betty last week in ICU after a horrible, freak hospital stay that turned fatal-- I told her thank you for making my family bigger, and for adoring my daughter so.  I drove back home from the hospital on Christmas and allowed myself to think back on our ten years here... more sure than ever that Match Day brought us here for more than just residency.

Elizabeth with Courtney
The day after Aunt Betty died, we began rallying to celebrate.  We were not only celebrating her life, but we were celebrating the life and love of her Granddaughter, Courtney.  Courtney had the most lovely wedding yesterday.  It was perfect.  Just perfect.  Probably due to the fact that, as a friend so sweetly put it, the wedding had a "heavenly coordinator."  The rain held off, there were no glitches, and I've never seen a more smiley bride.  The only thing missing, obviously, was Aunt Betty who had wanted so desperately to be there.  At dinner, our table drank a toast to Aunt Betty and my Daddy.  I feel certain they were toasting us, too.

Ten years ago, I had cousins and aunts I knew only in the "formal" sense.  But yesterday at the wedding... and tomorrow at the funeral... they are so much more than that.  They are ones with whom I share inside jokes... they are ones with whom the "I love you"s mean so much more.  We are Ducks.  And I am so thankful for being one.

The sweetest bite. E's first birthday.

**for a link to Aunt Betty's obituary, click here.**

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