I type this post while sitting in the Traverse City Public Library, watching the boys play computer, the girls lost among the stacks, discovering new graphic novels and books never seen before. We are in Michigan for a week, having traveled up her to accompany Mom as she visits churches and women’s bible studies and reconnects with supporters. We are also reconnecting with the land of my father’s birth and younger years. We are staying with my Aunt and Uncle, driving by the old farm, stopping in on various family members.
It is strange to be here with my kids, without my husband, all grown up, yet still little Krissy. It is strange to be here where my Dad is so very present and yet gone. We walk into the nursing home to visit Gram and there on the wall is an 8×10 portrait of my father. I walk into my Aunt’s office and see the same 8×10 framed on a shelf. I would imagine if I entered any family member’s house in the area I would see the same picture repeated, the only change being the type of frame and placement on a wall or shelf. I forget that there are other people who miss him besides my immediate family.
This visit reminds me again of how much we lost when we lost Dad. And of how much we gained by having him as a father. We lost his sense of humor, his scary stories, his guitar and songs. We lost his guidance and deep love for all of us, his willingness to drive anywhere and fly any place to show us not just his love, but his deep love of Christ. We gained a crazy family. And I mean crazy. The Hannas are a hillbilly world apart. Even those more “normal” “citified” Hannas are from another world. We gained a family that hunts, fishes, traps, and loves each other deeply while at the same time keeping each other at arm’s length ’cause they can’t stand each other.
In ways even though Mom, my brother and sisters and I suffered the greatest loss, we have also been allowed to move past our loss into our happy memories and joyful hope for a future reunion. It’s not so easy for the Traverse City branch of the family, where Dad is ever present to them as a child and a son, forever frozen in that 8×10. Every corner, every stop has a memory for me, a person who never lived here and visits rarely, one I struggle to capture and put voice to for my children. How heavy must the memories be for someone who has never left?
It has been a good visit. A bit stressful. We are staying with my uncle, the uncle who completely terrified me growing up. I’m still nervous around him. He’s old and grumpy and hard of hearing. The kids can’t figure him out. They can’t tell when he’s joking and when he is actually for real getting after them. It falls on me to translate this Michigan speak into our normal vernacular. I have to watch for the glint in my uncle’s eye which means he’s had enough kid noise and things need to get quiet fast. He’s usually had enough after oh, five minutes or so.
It has been good, though. Yesterday he took the girls to buy them each their very own two gallon jar of pickles. The boys should have a turn sometime this week. We have been enjoying the hot tub morning and night. Yesterday we made forts out in the woods – Uncle Ed said he scared the bear off last year and they haven’t seen him this year, so we shouldn’t have any problems. Which is why I don’t let the kids go out alone where I can’t see them. Call me city, but I don’t trust the woods.
You won’t see much from us the rest of the week, we have no internet connection out at the house. I hope you all have a peaceful week. Hug your loved ones tight and avoid the bears.
Ways of Talking