A great loss

Last month just before Christmas, I lost someone very dear to me. I haven’t been able to sit down and write something about it until now. Aunt Betty was my last hard hook to the generation that raised me and things just aren’t going to be the same anymore.

As a young kid I lived in the inner city of Philadelphia and led an inner city kind of life. My Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill and my cousins lived in the country in New Jersey. I spent quite a bit of time every summer with them playing in the woods and learning things about country living. Things like raising chicken and turkeys; having a garden; making whole dill pickles from the cucumbers we picked. Picking and eating wild black berries; swimming in lakes. I know that’s the reason I live out in the woods today and love it so.

Our family and theirs moved to Florida at about the same time; us to central Florida, them to South Florida. There was no interstates but we still managed to visit frequently and for me the lakes and woods changed to the Coastal Waterway. Learned to ski, fish for snook, troll for bluefish and nightfish for King Mackerel in the ocean. Aunt Betty had a way of cooking Kingfish steaks that I’ve never been able to replicate – she told me but I think she must have held back some key ingredient because mine never tasted as good as hers. If we weren’t fishing out of Uncle Bill’s boat we were out on a head boat called the Helen S. I remember it all so vividly. One thing I don’t remember is how we all managed to sleep in so small a house. We just did.

When we started off to college, my cousin Joan and I hit the University of Florida. Lots of stories about that but none we could tell Aunt Betty. Those were the days when Spring Break meant heading for Ft Lauderdale. I would load up a car of buddies and we would head down to Pompano. I don’t think I ever called Aunt Betty or Uncle Bill to ask permission – just showed up with my crowd knowing for sure that we had a place to sleep – for free. To this day when I meet up with some of those guys and we start reminiscing, one of them will inevitably bring up staying with my Aunt and Uncle and how great that was. That’s pushing 50 years. I really feel proud of my family when that happens.

For the past few years I started sending her a cake for special occasions. Specifically Mother’s day and Christmas. I don’t know if my cousins were bothered by my stealing a piece of Mother’s day but my cards always said happy Aunt’s day. She would call and tell me I shouldn’t have done it; should never spend so much money on her. I just told her that it was only another second mortgage on the house and she said that then it was ok. A beautiful sense of humor. I probably should have gone down to see her more often but I knew that she really wanted more privacy and I wanted to keep her in my mind just the way she was the last time, perfect.

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