Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Dena, Mike & Terry: Two aunts and an uncle

          

Yesterday (well, the day before yesterday by the time you read this) my sister Shawn sent me this recent photo of our Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike & Aunt Terry.  Our dad’s two sisters and brother.

I have no real reason for sharing it here, other than I like looking at it.  It’s the first photo I’ve seen of the three together since my niece Sophia’s first birthday party 16 years ago.

Aunt Dena (on the left) is the oldest, in her upper eighties, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her.  She’s always been trim, fit, a very health conscious person.   I remember at my dad’s 30th birthday party, held in our large backyard and attended by over a hundred people, I was charged with the dirty task of emptying all the ashtrays.  (It was 1967, so I’m sure you can imagine.)  Anyway, I noticed Aunt Dena was the only adult not smoking, and when I brought it up to my mom, she said “Your Aunt Dena’s always been a health nut—she’s going to outlive all of us!” 

I never forgot that, and the older I get the more I believe it.  You know, other than exchanging Christmas letters with Aunt Dena my adult life, we never really talked.  And then in January 2017, I ran into her back home at a Giant Eagle, and we sat on a bench inside the store and chatted for an hour.  I learned more in that hour then I’d known my whole life.

Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike (bottom) and Aunt Terry, 1942.  That’s my dad on the far right    

My Uncle Mike & I have always had some sort of implied understanding.  He would look at me, nod his head and not say a word, I’d do the same.   But even though we’ve never sat down and had a real chat, I’ve never felt distance between us.

At my dad’s funeral in February 2001, I think I cried harder there than I ever did before or since.  I don’t understand it, I was much closer to my mom but at her services I didn’t shed a tear.  (I bawled at night instead, for weeks.) 

But standing in front of my dad’s casket, I couldn’t stop myself and wept for a long time.  The entire time, my Uncle Mike stood behind me, his hands on my shoulders.  The entire time.  I hope he knows how much that meant to me.   He & my dad were very close.

And finally, my fun, ornery Aunt Terry.  For years she would greet us kids—“Hi Duke, hi Dougie, hi Shawnie, hi Stevie…”  and then give me these long hugs.  One time, we were at some family event and I said to my mom “I know Aunt Terry loves all of us the same, but have you ever noticed how she hugs me compared to the other kids?  I always get a maternal feeling from her that I can’t explain.”

Mom said “When you were around a year old, you were a holy terror.  I’m not kidding Doug, there were times I was ready to kill you.  But we were still living with your Grandma & Pap Morris then, and your Aunt Terry was still living at home, so you pretty much became hers until we moved out when your sister Shawn came along.  Still think I’m Mother of the Year?”  Haha!  Yes Mom, I do.

Aunt Dena with my brother Duke, and me with Aunt Terry, Sept 1962

                

26 comments:

  1. Wow, Doug, your Aunt Dena certainly looks much younger than her years. An inspiration for us all that looking after one's health pays off. Indeed a lovely photo of your Dad's siblings.

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    1. Thank you Florence! And yes, Aunt Dena is a remarkable person--she's known her life's purpose since was a teenager. :^)

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  2. Amazing how great she looks! I loved reading these memories and I had to sniff a bit about your uncle's silent support. When my late husband found out he had cancer, his friend just stood next to him, not saying a word. Being there is the most important thing. I think you are that kind of person also, Doug.

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    1. Margaret, you're very kind--thank you. And yes, you're exactly right, just being there... it does mean all the difference, doesn't it. Thanks again.

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  3. I was always interested in the stories of my elders and past ancestors but too shy to blatantly ask for them to be told until it was much too late. It is one of my regrets in life and probably why I cherish the ones I have asked and heard or discovered in some other fashion.

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    1. Ed, me too! But look at what you've done (regarding your family tree), it's not just impressive, it's amazing. :^)

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  4. What a great story Doug! I think your Aunts and Uncle all look to be in great shape. I love seeing the pictures of how they look now and how they looked when they were younger.

