My mother had a favorite brother, Otis. I knew him as Uncle Odie. He was an Indiana hog farmer. A darn good one I understand as breeders from China came to the United States just to buy the sperm from his hogs. Uncle Odie died several years ago. He left behind an incredible family and his wife, Mary.
Aunt Mary, as I remember her, was always quick to find something to laugh about. I didn’t realize until much later in life this was because she was a very positive woman. Growing up, I just recall enjoying going to her house or having her visit. She seemed to bring joy into a room with her presence.
Aunt Mary, as my mother once told me, was her example of what a good, loving wife should be, and that she aspired to attain the example Mary and Odie demonstrated of a good marriage. It was easy, as a young person, to observe the love that exuded from their family. As an adult, it was still obvious at my uncle’s funeral. My cousins placed hands of reassurance on their siblings and lavished each other with long comforting hugs. They doted on their mother. They all sat side by side and seemed to comfort each other with their nearness.
After Uncle Odie passed, I would on very rare occasions see or talk with Aunt Mary. It upset me to hear her sadness. She cried, even years after his death, about how much she missed him. I selfishly longed for my Aunt Mary’s humor and funny stories. So, it was with happiness that the last time we spoke, Aunt Mary seemed more her old self. We were playing catch up on our families and filling each other in on the details. I was enjoying hearing her familiar infectious laugh. I realized as Aunt Mary was talking, and she can go on for quite some time without stopping-she was giving out some great advice. I felt such a pang of recognition when she told me the following story:
There were twelve of us in the beginning. We knew everything about each other. We raised each other’s kids. We spent a lot of happy times together. Now there are only two of us left. My friend, she doesn’t travel much so I rarely see her. But, oh, we had some fun. Now there is no one left who knows me. My kids say we know you, but they only understand me as their parent. I have no one left who remembers, me.
Up until that point I had been listening but also cleaning junk off my desk. Now, suddenly I stopped. Aunt Mary had just described my situation with our very close friends. A relationship we find very unique and special but one, I’m sure many people have. I realized the valuable insight I had been given and I took this thought from that story.
Cherish my family friends and the times we have now, because we all know life does not remain the same. In some very short years, we also, will begin to lose loved ones from our wonderful odd assortment of comrades. All too soon only one of us will be left to tell our story.
Then, very quickly, as was typical of Aunt Mary’s train of thought, she changed the subject and went on to say her life was good. She didn’t do as much living anymore but she experienced life through her grandkids and great-grandkids. She has more than I can count. As I listened with amazement, Aunt Mary began to rattle off their names and the cities they lived in. She told me their professions and their spouse’s names and if they had any children. I was impressed but I remembered I had always enjoyed her stories because of the amazing detail she recalled about the events.
As Aunt Mary was winding down her conversation she threw in some last minute tidbits of great advice. “Odie has been gone ten years now and it’s awful. I still miss him constantly. Enjoy every moment, it goes by so fast and appreciate your husband every day.”
Some exceptional words of wisdom. Thanks, Aunt Mary.