This week comes the first day of summer, which also coincides with a pair of memorable anniversaries in the history of my family.

While today is the day we celebrate the anniversary of my younger brother Jim and sister-in-law Melody, who were married in 1986, we also honor and walk our road of memory today for our times with my Aunt Betty and Uncle Merne who would have been celebrating their 74th Anniversary.

1992_Judson_MerneBetty_48thAnniversary  Aunt Betty and Uncle Merne were a pair to remember in my family for several reasons.

One, Betty and Merne were the ‘tall and short’ of the generation as Merne was something like six-foot-three and Betty was maybe five-foot-one if she stretched every muscle possible in her body. Plus, they went everywhere together – from their humble beginnings on the Judson homestead near New Underwood, South Dakota to a life-long home in Denver, Colorado – when we would visit them, we literally would visit them both.

Two, they had a hobby and craft store, Judson’s Hobbies and Crafts that stood along Federal Boulevard in Denver for over 25 years. Working side-by-side they shared his love for model cars, remote control planes, and coin collections, while she entangled so many with her precise techniques to a wide variety of craft works including beading.

Three, Betty and Merne gave me six wonderful cousins, five boys and one girl, though my oldest cousin Lenore was one that none of us knew as Lenore died when she was just six months old in 1946. The five boys included David (who passed away in 2009), Merne Jr., John, Mark and Paul. Mark and I were known for years among the family as kissing cousins because we were just six months apart and used to hold hands a lot when were toddlers. Each one of the boys has supplied me with great memories for a variety of reasons, most of which can all be thought of in another writing down the road.

Fourth and most of all, my Aunt Betty and Uncle Merne gave us so much unconditional love, and the stories of our times together to share.

I remember back sometime in the early to mid-1960’s, the families were together in Rapid City for the fourth of July and went to the parking lot of an old lime and brick plant to shoot off some fireworks. Remember those ones that would spin around and take off across the ground throwing off colors and sparks to thrill kids of all ages, well when they set off a couple of them, they took off then spun around and headed directly back at my Uncle Merne who had lit them, to begin with. The deep resonance of laughter came from family members as the tall, lanky Merne took off running with the spinning firework close behind.

Those 25 years they had the hobby and craft store, we were always remembered at birthdays and Christmas with some kind of crafty or hobby based present. Me, I always looked forward to seeing which new members I would get for my always growing Matchbox Car Collection, a collection which eventually ended up with my brother while I will often think about how cool it would have been if I knew back then what I know now and had kept great care of that car collection, for many of them are worth much more than they did back in the day.

We lost Uncle Merne back in the early spring of 2012, while Aunt Betty finally lost a battle with heart and lung problems just last July of 2017.

Right up until her final breath, Aunt Betty was always accountable on birthdays for each and every one of us nieces and nephews, for those of us in ill health or career problems – she would be there with a card, note or even a phone call to offer her words of wisdom and comforts of love. After my heart attack and diagnoses of late Stage III COPD in late 2012/early 2013, she seemed to touch base with me at least three to four times a year just to see how I was doing, and I never missed an opportunity to call her at Christmas or her birthday to do my best to return at least some of those comforts of family love.

The last time I talked to my Aunt Betty was for her 91st birthday last June, just 12 days before her death. Having lung problems of my own, I could relate to her struggles to breath and move around a lot. But we talked at length about my grandkids and kids, my wife, my cousins and their kids, as well as sharing a couple of old memories like coming to Denver and celebrating the birthdays of myself, my younger sister and my cousin Paul at Elitch’s Gardens (an amusement park in Denver) in the beginning days of each July.

When I really get to missing my Aunt Betty, I pull up my cell phone and check the messages as I have a message which she left from a couple of years before we lost her. The message was memorable because it showed her sense of humor when she got mixed up as to who it was she was calling and referred to calling the ‘wrong person’ before trying to backtrack and fix the goof. To hear her voice, her laughter at the goof – that my friends is what you call priceless.

I miss my Aunt Betty and Uncle Merne and will do so no matter how old I yet get to be. But I do know that what all should remember is – enjoy, listen to and cherish with as much love as possible all your relatives because nobody knows how long they may have and those memories, conversations and hugs we get from them, are all we end up having available for eternity from those family get-togethers in days gone past.

With that – hugs & happy thoughts from Grumpy Gramps

(Copyright@2018, CrossDove Writer – no part of this may be printed, copied or used without written permission by CrossDove Writers and Grumpy Gramps.)