In Honor of my Aunt

My Aunts Ashes and Flowers

MY Aunt B

This is also in honor of my Aunt who passed away this spring. The image above is from her funeral. I designed the flowers to represent something very personal, that my brothers and sister did not even know. Both my Aunt and I share much in common.
I was named after her. My mother and father named my four siblings with Spanish names in honor of his side of the family. I always thought they had glamorous names including middle names in honor of relatives from Spain They are spelled and spoken in Spanish. My brothers are Jorge, Jose and Jaime and my sister is Judith…with the J’s all silent h sound. I am Jane….clanky, hard J. Most of my life I felt even more so alienated from my family because of this simple difference in names. But my middle name is in honor of my Aunt, and my first name is in honor of my mother and their Aunt.
My brothers and sisters all look similar. They are darker in skin and hair with dark eyes. All but one still have dark hair sparked with silver. My one brother has the gift I will get. He has pure white hair now. I possess the fairness of someone from Scotland, which is where my mother’s family came from. I was born a redhead with blue translucent skin with abundant freckles. My eyes are my mother’s and my aunts. Both possessed clear ice blue eyes. Mine are the same ice shade only in green. Pictures demonstrate the resemblance to my maternal side.  Again, as a child, I felt the delineation in coloring as something separating me from my immediate clan as even my cousins are more common in appearance to my siblings because they are from my father’s side. As I typed this, I still feel the pull of the hurt and isolation that this difference caused.
I am feeling today the grip of family because today is Mother’s Day and because my brother sent pictures from the funeral. I do not think I am done grieving as if there ever really is an end. I still miss my mother who died when I was 23. And I miss my Aunt who lived a long life. I think it was wonderful for her up until my Uncle passed and then her world crashed. I am sad for that in many ways.
My Aunt and Uncle did not live close, so anytime they came to visit it was an event. It was my Aunt who would embrace my qualities my mother criticized me for. My aunt was heavier, but I am far the tallest and largest women in the family. I can remember my father’s cruel name of “Aunt Fatty Lou”. She was very pretty, and had a ready smile. She would reach out to me and continued all my life until she became incapacitated. I would write her as a teen and young woman and she would offer encouragement that only an Aunt can give. She and her sister were estranged by the time I came along. My mother’s haughtiness offended my Aunt as she would flaunt their current affluent status but in the end, my parents died poor. My Aunt and Uncle were millionaires. Truly! The sisters came from working stock from Detroit, raised for the most part my Gram. Their father had run off after WWI and ended up dying in an asylum. My mother never shared her past and it was not until her death and my going through her personal affects that I discovered the truth about their father and their relationship.
My aunt embraced her world, for whatever it had at the time. She and I shared the love of words. She was a reporter since high school and had won many awards for her articles and interviews. She had national fame and her column about television programming was syndicated. She was a pioneer woman, working in a man’s world of journalism. She was the quintessential career woman of the 50’s and 60’s. She and my Uncle traveled together for work as he was famous sport writer and both worked for the Detroit Free Press. It was a glamorous world and my Aunt remained humble, even though she dined and interview many celebrities of the day.
She and my Uncle traveled and loved the southwest. They settled in retirement to a summer home in Michigan and a condo in Corpus Christi. They traveled and took seminars. My Uncle was a musician and played the bag pipes and clarinet in several bands, including a clown band. My Aunt followed his gigs and was his own roadie. She loved it. She was devastated when he fell over one day and left her permanently. She never recovered until she joined him six years later.
Whenever they came through on a whirlwind tour as I called it, they brought pictures of their travels and I saw a lot of the world through her eyes. My aunt loved photography and was pretty good at it. They came to visit me when Joe and I first met and she had helped with support during my divorce when no one else did from my family. For Christmas that year she sent hand embroidered initialed napkins for my new family, which was here way of sending approval. When she condensed her homes, I was the recipient of all her valuable treasures. She knew they would be cherished and passed on in the family.
My aunt gave me many blessings. I also share some of her misfortune. She was diagnosed at twenty-one with breast cancer. In those days, they removed the breast and also gave the woman a completed hysterectomy. It is thought that the gene causes both cancers. I started when I was twenty-one with issues in that arena as well. I have had two serious close calls with ovarian cancer and have a high probability for the gene. The tests were inconclusive. I am a high proponent for early detection for all women and encourage everyone to take care of their “girls” with mammograms. Because of her hysterectomy, she never had children. She had us instead and especially me. I would have loved to have lived closer as she would have been a great Mom. Her style and mine are much more in tuned. My mother would hold her motherhood over her sister and I am sure my Aunt felt hurt. I understand that. I get the “you wouldn’t get it, you’re not a mother” all the time.
I share my Aunt’s love of writing and communication. I share our love of photography. She was so proud of me for being a teacher in those fields. We also shared something that showed up later, psoriatic arthritis. For her, it manifested very much later in her life and the effects did not slow her down until she was in her late 70’s. Her hands were crippled which impeded her love of crafting. This too was something we shared and sent each other handmade gifts for years. We shared the love of gardening. She would write about her planting and send pictures of their gardens. I sent her flowers and plants so that she would always have something green in her apartment in the last years. She taught me to be a good aunt, and I think I am. She has pointed me to a direction to support the two nephews who I love dearly in a more connected way. She has shown me the act of motherhood does not come from just the womb.
And to the wreath: It symbolizes the circle of life. Within that arrangement, I requested two things. I requested Irises for my mother and they had to be purple as those were her favorite flower and color. The pink roses are me and my connection to my Aunt. She had a passion for the color pink, just like I do. You would not know it from her house decorations which were actually a blend of earthy southwest décor and my Uncle’s preferences. But she loved pink. She wore it when she was married and for any fancy occasion. The wreath says family on it. But it should have said “Màthair”. I will leave that for you dear reader to interpret.

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One thought on “In Honor of my Aunt

  1. Beautiful memories of your aunt. I am certain that her pride and love for you continue unabated in whatever world she now resides. I have always maintained that someone’s place in one’s life, “biologically”‘ has no bearing on the place that they may or may not hold as “family.” Your post here proves it yet again. In truth, your aunt was more your mother in all the aspects that really matter – love nurturing, care, respect, loyalty. Blessings be upon her, and to you, this day. Namaste . . .

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