Thursday, February 7, 2013
Thankfulness Thursday--Aunt Ethel
Probably some of my most popular posts of the past have been the tribute posts to those I love. Not opening with that line to pat myself on the back, but to warn you now, this one made me cry typing it, so you might want to get a kleenex before continuing to read it. In observation, I think we are all more creative about the things that we are pasionate about, love unconditionally and the people we deeply and truly love.
Today is one of those kind of posts. Let me introduce you to my Aunt Ethel. She's my dad's youngest sister. She's the mother to the cousin I am probably closest to, certainly in age, but in so many other aspects of our lives. As a child growing up, most of my dad's immediate family lived about 2 hours away from us. That didn't mean we weren't close. I have many memories of weekends spent in Granite City. Weeks spent there in the summer, trips to the St Louis zoo and Grant's Farm, playing with my cousins, being at my grandparents and Aunt Ethel's back yard on Briarcliff. I thought always that their closeness was due in part to such similar lifestyles and interests. My dad and uncle were truck drivers, they liked to hunt and fish. Now raising my own children to an age, where they are just starting to come into their own, I realize that 4 kids in 10 years, is similar to the 5 in 10 yrs that they were and its easy to be best friends with your siblings when there are many of you, fairly close in age.
I am the only Granddaughter on my dad's side of the family, did that make me spoiled rotten? Quite likely. But as I grew up, I was quite jealous of my aunts, who seemed to do everything together. Of course 3 sisters, living in the same town, raising 5 boys in 6 years among them, they likely worked together to maintain civil order.
As a little girl I spent a week here and there in Granite City with time divided among my grandparents and my aunts. After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother lived with my Aunt Ethel. We were pretty close to her anyway, as my dad and my Uncle Jim were as close as if they had been siblings. They enjoyed many an outdoor adventure together. They fished all summer and hunted all winter. I can't imagine the number of bluegill and rabbits that met their demise on those trips. So when we visited GC, we stayed at Aunt Ethel's. They visited us regularly as well, living in a small rural town, there was ample hunting and fishing opportunities, close at hand.
Along with Aunt Ethel, comes Kenneth Earl Swann, 3 months and 4 days older than me. This fact really griped me as a kid and but entertains the heck out of me as an adult. Being so close in age has made us good friends our entire lives. I am sure that no one else gets us and I sure we neither one care. I recently had a facebook friend comment, why did that guy say, whatever it was he said that particular day, they were wanting me to be as concerned as they were, I had to ask a second time what? Then I just smiled and said cousins, unless you've got the great ones I have, you wouldn't understand. We live several miles away from each other and don't get to talk often, but within seconds of answering the phone its always like we talked yesterday. A three word text tells the other one exactly that we know what's up, we understand and we love ya.
Every person has their 'thing'. You know the thing that everyone says you are great at! My Aunt Ethel would be the first one to say that hers wasn't cooking or sewing and we'd all laugh and be able to share a hilarious example of the truth in those statements. But my Aunt has a more special gift than something as basic as that. Her gift is people and making them feel loved.
Aunt Ethel has never known a stranger. She never forgets a face. Having grown up in multiple towns, she has a wealth of friends in all. She's the one who keeps in touch with all of the family. She loves keeping up with everyones lives because of her sincere love of people. Because of that love, she makes a point to truly get to know you. She will move heaven and earth to help anyone with anything. She'd fight like a momma protecting her cubs to defend anyone she loves who has been done wrong.
Aunt Ethel is the perfect hostess. She always goes that extra mile to make time spent at her home enjoyable. She does that many ways. She's got a knack for decorating her home to be warm and inviting, casual and comfortable. She takes special care in adding touches to celebrate the holidays. Holidays is just another place that she shines. I have a collection of ornaments that span 30 years that my Aunt Ethel gave me, as do my cousins, her kids and several other people that she loves. We received special ones the year we got married and when new babies were born. She went to great pains seeking out just the right ornament to share with family and friends. Aunt Ethel knows that it is always more blessed to give than receive.
As I became an adult and got married, I was lucky enough that Aunt Ethel moved closeby. I enjoyed her help and influence as I sat up my own home. She always had the best advice and made suggestions that turned into some of my family's best and most treasured items. She was close to me my whole life, but those years when she was physically closeby were during an important transition time in my life, coming of age, getting married and starting a family. I think of the things we did, talks we had and how they have influenced who I am today. I know that my Aunt Ethel has been a blessing not only in my life but in the lives of so many.
I had kids before Kenny and when I was expecting Cody, I think she was almost as excited as my parents and David's. She was at the hospital when he was born. (She kept my dad distracted when labor was getting intense, I will never forget her sharing that story of her ushering him outside 'for a smoke' when I apparently got VOCAL in my attempts to bring forth my first born!!!!) She moved away to be closer to her own child before the rest of my kids were born, but all of my children know the love of their Aunt Ethel, even if it's been from afar.
In recent years she's been fighting a debilatating disease, Parkinson's. It's taken so much from her physically. Most devastating to those of us who love her is that it's taken her uncanny natural God given ability to show and tell others just how much she loves them. But all of us know how much she loves, as she's shown us all over and over for so many years. One look in her eyes and we still know. Her love is her legacy and it will live on.
Struggling with the slow goodbye,