Saturday, December 27, 2008

A trip down memory lane

Everyone has a favorite Aunt I think. Mine was Aunt Lou. Dennis and I spent about half an hour today telling Aunt Lou stories. I think reading my cousin Luanne's blog has made me think a lot lately about Aunt Lou.

I was born in 1958. My mom was 42 at the time, and my brothers were 14 & 16 years old. I don't ever remember my brothers being at home so we really never had a traditional brother sister relationship. Being born late in life also meant that most of my relatives were already dead and gone. My mother's parents were both gone and of course their parents. My father's mom was alive still, but she didn't like kids. His brothers and sister were long gone by the time I was born also. No aunts and uncles on that side for sure. My mother had one sister and one brother, both still living. My Aunt Lou and Eddie.

You'll notice I didn't call him Uncle Eddie. Ed was (he's since passed) what was called then, mongoloid. He'd be a Down Syndrome child today but they didn't know what that was back then. His mind never developed past that of about a 5 year old. He always wore a cowboy hat, a sheriff's badge, and a gun belt. He had a harmonica, a guitar, and a ball. That's what he got every year for Christmas at our house. It would all be promptly stolen once he got back to 'the home'. He could put his clothes on, but he couldn't do the buttons or tie his shoes. He didn't have teeth to brush. It was a standing comedy routine at our house when he came to visit. He'd tell my mom he wanted turkey. 'Gotta have turkey Lue', he'd say over and over while rocking back and forth in the green rocker in the basement. Mom would say 'you don't have any teeth Eddie, you can't chew turkey.' He'd say 'I got one tooth Lue, I can chew turkey!'. So my mother would say 'I think we'll have liver and onions tonight Ed.' 'Oh noooo Lue!' he'd reply. 'I don't have any teeth, I can't chew liver!' He'd have toast, egg, and coffee each morning for breakfast. Mama would blow on his coffee to cool it before calling him to the table as he'd drink it right down. I remember Eddie's visits very vividly.

Oops, this was supposed to be about Aunt Lou! Ah well, a woman's prerogative and all that.

Aunt Lou was my mother's older sister. I used to love when they'd tell me stories about their growing up years. The ones I'd hear from Mom never seemed to match up with the ones I'd hear from Aunt Lou though! I loved when Aunt Lou would tell me how jealous she was of my Mom when they were of dating and dancing age. They'd go to a dance on Saturday night and Aunt Lou was jealous because all the boys would want to dance with my mom and not her. I'm not sure why, looking back, as my Aunt Lou looked like a movie star! Anyway, I loved hearing Aunt Lou tell me about the time she locked my mom in the outhouse and ran away so she could get to the dance before Mama and get some dances in. Aunt Lou had a scar on her forehead that my mom said she got being clumsy and walking into a door. Aunt Lou said Mama threw a biscuit cutter at her when they were fighting once. I believe Aunt Lou!

My Grandma died when I was 12. That would be the child hater, my Dad's mother. The funeral was in Memphis, TN. It was winter and I wasn't allowed to go. Couldn't miss school I guess. Aunt Lou was to take care of me. I remember those days so very well. I got to stay at their house. They lived in a town about half an hour away from ours. It never occurred to me until today that I stayed there, and not they at my house. I'm not sure why. Maybe Uncle George had cows and chickens to care for? I just don't know. Anyway, I slept upstairs in the little bedroom. Stairs were very steep and it was scary up there all alone. I was always glad when Uncle George and Aunt Lou came up to bed! Aunt Lou would wake me up very early and fix me breakfast. My mom never did that as she wasn't well. I did all the cooking at our house and most days Mama wasn't out of bed when I was getting ready for school. She had emphysema and congestive heart failure and she'd have rough nights sleeping so she'd be up in the night and oft times, she'd be back in bed when it was time for me to get up. Anyway, Aunt Lou's breakfasts were such a treat to me. She'd drive me all the way to school in the morning and pick me up in the afternoon. Oh my goodness the lunches she packed for me that week!!!! I wanted to move in forever! I'd do my homework after school and go play with Cathy down the street and then Aunt Lou would play cards with me until time to go to bed. That was of course after a delicious dinner! I was glad I didn't get to go to the funeral!

