Last Thanksgiving, I was sitting in my aunt and uncle’s living room. It was the end of the holiday, around 9 in the evening, and this was my last stop in the Tour de Food that is my Thanksgiving – first stop, the in-laws, then a cousin’s, then aunt and uncle’s. We were watching ‘The Big Bang Theory,’ which my aunt and uncle really enjoy. 82 and 84 years old, and they love The Big Bang Theory.
“You know who I love?” My aunt turns to me.
“Lady Gaga. Bob, don’t you love Lady Gaga?”
My uncle considers this for a moment, and says in his mumbly Southern drawl, “Well, yeah, I like her. She’s a good entertainer.”
You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.
“And there’s a special on tonight, a Lady Gaga special,” my aunt continues. “Are you going to watch it?”
I laugh. “I think I’ve got the DVR set up, yes.”
At 10:04 that night, she calls me. “I just wanted to tell you, Lady Gaga is on right now. We’re watching it. It’s on channel 12. You haven’t missed much, it just started.”
Did I mention she was 82? She was also on Facebook which I think is equally awesome.
My aunt passed away last Saturday after various illnesses.She had shingles in her mouth and had been doing radiation for cancer.
I went to see her last Thursday in the hospital and took some big pink hydrangeas. Besides Facebook and Lady Gaga, she loved gardening and the hydrangea was a veritable heirloom – it traveled with Aunt’s beloved step-mother from Virginia to Indiana then Kentucky, and finally into my garden. As I dug it out of her garden, she had begun to cry as she told me it’s history. Her doctor had just told her to stop so much gardening because it was bad for her rheumatoid arthritis, so she was giving me some plants.
I freaked out a little bit. What if I killed the hydrangea? I talked to it the whole time I planted it in my yard. “I think you’ll like it here. And if you don’t you can move. There’s more sun over there, and less sun in that corner, so wherever you want you can go. Just please, please do not die.” The first year saw one giant flower and I feel that was it’s way of saying, ‘I’ll be fine. Just give me some time.’ The last three years have seen what started as a few sticks bloom into an armchair-sized pile of pink blossoms.
Aunt was my father’s sister-in-law and really sort of the glue of the family. She was funny and spunky and we will all miss her dearly. And we wonder who will call us for holidays and who will make my uncle’s sandwiches and who will take care of the kitties and the yard?
She gave me one of my prized My Little Ponies when I was little. Applejack. I still have it somewhere.
At a dinner this week with the cousins of my age (who are all second cousins because my dad is the youngest of four by a lot of years), we pledged to stay in touch and get together and not let these relationships fall to the wayside. Aunt and Uncle have three kids (my first cousins) and those kids all have families. Then there’s my dad, Uncle’s brother, and it’s sort of….just us. Me, my sister, our significant others, and my parents.
It’s strange what the loss of one spark can do to a family.