Nancy's Travelblogue

... there isn't a train I wouldn't take, no matter where it's going. -- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Location: California, United States

Monday, June 15, 2009

MONTANA CANADA TRIP - The day before

It really is hard to think about anything except your vacation the day before, especially if your vacation consists of visiting three U.S. and two Canadian national parks, 3700 miles on the road in a Prius with the guy you love, and the underlying inescapable wunderlust. All of this underscored by an escape from a routine of computers, traffic jams, neighborhood burglaries, airport security delays, bad news on the radio, and generally, the 21st century.

So tomorrow morning early -- Jonathan promised by 7 a.m. -- we'll grab our morning drinks at Peets, and head east towards Yosemite. We should hit the high country by mid afternoon when the clouds form from the East, then over to Lee Vining and Mono Lake for dinner at sunset. Am I dreaming, or what?

Actually the seed for this journey was planted several years ago when Jonathan read an article about Canada's Okanagan Valley, the northern most region for growing wine grapes. He got a hankering to check it out, but turning the idea into a destination never worked out till we got an invitation to a family gathering to honor the life of my late aunt Alice Howe Austin, and in Missoula, Montana next week.

My Aunt Alice was my favorite, though I mostly knew her from heresay. Beautiful, smart, energetic, and well connected, she and her family seemed to cast a shadow on our conventional, boring WASP family. She was my aunt by marriage, and survived her husband/my blood uncle by thirteen years, enough for some of us to wonder if she were immortal.

Alice was mortal like the rest of us, and passed quietly this spring at age 91. Next week-end her family will gather at her home property in Missoula to honor her life and to reacquaint. I'm looking forward to reconnecting to my four cousins whom I barely know (for our family was not into family togetherness), and to meeting Alice's siblings and their offspring.

Having lost both my parents and witnessed the phenomenon in other families, I am acutely aware of the shift when the last parent passes on, and the younger generation becomes the older. The oldest children bear the burden of legacy because they've been around the longest, younger siblings find their place in a new org chart. Some families let out a lifetime of pentup anger and never speak again, others find they have nothing in common and drift apart, and others find strength in commonalities and strengthen extended family ties for themselves and their children.

It's an inevitable chapter of life -- becoming the next "oldest generation" and I lift my glass to my cousins, and for organizing this opportunity for us all to meet in Missoula.



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