Inspiring Women: Remembering My Aunts

Last week, my Aunt Vivian passed away. She was 92. The picture below shows my mother’s family when I was a little girl.  Aunt Vivian is standing, fourth from the left. (I’m the kid seated to the far right on the front row.)

Back row L-R: my parents, Bob, Vivian, Great Aunt Locky, my grandparents, Wayne, Deloris, Bill, Barbara

Back row L-R: my parents, Bob, Vivian, Great Aunt Locky, my grandparents, Wayne, Delores, Bill, Barbara

As I prepared to attend her memorial service, the realization floored me that all of my aunts are gone from this world.  This led me to reflect on each one of them and their impact on my life. I had four aunts, three by marriage.  I knew some of them better than others, but each one of them was important to me.

We lost  Aunt Margaret, my father’s sister, first. She went early in life, and I’ve missed her laughter.  To this day, I can still hear her, probably because she brought fun and laughter everywhere she went. We carried on a pen pal correspondence when I was young and she never spoke down to me. Margaret remembered us at Christmas, too.  Her gift box, which arrived soon after Thanksgiving, contained beautifully wrapped gifts with tags that gave cryptic clues about our presents. It was delightful torture trying to figure out what was in the gift. I still have the sewing basket she gave me when I was ten and that year’s gift tag with its clue (see below). Aunt Margaret, also, played and taught piano. I took lessons for nine years, although not from her since she lived a long way from us, and she was a great encouragement to me.

An early family photo. Margaret is on the couch between my grandfather and her husband, Cody.

An early family photo. Margaret is on the couch between my grandfather and her husband, Cody. I’m on the floor on the left.

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The clue on my gift one Christmas.

 

About ten years later, I lost my Aunt Barbara, which, again, was way too soon. I identified with her because of our shared name. In our family, we had Aunt Barbara, my mom who went by Babs but was Barbara, and me. Her husband, my Uncle Bill, still reminds me that I have his favorite name. I didn’t know Aunt Barbara well, but I remember her as a practical and elegant woman who was kind to me. My best memory of her is odd.  We were visiting their home and my stomach started bothering me.  She gave me Mylanta, which I had never had.  My cousins wrinkled their noses and warned me it tasted awful. I liked the chalky flavor. I don’t use Mylanta very often, but I can’t see a bottle of it without thinking of Aunt Barbara.

My Aunt Delores succumbed to cancer several years later, yet, she too, went before her time. I remember Delores as  movie star gorgeous–elegant and graceful. She had two sons, and the youngest was the only cousin close to my age on either side of the family.  She always spoke to me as if we knew each other well.  We didn’t, but I appreciated her ability to make me feel comfortable and welcome in her presence. She was married to my mother’s younger brother, Uncle Wayne. Mom was very close to Wayne, so maybe that’s another reason I felt a closeness with Delores.

Which brings me to Aunt Vivian, the spitfire. Even the comments made at her service reinforced this part of her nature. She was married to Uncle Bob, an incorrigible jokester, so I think either he picked a spunky woman or she developed her spunk to contend with his antics. Vivian outlived her husband, a son, my parents, and her other two sisters-in-law. During her service, several people spoke. Her granddaughter’s words reminded me that Vivian shared something unusual with me:  raising grandchildren. However, Vivian’s significance to my life holds another place in my memory. During a family get-together when I was in my late twenties, she said to me, “When are you going to publish your book?” Surprised, I asked her how she knew that I write.  Her answer became the first lines in my writing bio:

Barbara V. Evers, began story-telling at the age of four.
She couldn’t read, so she roped others into taking dictation.

I have no recollection of dictating stories to Vivian, but she remembered it over twenty years later, enough to believe that I would be published. I was thrilled when I could finally tell her about my first publication.

Today, two of my uncles remain, Uncle Bill and Uncle Wayne, Mom’s oldest and youngest brothers respectively.

As we grow older, we begin to realize the impact of various people in our lives.  Each one of my aunts affected me in some way, either large or small, as did (and do) my uncles.

I was blessed to know them and find it hard to believe most of them are gone. I’m just glad they were part of my life.

