Thursday Tim & I briefly came out of our seclusion to attend my aunt’s 99th birthday party at the nursing home she moved into last August, a few weeks before my father died. It was heartwarming that so many of those who love her were able to take off of work or school to attend an afternoon party on a Thursday, so she wouldn’t be too tired to enjoy one later in the day.
Auntie’s doctor approved the celebration and gave her permission to have as much champagne, cheesecake and black raspberry ice cream as she desired.
I had not visited Auntie at the nursing home since August because of the illnesses and deaths of my father and Tim’s brother. She looks better than I thought she might have and I was pleased and relieved to see that she is being well cared for. Hopefully we can visit more often now that the dust is beginning to settle around here.
Aunt Em and Aunt Lil entertained us with stories from their “hen party” days. When I was a child, my four aunts, Mary, Jean, Lil and Em, their cousin, Aunt Julia and her friend Stella, and my mother would gather at Aunt Em’s house when she lived in New Jersey. In January because most of their birthdays fell in that month. They would go into “the city” (New York) for the day and evening and leave us children with the fathers and uncles.
The fathers and uncles let us get away with all kinds of mischief. They’d be watching football on TV and drinking beer. One time one of the cousins tried to do a somersault over a chin-up bar and whacked his head on the ceiling in the process. Uncle Andy exclaimed, “Now that’s what I call using your head!” We laughed about that bit of irony for hours…
My Aunt Jean was the first of the gang to die, in 1986. She was my favorite aunt – we shared a birthday, a love of cats and children, the color purple (when I grew up blue became my favorite color), a lot of personality traits, and the A, RH-negative blood type. And now I’ve learned that she also shared my sensitivity to alcohol. It didn’t take much to get her tipsy and very sleepy. Aunt Em and Aunt Lil remembered one time when she fell asleep with her head on the table at a luncheon. And another time when she got home she climbed into the crib with her son and they eventually found her sleeping there.
Aunt Em took the train up here from Maryland – she usually drives, but not in the winter. If I live to be 86 I hope I will be as vivacious as she is! Aunt Em and Aunt Lil are the last surviving siblings of the eight children their parents had.
Chelsea is the wonderful caregiver who worked full time for us for a year, until my father died, making it possible for Aunt Lil and my father to live at home. We all became very attached to her, especially Auntie.
When it was time to go I got a big long hug from my Auntie and we both started crying and told each other, “I love you.” Beverly had explained to her about Toby’s untimely death and she seemed to understand what a rough time we’ve been having. She held hands with Tim for a moment.
What an emotional roller-coaster we’ve been on this past year… Like my sister, I wish I had the resources to care for our aunt at home but I’m relieved to know she’s safe and well cared for. And I hope she will treasure happy memories of her 99th birthday party.