BY PAMELA JO BOWMAN – MESA ARIZONA – This week, in Oregon, I spent time with my sisters and Great Aunt. Aunt Aida came over from Italy when she was eight. She goes back to Italy once each year to visit relatives.
I spent my young life nurtured by our extended family. I remember holidays, birthdays, vacations and many meals with innumerable cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents. For many years, I was the youngest of our generation. Often, I felt invisible. The older kids understandably didn’t want me around and the adults rarely noticed that I was around either. At times, this enabled me to be a fly on the wall. I could listen to conversations, hear gossip, and observe the family interact. As a filmmaker and storyteller, this was a wonderful thing.
This past weekend, Aunt Aida spent most of the time trying to remember me. It seemed that she felt bad that she couldn’t recall who I was. My sisters, who have been a part of her daily life, kept trying to explain to her that I had been out of the country for many years and it was understandable that she had forgotten. It was, they said, to be expected that a 94-year-old woman might forget her Great Niece. I, on the other hand, could remember her and my other family members quite vividly. I would begin telling a story and she would say, “How do you remember that? Were you there? I barely remember that.” She would smile remembering the memory.
I think it is human nature to want to be known by those you love. It is a sad state of the human condition that, at times, some of our family members do not really know us. And, as the years pass, sometimes, we are forgotten. The irony is that we all just want to be known. We want to be unconditionally loved and accepted. I am surprised that I still want that. When I talk with my contemporaries, they tell me that they still want that as well.
I am a middle-aged woman and I still feel like a fly on the wall. I worry that they want to use the fly swatter on me. Get rid of that pesky thing! How funny is that? Not really funny at all.