Aunt Betty passed away yesterday.
She and my Uncle Mike raised seven children. I suspect, though my uncle was likely the disciplinarian, most of the raising was done by my aunt. As long as I knew her, Aunt Betty did not have a paying job; her job was raising her seven children. While it may not be the kind of occupation that gets you a shout out in the obituary section of the New York Times, those of us who are now busy raising our one, two, three (or four) children, with the help of DVDs, microwave ovens, and Music Together classes, have at least some idea of the myriad of challenges she faced.
But because one never thinks of what it's like to raise children until one is embroiled in the process themselves, I never thought of that when I visited my aunt and uncle's summer house, which during the work week, was occupied mainly by my aunt and my cousin. Instead, I thought that my Aunt Betty was the best because she made peanut butter and fluff sandwiches with oreo cookies for dessert for Maureen and me and took us down to the town landing so we could go swimming. She helped me pull out my second loose tooth when I was over her house - my first one having been lost on Washburns Island. She let Maureen and I stay up late to watch the Miss American pageant. We would sit on bean bag chairs with pencils and paper and keep our own scores.
On one occasion my parents left me at my aunt and uncle's Lexington house for the afternoon and I promptly threw up in their family room. Aunt Betty didn't bat an eye, she sat me on the couch with a bucket, and brought me coke syrup. Mmmmm. coke syrup.
Aunt Betty was someone who we relied on to be there when we needed her – and she always was. Not only was she there, she always gave the impression that there was nothing else she'd rather be doing than pitching wiffle balls to us or watching some "performance" Maureen and I had cooked up.
It often takes an adult perspective to realize that you had an idyllic childhood and I had one, especially during the summer. My aunt was one of the people who made that possible and for that I am forever indebted.
I hope she had some time to rest back then but if anyone deserves to rest in peace it is my Aunt Betty.
song: We Are Family • artist: Sister Sledge
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