Tuesday, February 28, 2017
I did not know all my aunts. On my father's side there was only one sister still living that I knew.
Aunt Bernice was my father's sister. She was much older than he was so they were not particularly close.
She married and became Catholic because that was what her husband wanted. In that process she became a devout and somewhat rabid Catholic. She seemed to feel that her religion gave her the right to pass judgement on everyone else.
She was unable to have children for some reason. It turned out for the best because she divorced her husband. Because of her strict religious rules she never remarried although she had a long-term relationship with her ex-husband's brother.
My aunt was not a loving person. In that respect she was very much like my grandmother.
My aunt had a good job as a legal secretary. She eventually became the manager of her office. She was not rich but she was comfortable.
She bought half a block with a small house for my grandmother to live in rent free. It was her duty and she was big on duty.
She also made a duty visit every summer for two weeks to my grandmother. For those two weeks we were even more on tip-toe at Grandma's than usual.
For the Fourth of July one year my uncle and his married and dating children all came for the day. There was lots of food and there would be fireworks after dark.
My mother cooked most of the meal even though she was due to have a baby any time. After everyone ate they retired to the living room. As Mom was walking in my grandmother announced that Mom could take care of clean-up so "the family" could visit.
I did help with the dishes but I was only 10 years old. I was happy to be released to go play.
When we went home my mother called her doctor and told him she simply could not take any more. She was exhausted. He checked her into the hospital. He knew how my relatives could behave.
So the next day while Mom was resting in the hospital The doctor suggested that she try to have the baby while she was there. She thought it was a good idea so they induced labor.
While Mom was in the hospital my aunt came to our house to watch us. There were 5 of us. She decided the best way to handle us was to put us to work. All of us. My youngest brother was 4 years old.
We were assigned cleaning jobs. We mopped floors, washed windows, and even scrubbed the walls. The whole time my aunt berated us for taking advantage of our mother's condition and letting the house get into this slovenly condition.
Actually we were only told the week before that we were having a new baby in the family. I guess children did not notice that sort of thing then. I know we were oblivious.
In the midst of the cleaning flurry the phone rang. My aunt informed us that we had a new sister.
By the time Daddy came home from the hospital to get some rest all of us kids were exhausted too. It was an early night for all of us.
At the end of her two weeks Aunt Bernice went home. Her duty was done for that year.
Periodically we would hear from my aunt. She always informed us that she was updating her will. She needed names and eventually married names for each of us. She also needed addresses.
I felt a bit insulted every time she did that. It was the only time we heard from her and it seemed as if she was trying to bribe us into caring about her. She was not easy to care about but we did.
When Daddy died Aunt Beernice came to the funeral. She spent a lot of time trying to dig up dirt about our family. It would be fodder for her to take to any other distant family members to make her look better than us. She even cornered my brother's ex-wife and wanted to know what horrible things he had done to make their marriage fail.
My sister-in-law (bless her) told her that she and my brother still cared for each other very much. They just wanted different things from life. (She is still a member of the family by the way.)
Then she started on my husband. He was drinking beer. She was outraged. Of course she would not come right out and say so.
Instead she began to talk about her neighbors who liked to drink. Do you know that they actually had the nerve to drink beer after a funeral?
She was going on and on about it. My husband was not stupid. He knew what she was doing. He finally looked her square in the eye and said, "That's Pa's chair you're sitting in. Nobody sits in Pa's chair." Then he walked out of the room.
When Aunt Bernice died she really did leave us some money. I received an inheritance of $300. It benefited my family at a time we really needed it. It was truly a nice thing for her to do.
I cannot honestly say I miss my aunt. I only saw her a few times in my life so there was not a bonding between us. I regret that. But I do admire her business acumen.
And her middle name was the same as my real first name. I suppose that was how my parents knew that they could use a feminine form of my father's name for me. So I will always have something of her with me at all times.