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Good-bye Aunt Susie

My mom called early this morning, one of those calls you know is no good.  It scared me because she recently had her right knee replaced.  I was worried she had fallen but she said she was fine.  It was her sister, my notorious Aunt Susie.  A few years back she amazingly survived her abdominal aorta rupturing.  Apparently it finally caught up to her.

People said a lot of things about Susie, she was often the talk of the town.  I don't remember much of her when I was little but I know we were close, I remember loving her and my cousin Doug.  There's plenty of pictures to prove it.  Once when I was probably 4 or 5, Susie took Doug and I to get our pictures taken.  Doug was in a little suit and I in a pretty pink dress with white gloves and matching white purse.  It was supposed to be just Doug and I but the photographer insisted that our mom take a few with us.  Ooh, my mom still hates those pictures and the idea that the photographer thought she was my mother.  

My mom has never liked to talk about her past, nor about her relationships.  But from what I can piece together, I'm sure Susie and my mom had been close.  They've had one of those relationships in which you love and hate the other sometimes all at the same time.  My mom would hate me to say it but there were times I'm pretty sure she was jealous of Susie.  Susie did whatever she wanted without regards to what anyone else thought.  She had a tough shell but I'm pretty sure it was simply to protect her fragile and caring interior that she didn't often let anyone see.

Not long after those pictures Susie took Doug and moved to Oklahoma.  To live with a black man and run a bar off a reservation.  The scandal rocked our family.  My grandmother refused to speak or talk of Susie.  She was just wiped out of our lives until my grandmother died.  Susie came back when Grandma died.  She said that Grandma appeared to her at the foot of her bed the night before she got the call, as far as Susie was concerned they had set things right.  

Susie was a breath of excitement.  She was raucous and bawdy, she cussed, she knew magic tricks, she even told dirty jokes and would then wink at me.  I loved her.  My mom put up with her.  Susie and Doug moved in with us.  I think my mom was jealous because of how much I looked up to her.  I loved her wildness, her brazenness, her fearlessness.  I still do.

Nearly a month after Doug graduated from high school he died in a car accident.  It rocked Susie's world, it rocked all our worlds.  The next spring I confided to Susie that I was pregnant.  I was only 16.  I planned to put the child up for adoption, and keep it a secret.  She wanted, she expected me to give her my baby.  When I said no, she was furious.  She betrayed my trust and told my father and step-mother and the rest of the family.   She threatened me, she said horrible things about my mother and the father of the baby.  We stopped speaking.

A few years later, while in college, I wanted to go home for Christmas.  I heard that it was to be at the family restaurant that had become hers.  Naively, I wrote her a lengthy letter apologizing and asking her to apologize as well so that we could make amends.  She didn't  respond as I had anticipated.  She wrote a hateful awful letter in response.  My roommates took it from me as they found me crying over it.  They refused to let me read it in its entirety.  Instead of reading the rest of it I burned it.

We didn't speak or see each other for 20+ years.

At my grandfather's 80th birthday party, I walked in and she said "Well, here's that little bitch, Crystal."  My husband was in shock but after about 20 minutes I realized, I remembered that was a term of endearment from her.  All the rest was in the past.  I won't say I was pleased but it was better than carrying all the past hurts and heartaches.  I let it go, quickly I remembered why I loved her.  She was still bawdy and raucous, loud and crude, brazen and fearless.  I had taken in some of that myself.  She still winked at me and smiled.

I'm glad for the time we had when her abdominal aorta ruptured.  We truly made amends.  I spent days in the hospital waiting for her to be cleared to go home.  We talked.  She scared my girls with her roughness and directness.  I simply smiled and loved her.  We even talked about Doug.  I told her I'd take care of his photo albums for her,she didn't know who would want them.  I did.  I do.  I guess I should let someone else know that.  

My mom can't ride in a car for 12+ hours, I can't afford the trip.  So this is my good-bye.  

Good-bye Susie, I love you.  Give Doug, Grandma and Grandpa a big hug for me.


Ann Stone said…
Such a beautiful essay on loss. I'm so sorry.

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