Yesterday was the first day of school for my boys. Eighth grade and fifth grade, respectively — Their last year in middle school and elementary school, also respectively. And from what I hear, it started the same way that last year ended … With each of them chasing down the school bus before it left our neighborhood. Sigh! At least they’re consistent.
I, too, am consistent. Last year, I
cheaper out went green and sent the boys to school with the previous year’s backpacks, lunch boxes, clothes and unused school supplies. I did buy them new underwear and get them fresh haircuts as part of a family tradition, but this year, I didn’t even do that. I know, I’m a horrible mother. I did replace their moldy, torn lunch boxes, but other than that, the start of the 2016-17 school year looked a lot like the end of the 2015-16 school year. At least that’s what my husband tells me. I don’t really know for sure because I wasn’t there. I was in Boston.
As my boys were saying hello to their new teachers, I was saying goodbye to one of mine. Virginia Delaney was truly a remarkable woman who taught me, through her life example, that it’s not your situation or circumstances that define you, but your attitude. She lived life to the fullest every day, laughing, joking and making the people around her feel loved. From the outside looking in, she lived a storybook life: Married for over 60 years with 5 children, 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, all of whom loved her dearly. A world-class traveler, veteran theatre-goer and the consummate hostess, my Aunt Virginia was simultaneously sophisticated and casual. She was a true beautiful soul. But beneath all the joy was a fair amount of darkness. From caring for a husband with Parkinson’s Disease to six separate battles with cancer and a few other challenges along the way, my Aunt Virginia never let on when she was sad, angry, hurt or grieving. Her approach was to always remain positive while fighting like hell. She was as tough as nails and as sweet as they come until the very end.
We all have our burdens to bear in life and Virginia Delaney had her fair share. But she handled every one of them with grace, dignity, class and strength. My father, her youngest brother, is the same way. I only hope that it’s hereditary because this is a life lesson I want to master and pass on to my kids. You may not be able to change your situation, but you can always alter your attitude about it.
Yesterday was both a beginning and end for my family and me, filled with both great excitement and even greater sorrow. But if I know my aunt, she would want me to focus on the joy instead of the sadness, so that is what I’m trying to do.
Rest in peace, Aunt Virginia.