24 March 2008

Aunt - Like Mom Only Cooler

The title of this post is the wording on a coffee mug the kids gave to their Aunt Roxanne for her birthday. She is Ty-man's sister-in-law (a.k.a. the wife of his older brother) and she is, and will be, a cool aunt.

The coffee mug made me think about my own aunts of whom I had four (not counting all the great-aunts I only saw once a year - if that). These four aunts were in my immediate family: three were married to uncles and one was a blood relative - my mother's only sister. The three in-law aunts were OK. I didn't know them very well and wasn't close to them. But my mother's sister - this is who the post is about.

When you stop and really think about it, being a woman is a very special thing. Each woman part of a larger sisterhood - fellow women who know what it's like to have their hearts broken by immature teenage boys, who deal with the monthly annoyances of mood swings, cramps, and tampons, who understand the discomfort and embarrassment of a yearly pap smear, who get the constant nagging of our own mothers, who feel your pain when you realize you're turning into your mother, who see your beauty even when your gray roots are showing, who feel for you when your clothes don't fit post-third baby. Really, it's an amazing thing to be part of this large community, half the world's gender. I know that my girl friends are women who sometimes know me better than I know myself because they've been through it all, too. So, knowing this, a girl's aunt, in particular her mother's sister, should be a very special person in her life. She should be the woman the girl can turn to when her mother won't, or can't listen or understand. You would think...

That coffee mug spoke volumes to me when I bought it for Roxanne. She truly loves my children and will step into the role of mother if something ever happens to me. I see it in her eyes when she comes over to our house to visit or babysit. Her face lights up whenever she sees Miss-Miss, Bubba, and J-man, and she has such fun playing with and talking to them. I know she would take great care of them and raise them wonderfully. I know that on those days when Mama doesn't have the answers, Aunt Roxanne will and if my kids are too embarrassed to talk to Mama about it, Aunt Roxanne will be the ear to listen. And I know that Miss-Miss, in particular, can have someone to talk to if Mama isn't there. Roxanne would never steer her on the wrong path - or ridicule any choices she may make. At the same time, watching Roxanne with my children also makes me sad to think of my mother's sister - my Aunt Joy. She wasn't an aunt, a second mother only cooler, a friend, a confidante. She was... a disappointment.

My Aunt Joy was infertile. By the age of 21, her endometriosis was so widespread that the only option for her, in 1963, was a total hysterectomy. Can you imagine taking hormone pills at the age of 21 because the parts of your body that would normally take care of that for you are gone? Can you fathom being a 21-year-old woman, at the supposed most fertile time in her life, suddenly finding herself as the equivalent of a woman in menopause? I can't. But I know it scarred her because of the way she treated me.

After my aunt's death in 1995, my mother finally told me the story that put all the puzzle pieces together and explained all the horrible treatment I received from Aunt Joy over the years. In the spring of 1971, when Mom told her only sister she was pregnant, you could supposedly hear a pin drop. Large amounts jealousy with a side of snide comments ensued. Outings between the two were canceled by Joy. Phone calls became non-existent. My aunt, the woman who should have been a second mother to me, only cooler, was sick with envy and couldn't bring herself to face my mother or her expanding abdomen. I've gone back again and again, reading the cards Aunt Joy gave my mother with baby shower gifts or cards sent to my parents after my birth, trying to read between the lines the screaming that must have gone on in her head. I know the screaming and the agony were there - I heard it all during my struggle with infertility. I would hear it each time I went to a baby shower, visit a new baby and mother in the hospital, or have another friend tell me she was pregnant.

For all the rotten, nasty things Aunt Joy did to me, an innocent child, all those years ago, I later wanted to talk to her, find out what it was like for her, share my pain with her, a pain I know she understood well. I was more like her than she ever imagined. I have her hands, her handwriting, some of her mannerisms, and her infertility - traits we could have shared, laughed at, cried over. But, she has passed away and is no longer with us. She died ten years before my first pregnancy. But, let's be honest, she was never there for me. She was never my aunt. She was instead a bitter woman who happened to be my mother's sister. And my children would have probably brought out the worst in her.

I am an only child and I have made sure to surround myself with wonderful girl friends, the aunts I want my children to have, the aunts I wish I could have had. But I know that the one blood-related aunt, Aunt Roxanne, will never be the horrible, bitter woman that was my Aunt Joy.

And thank the stars for that.

12 comments:

Avitable said...

I think I'd be a good aunt.

Just A Girl said...

My mother had 4 sisters, my father had four married brothers.

The one I identify most with, is a woman that divorced my uncle almost 20 years ago.

