Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Aunt Jeanette

Got the news this morning that my Aunt Jeanette died yesterday evening. She would have been eighty-six next month. Bless her.

She was my mom's sister, the one just younger than Mom. Grandma and Grandpa raised a family of seven children, one boy first and then six girls. Aunt Jeanette was right around twenty years old when I was born.

After World War II ended, she married my handsome Uncle Don. They then moved to southern Illinois and lived in a teeny-tiny trailer while he went to school and Aunt Jeanette worked to support them. After graduation they came back home to northern Illinois.

Some of my earliest memories are of being taken places by them. Ice skating in our city park, to a carnival, on hikes, to Uncle Don's mom's house where they were doing some painting. I distinctly remember picking up the paint brush when all adult backs were turned and quickly painting my white leather shoes.

All seven of the aunts and uncles (my parents included) lived and raised their families within a few miles of each other. There were thirteen of us cousins that grew up together. All the families celebrated every holiday and birthday together. Later on when I was in high school, there was a rash of little babies again which added six more to the extended family.

Aunt Jeanette had four children of her own . . . two boys first and then a little later two girls. She did day care for twin boys (toddlers) at one point . . . who would have guessed that it would be in preparation for the arrival of her own twin granddaughters when she was seventy-two! At that point, she jumped in with both feet to help her youngest daughter with the babies for months often staying overnight.

She was the ultimate homemaker creating a warm, comfortable home. Great cook, fantastic baker. I know she gave away millions of pounds (I'm not kidding) of baked goods and was forever packaging up meals to deliver to someone in need or sending goodies to kids away at school . . . or to us living six hundred miles away. Uncle Don often said he should buy stock in 3M because she went through so much tape and wrapping material.

I talked to her sometime last week. Even though the conversation was difficult because of her heavy medication, her sunshiney outlook and quirky sense of humor still came through. She had what sounded like laryngitis and said she would call me when her voice was better.

Aunt Jeanette was the very last of a generation. The last one of my aunts and uncles to go. Her passing truly does signify an end. I think I'll always remember all of them as they were when I was growing up. My daughter says that's how it should be.

I told Aunt Jeanette often that I wanted to be just like her when I grew up. I'm still working on it. She gave me a lot to shoot for.


Mama JJ said...

That's a very kind tribute. How fortunate you were to have an aunt like her---someone to admire and emulate. I always am in awe of people who manage to stay positive even when sick.

Will you be traveling for the funeral?

Mama Pea said...

Mama JJ - Yes, a positive attitude was just a way of life for her. She could always seem to find the good side to any situation. We're waiting to hear from my cousin on what arrangements are being made, but I'm guessing she will have chosen not to have a formal funeral as that is what her husband chose ten years ago.

Claire said...

It sounds like she lived a very full life, with a lot of family and a lot of love. I bet you will miss her a lot.

Sue said...

She was truly a success in life-to have others think well of us when we pass means we must have done something right!
Sorry for your loss-she sounds like a very special lady.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Claire - Thanks for taking the time to comment. The only thing I can every remember my aunt being the least bit "grumpy" about was the fact that after Uncle Don died, she just didn't like living alone. Can't blame her there though, can we? But she still stayed as busy as her age would allow and, as I say, was always cheerful.

Hi, Sue - I think you voiced an important "bottom line." To have others think well of us . . . yup, she was a special lady alright!

Thanks for your comment.

Erin said...

So sorry to hear about your loss, but you have definitely done her justice with your post. My grandparents had "a compound" of sorts when I was younger, with their children building homes on their land as well. Unfortunately, when they died, their house was sold and one family moved away. It was amazing as a child to have family all around me to go to anytime - not many people have that, and I really miss it now that we are so far away. Looks like your aunt's family had it, and appreciated it, and your whole family is better off for it! I am sure you have wonderful memories of growing up with her, and she knew what a wonderful extended family she had and helped create.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Erin - The one, single regret we have about moving up here to Minnesota is leaving family . . . the fact that our daughter didn't have the opportunity to grow up around a large extended family.

RuthieJ said...

My condolences to you Mama Pea. Aunt Jeanette sounds like one very special lady!

Mama Pea said...

Ruthie - Thank you very much. I think my Aunt Jeanette's passing hit me especially hard because she was the last of the "adults" of my family I grew up knowing and loving. But it happens to all of us sooner or later . . . and then WE end up being the "older" generation.

Deanna said...

May we all strive to be like Aunt Jeanette.
I am sorry for your loss.

Mama Pea said...

Hi, Deanna - Thank you for your comment re my Aunt Jeanette. I was just thinking today that her sense of humor and sunny disposition was perhaps what enabled her to make it well into her 80s in good shape. A lesson we all need to follow, huh? I'm gonna try to keep that in mind. And in practice.