Sunday, August 07, 2005

My perfect aunt...

Some background on my "banana salad aunt." She was the youngest child of a poor, hard working family. She was the beautiful spoiled baby who had 5 older brothers and sisters. She grew up knowing she was the prettiest, and most adored of the family. Her mother expected a lot out of her, as she did all the kids, because her mother was not a homemaker. From the time her children could take orders, that got her out of more and more housework. One of her children remembers standing on a chair to do ironing, and being locked out of the house as a group during the day so mother could take a nap. Mother was an avid reader, and still is to this day. I believe her goal is to read every harlequin ever published, and thats probably about 20 a month, so she is definitely working toward her goal.

Anyway, my favored aunt decided that this work ethic ingrained in her siblings wasn't for her. She took off to hills far away, and being the cherished spoiled person she was, came back dejected, pregnant, and alone except for the babe inside of her. Her mother was livid, called her a tramp, but let her move back in the family home. All the others were gone by now. It was just the 3, soon to be 4 of them. I remember as a child going over early in the morning and my beautiful aunt would be sleeping on the floor in the living room with her baby daughter. My aunt always had perfect hair, and someone would bobby pin a kleenex in the back of her hair to keep part of it from getting ratted, I think. Life wasn't easy for my perfect aunt. She lived with another aunt of mine for awhile, but ran up a bunch of bills they couldn't afford to pay. My beautiful perfect aunt needed someone to take care of her. She would hang out at a certain bar most nights, looking for the perfect man so they could be a perfect family. She fell in love with the bar owners son. To me, he looked like a Vegas gambler with the open shirt and hairy chest. Not as much bling in those days, but I remember this rock he used to wear. I don't ever remember seeing another man with a ring as big and shiny as this one. They were married.

My mother loved her sister dearly. She was so helpless, and relied so much on family. When her and Mr. Vegas started having trouble, we saw a lot more of her. I could tell my mother was worried and concerned for her. She would talk to my dad and didn't think we were listening. My new Vegas uncle felt the need to beat on my perfect aunt. Goodness knows, she wasn't the best person, but she tried being the perfect wife. He didn't like her family, because they knew things no one was supposed to know. I don't remember how long they were married, or when they divorced, but from then on she would rarely ever say his name. He was always referred to as "whats his name" after that. ("I ran into old whats his name the other day" etc.) I never saw him again, but she said he was still around.

I don't know how long it was before my perfect aunt remarried. He was much older than her. He used to talk about how he was a boss here, part owner in a company there, worked everywhere, knew everything, and had been all over the world. He was writing a book about his experience in the service, but for now was between jobs. There was all the drama with the exwife, even though they had been divorced for a very long time. I don't know the particulars, but I know his sons wouldn't have anything to do with him. His daughter acknowledged him, but that was about it. I think he pretty much deserted them, and since he seemed to always "be between jobs" I am sure they didn't get any support from him.

During this time my mother passed away. My aunt had loved her the best out of her siblings, and it was terribly hard on her. My mother was a great person. Honestly.

My aunt got a job as a secretary at the local Jr. College. She got to dress up, and pretend to be perfect once again. She was definitely a perfectionist, and exceedingly anal about it. (Must be a family thing)
Her and husband #2 never seemed to get along well. He would sit home and wait for her paychecks. They took in a foster child. It was someones daughter that they were friends with or something. She was a teenager, and had trouble at home, so they took her in. My aunt had developed kidney disease around this time. She ended up with a transplant, and they about lost their home and everything since she was the sole support of the family. She went back to work way too soon after the transplant because everyone depended on her so much. Her husband had no luck finding a job, since he had been in supervisory positions previously and wasn't about to take anything beneath his station.

She stayed very ill for a very long time. She came home early one day and found him in bed with the foster daughter. Of course, they waited till she was 18 to consumate the relationship. I am not sure what happened next, but they promised to stop, and my aunt tolerated it. I know they had rocky times, but she kept the relationship. I don't know why. I don't think she thought she deserved any better. She had pretty much given up on the perfect life, in her own life, but still pretended to be the perfect person with the perfect husband and the perfect family.

She lost her job at the jr. college, and started doing homecare for a lady that lived in her town. This lady was wealthy, and lived the kind of life my aunt assumed had been meant for her. The lady had many strokes, and people all over knew her. She would get some special treatment at her bank, country club, etc, whereever she went, partially because of her health, and who she was. My aunt assumed that even when she wasn't with her, that she should get the same special treatment, and on these times when I was with her I would feel bad for her. She would almost sputter and spit at the insolence of some people making her do things the way most normal people had to do things. Apparently they didn't show her the proper respect.

Time had passed. She was fired from caregiving after a few years, because of the woman's daughter. Her mother loved and cared for my aunt. They were like kindred spirits, and her daughter didn't like that. They had been a very cold and wealthy family. Her mother had started to laugh, and want to go places and do things. This was not with her daughters plans, so my aunt was fired. They still talked on the phone from time to time, and it hurt them both, but it was the way it was.

She got desperately ill again. Her kidney she had for 11 years was failing. Her husband passed away. They used to fight and bicker all the time. She was devastated. She was in and out of the hospital. They wouldn't put her on the list for a kidney since she was a smoker. She quit smoking. Very suprising. She had been a dedicated smoker for years. But she quit. She had to go in for surgery on her throat, and they ended up taking out her voice box. She was in a local nursing home and I went to visit a few times. My son didn't like to go, since she couldn't talk and it kind of freaked him out. I loved my aunt. Even with her "perfect" flaws, she was my moms beloved baby sister.

She ended up going into a nursing home upstate to be near the hospital that had done her previous transplant. She was having all kinds of problems. I didn't visit her while she was there, as transportation is a big worry driving that distance in an old car. They misplaced my perfects aunts teeth, and would she have known for sure what was going on, it would have hastened her death. No one EVER saw her without her teeth. Now she had no teeth to show. She was moved to a hospital in the big city. Reports weren't well. She had developed a skin eating thing, and they were trying to get it under control.

I made the trip. It was so hard to see her like that. She was asleep when I walked in the room. It was a Saturday morning, and my son was with my sister for the day. I asked the nurse where she was, and there were all these signs on the door to her room. I told the nurse I had never been there, and she said just go on in. I started in, and she yelled at me to put a gown and gloves on. I walked in the room, and my perfect aunt lay in the bed, a smaller, emaciated piece of her former self. Gone were the sultry eyes, perfect hair, award winning smile with the most beautiful dimples you have ever seen. I sat with her, held her hand while she slept. I talked to her without words, because words were too hard to voice. She heard me, I know she did. She woke up, looked at me, and motioned for a drink. I took off my glove, gave her a drink and rubbed her hand. I loved my aunt so and it was so terribly hard to see her this way. I came back and reported to one of my other aunts that she wouldn't have long. She died 2 days after my visit.

My cousin gave me a bookshelf her mother wanted me to have, and the beloved banana salad bowl. She was very anal about everything she did, and I know she was here this morning as I mixed the banana salad. I could feel her over my shoulder telling me what I was doing wrong. "Its all about appearance, my dear." I know I didn't layer everything to suit her. I used instant pudding when everyone knows that cooked is the best. I even used sugar free pudding, and I swear I could feel the look of disbelief she gave me. I loved my aunt. Still do. I don't care about appearance. I care about whats on the inside. My aunt had a good heart. She had a good soul. She thought she deserved better than she got. I think she did too, but she didn't believe it enough, and settled because it was all in the appearance of a perfect life.

I miss her. God bless.

No comments: