Of course I had more than three aunts. Aunt Joy, Aunt Rene, and Aunt Johnny, however, were the aunts with whom I had the most contact when I was growing up because they had the biggest roles in helping to raise me. Each of them helped to keep our extended family together over the years through common sense, patience, and the willingness to “be there” when they were needed.
I have already written about my Aunt Joy, but there is plenty more to tell. I just wish I could remember some of her pithy sayings. If someone was acting foolishly, she had a tart and witty way of encapsulating that foolishness that everyone would always remember (except me, it seems). She was straightforward in speech and would “tell it like it is.” So I think of Aunt Joy’s brand of common sense as being the forthright brand, representing the virtues of courage and honesty.
Aunt Rene was the patient and stoic aunt. She could give a good tongue lashing when it was warranted, but she really put up with a lot. There were a few times I had to live on my own at home when I was a teenager, but I knew that I could go to Aunt Rene if I needed any kind of help. Rene never acted as though she was doing anything special when she helped someone out; to her, that was just what people did.
Aunt Johnny was a person whose overflowing kindness naturally stemmed from her strong faith in God. She was a role model not only for her own children but also for extended family. There are people who criticize religion on the basis that so many who claim to be religious are hypocritical and do not live their faith. This argument never worked on me because I had living examples to the contrary: Aunt Johnny and her family did not just talk the talk, they walked the walk.
My mother’s siblings and their spouses grew up during the Depression. The financial status of all of these families could be described as “poor to middlin’,” so they did not have any cushion of wealth to fall back on; they had to scrabble from year to year just to make ends meet. And yet they always had the ability to help others out while they were going through hard times. Many of my aunts and uncles did many kindnesses over the years that I will always be grateful for. It took years for me to fully realize what a treasure this extended family is, both in the acts of kindness themselves and in the lessons I learned from them. All of my mother’s brothers and sisters are deceased and almost all of their spouses are as well. Through e-mail and Facebook my cousins and I are in contact, sharing pictures and memories and trying, often in vain, to recall what we can about our parents. Minor resentments, grudges, and memories of failures and foibles have long since disappeared, giving way to sympathy for and gratitude to our parents and our parents’ generation. If there is any single thing that is a blessing of getting older, it is this shift in attitude. Thank you Aunt Joy, Aunt Rene, and Aunt Johnny.