Tuesday, March 6, 2012


My family suffered a loss this weekend. My beloved Great Uncle Ron passed away quite unexpectedly on Saturday. Uncle Ron was my favorite uncle: always smiling and friendly, he taught me how to play Mario and Duck Hunt and would turn a blind eye to my cheating in Duck Hunt (I would stand at the screen and get a nice direct hit on the ducks). He was a quiet man and I never once saw him angry. A veteren of the Korean War, he would tell hilarious stories about his time serving in the Navy. Uncle Ron was married to my Great Aunt Gwen, who is one of four daughters to my still-living Great Grandmother (G.G., as I grew up calling her) Hazel Armstrong (she'll turn 100 in the fall!). Let me tell you something about Armstrong women: as the name implies, we're a bunch of firecrackers. Hard-headed, loud, and vocal about our opinions, we probably aren't the easier people to live with, let alone be married to! Bobby reminds me a lot of Uncle Ron; the qualities required in a man to successfully marry an Armstrong woman are shared amongst those who are our life partners. These men, including Uncle Ron, are good, solid men who don't always voice their opinions but are heard when they do. These men deserve a medal.

As I have been grieving for the loss of Uncle Ron, I've come to realize that I am also grieving the reality of life in a different country/continent, where you are far away from your family. I grew up with a large and very close family from both of my parents: my paternal grandmother was one of twelve children and the ENTIRE family (many of whom have remained in the Los Angeles area for generations) continues to gather for Christmas parties every year. I was on a first-name basis with a large number of 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th cousins. As I mentioned above, my maternal grandmother is one of four daughters to a very strong woman, G.G. On this side of my family, I was also on a first-name basis with many 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins. I saw various members of this large, extended family at least once a week as a child. Friday nights were always spent at Uncle Ron and Aunt Gwen's home; many weekends were spent staying with either G.G. or my paternal grandparents; and we took multiple holidays with my different grandparents. I am so incredibly thankful to have grown up so close to both sides of my family.

Now, however, I live far, far away. I won't be able to attend Uncle Ron's funeral on Wednesday. I won't be around to celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday in April. In the fall, I won't be able to attend G.G.'s 100th birthday. We miss Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, and anniversary celebrations because of the thousands of miles that separate us from our family. Bobby and I have chosen to live in Europe for a number of reasons, one of which is that we believe we will be able to provide a better life for our own children by living here. One thing that we won't be able to provide for them, though, is the incredible family structure that was such an important and daily part of my own upbringing. I am grieving this loss, in addition to the loss of Uncle Ron. I miss the random family dinners my Mom organized with various members of the Thornton/Armstrong clan. I miss seeing my Townsend/Taylor cousins at Easter, 4th of July, and Christmas. I miss seeing my Mom and Dad and brother on a weekly basis.

Our last blog post celebrated our three years of living abroad. But this blog posts mourns the sacrifice of family that Bobby and I have made, and that we have forced our family to make, in order to make our dream of living abroad a reality. So thank you for letting us leave, Mom and Dad, and for understanding our reasons, and please know that it's not without a great deal of sadness on our part. And thank you Uncle Ron for being such a great Uncle and for sharing a part of your life with me. I already miss you.

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