My aunt died last Friday, June 9th, at about 3:40 a.m. She was precisely 3 months short of her 90th birthday and had been suffering from a variety of physical problems the last 3 or 4 years. This was a woman who played tennis until the doctor made her quit at age 75 - and she'd been beating people half her age! She painted, crocheted, knitted, sewed, quilted, enjoyed walking, swimming, tennis, and ice skating - and playing tennis on ice skates! In her youth, she did acrobatic dance and we have pictures of her doing splits and pulling her back leg to touch her head. Amazing.
When my brother and I were young, she spent seven years or so living with us after her husband, Carl, died after only 4 years of marriage. She then bought her own house a few miles away and brought my grandmother here to live for another three years. While here, she was the advertising director of a major department store, a major discount chain when those were brand new ideas, and a music company. She was involved in the St. Louis Women's Advertising Club and participated in the annual Gridiron shows in the 1950s and 1960s. We always got to go to rehearsals and the dress rehearsal dinner. What a hoot! We met Arvilla - who had been an Olympic fencer, and ended up taking fencing lessons from her. My brother even got some saber lessons. Not many of my friends were doing that!
When she lived with us and my parents had parties, she'd take us to dinner at Howard Johnson's and feed us all the stuff we weren't allowed to have - cheeseburgers, onion rings, milk shakes and soda. Once we got back home, we had to quietly go to our rooms (seen and not heard was big in those days!), but she'd always manage to sneak us some of the goodies mom had made for the party . . . and a bowl of ice cream before bed. Thanksgiving and Christmas - she's snatch a chunk of turkey for each of us while it sat and "rested." I remember her doing my hair and telling me when she pulled it that you "have to suffer to be beautiful." Right. She painted finger and toenails, paid me to paste ads for her, pull weeds, and polish her countless shoes. I was forced to take tap and ballet lessons until I couldn't stand them any longer.
Eventually, Grammie got homesick so she sold her house and took Grammie home to Michigan to our family home and took up teaching - 3rd grade, of all things. Mainly gifted, but sometimes difficult, students. And she loved it - thrived on it. She's the only person I've ever known who had 12 years of college credits and countless degrees. She took up oil painting again, and began quilting with Franciscan nuns and helping raise money sending out mailings. She tried watercolors and painting on the back of glass. She never remarried, although I know she had offers. She never got over her love of her husband and was faithful to that marriage for her remaining 52 years.
Within the next few weeks, my brother and I will transport her remains to Burlington, Iowa, where she'll finally be reunited with her beloved Carl. I can only hope and pray that her suffering and pain are over. Even though we had our differences, and believe me they were many and lasted for long years, she will be missed. I have decided to remember the good stuff about her - and finally let go of the other.
I pray she'll finally know peace.