When I was a little girl, every Fourth of July we would drive to the family mountain house in Blowing Rock, North Carolina with my entire family. I remember being able to pin point the exact location at which I could feel the whiffs of mountain breeze flowing through my senses and shutting my eyes to take it all in. As we drove farther up the winding roads, I recall the A frame homes that so closely resembled my Barbie doll houses and the warm welcome of a family knit infinitely together, like a blanket incapable of unraveling.
These lighthearted road trips lasted a very short time however, as my grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at my tender age of eight. In the following years, I remember seeing the wars raging within her, face white like she had seen something terrible- and perhaps she had. No one will ever know the things she was forced to face because she was our rock- she held us together when she was slowly dying. I chose to look beyond the pain, something I knew I could not fix, and instead saw the good in her life- something that most people could never dream of. That was the love my grandfather, Don, had for her. Their love is indescribable- through alcohol, children, and money worries, their love was unwavering, the epitome of true love.
As her final years drew nearer, the Fourth of July celebrations were replaced with visits to the nursing home. It mattered little how beautiful the mountains were in Blowing Rock while we were away, it only mattered that Vivi knew how much we appreciated and loved her. When Don suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in October, with Vivi following on my December birthday, our traditions, that had so strongly taken root in all our lives, ceased to exist.
This past year, with both of them gone, my family failed to participate in a single tradition. The Christmas Eve’s bustling with laughter and love, the Easter Egg hunts (where “Daddy” Don would show me, the youngest, where the most valuable eggs were), and the luncheons at the Country Club- a place that Don basically held the rights, were all nonexistent.
As summer draws nearer, I’m attempting to bring my family back together at the mountain house in Blowing Rock- for my grandparents. I’m not sure how this plan will work out but I know, as long as tradition stands firm, family stands firm. And, to truly have unconditional love (like Don had for Vivi), you need your family like a bad addiction. But more importantly, they need you.
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