Thursday, April 20, 2006

Elegy for Aunt June

My childhood is punctuated with the regularity of memories of Aunt June.

We have spent every Christmas Eve at June and Bill's house. They were not our blood relations, but we called them "aunt" and "uncle" in that fine southern tradition of extending one's family, especially since Bill and June had no children of their own and we had no living grandparents.

I remember Aunt June making non-alcoholic egg nog for my sister and I when we were children, then she'd added brandy when we were old enough. She would make my father's favorite fudge, and olive rolls that my mother adored. And this was our ritual.

I saw Aunt June this Christmas too. She was weak from the chemo followed by steriods and she could only pretend to know who we were.

My mother took her twice a week to get her hair washed at the salon.
My sister, who just came home from England for her Easter break, spent one of her mornings going over to help change Aunt June's diaper because Bill was too frail to do it on it his own.

It was too close to finals for me to go home; my sister and I could only talk on the phone.

Yesterday when she died it was Bill and June's 43rd wedding anniversary. My mother tried to get him to go out to dinner with her and my father, but Bill is an old cowboy and grief is private. He told my mother he'd just rather stay home and remember her. I have no choice but to do the same.

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