(#18 in a series of people who changed the course of my life)
Many of us are privileged to have aunts. The sisters of our parents, aunts are these funny people who often provide extra doses of encouragement and love and are sometimes cooler and more fun than our parents. From time-to-time, they will even sneak us extra stuff our parents won’t let us have. In many cases, they are like an “extra” parent—at least that’s been my experience.
I have had and have many of these beautiful women in my life.
Three aunts were a trio of my adopted mother’s sisters—one of them a sister-in-law.
To say these women, all born in the 1920s, were strong is an understatement. To say they were fiercely protective mothers, even moreso. Two of them in particular—Aunt Nell and Aunt Becky—had a profound impact on my life.
Most special holidays—every Easter for most of my life and many Thanksgivings and Christmases—were spent at Aunt Nell’s house. Aunt Nell had a lovely home with a yard and garden that was always blooming with something. I particularly remember hundreds of irises on the outside and rows of perfect violets on the inside. And oh, could Aunt Nell cook! Her spread and hospitality were known far and wide. She always treated me like one of her own grandchildren; she and Uncle Bill were among the most faithful, loving people I have ever known.
And then there’s Aunt Becky—my goodness. This woman—who had been a missionary to over 60 countries—was a formidable woman in her own right. I always loved visiting Aunt Becky when she and Uncle DL lived in Hot Springs and especially later in her life when she moved next door to my mother. The stories this woman could tell! And the—uhm—premarital advice she gave—wow. (Ask Pam about this sometime!) What a faithful, loving woman was Aunt Becky! (And, although I spent less time around Aunt Nelda—who was busy raising a second generation of sons—she was just as loving, great in the kitchen, and faithful as her sisters-in-law.)
These women were a part of my earliest memories, provided so much nurturing as I grew up, and were around while I raised my own children who came to adore them as well. How we miss these incredible women.
Later in my life, I would discover three more aunts—a trio of sisters of my biological mother, one of them a sister of her heart.
In a sense, Aunt Donna and Aunt Carol have picked up watching over me here in this life where my mothers and her sisters left off. (And although I don’t know Aunt Dianne well, I know she loves us all the same.) These women were with my mother while she enjoyed some of the best years of her life—oh the stories they told! And they were with her as she suffered through lung cancer, right there with my brother and me, at her side when she passed.
And since that time, they have endured. Through their many kindnesses, special treats, visits, cheerleading, advice, hugs, they carry on the spirit of my mother and ensure that my brother and I are covered by their maternal love.
Aunt Donna is the practical aunt–fussing over us (and at us when we need it) and providing sound advice and reason. She’s the one who worried over my safety being an out gay man in a small town and wants to make sure I’m happy in my life. She is also a wiz in the kitchen and makes some of my favorite foods–including that 19-bean salad or whatever it is! She fixes it for me every time I visit and always acts so excited to hear about every little detail of my life and the lives of the people I love. And she always sends me postcards from the places she travels to around the world.
Aunt Carol is the huggy, lovey aunt. Effervescent with laughter and love, Aunt Carol displays her love for us with ooey-goey fabulousness. Laughter, listening, and sound reason are her hallmarks–along with delicious meals that always come with special touches. Like Aunt Donna, she is wise, compassionate, and wants only the very best for us. And when she listens to you, you can tell she’s connected to your very heart.
All of these women are incredible examples of what an aunt is.
They spoil us.
They counsel us.
They make our favorite pie or take us to our favorite restaurant.
They share their lives with us and are generous.
They can even be hip.
But most of all, they “fill in the gap,” watching over us when we might otherwise be alone. They give so much extra love that we cannot but bask in it and know without a shadow of doubt how special and adored we are.
I would not be who I am today without these women—those who are gone and those who are still with me now. How grateful I am to be covered by their love, inspired by their faith, and warmed by their favor.
19. people of action