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, 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. I’m on the floor on the left.
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.