Friday, June 12, 2009

Family Jewel: Aunt Delores

This is my great aunt Delores, and she is a family jewel. We call her "Auntie"; she is the youngest of my grandmother Caroline's sisters, born in 1926 in Kansas. When she was 2 months old, the family moved to a one acre farm in Nebraska where Auntie still lives.
Auntie's prowess as a hunter, fisher, farmer, horse trainer, cattle handler and more is the stuff of family legend. She had her first job -- thinning beets -- when she was 5 years old, and has been working ever since. She was never able to go to school and still cannot read.

When times were tough she worked as a chauffeur to a wealthy land owner, and for "Uncle Sam", making weapons in a factory, where she suffered an industrial accident that burned her face and much of the front of her body.

Auntie never married; she was betrothed to a man who went to war and never returned. After that, she says, she was too busy to notice she never married!

The happiest days of her life, though, were when she was raising a niece and a nephew. She likes to say she "stole them" from their parents; really, two of her sisters were experiencing troubling times in the 195o's and so Auntie offered to take the children "until the winter's over" and ended up raising them to adulthood. Those kids, in their 50's with kids of their own, still call the farm in Nebraska home, Auntie mama, and each other siblings.

She once told me that her only regret in life was that she never learned to fly a plane. She remembers every car and truck she owned, though, and rode her motorcycle until 1995!

Auntie is my maternal family's historian. I met her for the first time in 2004 when my mother was visiting her from California and I drove over to meet her there. The first words out of her mouth were, "You are family and my door is always open for you."

Oh, the stories she told of my mysterious great grandparents; where I'd expected to hear stories of a life hard lead on the plains, instead she talked of celebrations, quirky characters, nicknames and how they got them, and the great love between her mama and papa, who would sing to each other as they tended the farm.

Auntie loves her garden, and now "retired", she spends her days worrying over every inch of her "acre on the corner" with her faithful beagle, Cricket.

My son loves her to pieces and is always asking to" go and visit Auntie." I'm glad he's had a chance to get to know her, as my grandmother was long gone by the time he was born. Delores is very different from my grandmother, who I loved very much, but I hear grandma in her voice and I feel like a little girl again. Like my grandmother, Auntie shares my love for antiques and thrift stores, and frequently holds garage sales to resell her treasures!

Auntie loved my mother and called her "my pet." It was mutual, and Auntie could bring out the best in my mom (below, in her youth, playing around on the farm):

Calling Auntie to tell her my mother had died in 2004 was one of the hardest moments of my life. I've spent time the last few years visiting her on the farm, and that has helped me to somehow know my mother better, even after she was gone.

Auntie carries the unconditional love of her people, a quality that has somehow, unfortunately, skipped a couple of our generations. I need her to teach me that, so I keep going back to the farm, and taking my son, hoping it will rub off on me.

If that's not the definition of a family jewel, I don't know what is!


Joy said...

Oh Laurie, I enjoyed reading every word and re-read it all to my husband.

We know what you mean when you say "the unconditional love of her people, a quality that has somehow, unfortunately, skipped a couple of our generations." I think that is pervasive through our culture and it saddens both of us, especially my husband.

Thanks so much for sharing her story. She is so rich in character.

Spotted Sparrow said...

Thanks so much for sharing this story. How lucky you are to have someone like that in your life. That picture of your mom is fantastic!

Christine said...

She is definately a family jewel. Thanks for sharing her story.


Allidink said...

Aw what a sweet story about her :) Those are the kinds of family stories I like to hear.

All the best,

Micki said...

I can see why you love her. What a lovely post about her! She is a dote!

Lydia said...

Oh, I love this post Laurie! I can see the resemblance in the easygoing smiles that invite another in, as your smile does on your blog:)

I have been pondering lately of how our ancestors have brought US here to where we are- as being pivotal in who we are today. And contend, thet who we are and what we do helps to develop the lives of our future offsprings/ancestry/generations.

That there is so much more that transcends the generations and time to make the world what it is today, and our parts , as such, in it.

xo Lydia

Lydia said...

Great old pictures(in your batch you've been organizing?) ...especially the antler one-way COOL!!!

Angela Catirina said...

There is nothing more treasured later in life than ancient family stories and history passed down from earlier generations. I came to know most of my family that way and they are as real to me as if I had lived them and known them myself. That's got to be one of the greatest gifts you can ever give your son.