I didn’t make or send any Mother’s Day cards this year. Making cards and sending them to my Mom and my aunts was something I always enjoyed and had done for many years after leaving home and living on my own. Sadly, I my Mother passed away six years ago, (simply hard to believe still) and the last of my many aunts died only a month ago leaving me now with only two uncles whom I love and keep in close touch.
It’s an odd feeling to go from having such a large, extended family to such a compact one although I have many cousins who now make up the family network. I was fond of all my aunts and feel fortunate to have had them throughout the greater part of my life. And now that I don’t, it’s disconcerting.
My mother had six sisters and two brothers. She was the third in line. They all had names that you don’t run across everyday, even for the time that they were growing up: Oleta, Hulda Victoria (whom we called Hazel), Ollie Nadine (my mom), Jesse Imogene, Lavetta and lastly, Phyllis.
My aunt Phyllis, the baby in the family, passed away two years ago leaving only my aunt Lavetta, who died last month. I hadn’t seen Lavetta in several years although we kept in touch through Christmas cards and correspondence. But during the past two years, dementia took its toll and it became difficult to connect with her although she still responded and remembered her brother Norman (my uncle) who played his harmonica for her whenever he phoned.
As a kid, she was pretty mischievous and was often sucked into trouble by her older and younger brothers. Once, so the story goes, her younger brother talked her into laying her finger down onto a tree stump whereupon he then sliced off a chunk of it with his little hatchet. Whether it was an accident or intentional, her brother was severely punished. My grandmother managed to save Lavetta’s finger without a doctor’s assistance, although I don’t recall exactly how.
One of her jobs on the Missouri farm where my Mother’s family then lived, was to bring the cow up from the pasture to the barn. Lavetta often did so by riding the cow instead of herding it in. She could never retell or listen to the story without breaking into laughter, I suppose from recalling what must have been a very bumpy ride.
I always thought Lavetta was quite beautiful with her big dark eyes, short, always stylish dark hair and bright smile. She was also very athletic her entire life, who, like my Mom enjoyed playing softball when growing up. She also was skilled on the tennis court, or at playing badminton or in the swimming pool. Later she took up bowling in which she regularly competed until back problems caused her to curtail those games. I too have been athletic my entire life which may be one reason I always admired ‘Love’ as the family called her, and welcomed the chance to play a game of tennis with her whenever she visited.
Lavetta began a career as a flight attendant, back in the days when they were referred as ‘stewardesses.’ She left that behind when she married my uncle Gene and started a family. My family often travelled up to the Chicago area where they lived to visit them. Together we’d go to the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Museum of Science and Industry, Marshall-Field’s big department store in downtown or once, made the trek together up to the scenic Wisconsin Dells. I have fond memories of those visits.
She later remarried after her first husband died suddenly of a heart problem. With her second husband, Lavetta attended the family reunions in Missouri’s Ozarks where they took part in the skits that my aunt Hazel had written, sometimes dressing up in hillbilly or sailor costumes as the part she played may have called for. Her new husband, Del, was a vocal teacher who had a beautiful baritone voice and together they’d sing old songs to entertain those gathered for the reunion and dance to tunes that my mother’s generation loved. Del even made a CD collection of those songs for us recording a personal introduction to each track.
Simply said, Love loved life and loved to laugh. While she had her serious moments, it was her big laugh, along with that acquired Chicago-area accent that I recall best. Now that laugh is silenced forever and I have only my memories, my photographs, the CD collection and a fabulous Mouton coat that once belonged to her to keep her close. She and my other aunts are no doubt having a wonderful time together again in their afterlives.
I miss all of them dearly, especially on days like this one when I would have popped five or six Mother’s Day cards into the mail. Our time together now seems relatively short-lived but full and rich. Happy Mother’s Day to my Mom and my dear aunts. You still live in my memory.