One of my favorite aunts passed away yesterday (dare I say my favorite?). I only have two aunts left out of 14 originally. She was kind and compassionate, hospitable, and patient. She was generous with her love. And even though she had bright red hair, she did not have the temper that is such a stereotype for redheads! Although I do have to say I saw her aggravated occasionally, usually with my uncle. But it must not have been too bad because they were married over 65 years.
I have lots of fond memories of spending time at her little yellow house that was truly a home. I loved her green Fiesta Ware dishes that were square instead of round. I enjoyed eating her “cheesecake.” It was not until later that I learned it technically was pineapple fluff, not a true cheesecake. But it did have a graham cracker crust and cream cheese in it.
I was always excited to see her little yellow house at the corner of the Nortonville Gravel Road and her road. When I think back on how small that house was, I am somewhat amazed that a family of 5 could live there! And she hosted so many dinners there. I loved staying all night, even though it meant I had to kick my cousin Randy out of his tiny room for the night. There was no basement and I remember going to the root cellar to get canned goods for her and even one time going down there when there was a possible tornado. When my uncle finally built additional rooms on the house, it still remained yellow–such a happy color in my mind.
When I decided to move back home from Ohio, it was Aunt MaryAnn who came with my mom and helped load up all my belongings. I was probably more excited to see her than I was to see my mom. She has always just been there–loving and encouraging, gentle and kind.
She loved Christmas and one time when I took some friends from church home with me, we went to my aunt’s house just to see her collection of Santa Clauses. It was pretty amazing. She was so glad we were there. My friends commented on how gracious and welcoming she was.
Her life has never been easy and she lost a daughter many years ago and has one son who has made poor choices over and over again, which led to his life in prison. But she has one son who is a lot like her–compassionate, strong, kind and loving. She never complained of her lot in life and always still loved others. She cared for grandchildren and loved them unconditionally, she opened her home on more occasions than I can count and probably even know, and she endured difficult back pain that necessitated surgery. All without complaint–well at least to my knowledge.
And while the last few years have been spent with Alzheimer’s, she would still smile through her confusion when she had no clue who you were. It was hard to watch as her health went downhill with the advent of Alzheimer’s. I remember the last time I had a conversation with her at a family reunion. I reminded her gently who I was after I could see the look of confusion on her face. She asked me how Tom was doing. He was my husband, who had died a few years earlier.
Alzheimers is an ugly disease and it does not have mercy on anyone. As it did not on her. The things Alzheimer victims forget are a lifetime of memories and skills learned since childhood. The lack of recognition of the ones who love them most is debilitating for everyone. My cousin and his partner have been primary caretakers for both her and my uncle during the past several years–and believe me–that is a huge undertaking. It was not easy for him and my uncle to watch her slowly slip away to the disease until she was at a point where she could no longer be cared for at home.
Aunt MaryAnn, I am happy to think that you are smiling and chatting away in heaven with those who have gone before you. No more sickness, no more tears, no more sorrow. Enjoy your rest.