My husband's aunt died this past Friday and her funeral was yesterday in Chicago. She would have been 86 next month.
In times past, Auntie Mary would have been referred to as an old maid or spinster, as she never married nor had children. However, these terms can call to mind the image of a prim, proper, demure lady. That sure wasn't Auntie Mary - she was too lively for those adjectives! She loved life in general and in particular, loved her family, her friends and the many pets she had over the years. She was quite a talker and quite a traveler as well - never had a lot of money, but traveled to Las Vegas a few times with friends to try her luck at the casino, went to Florida with my husband and a friend of hers, visited Hawaii with a church group and also came to see us a number of times in the various states in which we have lived.
In fact, one of my favorite memories of her took place in 1996 - we were living near Philadelphia then and she flew to BWI Airport (Baltimore-Washington International), where we picked her up to begin her visit with us. My husband had already proposed taking her into Washington DC as a surprise, and we discussed how long it would take for her to catch on where we were going. I thought she would notice as soon as she saw us taking the exit for DC but my husband said no, she wouldn't notice where we were headed.
He was right - she paid no attention to any traffic signs. We rode around Washington for awhile, pointing out the large monument (Washington, that is), the big white house (the White House), among other landmarks. We drove past numerous large federal buildings and museums - still no inkling on her part.
Finally, after about 40 minutes of this, something must have sunk in, for she suddenly asked, "Say, you kids don't live too far from Washington DC, do you?" It was then that I informed her that we were in Washington DC. She was speechless for a moment, which goes to show you that she was temporarily overcome by surprise and delight.
My husband then found a parking space, and we got out and walked around for awhile - all the way from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol building and back. After this excursion, we took her out to eat at a local restaurant called America. Its claim to fame is that the menu has a signature dish from every state in the union. Auntie Mary ordered pork chops, which I seem to recall were representative of West Virginia. Although she enjoyed them (she always had a healthy appetite), she said they weren't as good as the pork chops in Chicago, her hometown.
Yes, she was quite a character! The family shared many stories about her at the funeral home - all good, fun memories. I told my husband and his siblings that they were lucky to have had her in their lives. Every family should have an Auntie Mary in it, but how many do? Not only was she always ready for a good time, but in general she was very positive and not nearly as prone to criticism and judgment as most people are (me included, I admit). Although I was from a different background (small town, different ethnic group), she accepted me right away.
We know she's in a better place, free of the macular degeneration that had clouded her eyesight, the dementia that had clouded her mind, and the weak heart that had slowed her down. Just the same, we miss her and love her.
Goodbye, Auntie Mary!