Friday, October 24, 2008

Dear Aunt Jean...

I was just looking at (coveting) some antique cameras on eBay and I though of you. I wish you were here. And even more than that, I wish I was wiser when you were here. You see, I was just a child, a mere teenager, when you were last with us. Back then, although I loved you, I didn't truly appreciate your uniqueness in the way I do now. I didn't know that it was special that you were artistic, soulful and eccentric. I could only see you through the eyes of a very young, inexperienced teenager who didn't truly appreciate the gifts you brought at Christmas. I didn't really understand their value - like the beautiful antique liquor decanter you gave me when I was about 12 years old. I didn't really understand or appreciate it until you were gone. It sat on a shelf in my living room until a few years ago when it fell off the wall and broke while I was away at work. I was heartbroken, because at that point it wasn't just a unique old glass container. It was part of you and your unique interaction in my life.

I wish you were here so I could hug you one more time and tell you how much I appreciate the relationship you modeled with your sister - my mom. I remember that the two of you talked on the phone for hours and hours... and hours. I didn't know then that it was special when you called or came over to our house but I understand it now. You see, I too could spend hours visiting on the phone with my mom and my precious sisters if I or they had time to do so. Thank God for cell phones with unlimited nights and weekends. There is nothing like being able to exchange calls ten times back and forth while driving down the freeway just to say "Hey! you are not going to believe what I just saw on the side of the road! If you're driving this way, watch out for the pigs", or "Its raining here, is it raining there?" Then there is the all important "Just checking in to see if today was any better than yesterday." You were the queen of talk and your legend lives on. Several of us have your genes and your name is often invoked when describing a moment that reminds us of you. Oh, what I would give to have you with us at one more family get together. You are missed.

You were a brilliant artist, and we all covet that picture you painted of Christ carrying the cross up Calvary. I think we are all secretly plotting how we're going to get to it first when the time comes to pass it along. It has been on Mom's wall all of these years. At times, I forgot it was there, and then when I noticed it again a smile lit up my face, because the significance of that painting is not just the beauty of the story it tells but the the beauty of your story that we all remember fondly. That painting is a little part of you.

You were one of the most humble women I ever knew. You lived in that little old house with boarded up windows in the middle of what I now think of as "crack-town" - a terrible gang infested neighborhood. Yet I never heard or saw you complain - except for the time they poisened your dog.

You were brave and smart and beautiful. I wish I had a picture of you to frame and hang on my wall. Grandma Huff had a few photos of you as a teenager and I thought you looked like a beauty queen.

You had impeccable taste and yet I didn't know it. Looking back, I remember all of those vintage dishes and antiques you had stuffed in that little house. I couldn't figure it out because I was just a teenager. Now I understand the value of old things and of getting older. In fact, somewhere in my attic, I still have some of your gifts: one vase, a bracelet, an old necklace, a satin jewelry bag, the topper to that antique liquor decanter and - move over Michelangelo - my very own Aunt Jean original painting on wood (Mother and Baby Ducks on Dangerous Waters - I still remember the story).

Thank you for the love you shared. Thank you for your generosity. You gave even though you didn't have much of your own to give.

Thank you for the memories. I have a daughter who reminds me of you, and when my eyes glaze over as she is telling me a story about her day - not leaving out one detail - I smile and think of you.

Yes, your genes live on in our family. You are loved. You are missed. Your are appreciated. You are remembered.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

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