Having her there for me when my mom couldn't be was amazing. She knows more about my life, my mistakes, my hopes than anyone.

Now her 17 year old daughter from her second marriage calls me all the time to talk about things. It's a really special feeling to be that "aunt" to someone else.

Gypsy said...

My aunts were more pivotal when I was younger. Now, I can't relate to them anymore. It's kind of depressing.

Not Afraid to Use It said...

Your post just makes me sad. My sister is a fruit loop and I would never leave my kids alone with her. Last time she spent quality time with LittleBird, she kept trying to teach her to say "fat" and point and grab at people's bellies and say "FAT!!"

Unreal.

The girlfriend whom we named LittleBird after has changed so much in her life that I do not believe her to be a positive influence anymore. For myself or my daughter. The whole thing makes me so sad.

Fuck.

Teri said...

Aw man! I thought this was going to be about Aunt Teri - Like Mom Only Cooler. I mean, is Roxanne going to take the kids to get their first tattoos and piercings? I think not!

Actually, I've seen her in action and she's amazing with the kids. Heck, I'd probably just sell them to Fab for beer money.

Momma said...

Your story made me feel really good, as I was that "cool aunt" to my older sister's only child - her daughter that has the same name as you. I lived with them for the last 2 years of high school, and I was Heather's babysitter, confidante, hug-meister, and best friend. Up until she hit her early 30s, she still called me and confided in me. A rift between my sister and I left Heather and I apart, too. Now my sister and I have patched things up, but I have stayed true and loyal to my sister, who is having problems with her daughter. I figure when they work it all out, Aunt D will step back into the picture.

What a great story, and I hope that all of your kids' aunts are amazing....Peace - D

BJ said...

My aunt that I have always been the closest to is my mom's baby sister. She and her family were always around when I was growing up and she always seemed like a sister rather than an aunt.
My brothers' kids all say that I'm their favorite aunt and tell everyone how "cool" I always have been to them.
I'm glad your kids have a great Auntie to love and who loves them, too!
:) Brenda

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Avitable - I don't know. Aren't you too hairy to be an aunt?

Just a Girl - That's awesome, hon!

Gypsy - There is a sadness there when we can no longer relate to those adults who meant so much to us as kids. I'm sorry, hon.

NATUI - Wow. Your sister is a serious freak. Can I smack her?

Teri - Actually, you will be the cool tattoo/beer/piercings aunt. We just can't tell Ty-man. Sshhh..

Momma - I'm glad you're working it out, hon, and I hope you and your Heather reunite someday!

BJ - First, is this Bz Place Brenda? Don't mess with me, girl! And I'm so glad you're a cool aunt. :-)

MommyCosm said...

Ironic that her name was Joy.

My only sister has severe endometriosis and cannot have children. She has been wonderful with my kids. But, I know that it bothers her at times that I am sooo fertile, that pre-vasectomy my husband could bump into me in the hallway and we'd conceive.

One of my best friends went through a horrible divorce right when I had Princess. They were "trying" to get pregnant when her husband cheated and knocked up the whore. He left her and is now married to whore with 2 kids. My friend visited Princess at the hospital, but has disappeared from my life entirely since. She's seen BamBam once. Never been to my "new" house 10 minutes from hers...the one we've lived in for 4 years now. Sad.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

MommyCosm - Yeah, seriously. She was such the opposite of her name. That's so sad about both your sister and your friend. I know how difficult it is to have fertile people around you and while you are infertile. BUT, just because those people are happily having babies, it's not their fault that you are infertile and therefore, they should not be punished. It was hard for me, but I stayed in contact with friends and family and now? I'm so glad I did.

.:| Melissa |:. said...

I had four Aunts. None of whom I was close to, and only one that I ever saw on a regular basis, up until I was about 11 or so, when she died. All are my Dad's sisters (He's the only boy. Born in the middle). My mom is an only child.

I was fertile Myrtle in my child bearing years (thank God for tubals!). My ex could look at me crooked and I'd get pregnant. So, I don't know what it's like to have those issues, personally. Though my ex sis in law, she's infertile due to cervical cancer, and a hysterectomy, at the age of 27. She treats, and thinks of my kids as her own. I'm VERY glad of that! She's a SUPER Aunt, and is there for my kids, always!

My own two sisters are good Aunts. But, my kids haven't been around them a lot, due to the distance apart we lived.

Coal Miner's Granddaughter said...

Melissa - I think it's great that your ex sis-in-law is such a strong woman and can be loving to your kids! So many women can't, and they don't know what they're missing!