My auntie Grace left. She was one of approximately 155,000 that day world wide. But she was My Auntie Grace. Not my mother, sister, friend, or a written ‘obit’ randomly read in the Chicago Sun-Times. She was the last one, my father’s youngest sister. And I cried.
Auntie Grace was the second to last of my father’s siblings, she and my uncle Jack having been the ‘tale-end Charlies’ to two older brothers and a sister.
Margaret, a genius, migrated with her Leonard to California and took root near L.A. We occasioned with them and she was truly a gifted thinker.
Uncle Len was not only smart, but would work the edges of the world’s grey, making things work to his favor. He knew when to push, pull, and give. On a troop ship going to Europe, in a craps game below deck, he got extremely hot with the dice and before long had racked up dollars to exceed a thousand, this when money was not printed like tissue paper. When the game concluded, he gave it back…telling me he did not want to have to watch his back the next week while they made for England. The money wasn’t worth it. That time!
My dad was the middle child. He was disciplined in his self control and heartfelt to be of assistance to all in a Dutch style manner.
Uncle Jack was “pushed” out the door early, making his way through college and career to success. He “caught the train” a few years ago having cheated the porter on several occasions.
I grew up in a time where family hierarchy was demonstratively settled; which meant that I looked up to my elders with respect and hoped accolades would be thrown my way, even if it was just a smile.
All of my uncles and aunts had their ‘ways’ which on occasion passed me like a darkened cloud, but it passed and I never gave much thought to it. I just waited for the sun. They were my family and I wanted to be part of them. The occasional visit would bring happy expectations, my cousins are great. I so loved when family came. Still do. For over 20 years we congregated in the Wisconsin Dells on Father’s Day weekend to celebrate family. I have a picture of close to 75 people being there one time. Much has changed and the reunion now has drifted to a ‘maybe,’ but the memories are poignant.
And Auntie Grace? She was, in my delicate eyes,…perfect. She was the peacemaker of the family. Perhaps she grabbed that ‘token’ coming ‘down the shoot,’ but somewhere she found the essence and perpetuated it throughout her life. Absolutes in human nature do not exist, but they do for me…about Auntie Grace.
She was the connection to a young striving brother who had to live up to his older brothers and sister, all who prided Grandpa. Where Uncle Jack had more of the rebellious unction and desired to show it, the older ones knew how to best place theirs. Adulation came less often and in small portions. Auntie Grace served as a balm. She pitched in with no backward sighs. She too perhaps missed some that was bestowed on the older ones. I never heard of it. She loved them all with a charm of realism and thoughtfulness. She found love with all of them and played no favorite. She was closer to Uncle Jack…they shared kitchen duties etal!!! A split of ten years or more in age makes a difference.
Age prevents me from remembering where she met Uncle Harry, but they fell in love. She did not follow the older ones pursuit of higher education nor was she ratcheted to strive for great success that was demonstrated by worldly attainments. No, she and Uncle Harry took the blue collar road and lived. They had three children. Uncle Harry entered the car industry to sell automobiles, when the paradigm was to have vehicles that did not resemble each other. Auntie Grace bore children, cared for them and then went to work. She helped to keep the bill collectors at the end of the street, under the street light where she could keep an eye on them. And she preserved with total regard the preservation of her family steeping it in her warm love. What was significant, to me, was that she never pretended life was easy but she never let it drive from her her ‘grace,’ wit and charm.
To me what prevailed distinctly was her LOVE of me. She would take such an interest in what was happening in my life. Even at a young age when sitting with an adult was an exercise in toleration at best, she would pull up a chair with her coffee,cigarette and proceed to have a CONVERSATION WITH to me. As I merged into adolescence she was able to see when hurt lurked and gravitate the conversation to extract it, kick it in the ass, and lift me. I always left with a heart filled with hope. And loved!
She could look and tell when I was being evasive, unwilling, or deceptive. She would cock her right hand, elbow bent, smoke tailing skyward and arch one eyebrow. I could not but back down. I would mostly grow silent, but we both knew! She would not push me to say anything more. Or if it was bad enough she would give me one “Douglas!” and I was a quivering lapdog. I never wanted her to not love me. She would NEVER let me leave under those circumstances without reconnecting with a smile, perhaps a touch, and often a kiss. She listened. And it thrilled me that she did.
No harsh words were spate toward her. In death we all are written as ‘angels.’ She does not have to have it written. I know my siblings all adored her. Her sidings too. And her children, oh my yes, her children.
But she was MY Auntie Grace. And I kept her close. She has now left. It has been a few days, but for some reason my eyes keep watering. Goodbye Auntie Grace. I so miss your smile. Love you.