Sunday March 1, 7:04 pm. I have written previously about my Aunt Alice on here. I won’t link, because I still can’t figure out how to do these fucking hyperlinks easily, and I doubt anyone cares that greatly about what I’ve said in the past. About an hour ago, my phone rings (or barks, as is my designated ring tone). It’s my brother Mike-the one who never calls me unless it’s something bad (which I’ve also written about). He tells me that Aunt Alice has just ‘passed away’. She fucking DIED. Why do we have to use these stupid ass euphemisms?
I’ve been ‘hoping’ for this phone call for almost a year or longer, because she’s had such a rapidly declining quality of life. I’m absolutely stunned and shocked with myself with how incredibly sad and upset I am about this. I really didn’t think I’d cry when this moment happened. But I am.
She was Mom’s oldest sister, the oldest of 14. Mom was #8. She took Mom after grade school and raised her. As such, Aunt Alice (and Uncle Orval) were always really more like Grandparents, more so than my actual grandparents were. My love of, and skill of cooking and baking are legacies from My Aunt Alice & Mom. When I was little, Aunt Alice always made my birthday cake, home-made Angel Food, in the long rectangular tube pan (that you don’t see anymore). Pies, cakes, yeast breads and cinnamon rolls, chicken (or beef) and home-made noodles were staples at every holiday or Sunday dinner. Ham and bean soup and corn bread; fried chicken, chocolate sheet cake, cherry pie, coconut or banana cream pie (the real deal-cooked custard base with meringue top (not this no cook refrigerator shit). Gourmet? No. Great cooking? Yes. Like most great cooks, when you ask for the recipe, she often didn’t have one. “I just make it.” About 10 years ago, in one of my rare moments of intelligence, I asked her how she made her cherry pie (and many other items), and wrote down the recipes. This doesn’t mean she didn’t use or have cookbooks. When she was moving from her condo to an assisted living home, without a kitchen, she let me come and select what I wanted from her cookbook collection. Many of which were the local church compilations that are done as fund raisers—each of them with many of her own recipes.
She also sewed. I still have the house robe she made me for Christmas over 20 years ago. I will never get rid of it. I still wear/use it. I have the original ‘sock monkey’ that she made and we played with at her house. The one she made for me was long gone, but I got the original from her sale when she left her house to go to the condo. I have one of her old quilts. She had reached the point of not being able to hand sew and I lamented to her that I wish I’d asked her to make a quilt for me when she was still able to do so. She made a quilt for each of her ‘true’ grandsons. When moving from her condo, she found one of her older quilts in her cedar chest, and she gave it to me. It has some great older fabrics in it, which I love. It worked out best, as I’d rather have the older more than I would new fabrics. It’s lighter weight, and goes on my bed every summer.
When you hear of people referred to as Pillars of the Community, that was her. In the small farm town where I grew up, she ran a restaurant, and then ran the cafeterias at my grade school, then high school, from where she eventually retired. But people still hired her to make cakes and pies, and breads/rolls.
When I came out, Aunt Alice is one of the people I was afraid of telling. Her response was, “There’s a lot I just don’t understand, but I’ll always love you. I wish I would have known you went through so much pain and hurt.” It was one of the most genuine and real responses that I received from family at that time.
When I was home at Christmas, Aunt Alice had declined greatly. Physically, she was much more frail, and mentally, the Alzheimer’s was really progressing. She still knew who I was, and asked me about my best friend by name. But, she couldn’t find her way back to her room on her own. Reading her Christmas cards, she had to spell out each word before she knew what it was. Then when it got to the names signed, I’d have to read that to her, and she wouldn’t know/recognize the names. It was so sad and painful to watch. A few weeks later, she went to the hospital. She went back to the assisted living home for a few days, but was back in the hospital, and then went to a nursing home. She stopped eating, and an even more rapid decline spiraled much more quickly. When I spoke to my parents earlier this week for Dad’s birthday, Mom said I wouldn’t recognize her. I told Mom, “I just wish she’d go quickly. She has no quality of life. She’s not able to discern happiness. She’s lived a hard damn life. It shouldn’t end like this.” Mom started talking about ‘the good lord’, and I tuned out to keep myself from corrupting that moment with my feelings of what bullshit (and oxymoron) I think ‘the good lord’ is.
It’s going to be a strained week—with her grandsons(my first cousins once removed, who used to be more like brothers to me) and daughter-in-law whom I haven’t seen since my cousin (Aunt Alice’s only natural child) died over 3 years ago and since they’ve sold her condo out from under her and took the money. They left my Mom with all of the responsibilities of being the caregiver, while they fleeced their Grandma of what little she had. Yet another way in which her last years should not have been.
Whether or not there is a heaven, Aunt Alice is much better off right now. My sadness is much greater than I would have imagined it to be at this moment.