Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aunt Fannie

Aunt Fannie always saw the glass half empty. It's just the way she was. I can remember my Mom describing the letters she received from my two Aunts living on that tiny island off New London, Connecticut. Aunt Fannie and Aunt Josie would often write about the same events - one letter filled with all the joyful news, the other with a darker view of things.

She was the middle sister of five - with a dashing younger brother thrown in for good measure. She was not the pretty one or the popular one or the one with the sunny disposition. I'm not sure if that was the reason for her pessimistic view of things and her rather sharp tongue, but so it was.

When all the other sisters were married off and busy with families of their own, Aunt Fannie remained the spinster sister still living at home and taking care of Mama.

When my Grandmother died, the question of what was to become of Aunt Fannie was a difficult one. My own mother, young enough to be Aunt Fannie's daughter, and my kind-hearted Dad offered to give up their own little apartment and move into Aunt Fannie's larger one.

I know it wasn't easy for my Mom. She had been so delighted with her own little place - sewing and decorating and making it into a cozy home. And Aunt Fannie was not the easiest of souls to get along with. There was that caustic tongue to contend with.

I was two years old when Aunt Fannie came to live with us. In spite of herself, a little hidden soft spot emerged as she became my champion - the one who felt I could do no wrong. Mom gently laughs as she recalls the times Aunt Fannie took my side when matters of discipline arose.

She patiently taught me to knit and spent countless hours with me. I remember her smile and the way her shoulders she shook when she laughed.

There came a day when my champion left our home and went to live on that little island. A quiet, gentle man entered her life, and much to everyone's amazement, carried her away to live happily (well as happily as anyone who sees life through dark colored glasses can) ever after. The fact that she even set foot on that ferry in spite of her terror of water was a testament to her love for Uncle Joe.

She loved to tell me stories about the summer I went to visit her all by myself. I think I was about four at the time. I wish I could remember it myself, but I loved to hear the stories. The memories of that special time, formed of her words and the black and white pictures in my photo album, are precious to me.

Life for Aunt Fannie seemed to run full circle. In her later years, when Uncle Joe had passed away, she went to live with a younger sister who was also a widow. My Mom often says that we don't really change much when we get older; we just get "more so." I think that's the way it was with Aunt Fannie. She really didn't mellow. The pessimistic outlook remained as did the sharp tongue, but always there was that tenderness she did her best to cover up.

There came a day when she just didn't feel well. She took to her bed and seemed to make up her mind that it was time for her to step from this life into the next. I got to see her one more time before she died quietly in a nursing home in Pennsylvania. She had that sweet smile for me and promised she would do her best to get better. I miss her.

linking to the group writing project at High Calling - (Why not join us with a story about someone special to you?)

and Emily's imperfect prose


picture: the lighthouse we passed on the way to visit Aunt Fannie on her little island