The delightful legacies they leave

Published 8:24 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Everyone has, wants, needs or misses the crazy and entertaining relatives who bring fun to our lives. These are witty, “never know what they are going to do” sorts who give us laughter, memories and a happy realization some folks are just a little on the zany side. My family produced an over-abundance of these fun-loving folks.   

My mother was quiet and reserved, unlike her sister, Mary Ruth, who never stopped talking long enough to experience quiet.  She was four years younger than mom and even though she is now 94, she still flashes a sparkle of youth in her soul.   

When I was a child, I remember believing my aunt was near my age. She loved to laugh, loved to play and loved to love. Mary was the most beautiful woman I ever knew. Her dark hair and model looks were nothing compared to her kind heart. Priceless Mary was also smart. She married the quietest, most patient man on earth knowing it would allow her to keep talking without interruptions. 

I visited her several months ago. She is frail, has dementia, and is a bit quieter now. However, when she saw me approaching, her eyes lit up.

“Mom, do you know who this is?” her son, Mark, asked as we walked toward her.

“Well, that’s Lynn!” she exclaimed with a broad smile illuminating her face. 

We walked back to her room where family pictures adorned the dresser and photo albums were stacked neatly on a bookshelf.  We started leafing through the pages and snickered as we recalled the folks and events depicted in the old pictures.   

Dementia had not erased Mary’s playfulness.   She will not remember I visited her, but I will never forget this happy, spirited, warm ray of sunshine who played an essential role in my life.

My friend, Deborah, tells tales about her mother’s sister and her Aunt Teeny.  South Carolina probably was too small to hold the likes of Teeny in the 1960s when she decided to go to beauty school at age 40 along with two of her daughters. 

Later, when anyone wanted to visit Teeny, you did so at the beauty shop except on Mondays when they closed. Many Monday afternoons Teeny would pick up her sister and the kids after school and travel to Charlotte in her Ford Woody station wagon.

Every trip was an adventure including getting lost, getting stopped for speeding and detours to discount stores for Teeny’s cigarettes.  Yes, Teeny smoked, bleached her dark hair blond, sang off-color songs, always had an entourage, spoke her mind, water skied, rode horses, bowled, played cards and any other game she could talk someone into playing.  

However, just like my Aunt Mary Ruth, Teeny was a fantastic cook, loved and was loved by all children, and could make each person in her life feel special. 

Aunt Teeny was irreverent yet, at the same time Deborah states, “I never heard her judge another person, lived her faith, and until the day she died, never lost her zeal for life. She was everyone’s favorite aunt even if they weren’t related!”

Twenty years ago, when my eldest nephew was two, the family gathered for a wedding in Tennessee. We were staying in a hotel where one morning I was racing my toddler nephew down the halls.  Everyone came out of their rooms and started laughing at the two of us.  

My daughter Amy (bless her heart) pointed at me and asked, “Alex, do you know her actual name?” With a puzzled look in his eyes, she continued,  “Her real name is Crazy Aunt Lynn!”  

“Cwazy Aunt Wynn?” he repeated.

From that day forward, I had a new name. If I were doing something wacky, Alex would say, “Cwazy Aunt Wynn you are going to get in weal twouble!”

“Of course, Alex I am going to be in ‘real trouble’ and so are you!” Then we would laugh and keep on getting into mischief. 

Alex is now in pre-med, and no longer gets into “twouble.” Austin, his brother, is also in college, and they both still call me my “real name.” I also have three other nieces and nephews all under the age of six.    

Samantha, my six-year-old niece, recently overheard a conversation between her grandmother and her parents regarding my writing. 

“Wait, who are you talking about?” she inquired upon hearing them.

“Aunt Lynn.” They responded.

Looking confused, Samantha said, “You mean Crazy Aunt Lynn?!”  

I have become the goofy, zany, irreverent, trouble making aunt I always aspired to be.  I hope to join the club of those never forgotten, story-laden folks who might bring a smile to a face one day just like Mary Ruth and Teeny do to the nieces who live in their shadows. 

How blessed we are to know those who bring sparkle to our lives and leave a legacy of abundant delight.