Friday night my dad called me after work. As soon as I heard his voice, I knew. My Aunt Maxine had passed away. She was battling a rare kind of eye cancer. It took them awhile to figure out what it was. I forget what it’s called. Once they did diagnose her, it was really too late to be effective. I think, in the end, they were just trying to ease her passing.
We all knew this was coming, were hoping for the best and still pretty devastated when she died.
When your family is as long-lived as mine, you start to think that maybe people really can live forever. And even when you know they’re near the end, you still don’t really believe it. My grandfather lived until he was 90. My grandmother was in her late 80s before she passed away and that was several years after my grandfather died. We didn’t expect her to live that long after he died. I mean, they were married for over 60s years. How do you keep going after your partner of 60+ years just suddenly leaves you? But my grandma was a fighter. She just didn’t know how to quit and even when she was dieing, it took her a long time to finally let go.
My Aunt Maxine and Uncle Frank live in Florida now, so I didn’t get to see them often as I used to. Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, they spent the winter months in Florida and the rest of the year driving to Alaska, spending a few months up in that area, visiting Canada as well, and then driving back down to Florida when it started to get cool. Of course, this was after my uncle had retired.
They were living their dream life. In a lot of ways, I looked up to them. I mean, can you imagine being married to someone for 40+ years and the best way you could think of spending time with that person was to drive cross-country in a camper together? They lived for each other and I found that refreshing and reassuring. I wanted that kind of love. (I’m really lucky to have finally found it, too.)
I have so many great memories of my childhood when they still lived in Alabama and we’d spend summers and sometimes Christmas with them when we’d visit the States. I remember one Christmas when my cousins were there too and we made fun of Jason because he still believed in Santa Clause. And when we woke up on Christmas morning? My Uncle Frank had gotten a stocking full of coal. We thought that was the funniest thing ever. Until he told us we might get coal for laughing at his misfortune.
I remember summers at their house riding their pony in the backyard and snuggling with their German Shepherd, Max, the MOST patient dog on the entire planet. Playing army with my uncle’s old walkie talkies with my cousin and just having a really good time. The summer when she exposed us to Ray Stephens.
I also remember the summer I spent with them when I first started my period. It was my Aunt Maxine who helped me get through that most uncomfortable time and explained to me what was happening to me and greeted it with such happiness. I was not thrilled with her enthusiasm at the time. She was so proud of me and excited for me because I was “becoming a woman.” I was just relieved that there wasn’t anything morbidly wrong with me. (HA!) But what she was trying to tell me was to be proud to be a woman. That this was just a part of life and you roll with it and make the best of it.
My Aunt Maxine was a shining example of what it means to be a real woman and I will always carry that with me. We love you, Aunt Mack. You will always be missed. But more importantly, you will always be remembered.