A Lady of Endurance, Hospitality, and Appreciation
Taking a look at each of my father’s sisters as a subject has been an interesting process. I began yesterday with the middle sister. Today I’ll look at the eldest sister, taking those memories of my own, as faulty as those might be.
First of three beautiful daughters, and small of physical stature, her birth brought much joy to her parents in the middle of the roaring 20’s. Soulful eyes gazed out onto the world, looking for her place in it. Like all children, she had to wait for the answers to her future.
My aunt helped her parents work the small farm that surrounded them. The culture and the times demanded that all hands keep busy and help tend to the family crops, chores, and everyone’s general welfare. By the time she was ready to enter adulthood, fear and pain would be a constant companion.
This was the woman who, many years later, during my teen years, listened to her daughter and me talk into the night, as we giggled about secrets in the next bedroom. Long evenings passed while the peacocks called from their sentry stations around the horse farm. Summer’s warm, lazy breezes at night fluttered bedroom curtains as we slept in the house she cared for.
And this was the woman who’d lived through what would crush many others.
When my aunt was a teen, polio still crippled individuals and families’ spirits. It was said that she became ill with something that acted suspiciously like that disease. Recovery was long and halting.
Nevertheless, her salvation arrived on the heels of fear and pain. The love of her life came to champion her, to take her in his arms and carry her through life. What could she do but allow this strong, gentle suitor to take her hand, as protector and husband?
With his help and love, she overcame the effects of her illness. It wasn’t easy, but she did it. They started their family and lived as everyone else did on a farm.
Years later, when her son and daughter were in their early teens, a shocking and terrifying event changed the course of her days. Tending the family vegetable garden was challenging in the southern summer heat, yet picking veggies for the dinner table wasn’t considered debilitating.
Within that space between heartbeats terror struck. With the suddenness of an adder’s bite, her vision disappeared in one eye. Her eyes had never been good, but now she was challenged as never before.
When she finally got to the eye doctor, the verdict wasn’t good. The retina was badly torn. She had to face the probability of never regaining her sight in that eye and the other retina wasn’t too stable, either. The doctor’s diagnosis was heart-wrenching.
Instead of flailing around in a soup of depression and self-flagellation, lamenting forever what she’d lost and how unfair life was, she fought to regain as much independence as possible. She learned Braille, retrained herself so that she could continue doing all of those tasks she’d done before the accident. Her family helped as much as possible, which proved sorely needed.
Not long after her trial by blindness began and she’d made significant progress, my uncle was diagnosed with terminal cancer. He died a few weeks later, leaving her without her champion of so many years.
She went without escort to her daughter’s wedding. She sat in church each week without the tall, quiet man who’d carried her as a bride. She endured.
For all these long years, she’s kept a home together for herself and her son, who followed in his father’s footsteps as a specialist with thoroughbreds. She never lost her sense of humor, though it was tested many times. Also, her culinary skills could rival many a restaurant.
The years have moved forward, unfolding the future and my aunt’s life. Elderly now, she continues to fight the good fight. Strong faith has lifted her up and sustained her throughout life’s trials.
All I’ve ever needed as an example to help me overcome adversity were the memories I hold of this lady of endurance, hospitality, and appreciation.