new england in july, part two

Sunday was a family day, not a common occurrence on Allan's side, but always very pleasant. It's also pretty superficial, which keeps it pleasant - but this is not a bad thing.

Allan doesn't keep up with these relatives in his daily life, but when he touches down, he's always made to feel welcome, and I am too, when I'm there. There's a lot of warmth and good feeling, and there's no tension, no prying, no obligations. Allan has no parents and is estranged from his siblings, but this family connection has slowly strengthened over the years. It's nice.

We spent time with great-aunt Betty, some of her children (who are a little older than us), their children (who are young adults and doing interesting things), and a newly adopted kitten. We also visited Mary, Allan's grandmother, who is doing much better than she was a few years ago. That's always a little tough, but it means a tremendous amount to her to see Allan, so it's worth the effort.

Betty is one of my favourite people. She's traveled all over the world several times; if there's a place she hasn't been, it's because she didn't want to go. She's camped across the US, backpacked through Europe, scubaed the Great Barrier Reef, canoed on the Amazon. (And she's seen way more of Canada than I have.) She grew up on a farm, working in the sugar house, taking care of the animals and the land. She was a school teacher for a long time; her husband worked in White House media and they traveled on Air Force One.

Now Betty lives in an idyllic setting, where she gardens, photographs wildflowers (from which she creates her own note cards), and watches the local wildlife. But she's no isolated country crone. One of her grandsons is covered in tattoos and piercings, rides a motorcycle and works in web design. For Betty, it's all good, as long as he's happy.

A big presence in their lives right now is a nearby neighbour who is in the end stages of cancer. Friends and neighbours have made a huge outpouring of attention and effort, including gathering to build the family a new roof. It was an amazing thing to see and hear about. I'm accustomed to communities forming through lifestyles or world views or common interests. I barely knew old-fashioned geographic communities still existed.

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