Feb. 21st, 2016

Aunt Lois

Feb. 21st, 2016 10:50 pm
mapsedge: Me at Stone Bridge Coffee House (music at the coffee shop 2)
So, my aunt died yesterday (2/20/2016.) 105 years old. A good run. She'd been interviewed a few times by the Independence Examiner - "What's the secret of your longevity", that bullshit - then they gave up and moved on when her mind checked out, around the 103rd year.

She was my dad's sister and the oldest child of John Elmer and Elizabeth Millicent's seven kids. We weren't close. After nursing me back to health when I was three or so, then returning me to my family, she was just ... "Aunt Lois."

When we fled Nebraska and the debts my father had incurred after borrowing money from The Wrong People, we lived in a borrowed single-wide in Springdale Lake Estates in Belton, Missouri. My mother was anxious to get a job, so she became a medical secretary and left me in the daily care of my sister. Kathy was ten years old at the time, with no training as a babysitter and no good role model in our mother. I was given a bottle in the morning and left alone in a playpen or crib all day. I had little interaction or nutrition, and naturally I did not thrive. (All this I know from family stories from my cousins. I've never broached the subject with Kathy.) One doctor threatened my mother to call DFS and have me removed to foster care, such was the extent of the neglect, and it was at that point that Aunt Lois showed up at the doorstep, not unlike a short, feisty Mary Poppins, and took me away from the situation. She was my mother for a couple of years, until her husband sold their Independence house to my father (earning my mother's undying enmity) and they moved to the country.

I have no memory of any of that.

I didn't really begin to get a picture of who Lois was as a person until I had children of my own and I wanted them to have a sense of where they come from, but even then it was extremely limited. When we stopped going to the Temple Lot church, the family - all of whom are still active members - well, they didn't exactly sever all ties, but they didn't make much of an effort to stay in touch. Neither did we, to be honest. Funerals and weddings. If not for my cousin Susan and brother Chris we'd never know what was going on in that branch of the family at all.

I went to her apartment a few times, and it always took her a while to recognize me. "I'm Bill's youngest," I'd say, and it'd take her a minute but she'd get there. There was no real relationship, though.

So, I'm sad she's gone, but not for the reason you might think. She outlived her husband by thirty years, two of her daughters and most of her doctors, and she was a distant background constant in my life - I still live in the house my dad bought from them, and some of the family still calls it "Vance and Lois's house" - another piece of my younger years gone and I'm that much closer to old age and the ultimate end, reminded of my own mortality and not terrifically happy about it.

She stoically accepted as God's will whatever came her way, including living as long as she did, but I have to imagine, when her soul finally broke free, that she was much relieved. We will go to the funeral because it's the right thing to do. It's respectful. She certainly deserves that.

December 2016

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