Yesterday I found out that my Great Aunt (sister to my father's mother) died. I was at work when I heard, and work isn't really the time or place for processing such things, so I shoved it down and went along with my day, until I could get home and write in my journal. And as I wrote in my journal about how I felt, and the impact Cordelia Ann Richmond Dew had on my life, memories suddenly bubbled up from the repressed darkness.
Until that moment, I hadn't realized that I thought of the summer of 1994 as The Terrible Summer- I mean, I didn't really think of it at all, so how could I have a Title for it?- but apparently I do. And one of the things that happened during The Terrible Summer was that my brother and I, eight and thirteen, went to live with Aunt Dee and Uncle Gene while my dad was poked and prodded, poisoned and sliced open, and all those other things they do to try and save you when you're very very sick. In the haze of recently-recovered adolescent-memories it seems as though we stayed with them The Whole Summer, but I know it wasn't- surely it wasn't more than a month, maybe even only three weeks. Regardless, three or four weeks is a very long time for a child (even a very clever child who has had to do a lot of growing up over the previous few months) to be sent to live with a great-aunt with whom she's never been around except in the company of the rest of her boisterous family.
I was not very gracious about it. I don't mean that I was a brat, or rebellious, or anything like that- I was too much the Goody-Two-Shoes for any sort of negative acting out- but I was very, very self-centered and selfish, and spent a great deal of time alone. My memories are of swimming in their pool, discovering MTV on the television in their office (I have very vivid memories of watching the video for Black Hole Sun over and over again), and reading Renegades of Pern in the room that had been designated as mine. I remember finding Dee's copy of How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, and devouring it, and her providing me with reams of printer paper (remember when it was perforated?) to practice on, because she was an artist too and understood. And I rememer her patiently showing me how to use the type writer so I could labor over my Very Epic SciFi Adventure Romance Story wherein a bunch of teenagers were abducted by aliens and dumped (naked, naturally) on an uncivilized planet to see if they'd survive (and breed, also naturally). Definitely the main character was based on me (her name was Leia naturally) and the main love interest was 100% based on my three-years-older-than-me-crush. And the other characters were also based on my best friends at the time and their crushes. Just... thank goodness the Internet wasn't ubiquitous yet, that's all the commentary I have on that.
But back to the heart of the matter.
What I'm saying here with this long and rambling and typically self-centered bit of prose is that I spent a lot of time alone that month, doing and thinking about the things that suited me- and Dee gave me the space and support that I needed to do and think about those things. She didn't hover, she wasn't trying to make me talk about shit I didn't want to talk about. She was just... there for me. And for my brother, who doesn't feature much in my self-absorbed memories of that time (beyond one moment of him dumping ketchup on his mashed potatoes, and her laughing). And for my parents, who surely were having a much more hellish time than we were. And for her sister, who was thereby freed to be with her son during said hellish time (something I now appreciate in a way that never would have occurred to me before I had my own son). Dee was just... there, doing what needed to be done, and doing it without complaint while finding a way to smile and laugh and encourage you and give you what you actually needed rather than what society said you needed. She was loving and accepting and smart and funny and loyal and wonderful, and I'm so grateful for what she did for me and for my family. So grateful to have had her in my life at all.
I just hope she and her big sister picked a really excellent shade of crimson to slather the Hereafter with.