Growing up in my family, there were a few things that were a given. One was that we would spend a lot of time in Lake Tahoe, another was that we would travel to Iowa. At the time, some of the travels were not as fun as they could have been. I clearly remember driving for what seemed like days in the back of the Chevy truck (with a camper shell) across the beautiful landscape of...Nevada. I won't ever forget the lightening storms in Wyoming nor will I forget the fireflies that one night camping in Iowa.
The reason for going to Iowa was always to meet up with relatives. Papa Bear's side of the family came from Iowa. Cousin Jean and family (Grandpa O's niece) live in Davenport. Aunt Iva Jean and family (Grandma O's sister) in Burlington. Every trip we spent time each side of the family. They all hold a special place in my heart for the memories and for the people that they are.
Over the years time has taken it's toll. Grandma O was the first of the family to pass away. She died in her sleep the night after celebrating her and Grandpa O's 50th wedding anniversary. Aunt Iva Jean and her husband were staying at our house. I will never forget hearing hushed voices telling Iva Jean that her sister had passed away and the mournful wail of grief that followed.
It was strange visiting Aunt Iva Jean after that. She reminded me so much of my grandmother but yet she wasn't. They worried the same, their voices had the same quality, their skin has the same feel, their hair always done just so, they looked similar being sisters and all. Aunt Iva Jean and Grandma O had the same laugh, though Aunt Iva Jean used her laugh more. Aunt Iva Jean was a little more demonstrative too. Every time we left, I knew that she wished we would stay longer. Both of them weren't the easiest women to get to know yet I know that both women loved their families with every fiber of their being...and they loved each other.
A couple of years ago, when Papa Bear and I traveled to Iowa together, we surprised Aunt Iva Jean and showed up on her doorstep...the same house I had been to time and time again as a child. She was expecting Yo Momma but when she saw Papa Bear and I her exclamations of surprise and delight were there, if carefully tamed. Her eyes lit up and she pulled us both in for good hugs. Her husband had died, the house and Aunt Iva Jean had changed some but she was still the woman I remembered, slightly reserved yet fun, fretting over little things but willing to sit down and visit, wanting us to be around longer.
Thursday Aunt Iva Jean passed away. I have no idea what heaven is like but I know she is there. If we get to meet up with those who have gone before, then she's catching up with Grandma and Grandpa O, her husband Bob and the many who have gotten to heaven ahead of her. If there is a kitchen in heaven, I wouldn't be surprised to find Aunt Iva Jean and Grandma O there, cooking and baking for the people they love...I'm pretty sure that's the picture that I will have in my mind for a long time to come.
Farewell, Aunt Iva Jean. Thanks for the many memories...and love.