Often too late in life we realize the opportunities we’ve missed to spend time with older family members. We’re all so busy, aren’t we? Are we?
My father’s sisters — the original “Shingler girls” — were Emma, Geraldine, Winona, and Wanda. During my growing up years in rural Pennsylvania, all but Geraldine lived in Michigan, so I knew them just slightly from their visits home to see my Grandmother. I moved from Pennsylvania when I was nineteen, so I did not have a lot of contact with any of them.
After Emma and Wanda died some years ago, I regretted not having known them better. I pledged to myself to keep in closer contact with the two remaining. I’m sad to say that Aunt Gerri died last September at the age of 92. My sister Beverly and I had visited her a few months before her death. When she opened her apartment door that June day, she said, “I don’t know why you two girls keep wanting to visit an old woman, but I’m glad you do!”
We sat and talked about her life and heard stories of her early working years. Just out of high school in 1940, she got a job with the government in a city about an hour and a half away from home. An uncle drove Aunt Gerri and my grandmother there to find Gerri a place to live. So they were just driving around looking for signs of “room to rent.” My grandmother saw some people sitting on a porch of a nice house and instructed my uncle to pull over. Grandmother got out and talked to the people. It was good fortune they did actually have a spare room as their daughter had just recently gotten married. Grandmother convinced them to let Aunt Gerri move in. Can you imagine using that method today to find a place for your eighteen-year-old daughter to live?
Winona, my remaining Auntie, lives in Connecticut. In her early 90’s, she has her own apartment and is quite self-sufficient. Her mind and memory are amazing! There is a tragic but interesting story of how I came to be named Norma, and she knows every detail. Someday I will share that story on these pages.
I think I am most like Winona. We share a deep and abiding faith, and we are eternal optimists with “can do” spirits. Since she was a high school English teacher for many years, we also share a love of words and their proper usage. In anticipation of printing and mailing my blogs to her, I explained in a recent phone call that blog writing is a tad informal and to please leave her red pencil in the drawer!
I’m grateful for all of my Aunties—four women who influenced me in different ways and so are a part of who I am today.
To my readers: Share a story of a family member who made a lasting impact on your life.