Aunt Lou made fabulous raspberry cobbler. She'd call it 'rahzzberry' and I loved to hear her say that. We'd go over there for dinner about once a week and then Mummy and Daddy and Uncle George and Aunt Lou would play pinochle all night. I'd fall asleep on the couch and be woken up to go home in the wee hours of the morning. They played for $1 a game and $1 a set. No friendly card games in our family!!!

One such card playing, dinner eating evening Aunt Lou had made banana cream pie. That woman could bake. We finished dinner and AL went to get the pie...I can picture it like it was yesterday. She went to the far end of the kitchen where the pie was cooling and she took the pie from the counter at the same time turning to say something to my Mom. She turned too quick and the pie hadn't set. The slimy mass came up and over the edge of the pie and all over the floor. I can see the look on AL's face to this day! She just stood there. My mother made some wise ass comment. I was just horrified as I knew that meant no pie!!! AL called my Mom a bitch and both Daddy and Uncle George started laughing! I of course chimed in and then Aunt Lou couldn't help herself. She laughed so hard she dropped the rest of the pie on the floor. She then took a step forward to get to the kitchen sink and get a dishcloth. Her foot slipped in the pie goo. Down she went. Aunt Lou was not a tiny woman. She was laughing and trying to get up. She'd put her hand down and it would get banana goo on it and whoooooooooosh out from under her it would go. She was flopping around on the floor for what seemed like an eternity while we laughed so hard we nearly wet ourselves. Unc Geo finally got up and pushed a chair over to her...just short of where the pie goo started. He gave her a dry cloth to wipe her hands and somehow she got a dry hand on that chair, and then put dry rags under her feet and got up. We talked about that for years and years. Oh yes, she'd made 2 pies so we still got to have dessert!!!

My mom and Aunt Lou played a lot of cards. During the day when the men were at work, they'd play with 'the card women'. I loved coming home from school and seeing cars at my house. Knew the card women were there. We summered in Houghton Lake and they'd all come up for a week in the summer. I really loved that. It meant that I had to do a lot of work as like I said, Mom wasn't well, but it was fun when they were there. Aunt Lou would always tell me that she'd give me a quarter to do her share of the dishes. Now I had to do all of them anyway, so that was a great deal for me. It was even better when she'd get all the rest of them to give me a quarter too! All except Winnie. She wouldn't ever give me a quarter. Bitch! We'd go out for dinner which I loved and Aunt Lou would always get up earlier than all the other women and play cards with just me. I heard her tell my Mom once that it wasn't fair to make me do all the work just because she couldn't. Mom cried and said she knew I shouldn't have to do it, but if I didn't do it, who would? Until then, I'd always felt like a slave doing so much. After that, I realized that Mama just couldn't do it and she felt bad making me do I bitched just a little less. Aunt Lou always, always, always made me feel special.