Do you have family members who have made an impact in your life? If they’re still with you, make sure they know how much you value them.

 

 

 

Giving Thanks For Military

Today is Veteran’s Day.

I am thankful for the men and women who have served our country. In my own family, my father, both grandfathers, all of my uncles, my father-in-law, and a brother-in-law have served.

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My father, Henry E. Vogel, WWII

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My grandfather, Henry L. Vogel, WWI

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My grandfather, William M. Gladden, WWI

America is the country we have today because of their sacrifices.

Below is an essay I wrote about my father’s war injuries. It was published a few years ago in volume 7 of The Petigru Review.

Blessed Legs

I thought all men’s legs looked like that—harsh crevices outlining the muscles, puckering around the edges. Long gashes ran down his thighs, the shape of a huge eye to my youthful imagination.

I stared at them, not because they were unusual, but because they were at eye level.

Dad stood at the bathroom sink every morning, the scrape, scrape of his razor rasping away his morning beard growth. Water trickled in the sink, swishing when he rinsed.

I sat on the floor or on the cool edge of the tub and watched the foamy white cream disappear behind each stroke.

His legs were not my focus, but children see what’s at eye level, soaking it in. I saw Dad’s legs.

Confirming my belief that Dad’s legs were normal was the balance between each limb. The symmetry of the scars gave them permanence.

I accepted those legs as sculpted and muscular. Not the ravaged remains of skin grafts after a bomb in France blew up beside a young soldier. War warranted a brief mention in my childhood years, the reason behind Dad’s missing finger. I imagined his finger shot off while he peered over the edge of a dirt embankment. I was much older before I learned the truth. That my father, six months into his stint in the war, experienced the unfortunate luck of escorting prisoners when a bomb exploded next to him. I can still see the look of wonder on his face when he told me that those same German prisoners carried him to safety after the explosion.

Dad was nineteen. He spent the rest of his life missing a finger, living with tinnitus, carrying shrapnel around in his shoulders, and standing on the most beautiful legs I ever knew a man to have.

Later, when I noticed other men’s legs, I knew the difference. I realized the beauty of the surgeon’s renderings saved my father’s life, grafting skin where he needed it more.

To me his legs represented normal, and with my growing awareness of their true meaning, beautiful. I don’t know if Dad ever realized how I saw his legs, but the daughter in me hopes that somehow he felt my innocent acceptance as a blessing.

 

Sharing the Light of Christ

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I spend a good bit of time “seeking” before I write my posts. I let ideas stew in my mind while I ponder, “What story of faith should I share?”  It’s not always an outright prayer, but, all the same, I’m asking for His guidance as I prepare.

Sometimes the answer is obvious.

Sometimes, current events send me in a different direction.

Today, as I sat down and began to form this post, a knock came at the door. I peered through the window. Two ladies dressed for church smiled back at me.   Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly visit our neighborhood, so I wasn’t surprised to see them. I spoke with them for a few moments and explained that I was in the midst of writing my post for my faith-based blog.

Why mention this?

I am willing to change direction if I feel the Spirit prodding me to do so. This unexpected visit prompted me to  change topics and write about reaching out to others.

We have many ways to reach people and share our faith. My blog is one of the ways I do this. I, also, have my speaking ministry. This is how I reach out to people.

That doesn’t mean I don’t seek one-on-one opportunities. I do, but my approach is different. I’m not the kind of person who knocks on a stranger’s door to preach the Word to them.

Some people respond to that person who shows up at the door.  Some people find and follow my blog because of the topics I’ve discussed. Some people hear me speak because they happen to be wherever I am speaking at the time.

What is my point?

Jesus instructed us to shine His light no matter where we are.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:14-16

We don’t have to step far out of our comfort zone to shine His light. He might ask that of you, but He gave each of us gifts that allow us to evangelize and share. For some of you, your actions shine His light. For others, it’s your words. In all cases, He is there to help us.  How does He guide you to shine His light?

So,  next week’s post will be what I planned to write about today…unless God tells me otherwise.

For now, shine  God’s love and mercy over all who cross your path.