Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Passed On

My Great-Aunt B. passed away Monday night. She had a stroke about two weeks ago and was thought to be recuperating well and on the road to a full recovery. Instead, she stopped breathing mid-sentence while talking to her daughter and died. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, she was gone. She was 83 years old. Aunt B. was one of those women who always seemed ageless. As a young woman, she was indefatigable and she carried her unflappable, can-do nature into later life. There was nothing she thought she couldn't do. I don't remember ever seeing her panic -- not when the burro kicked me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me. Not when lightning struck the house. Not even when my cousin wrecked her go-cart and limped back to the house so covered in blood that many people would have passed out at the sight. She always remained calm and unexcitable and, no matter what was going on, she never cursed, never flinched, never passed the buck.

I used to go spend weeks at a time at Aunt B.'s. My second cousin, her only child, was close to me in age, and we'd have a ball during our summers together. Truth be told, those summer respites were a lifesaver for me. I was scared of my father, and my mother made me nervous as well. Aunt B. had a completely different nature. She was ... maternal, simpatico with children. Understanding. And not so damned rigid. Summers there were like a buffer zone in which an inquisitive child could grow mentally and physically without fear of censure from those who had no comprehension of "growth."

Aunt B. drove a black 1949 Ford, and she still had that thing in the 60s when I was a kid. She'd drive my cousin and me to the store to buy sodas and candy, to the movies, to all the local events taking place. She'd take us downtown shopping, too. Downtown where they lived wasn't much to write home about, but Aunt B. would make us put on dresses, proper shoes and socks, and ... gloves. My mother was the same way. Going downtown meant dressing up and, with her, that included hats. Little girls all dressed up in hats and gloves to buy 29-cent bottles of "Evening in Paris" toilet water at the dimestore. It seems absurd in retrospect.

Aunt B. lived in the country, two counties over, about an hour's drive from home. She and her husband had a pretty substantial acreage, and they worked it. They grew crops, raised animals, produced their own eggs and milk. My cousin had a pet burro and her own horse. That's where I learned to ride. We loved playing with the calves and baby pigs, too. Aunt B. would send my cousin and me out first thing every morning to gather eggs, and I've been wary of live chickens ever since. They're loud, smelly, always hungry and squawking, and they peck you when you steal their eggs. I loved the baby chicks, though. They called them peeps. I think of that every time I scarf down a Peep. She'd fix us the freshly gathered eggs for breakfast, and then the rest of the day was ours.

I remember one night my cousin and I wanted to camp out, but we didn't want to do anything as pedestrian as sleeping on the actual ground. My uncle rigged us up a tent in the bed of his pickup truck and, as night settled in, we hunkered in for an adventurous evening of star gazing, girl talk, and gorging ourselves on junk food. I think it lasted about an hour before the night noises of the dark, dark country scared the crap out of us and we ran scurrying for the safety of the house.

My uncle died three years ago, but Aunt B. kept on going strong, continuing to do what she'd always done. Seeing her, you'd never guess she was much over 60. Even her hair was still mostly black, and she'd have been horrified at the thought of ever dying it. She was always such a strong woman, such a force, that the stroke was a surprise to everyone, and her death has sent shock waves throughout the family. It's going to be hard to imagine the world without Aunt B. in it.


lynchpin - The ultimate punishment when the crime is pinned on you.

frequebnts - Whatever this is, I'm sure it's freaky.

fruitation - A revolution in the land of fruit where the dissidents are crushed into pulp.

their icognitio-hood - The robbers wore hoodies so they wouldn't be recognized.

And, from our editor:

trhriller - Michael Jackson's new album, a real crhiller.

The phone rang after midnight last night. When the phone rings that late, your first thought tends to be, "Oh, hell, who's died now?" I answered and every time I said "hello," the woman on the other end would say, "Hello?" This went on for several rounds before she asked, "Who's this?" I said, "Who's THIS?" Her reply was, "Who IS this?" I asked her who she was calling and she said, "My friend. She go by Bam-Bam."

You'd think people would double-check the number they're calling if they're going to call that late. I don't know if she ever got hold of Bam-Bam. I don't care.


Anonymous said...

Serena I'm so sorry to hear about your great Aunt B passing away.
She sounds like a wonderful woman and what loving and warm memories she's given you.
Thank God she went peacefully in a blink of an eye.
My thoughts are with you and a wonderful woman known as great Aunt B.

Roxan said...

Sorry for your loss. Keep the memories precious.

littlebirdblue said...

Sorry to hear about your aunt.

littlebirdblue said...

the fruitation of his loination was more of a frustration than a jubilation.

littlebirdblue said...

Yesterday, my cell phone rang. I don't pick up any number I don't recognize, and this one said, "Private Number Calling".

I don't know a Private Number, so I ignored it. If they want to leave me a message, they can. If I want to talk to them, I'll call back. The ring stopped, but began again a moment later.

"Private Number Calling".

Okay. Now I'm starting to worry somebody's been in a wreck, right? Would the hospital have a private number? This time, the caller leaves a message. I get the "woot, woot" alert that tells me so. I pick up the phone, dial the voicemail, enter my passcode, and a tiny, high-pitched, incredibly thickly-accented woman's voice says, "Camille, this is your mother. Hello? This is your mother, Maria. Yes. Okay. Yes."


My mother's name is NOT Maria. You'd think this lady would have recognized my voice on the voicemail as that of a stranger.

It's kind of reminding me of the only Richard Adams book I didn't like, Girl on a Swing.

Serena Joy said...

Thank you, TC, Roxan, and Littlebird. She was one of a kind, for sure.

