Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Aunt Marian

My Aunt Marian, my dad's sister, is 74, but whenever I remember her, she is in her forties, already grey, smiling and kind.

I visit my grandparents' house in my memories and my aunt is usually sitting there, too, because she'd bring her children to visit when my parents would bring theirs, my sister, brother and I, even though it meant she traveled by train from Colorado to California. And somehow we would all fit inside my grandparents' small house, a place for everyone around the table and a place to sleep, too.

Then in my late teen years my aunt moved to California, married again, and lived near my grandparents, caring for them in their final years, even after her children remained in Colorado with their own families... even after her husband passed away.

In my memories my aunt is quiet, yet she is strong. She never speaks to us children as though we are small-brained, but instead, speaks as she would to her friends. And sometimes she and my dad are at the table, discussing the differences of their religious denominations while the rest of us, smiling, are thinking, "There go Dad and Aunt Marian again...," and knowing a miracle would have to happen for either to change the other's made-up mind.

But mostly I see my Aunt Marian with her camera, the old classic one she'd hold at her waist and look downward into its top. (The above photo is not of my aunt, but it has always reminded me of her.) To me, Aunt Marian and her camera with the strap around her neck just belonged to each other, were as normal a pair as pie and ice cream. Only when I later married and Tom nudged me, chuckling, and asked, "Why does your aunt use such an old camera?" did I even really notice how she must have looked, there in the 1980's, to other people. And I remember how Tom and I giggled, afterward, when Aunt Marian mentioned to the family, "You know... It's getting harder and harder to find and buy film for this camera lately."

Later, Tom gave my aunt a camera for Christmas and the next time we saw her, Aunt Marian said she enjoyed using the new camera and she especially loved being able to find film for it in whichever store she visited. But I'd watch her take pictures and it just wasn't the same. Always at Christmas, until last year , we have received from my aunt a card as well as a two-page letter on the same kind of lined tablet stationery--hand-written--and who does that anymore? Aunt Marian is the quintessential example of a woman contented with simple things and ways. And if you give her a gift, she is thrilled with it, no matter how tiny it may be.

After my grandmother passed away, Aunt Marian moved back to Colorado, near her daughter's family and in October my parents finally took the train to visit her there. It had been 11 years, I believe, since they'd seen her and for two weeks they talked and remembered and caught-up on days gone by and spoke of days ahead, too. How my aunt was ready for Heaven after having lived in pain for years with arthritis and other health issues. Aunt Marian and my dad, both, told each other that neither would expect the other to attend their funeral, if anything should happen in the months or years to come, especially now that they'd had this time to visit each other while both were very much alive. And how that is much, much better.

Yesterday my parents called me.

A few weeks ago my Aunt Marian was moving to a new apartment and she fell and hit her head, hard. And afterward she called my parents and told them she had fallen and given her head a real goose egg. She was able to joke about it and I can just hear her for her complaints always seem to come with humor. But then, two weeks later, she suffered a severe stroke while alone in her home and she fell again. Fortunately, my uncle found her not too long afterward and now my aunt lies in a hospital bed, unable to speak anymore, bleeding inside her head.... holding her daughter's hand, reaching for that hand again each time her daughter must go away.

And yesterday, at first, I didn't know how to pray for her. It's always hard to pray at times like these. But I think God told me to pray that my Aunt Marian would have her greatest heart's desire granted... whether it be to stay here or to go to Heaven where I can just see my grandparents standing at the shore waiting, watching for her. And that is what I'm praying... That my Aunt Marian's heart's desire will happen and that everything will be all right.

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