My Mom died in 1982. May 22 to be precise. I was pregnant with my 3rd child...just barely. Mama knew I was pregnant. I lived in Houghton Lake at the time. Daddy called me one afternoon and told me Mama was in the hospital again and that I should come. He said she was fading in and out and when she woke up she didn't know who anyone was. I quickly tossed a few clothes in the suitcase and headed to Flushing. It was a 2.5 hour trip. Den stayed home to take care of the boys. I got home and my brother came from the hospital to pick me up. The hospital was in a bad part of town and Daddy didn't want me driving there alone. When he picked me up he told me that Mom wasn't fading in and out. She was in a coma and hadn't woken up at all. Daddy just didn't want me to worry and get in an accident driving there. I got to the hospital and held Mama's hand. I smoothed her hair and I talked to her. We all three sat there. My Dad, my brother Don, and I, just reminiscing. I looked over at Mom and she was looking at me. She smiled. I smiled back. I turned to my Dad and asked 'How often does she do that?'. 'Do what?' Dad asked. I said open her eyes and look at you. He said not at all, not once. I went over to her then to hold her hand again. She was gone. She knew me. She knew she had to wait until I got there and let me know things were OK or I'd have felt bad for the rest of my life. She did that and I'll never forget it as long as I live. That night was hell. All by myself at the time I needed Dennis the most. He couldn't get there until the next day. He had to find someone to watch the boys and I still don't know how he got there as we only had one car and I had it. The next day was worse. My sister in law was doom and gloom. We had to be sad. We couldn't laugh. For God's sake, Mama was sick for years. She was in pain and in misery and now she was free. I didn't feel like being sad. What would I do? I needed to get out of there. Daddy and Don were taking care of arrangements and I was stuck there with the morbidness. Aunt Lou! I'd go to Aunt Lou!

I hopped in the car and headed for Birch Run. Aunt Lou wasn't well either by this time. Same sickness. I pulled in and by the time I got up the cement steps to the kitchen door, she was there waiting for me. She was on crutches. She didn't say anything at first, just gave me a big hug. We stood there for what seemed a very long time and then we went in and sat at the kitchen table. We did what was natural. We played cards. We talked about Mom. Aunt Lou said that some good things would come out of this. I asked what. She said 'well for one thing, your Mom will know that I really did quit smoking now'! Mom never believed that AL could give up smoking when she couldn't herself. 'What are some others?' I asked. Aunt Lou said that now my Mom would know that AL really never did die her hair! She had very dark hair and Mama always swore that it was died. We laughed at that. Lots of stories followed of course. Aunt Lou said she was upset about one thing. I asked what that was? She said that by the time she got to heaven, my Mom would know all the tricks! Mom would know how to make the cards fly right out of Aunt Lou's hands! We laughed about that. Daddy was so pissed that I'd left my sister in law home alone. I've never regretted it for a moment.

They're all gone now. Mommy, Daddy, Aunt Lou, and most recently, Uncle George. When Aunt Lou passed away I put a deck of cards and $1.30 in the casket with her. We used to play a game called 13 hands and you'd start with $1.30. I wanted her to have at least one step up on Mama!! Dennis says it's just one perpetual pinochle game up there now. I'm not sure if they're allowed to swear in heaven. I hope so as I'm not sure those 4 could play otherwise!

So many more memories. I shall save them for another time.


Daphne said...

Fascinating and I loved this post. Please write more! I love autobiography and this was really interesting.

Luanne said...

Ahh Deb,
Now you went and made me wreck my mascara. The ol'tears are just running down my cheeks. Very touching stories you shared and it made me want to give both of our moms a big hug. I don't remember ever hearing the story about the last few minutes you shared with your mom. Gosh it helps grieving so much when we have something as simple as a smile to hold on to. I miss them all so much but the memories get a little stronger at Christmas.

You mentioned Eddie so I thought I'd share this story. What turned out to be the last Christmas our family had with my dad, I sent everyone a letter and told them to write down their favorite Christmas memory and be prepared to share it after breakfast and before opening presents. It warmed my heart because so many of the favorite memories had to do with Uncle Eddie. I loved hearing my Danny tell his story about something silly Eddie had done or said, but he ended by saying "Guitar -$5.99, rubber ball-$1.99, Christmas memories of Eddie-Priceless"

Jim told the story of my dad being really busy doing something important and Eddie calling to him from the living room to come quick. My dad fearing something had happened dropped what he was doing and ran to make sure everything was all right. "Look George,President Bush is on TV." You can guess what my dad muttered under his breath on the way back to the kitchen.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Milo said...

A powerful post. Thank you for sharing. And very eloquently written with natural flow, if you don't mind me saying. I think you're a natural writer!

susanlambert said...

I really enjoyed reading this Deb. Your Aunt Lou sounds like she was someone very special to a lot of people.