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    1. Thanks very much Sue! I like those early photos too, my sister was nice enough to dig up that bottom one for me last night. :^)

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  5. Your Aunt Dena was way ahead of the curve to have been so health conscious when it was not common. She looks great today. The family resemblance is quite strong with all of you. Loved the picture of you with your Aunt Terry and the story about the extra hugs was sweet.

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    1. Thanks very much, Patti. Do you really see a family resemblance? I don't see it but it's nice hearing it. 🙂

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  6. Your story brought teas to my eyes. Especially the part about you weeping at your father's funeral. Same thing happened to me. In retrospect, I think he liked me more than my mother did. He always admired me for some reason, whereas my mother always found fault with me. Go figure.

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    1. Aw... thank you for sharing that, Gigi. Yes, a parents love (or lack of it) sure can make all the difference, can't it. Thanks again G.

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  7. Doug, I love all of these pictures and your stories about your family. Both of your aunts and your uncle look like such sweet and fun people! I love the way their eyes sparkle. It brought tears to my eyes to read how your Uncle Mike stood by you when your Dad died. That is love and understanding. In the last picture you are such a cute little guy and your Aunt Terry looks so proud of you. Thank you for sharing a little of your family with us.

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    1. Bonnie, you have to be one of the sweetest people I know! Thanks so much for these nice words, I'm so glad on here one last time before going to bed! :^)

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  8. I like your Uncle's face, I see kindness and understanding there and a certain shrewdness in those eyes which I'm sure are twinkling with fun and happiness. I can't believe you were a holy terror!
    I have no aunts or uncles, mum was an only child and dad had brothers, but they are all gone now. My own children have more aunts, uncles and cousins than they can count.

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    1. River, you described my Uncle Mike pretty well. And I can't believe I was a holy terror either, haha! Anyway, I'm glad your kids have a lot of relations. Big families can be nice.

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  9. Morning Doug, I love seeing these photos! Bonnie is right, your aunts and uncles eyes just sparkle! Your are incredibly blessed to still have them. They all look terrific.
    Similar experience at my Dad’s funeral. An aunt I never recall hugging in my whole life hugged me for twenty seconds or so. It meant so much to me. Then she told me my Dad had been her favourite out of the five brothers.
    I am trying to imagine you a holy terror as a kid. It is remarkable some of us made it past the toddler stage!!
    Enjoy the rest of your week Doug.
    Robin

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    1. Hi Robin! Thanks very much for your kind words, and your own memories as well. Sure was sweet what your one aunt said, but it sounds like your dad came from a pretty big family! 5 boys! Anyway I sure agree with you about it being remarkable many of us made it to our ages--when I think of the stuff we did as kids.. :^)

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  10. Dena sure looks great for any age. I am in my upper seventies and hope I am in as good a shape in a decade as she is now. Love the picture, and I am sure sorry to hear how hard your dad's passing was for you. Relatives are wonderful, aren't they? :-)

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    1. Thanks DJan, and truth be told you actually put me in mind a lot of my Aunt Dena. You're both strong, independent women who don't let things get in your way. :^) Thanks for your kind words, and as someone with one big family to another, yes relatives can be a wonderful thing. :^)

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  11. It's great to reminisce, isn't it. Love the picture of your uncle and two aunts.

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    1. Thanks very much Tom, I debated sharing it here and then thought why not. :^)

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  12. Great pics, Dug. I loved my aunts and uncles growing up. My mom had 3 siblings and my dad had 3... so even though we weren't a large family, there were lots of cousins around to grow up with. Now all the aunts and uncles are gone... but my cousins are still around to share memories with. Glad you still have your Aunt Dena, Uncle Mike, and Aunt Terry.

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    1. This was very nice of you to say, thanks Rian. I'm glad you still have your cousins. :^)

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  13. Oh Doug... This is such a beautiful post. I'm picturing you there with your uncle comforting you quietly with his hands on your shoulders. Wow. How super wonderful to have such caring, loving relatives. I treasure my relatives too.

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    1. Kay you're very kind, thanks for the nice words. :^)

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