My mom got a call from Aunt Kim. She wanted to visit and spend the night and see everyone. Dad was upset. ‘You can’t let that woman stay here. She will just cause trouble,’ he fumed. All ready, Aunt Kim was getting people stirred up and she wasn’t even around.
I don’t know the whole history; maybe I should say the true story. I’ve heard so many stories about why she left town. Aunt Kim, the fantastic sprinter, setting records all through high school and college. Once she left college though, she never came back. She did stayed in touch with my grandma, but that was it.
Feuding began when Grandma died. Kim refused to come home for the funeral. She was in Europe at a track meet and could have flown home. But she didn’t, refused to talk to any of the family for months. That alone fueled the resentment. No one understood why so she was labeled selfish, inconsiderate, and hateful.
I saw Kim first at the airport. Animal magnetism described the tall, thin and beautiful woman walking towards me. Her hair was cut short in a stylish, natural curl. Her jeans, t-shirt and shoes looked ordinary, but I knew they cost a lot.
Our eyes finally connected. I felt a tugging in my heart. Kim was finally home.
“Hi Aunt Kim. Welcome home,”
“Jill, sweet Jill,” and she wasted no time giving me a fierce hug. Releasing me she looked around for the others. I saw her disappointment, as she bit her lower lip.
“Aunt Kim, they couldn’t get away, but everyone is anxious to see you,” I lied to her.
Quickly I added. “Gosh! You look great!” to smooth her ragged feelings. Personally, I wanted to shake all my other aunts and uncles, and especially my mom. How could they still be so cold and hateful?
The drive home was just what I expected. Kim talked and talked. She talked about the trip home. She talked about her new job. Just about everything, like a dam busted open and words and thoughts gushed out as fast as she could talk. I imagine she felt no one would listen to her later. At my house, there would be nothing but accusations. I also knew Kim was afraid.
I pulled up my driveway and turned off the car. Kim sat silent taking in the yard, trees, and the house. We sat there for the long time. Finally she talked about Grandma while looking at the old, overgrown rose bush outside the house’s a big picture.
“Jill, I couldn’t come home. I couldn’t let her go…I mean, never talk to her again? I…I got scared. She’s the only thing that kept me going. She’d say ‘Kimmie, you must work hard. God gave you talent, but you must still work hard. Harder than anyone. Don’t waste what God gave you. Push yourself because you have a dream for the Olympics’.”
We sat there in silence. I knew what she meant. Grandma told everyone not to waste God given talents. Family, friends, even strangers, she’d encourage people that way. That’s why it affected all of us when grandma passed away. It would have been easier to ignore it, pretend it didn’t happened. But we didn’t. At that moment I realized something.
“Aunt Kim, I love you to pieces, you’ve always been my favorite. But what you did was wrong, not coming back, not being with family, when we were all so sad and trying to deal with it. You’re a part of this family. You took the easy way out. You should have just come back!”
I got out of the car and sat on the porch. What was a warm day was now cooling off. Crickets were playing their evening song and a playful breeze wafted over the roses. Kim came to sit beside me. I saw her take deep breathes of the aroma from the flowers.
“You’re right, Jill. I didn’t want to face the sadness. I’m a coward. I have always done my best to avoid the ugly, the unpleasant things. Staying away allowed me look at her picture and pretend she was sitting in her rocker, by the rose bush, reading the Bible, praying for me.”
I couldn’t control the tears and I took my aunt in my arms. Together we wept sitting next to Grandma’s rose bush.
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