I miss you, aunt Amy


My mother’s sister Amy was the favorite aunt of everyone in the family. I’m certain not a person would have said anything different. My mother and both their brothers knew it. Every niece, nephew, grandniece and grandnephew would not have hesitated to agree.

Amy had a unique bond with every one of the little children. She always joined them in their secret world. Even girls from the neighborhood would gravitate toward her as she showed them how much she loved and understood them, paying attention to each one, taking them into her confidence, and making them feel special by sewing with them, playing the living room organ with them on the bench next to her, taking them bowling, to play miniature golf, or going on a shopping trip for just the two of them, to find that personalized gift Amy knew her friend wanted more than anything in the world.

Amy was always a doer. She studied electronics and helped build missiles for the Navy during the Cold War, and she grew her own fruits in the backyard to make jelly. She would take me out to Steele Creek Park, down into local caverns, and out to the Bristol racetrack to watch the time trials. Amy built her own Ham Radio set and got a part-time job fixing color TVs—in the 1960s. Women didn’t do those things then. When she took up ice skating in her late forties and broke her arm, oh, well, she just wore it as a badge of honor until it healed.

Amy could keep a serious face, so it became her job to haze each new employee at the plant by gathering everyone around to listen to her tell a “joke” that was really nothing but a non sequitur. When all the long-time workers laughed their heads off at Amy’s nonsensical punch line, the new hire was judged by how much they looked around the room and pretended it was funny.

Amy could always pull one over on people, but she often did it for their benefit. My household refrigerator held damson plum preserves at all times for many years, in case there was an outbreak of hiccups. Amy told everyone the special fruit preserves had an ingredient called super-sillic acid that would seep through the stomach lining and relax the diaphram. I always wondered how many people she told this ever figured out it was made up. I also wonder whether anyone who ate a teaspoon of damson preserves was ever not cured of their hiccups. Who does that?

I looked after my bedridden mother for months until her home health nurse insisted a female start taking care of her. Two weeks after 9/11 in 2001 I took my mother to Amy’s, where her older sister would care for her for more than 10 years until she died, three years before Amy rejoined her.

Amy called me several months after starting to care for my mother to express her exasperated empathy for what she’d come to realize I’d been dealing with, but that didn’t mean Amy didn’t love my mother more than anything or anyone since her husband Carl had died of cancer years before. My mother had long been expected to die, but lingered month after month because Amy’s nursing was so attentive, and always exactly what my mother needed. I will never forget the care for my mother aunt Amy took over more than a decade.

I love you, Amy. Your rest is well earned.

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