Love your fruitation, LB. I've seen loinations I'd have liked to fruitate.:-)

What a strange phone call! Misinformation from directory assistance, do you think?

Rain said...

Serena I am so sorry for your loss. Your Aunt B sounded like a wonderful woman. She will live on in your heart and memories forever.


Serena Joy said...

Thank you, Rain. You're such a sweetheart.

Anonymous said...

Please acccept my condolences.

(Even though she always seemed a wee bit "cranky" on The Andy Griffith Show. But I suppose her sing-song voice and sweet apple pies made up for it. And let's face it, being around Otis and Barney (not to mention Goober ... though I just did) day-in, day-out, would make ME cranky. So who am I to judge?)


(A tribute, sung to the melody of "Windy")

Who's walkin' 'round the streets of Mayberry?
Smilin' to everybody she sees
Who's lookin' 'round for Andy and Opie?
Everyone knows it's Aunt B.


Seriously, I am sorry for your loss, and hope I momentarily put a well-intended smile on your face.

- Pug (who's too lazy right now to log in as himself)

Serena Joy said...

Thank you, Puggy. Although you won't admit it, you're a sweetheart, too. Love the song. Now it'll be in my head the rest of the day.:-)

Annie Wicking and Loman Austen said...

I'm sorry to hear your sad news.
She is at peace now.

best wishes

tfg said...

I, too, am sorry about the passing of your Aunt. She sounds like a truly special woman.

December/Stacia said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Serena. What a fantastic lady.

And I don't think this is really the time to tell you about the night my hubby and I got a phone call from a strange American woman (over here in the UK) who not only asked if we wanted to have a threesome, but actually called back to talk to my hubs when I refused. Which, yeah, I basically just told the story, but I was quiet about it.

Trée said...

SJ, sorry to hear of your lost. Seem sounded like a one-of-a-kind aunt.

Roxan said...

I'd like to lynchpin somebody about now. Can ya guess who? LOL

Serena Joy said...

Annie, TFG, December, Trée -- thanks. I've just gotten back from Aunt Billie's funeral home visitation. You know how those things go -- all the hugs and catching up with relatives you haven't seen in a while. Plus, it was a 1.5-hour drive each way. I'm pretty tired, but it was nice to come home to your nice comments.

I'll have to get with you later, TFG, to start coordinating the talent for the telethon.

And Trée, I'll be talking to you later about our deal.:-)

Roxan, yeah, take a number. I have to look at my list to see who's in which order. I'm too tired to lynch anybody today, though.:)

ThatGreenyFlower said...

What a sweet rememberance. I want to live in such a way that someone remembers me with such affection. (And may I also go quickly, in mid-sentence.)

My weirdest voice mail came just a month or two ago: "You ast for it, you got it. I'm gone. Either put my stuff outside or the next time you see me I'll be with the boys in blue comin' up your sidewalk with a warrant to get in."

Uh, well, ok then. Thanks for calling and ta for now!

Serena Joy said...

Greeny, thank you, sweetie-pie. I hope I go quickly, too, and am remembered half as fondly.

What a weird voice mail! You just never know, do you? I got a call once from some woman reaming me out for messing around with her husband. I'd never heard of the guy. And then I had a call once from some guy looking for some other girl and we ended up talking for two hours.:-)

Anonymous said...

Sorry about your aunt. She sounds like a grand old bird.

Serena Joy said...

Thanks, Seeley. Grand old bird -- yeah, she'd like that description.

Corn Dog said...

Thank God for Aunt B. What a wonderful person. I know she will be waiting for you on the other side. Hugs.

G-Man said...

Serena...It's usually me taking people down memory lane...But your description of going Downtown actually brought a teeny tiny tear out of seclusion..
That was priceless!!
Evening in Paris....
It WAS a very big deal going downtown and dressing up...Thanks Serena for sharing your great times with a great Lady xoxox
Rest in Peace Aunt B..

Anonymous said...

Sorry about the loss of your aunt. Sounds like a wonderful woman.

Liz said...

Aunt B sounds like a tremendous woman and 'mother' to you. They made them like that in those days, didn't they? It doesn't seem quite the same now.

You have written a great tribute to her. May you smile as you remember her even through tears.

And as my auntie said about her friend, 'She was really lucky: she just fell asleep and died.'

Serena Joy said...

CD and Steve, thank you.

G-man, Memory Lane sometimes takes some weird twists and turns, huh? It's funny how cheap cologne can take such a top position in the memory banks. Glad you enjoyed the trip.

No, Liz, things really don't seem quite the same now. I agree, quick and easy seems like the lucky ticket to me.

Pink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pink said...

I'm really sorry for your loss. Aunt B sounds like she was a strong woman who enjoyed life till the day she died.

You take after her, it seems.

I can't help but wonder what they were talking about when she died. I hope for Aunt B that it was something lovely and not just a shopping list!

Heaven has a lovely surprise in store for them!

Serena Joy said...

Thank you, Pinks, for the sweet sentiments. I hope it wasn't a shopping list, either. My guess is that it wasn't.:)

Charles said...

My condolences.
Your Aunt B. sounds like the kind of person we should all aspire to. I'm sure since you noticed those qualities of her personality, that you have developed many of them and are working on the rest. She'll live on in you, in both your memory and your actions.

Hale McKay said...

Please accept my sympathy over losing your Aunt B. She was a link to your youth and had a positive influence on who you are today.

I'm fascinated how your youth mirrors my own. I'm overdue to write another post on the good old days on my grandparents' farm.

Serena Joy said...

That's so sweet of you, Charles and Mike. Thank you.

It is fascinating, isn't it, Mike, how we "old people" have so much from our youth in common?:-)