I love you, Jen!

My sister-in-law Cheryl and I drove to Louisville Tuesday to see my cousin Jennifer (that's her on the left), her husband Nathan and her mom/my Aunt Jeanie. I took homemade frozen lasagna and sourdough bread. We got there in the early afternoon and never stopped talking until we left around 10:00. There was a huge storm after dinner and the power went out. So we sat in the dark with a candle burning and talked for a long time until I finally started to get sleepy.

Cheryl and I had a reservation at the Marriott Courtyard just two and a half miles away. So we crashed there. I think we talked until midnight and then finally went to sleep. We slept in Wednesday morning, then went back to Jennifer's about 11:00 Louisville time (it was only 10:00 to us). Grabbed some coffee and Krispy Kreme donuts on the way over. And then we proceeded to talk until 5:00 pm without stopping. Literally.

My poor cousin has laryngitis now. I guess we know who talked the most. (Just kidding, Jen!)

Jennifer is 38 and I am 52. We are first cousins. However, with fourteen years separating us we did not play together as kids and we've always been in different phases of our lives. It doesn't seem real that she could be approaching 40. I realized that I still think of her as a kid. And she's not! (Sorry, Jen!)

We had a really good time together in spite of the circumstances surrounding our visit. (Jennifer lost her maternal grandmother a little over a week ago and they were very close.) We hadn't spent that much time together in I don't know how many years ... if ever. We talked and talked and talked. We laughed. We cried. We connected. It was emotionally intense at times. And those were the moments when we found ourselves relating to each other most. At one point in our conversation (both of us in tears), she told me she had never felt more connected to me than she did when I was sharing a few details I had left out of my book. She thought nobody understood certain aspects of her pain.

I think if we were all willing to be completely open and vulnerable, we would find out that we are not actually alone in any of our pain.

I am a person who embraces vulnerability. Although I am pretty insecure in certain areas -- and that usually makes a person guarded -- I am very unguarded. I put myself out there all the time. Sometimes I wind up feeling silly or hurt, ignored or even exploited as a result. But I really don't want to change that part of myself. Because any time I am able to connect with another person and hear them say they feel less alone, it is so rewarding. Seeing the look in Jennifer's eyes when she realized I understood her heart made me feel thankful that I had experienced a similar heartache. Without it, I would have had so much less comfort to offer my cousin.

Jennifer did something for me that meant a lot more than she will ever know. She had a box of old pictures and mementos from our grandmother that had been sent to her. Our paternal grandmother (Nanny) died in 1970, when I was ten and before Jennifer was born. I don't have many pictures of her. But I have memories. And I've always wondered what our relationship might have been like. For some reason, I've always thought she and I would have been close. From what I know of her, she was also very expressive. And she was a writer. I've always believed that I have a lot of her in me genetically.

So, when Jennifer began showing me pictures and writings and really wanted to share them with me, I was pretty overwhelmed. Over and over, Jennifer would say, "Take anything you want. Just scan it for me. I want you to have it."

John called me in the middle of this and I was so excited telling him about our discovery of a poem Nanny had handwritten from a difficult time in her life. I felt like I had a piece of her heart. He said, "Take a breath, Darling."

Nanny had no idea that one day her picture would be on Facebook and her granddaughter's blog. But I have a feeling if she were alive today, she would be a blogger and Facebooker, too! That's her on the left, with her mom. I don't think I have ever seen a picture of my great grandmother, Beulah Case, before.

Below is another picture I don't remember ever seeing before. It's me with my Dad and Mom a few months after my birth.

Thanks, Jen...
For the memories we shared and the ones we made!
I love you!


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