It’s my aunt’s 84th birthday, and I wanted to make sure I called her before the day got too far along; I’d hate to get caught up in something else and forget later. I was a tiny bit worried when I phoned around noon and her message box was full. Had something happened to her, and no one told me?
Fat chance. I found out when I reached her later that she was out doing a bunch of errands, and by the time she got back she was delighted to find her phone had no more room for good wishes. Because there is simply no stopping Tessie. She’ll call and say, “I just found an old picture you’d like,” or she’ll alert you she came upon something you love in a store, and bang! she’s at your door in seven minutes.
I often use a line, “It’s like calling your old aunt,” by which I mean something is so dreadful you keep putting off, all the while knowing that the longer you wait, the more you’ll have to pay emotionally when you finally do it. It’s a universal feeling, but believe me, I do not mean Aunt Tessie. She is a joy. She and my Uncle Bud, her husband, were my parents’ best friends, and now she is the only one left of the four. Her kids are my best friends, and now, I am one of her kids, too.
Calling an old aunt on her birthday is a Good Deed by anyone’s standards, but the truth is, she is our rock, and a ton of fun, besides. She doesn’t care to entertain anymore, so instead, she is always Open for Breakfast. For the last several years, you’ll find any or all of her children in her kitchen of a morning – occasionally even daughter Lee, who lives in Calgary. Poached eggs on Portuguese bread: that’s all she serves, and it’s spectacular. This is the family roundtable: it’s where the town gossip is relayed, family meals are discussed, and most importantly, it’s where lengthy summer discussions take place about which beach, whose car, and what kind of sandwiches.
I look forward to these breakfasts more than I can say. While visiting with her one morning recently, I got a little sentimental and said, “Not to be maudlin, but I will remember these years of coming here like this the rest of my life.” Tessie laughed, and zinged back, “Who says you’re going to outlive me?”
Sometimes you just have to wonder: Who’s helping who?