The last two years have been rough for my mom's side of the family. In October 2007, just before Ava was born, my Auntie Jean passed away. I wasn't able to fly home for her funeral because Ava was due so soon.
With Auntie & Unkie at the nursing home in Osborne, 2005.
Thankfully, I was able to travel to DC in April 2008 to meet my mom, her sisters, and Unkie for a visit to the World War II memorial. Unkie was a veteran of that war and, in 2008, was finally ready to begin opening up about his experiences and acknowledging the sacrifices he'd made on our behalf. I was so honored to be with him that day and to be part of his family.
Unkie & Ava meet, Washington, DC, 2008.
Unkie at the WWII Memorial, April 2008.
Ava and I traveled home to Kansas to visit later in April and met Unkie at the yellow farmhouse that had become my family's gathering place over the last 15 years. My mom's parents had passed when I was younger, so Auntie and Unkie, along with their home, became my fill-in grandparents.
For two weeks nearly every summer growing up, Wes and I would go spend time at this house. Who knows what we did besides plenty of dishes by hand and riding on tractors, but that place - its upstairs rooms full of ancient treasures and old creaky furniture - became a second home. It burned when I was in high school, but Auntie and Unkie rebuilt and improved it. There was no more orange carpet and the entire floorplan of the upstairs changed. Still, it was home.
The kitchen was only "big enough for one butt," as family lore goes, but one Memorial Day it held at least six teenaged cousins and partially contained an all-out towel snap war.
The window coolers only ever put out enough cool air to keep the dining room cool and Unkie would take his after lunch nap on the floor under it every day in the summer.
I love that yellow house on the corner and those people. My mind and heart are filled with too many happy memories of both to even begin to count.
On June 6, 2008, Unkie passed away. It's probably fitting that it was D-Day. The sale of Auntie and Unkie's farm was last fall and, as the land and house were sold, my family's last legal tie to that place in Osborne county was gone.
We were fortunate to gather at the home of friends for Memorial Day this year and, of course, the cemetery is always there. We continue to be pulled home, even after our loved ones have left us.
After a lovely afternoon on Memorial Day, Matt, Mom, Ava and I were in the van on the way back to McPherson, just past Alton, when I realized I hadn't been up to the yellow house that day. I couldn't go home without having seen it at least one more time - you never know when it might not be there to come home to.
Standing empty, the house looked a little more sad. With no welcoming face at the front screen door, I noticed the peeling paint for the first time. My heart broke. We didn't have keys anymore to go inside and the only window I could see in was the back screen door into the kitchen. I pressed my face against the glass and willed my heart indoors to a place of comfort and love as tears streamed down my face. In my heart, I'm so thankful that so much of myself has been shaped in that home and by the people who lived there.
Goodbye, yellow house. I'll love you forever.