Remembering My Godfather and Family

imageNot only am I blessed to have a family. I am blessed to have an AMAZING family. So many people to love and to be loved by.

My Uncle Lee is my Dad’s younger brother and he is also my Godfather.

For most of my childhood, My Uncle Lee and Aunt Maria and cousin’s lived “a long walk through the corn field” from my Grandma and Grandpa Hemminger’s farm. My favorite memories include our summer family reunions. My parents would bring our camper down and park it in my Grandparents front yard for a week. We would spend hours playing games there and loved playing “McDonalds” through the camper’s screen door. We would go on tractor rides, hay rides, play hide-and-seek in the corn fields, jump on the trampoline and ride our bikes everywhere. One summer we had the biggest water fight ever. There was no child or adult safe and we used anything and everything you could fill with water. imageIt was one of those moments that you could try to recreate a thousand times, but it would never be exactly the same because it was that magical. It was easily one of the best times I have ever had in my life.

When I was in middle school, my Uncle Lee and his family moved to Maine. I was so sad to see my God Family go. I was always so proud to call them that.  I remember after they left I would send My Uncle Lee and Aunt Maria cards and small gifts for different holidays and they would do the same. I really enjoyed picking out a special gift and card that said To My Godfather. One year they sent me a sun catcher with fresh pressed flowers that I just loved and I had it hanging in my bedroom in high school and in my apartment all throughout college.

imageAs I got older the cards and gifts became less frequent. I just stopped doing it one day. I went to college in Arizona and didn’t get home very often. It was even more rare that my Uncle Lee’s family would be home at the same time as me.  Our visits became fewer and far between.

When Tyson and I decided to have our wedding in Arizona, we didn’t expect everyone to travel so far to celebrate with us. I was so unbelievebly grateful that my whole God Family made the effort and long trek to be there on my special day. My one regret is that I wasn’t able to tell them. I was so consumed with all the nitty-gritty of the wedding that I barely saw any of them the week leading up to it.

imageI have so many happy memories from our wedding day, but there is one thing I will never forget—My Uncle Lee came up to me at the reception to wish me congratulations.  I was so excited to see him and talk to him. We weren’t even a few sentences into the conversation when I was pulled away by the DJ for one of the scheduled dances. When I went to look for my Uncle Lee afterwards, he had already left with his family because they had early flights out the next morning. I will forever regret that I let the formalities of our wedding take away an opportunity to reconnect with my Godfather.

When we got pregnant and found out we were having a girl, her first name came to us pretty easily. The middle name was another story. I wanted a middle name that had a connection with my side of the family because we already had a boy’s name picked out that came from Tyson’s side. We went through so many lists of names that I thought I was going to go crazy. One day I was reading a short list aloud to Tyson and I mentioned “Jolee.” I gave it a minute and went on to suggest the next name. Tyson stopped me and said “I’m still thinking about Jolee…” He was the one that recognized that it was the combination of my Father, Joseph and my Godfather, Lee. It was PERFECT!

My mom invited Qwynn and I to Florida the weekend before last to see my Uncle Lee. She was willing to pay any amount, even for just a 24 hour trip. I had plenty of excuses not to accept her offer—the flights are too expensive, the cheap flights all have layovers, it’s too much for Qwynn, I can’t go by myself because Tyson has a game. All valid excuses, but when it came down to it, I felt guilty. I felt like a hypocrite. All these years of not seizing every opportunity to see my Godfather…until he’s about to die. I didn’t want to be that person.

In hindsight, would my family have cared about those things? Most likely not. Would they have welcomed me with open arms? I’m sure they would have. Will I forever regret not taking the opportunity to go see him? I already do.

imageI have so much sympathy for my cousins. For losing their father at such a young age. I don’t think I could have handled it with as much strength and faith as they are. Watching them go through this experience has made me think a lot about my own father who will be 70 this year. Its hard to think about him not being around one day. I often don’t let myself think about it, but I know the reality is that it will happen eventually and we don’t know when. But I do know that I do not want to have the same regrets I am having now.

I am so very sad that distance and time has changed my relationships with my extended family. The family I looked forward to seeing every holiday, summer and random weekends growing up. The family that was and always has been there for me. I will forever hold dear to my heart my childhood memories with my cousins and my Hemminger Family.

I wish I could be there today in Florida with them. With my cousins and aunt. With my dad and my Grandma. I wish they weren’t so far away. But, I am very much looking forward to celebrating my Uncle Lee’s beautiful life in Ohio with all my family over Mother’s Day weekend. I think it will be even more special to be at home all together. To be on my Grandparents farm. To make even more special memories with my AMAZING family.

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Dear Godfather,

I am sorry that I stopped sending cards and gifts. I am sorry I didn’t call and write more. I am sorry I wasn’t there for your family celebrations like you were there for mine. I am sorry I didn’t try and see you every chance I had. I am sorry I didn’t make more time for you. I am sorry I missed out on truly getting to know the beautiful and wonderful person so many other people knew and loved so much. I am sorry it’s too late. I want you to know that even though I wasn’t there nearly enough, I did think about you often. And I will continue to think about you. Everytime I look at our beautiful daughter, Qwynn Jolee, I will think of you, Uncle Lee. My BEAUTIFUL Godfather.

Love Always,

Your Goddaughter

 

Valerie Anne

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