My husband's great aunt Mae passed away today. I have written about my brother-in-law Abe who died 8 months ago today. He died in Aunt Mae's yard. His dying undid her and she simply couldn't handle looking out her livingroom window onto the yard where Abe had been found. Aunt Mae was not in a good nutritional state at the time of his death and she had the worst case of lice that several health professionals had ever seen. She went downhill fast. Dementia set in quickly and progressed at a rapid pace. It still seems hard to believe that she is gone.
Aunt Mae was like a second mom to me when I arrived in this part of the country, a soon to be newlywed. Plunked from southern Ontario to the bush country of northern Alberta in the midst of winter would have been culture shock enough. Add to it cultural/religious differences and the shock only increased. We lived in a bunk shack - a two room 12 by 16 shack with no running water. Just a scant 23 years ago this was still considered normal. My husband's family had no tv or radio due to religious reasons and I had just graduated from college with a major in journalism. Add to that that I was an atheist and well you have an interesting mix.
Aunt Mae was a godsend. She was also a little scary. She stood only 5 feet tall and had pop bottle like glasses that made her eyes look 3 times the size they actually were. She never minced her words and I never had to wonder where I or anyone else stood with her. Fortunately she liked me. She listened to me by the hour try to sort out my feelings and figure out the way things worked in my new extended family. When I was a new mother two years later she was only a phone call away for the many questions and worries I had about motherhood. She was the first one to have our baby overnight while we had a weekend away. She loved our daughter as if it were her own grandbaby.
We moved a lot over the years and eventually found ourselves one of Aunt Mae's neighbours again. My kids were little and my worth was wrapped up in how well they behaved. I let the perceived judgement of my parenting by Aunt Mae come between us. It was only in the past few years that I was able to gain perspective on that and realize it was my problem and not hers. Her husband passed away in 2003 and her grief was great. She would phone me up 8 months after he died and ask me how it could be that she would wake up crying in the middle of the night and not be able to stop. Her grief seemed to confound her. It never healed.
One of Aunt Mae's favourite terms was describing someone as full of piss and vinegar. It would really make her chuckle. I think she had a soft spot for people who fit that description. They were kindred spirits to her.
This past week when it was obvious she was failing my youngest son said she was holding hands with her husband through the fence.
I will miss her.