Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Aunt Mary

Aunt Mary, from all reports, was the prettiest of the five girls that, along with three brothers, made up Momma's family. When I was growing up, Momma depended on Mary more than any of her other siblings, for everything. So much so that I don't know how we would have functioned without her.

Momma didn't get her driver's license until after Dad retired. Until then, we depended on Dad or the kindness of strangers to get where we needed to go. It was generally the strangers that came through first, typically in the form of one of my aunts or uncles. More often than not, it was Aunt Mary that showed up in her VW bus to take us wherever we needed to go. For years she took Momma to the grocery store every week.

Aunt Mary and Uncle Don had daughters the same age as me and my (younger) sister, along with a son older than us and another younger than us. We were in scouts together, went to the same church, and played on the same sports teams. We even went to the same schools--along with Uncle Deezer's three boys. Sounds quaint, but none of us were particularly thrilled about it.

If you are a regular reader, then you know that Dad worked overnight every third night, and Momma refused to stay by herself. We stayed at Aunt Mary's house a lot. Momma and Aunt Mary would stay up late chain-smoking cigarettes and playing games at the kitchen table. If a third or fourth was available, they played pinochle. More often than not, they played dice games--either Scribbage or Yahtzee.

I usually slept just off the kitchen and would hear the sound of dice being shaken in a cup and dumped on the Formica tabletop for hours on end. After each roll of the dice came the exclamation. "Shit--what am I going to do with that?" "Dammit I don't need any 3's!" "Where in the hell are all the vowels?"

Aunt Mary loved Bingo more than just about anything but Bridge and cigarettes. She smoked King Sano cigarettes and lead us all to believe they were healthy. She was a regular at the VFW Bingo night. She rarely went alone, and never came home empty-handed.

Aunt Mary was in poor health for most of my childhood, and died way before her time. The funeral was the first time most of us ever saw her with her hair done, make-up on, and teeth in. Everyone commented about how good she looked--not something one usually hears at a funeral. During visitation various friends and family members slipped playing cards, a bingo dauber, and a few bingo cards into the casket with her.

If there is an afterlife, Aunt Mary is in the middle of a cigarette and either Bingo or a good game of Bridge with Toodles, Peggy, and Betty. I just hope the good Lord turns a deaf ear to all the swearing and cussing!

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