Sunday, April 22, 2007
And as Many More as Possible, Please!
This post tonight is in honor of my aunt, my Dad's "baby" sister, who celebrated her 90th birthday today. The photo on the left, while probably not that clear (unfortunately) but will give you a little idea at least, about my aunt. The lady holding the baby in the far left photo is my Mom but I've yet to figure out exactly who the man is beside her holding what appears to be a little boy. I think it may have been my Mom's oldest brother and his son, my cousin Ray, who is a whole lot younger than me - as he likes to tell me and anyone who will listen - all of three days!
But that isn't the picture I really want you to look at. The lady standing alone in the photo on the right is my aunt, taken probably in the early-to-mid 1940's shortly after she started her teaching career. And the house in the bottom photo is my Dad's family homestead in Morrisdale, PA.
My aunt's given name is Anna Mae but most everyone in our family calls her "Aunt Mike." I don't know how she got that nickname - she never seemed sure of how it happened on her either but did say she had heard a long time ago that her dad gave it to her. Considering that her dad, my grandfather died when she was only five years old, she's had that nickname for a whole lot of years, don't 'cha know?
Aunt Mike -as well as my oldest aunt (Lizzie) - were both school teachers. They were both also very strong, capable, intelligent women, with lots and lots of spunk. Aunt Lizzie had polio when she was about 3-4 years old and the doctor who treated her apparently was well ahead of his time as he recommended my grandparents purchase a tricycle for her to rehab her leg, which had been affected by the illness. Although her one leg was shorter than the other, she refused to wear the shoes that were drastically elevated or anything, so she did walk with a bit of a limp but never let that deter her from anything she wanted or felt she needed to do. Stubbornness is a big family trait in my Dad's family and both of these women, his sisters, were definitely proof of that!
Aunt Mike taught elementary school for a number of years, as well as serving as the music teacher and choral director at the Morris Township schools. After her daughter was born, when she returned to teaching, she taught second grade at the Osceola Mills school where my Aunt Lizzie taught first grade.
Fifty years ago this past February, Aunt Mike had her only child, Jane Ann. Because at the time Jane was born, not that much was known then about complications that could arise in mothers with RH factor and Jane was born with cerebral palsy as well as other problems. Rhogam, a drug administered to women with RH factor immediately after delivery, even if it was only a miscarriage had not been discovered or made available prior to my aunt's pregnancy and a year or two earlier, she had suffered a miscarriage which meant the antibodies that the RH factor creates during pregnancy were already present when Jane Ann was conceived. That Jane survived even the first year to five years of her life is amazing but it is really miraculous that she celebrated her 50th birthday just two months ago and that is all due to the love, attention, care she has received over those years from her mother, my Aunt Mike.
The above and to the right photo is Jane Ann, Aunt Mike and one of the four boxers Aunt Mike has had over the past 40 plus years. I think, based on the size of the dog in this photo that this is the one they called "Big Pup" and yes, he was very much so a BIG PUP! He was also a very spoiled dog but then, that was the norm for any dog that became a member of Aunt Mike's household. She has always been very much a dog lover and it's probably even safe to say that she didn't just love each of the boxers she's had, she adored them!
When Jane Ann was twelve years old, Aunt Mike's husband, Uncle Bob, died of a heart attack and for the past 37-38 years since, Aunt Mike worked till she was around 62-63 years old, teaching as well as maintaining the family homestead, caring for Jane Ann, seeing to it that Jane received as much training, education that was available for those with severe brain damage such as she has. The result of my aunt's work are visible too if you were to meet Jane. Although Jane can not speak, she makes her wants and wishes known and also, those of us within the family know that Jane knows each of us, knows what our names are even if she can't speak them. If asked where this cousin or that one is in the room with her, Jane will look directly at the person you name so we know that she knows us and can identify us by name at least in her mind, if not vocally.
Children, of all ages, but especially babies, have always been a number one attraction for Aunt Mike. This photo to the left was taken of Aunt Mike holding my little princess granddaughter, Maya, when Maya was five days old. When Mandy and I took Maya up to "introduce" her to her great-great-aunt Mike, she was so excited, so happy to see this tiny baby and just reveled in being able to meet her and to hold her. My grandson, Alexander, is one of her many great-nephews too that she always remembers, always asks about as well. My cousin Margy's two grandsons (Pj and Jamison) who live just down the road from the family homestead and therefore, used to pop in and out to visit with Aunt Mike are two other great-great-nephews who Aunt Mike always remembers and asks about, by name.
