Wednesday, April 06, 2011
I was blessed in my life with a runner up mother. My Aunt Babe, My mother Harriet's sister. What's that they say at Miss America if she cannot full fill her duties? If for any reason Miss America cannot perform her duties the runner up bla bla bla........My childhood was something like that. If I needed permission to do something and I couldn't find my mother, Aunt Babe had complete authority over us kids.
My mother and her sister were 14 months apart. To write the words they were close just doesn't do their story justice. They spoke in a language known only to themselves. Even us kids had trouble following what they were saying. They never had to finish a sentence in their conversations and they always knew what the other was thinking.
And the phone.......Good Lord, the phone. It used to drive my father and my Uncle crazy. Uncle Pud used to yell, half kidding, What can you possibly have to talk about so many hours in the day???? They would spend the day together, get home, call each other the minute they walked in the door to recap and say how much fun they had!
The day of my mothers funeral 11 years ago, my Aunt Babe told me she didn't know what she was going to do because there hadn't been a day in her entire life that she didn't talk to her sister. She was talking to me not as my Aunt, but as a woman who lost her only sister.
Come to think of it, I don't think they ever took separate vacations. Year after year we all went to Conneaut Lake, probably for close to 40 years.
They loved singing the Dolly Sisters. Every time they got in a car, I swear they would start to sing. I think it was out of habit. When we kids were little, they did it to keep us quiet, but they were still doing it when we were into our 30's!
My uncle used to kid them that us kids were going to grow up confused about which one of them was our mother. I could go on here with stories, but you get the picture. These two woman didn't do much in thier lives without one another.
A few years ago my Aunt Babe was diagnosed with dementia. Some days are better than others. My Uncle and her still live in the house they have lived in for the last 30 some years. I'm sure its tough for him to repeat everything over and over because she can't remember he told her the same thing five minutes earlier. And five minutes before that.
After my mother died, sometimes it was hard for me to see my aunt because she was such a part of my mother. Every once in a while, when I was having a particularly bad day, I would call her and we would have a good cry.
When I stop to see her these days, my heart breaks and I wish my mother was still alive. She was always her memory, even when her memory was good! And I'm sure Harriet would welcome the challenge now. My mother was so patient. There's not a doubt in my mind that she would have wanted to sit by her side day after day reminding her over and over what she had for breakfast. I can hear her now. "Oh Sissy, you remember yesterday we saw so and so." or "you remember that white dress with the blue polka dots that I had on the time we went to the parade in 1959."
Last week, my niece Elisabeth was in town so we could make wedding plans (whole other post!). I wanted to give her my mothers wedding gown and veil to do with what she wants. She could wear it or take it apart and use the lace for something. Anyway, my mothers wedding gown is in my grandmothers cedar chest in Aunt Babes attic. I knew it was going to be tough to get her to remember that we were coming down to pick it up. But I thought it would be nice if some of her grandchildren and I could go through some of the stuff. Maybe it would stir up her memory and she could tell a story or two. Most of the stuff the grand kids had never seen. When we were kids staying at my Grams my cousin Jeff and I would look through that stuff all the time.
Uncle Pud and I lugged the stuff down from the attic. Four of her grandchildren, Elisabeth and I started going through the boxes which among other things consisted of my mothers prom gown, shoes, both their wedding gowns and bridesmaids gowns. Both of their wedding gowns were folded in their original boxes like they were bought yesterday. My mothers from the Marlaine Shop (in the Clark Building) and Aunt Babes from Joseph Horne's Bridal Shop.
We passed around each of the dresses and held them up to our bodies and took a ton of pictures. Aunt Babe slid hers over her arms and put on her veil. We all took pictures and laughed about the waistlines and had a wonderful time. Every five minutes or so, she would ask what was in the boxes. One of us would tell her that it was her or my mothers wedding gown. She would ask if she had seen it. We would say, "Yes Aunt Babe, we just took your picture in it, remember?" She just looked at us with a blank, confused look on her face not remembering that we all took pictures of her a few minutes earlier. Even though she couldn't remember, I think she had just as good a time as we all did.
It was getting late and everyone was leaving. Elisabeth and I were packing up my mothers beautiful wedding gown to take with us. When we had it all packed up, Aunt Babe asked if we were taking that box with us. I said yes, Elisabeth is getting married and she might want to wear my mother's gown. I also said something like wouldn't she be thrilled that her Elisabeth is getting married. Then Aunt Babe looked at me with the clearest look I've seen in a while. She said to both of us "My sisters wedding gown is in that box. I've kept that dress for her for 60 years. Would you mind if I just touch it one more time?" With that, the three of us burst into tears and hugged each other and then she hugged her sisters dress one last time.
Note: Funny Aunt Babe wedding story: Last year while sitting at my nephew Jeffrey's wedding she looked around and said to Uncle Pud "I don't know who any of these people are, but they sure know how to throw a party!!