I think we all have a favorite Aunt or Uncle. If we’re lucky. I was. My mother had three siblings. Half brothers and sisters much younger than she was so when I was growing up they were not that much older than me. Just old enough to make great impressions. When I visited them in Pennsylvania summers from my home in Indiana, my Uncle Paul was in late teens working at Kennywood Park, ( now one of the nation’s oldest parks at 110 years). Wow—an uncle who could get passes into the park. How cool was that? I had a big crush on Uncle Paul (still do....now in his late 70’s he still seems so handsome to me).
But it was Aunt Stella who perhaps left a lasting impression. She had a stylish page- boy hair-do, wore spectator pumps and lovely sheer shirtwaist dresses. She went to a girls’ college in the East, became a teacher and worked as a camp counselor in the summers where she taught me to make my first lanyard. She was a career woman for many years before she fell in love with an American Airlines pilot and did not marry until she was 50. Both she and her finance were taking care of aging parents.
She and Alex (photo 1990) lived in sunny California and shortly after I moved to Phoenix they drove over to see me and the bookstore I recently opened. Within an hour she was donning a worker’s apron and ringing up sales like she’d been there forever. Not long after when I heard that she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, I took the short flight over from Phoenix to spend a few days with her for fear if I waited too long she might not know me. We had a wonderful visit. She took me to the then new Ronald Reagan Museum, driving a boat of a car on the 101 where she could barely see over the steering wheel. (Okay, I’ll admit, that was about as scary as the roller coaster at Kennywood Park), but we made it fine. My guest room had the twin bed I remember sleeping on as a nine-year old in Pennsylvania and still on a matching pine bookshelf were the Nancy Drew books I devoured one summer --which instilled a lifelong love of reading. The porch glider and books...what wonderful memories.
Aunt Stella is now in late stages of Alzheimer’s and spending her days with Uncle Paul in Ohio and a niece in Pennsylvania. I know she is in good hands.
Perhaps she no longer remembers me, but I will never forget her.