When my grandson was born and the first time my daughter and her husband took Alexander up to meet Aunt Mike, he was probably about 6-7 weeks old and Aunt Mike surprised and shocked my daughter when she asked her if they were going to just call him "Alexander" or if they were going to give him a nickname like "Alex, Alec or maybe you'll call him 'Eck'" and Carrie was really confused by the last nickname mentioned. "Eck?" Carrie looked puzzled at me as she repeated that name. And it dawned on me then that one of my Dad's older brothers had been named Alexander but everyone always called him "Eck" which perhaps is a Scottish nickname for Alex - I'm not sure about that, just kind of assuming there. Plus, since I am interested in family tree research too but hadn't really begun to delve that much into at the time Alexander was born, I didn't realize until a couple years later that Alexander was my great-grandfather's name - my dad's mother's father, that is. Which doubly explained then why Aunt Mike had posed that question to Carrie about my grandson, I would imagine.
This last photo was taken a year ago this coming May after the funeral for my Aunt Lizzie who died on May 6, 2006 -her 98th birthday. The very tiny lady in the front row is Aunt Mike and she is surrounded by her nieces and nephews, a couple great-nieces and great-great-nephews who were able to attend Aunt Lizzie's funeral. The two young women on the far right, as you look at the photo, are my daughters, Mandy and Carrie and it is my grandson, Kurtis, who was three weeks old at the time, in the baby carrier. Going from right to left and across the photo are: next to my daughter Mandy is my cousin Mike's daughter, Susan, her husband John is behind her holding their son, Shawn, who was six months old at the time. Next to Susan is my grandson, Alex, and that's me, behind Alex. Then, back in the front row, next to Alex, is my cousin Margy's grandson, Pj and behind him is my cousin Mike, father of Susan (already mentioned). Beside Pj is his grandmother, my cousin Margy, and behind her is Bea, my cousin Mike's wife and between Bea and Mike, a bit behind, is Irene, widow of my cousin Tom. Then, standing next to Aunt Mike is my cousin George but no one calls him that as his nickname is "Skip"(and the family joke is that in Aunt Mike's eyes, Skip and cousin Mike both "walk on water.") Behind Skip is his brother-in-law Bob. Then to the side and behind Aunt Mike is Skip's sister, Isabel, Skip's son, Heystel and Skip's wife, behind them all, Lois. At the very end and beside Aunt Mike, is my cousin, Bessie Ann.
Phew - that's a lot of naming and explaining and what not there, isn't it?
But that's my Aunt Mike and just a few of the nieces and nephews, great-nieces, great-great-nephews. Just be darned glad that ALL my cousins on that side of the family were not present that day! There were 21 grandchildren initially but six of my first cousins are deceased. However, to give you a better idea of the size of my dad's family, I went to a family reunion about 7 years ago and there were 126 people in attendance at that reunion. Of that number only 3 of us present were NOT part of my oldest uncle's family -he and his wife only had 10 children, you see!
And today, my cousin Mike and his wife Bea, had a little get-together at the nursing home where Aunt Mike and Jane Ann now reside for family and friends of Aunt Mike to come visit, have cake and ice cream and give Aunt Mike a little reminder of how much we all still love and very much appreciate her now as well as for what she's always been to each of us over these many years.
Aunt Mike has always been there, beside me as long as I can remember - a strong, loving, attentive and oh yes, a sweet, spoiling aunt at times to me as well as to all three of my children and now, as much as she is able to be, she is that to my grandchildren too.
As I wished her a "Happy Birthday" today and told her - "many more" she softly said to me "Oh I do hope not many more." I understand her reasons for saying that too. She's had a difficult life, caring for her daughter all these years. She's had her share of health issues too - colo-rectal cancer in 1991 which resulted in a colostomy and which to this day, she absolutely hates. But regardless of what came her way, she continued to push forward to do whatever she felt she could to be there for her daughter and for all the rest of us, her nieces and nephews and for her friends and neighbors too.
Her mind is starting to fail a bit now and she is no longer able to walk so is wheel-chair bound but underneath, she'll always be the loving aunt she's always been to me.
As my ex-husband used to say about the situation with Aunt Mike and Jane Ann, "If every child born with issues like Jane Ann has, each one should have a mother then just like Aunt Mike." Sometimes, my ex-husband said some pretty darned nice and very accurate things you see.