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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Aunt Opal

My beloved Aunt Opal is seriously ill.  Cancer.  Eighty-nine and she has cancer.  She is so weak she keeps falling.  Now she is in the hospital with a subdural hematoma.  Aunt Opal has spent just about every Christmas with my Mom, her older sister.  I look through the pictures of family and Aunt Opal is there, always.

The last three years have dealt her health challenges.  And now this.  What does life hold for the this precious person?  This person that gave so much of herself to me during my childhood.  There were books, Little Golden Books, over 100 of them.  One every time she stepped off the Greyhound bus bringing her home for the weekend.  She bought me a tricycle.  Purses, bonnets, laughter.  Joy but most of all love.  The last visit to our home in Missouri she brought me a Little Golden Book.  It is in the shelf with what remains of the books she brought me 60 to 65 years ago.  She loves my husband and enjoyed a Jeep outing on that last visit to Missouri.

I was six years old riding all the way to California in the back seat of Freckles.  That was the name of the blue Chevy we travelled in that year.  It had rusty spots that made it look like it had freckles.  I had freckles almost the same color.  The seats were sort of a scratchy, gray fiber.  No air conditioning as we made our way across West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California.  It. Was. Hot. Windows down so long as it did not blow Momma's hair too much.  Stops at the Grand Canyon, Painted Desert and Carlsbad Cavern broke up the long miles for a six year old.

Being a huge fan of Roy Rogers (my maiden name is Rogers) and Dale Evans I could hardly wait to get to California.  We crossed the state line and every one in the car noted we were in California.  I was sitting next to the left backseat window.  I was near tears.  Aunt Opal asked what was wrong.  I told her Roy and Dale were not there to greet us.  I was very disappointed.  The car occupants erupted in laughter.  I was six, what did I know.

On that long road trip vacation Aunt Opal would love to tease me.  Endlessly it seemed.  One person in particular she used as the object of her teasing, a boy named Melvin Murley, M & M as she called him.  "Don't you wish you could see M & M?"  I would loudly rebuff her question.  Repeatedly came the M & M questions with the same reaction from me, "NO!"  Why does she think I want to be his girlfriend.  I had heard women say he still suckled his mom till he started to school.  Yucky!  One more time Aunt Opal said just 2 letters and a word, "M & M."

From the front seat Momma and Daddy could hear nothing but gales of laughter from Aunt Opal.  When amused, Aunt Opal would laugh till she was in tears gasping between the giggles.  Finally she was able to regain enough self control to tell what had happened.  One too many M & M comments had brought this recrimination from me, "I'll be glad when you are old and gray in a rocking chair!  I'll knock you a winding!"  That reaction has lived in infamy as part of my contribution to all the family lore.  That and the Roy not being at the state line to greet me.

Things changed somewhat when Aunt Opal married.  She and her husband would spend a couple of weekends a month with us in Chambersville.  Two daughters came along so the overnight stays stopped.  Christmases included Aunt Opal's growing family, eventually to include grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Some years ago I picked up a pack of Christmas cards.  There was one card among them that would need to go to Aunt Opal.  It was a rocking chair.  I no longer wanted to knock her winding in her chair.  Today I want to be in that back seat one more time snuggling up to her.  I want to see her coming in on the Greyhound bus to spend the weekend.  She does not need to bring a Little Golden Book.  I just want to see her and feel her love one more time.  Maybe I can take her a package of M & M's.

Who needs child seats when you can just jump while eating.

Christmas 1972 at my home.

Christmas mid 1970's at Margaret's house.

Christmas mid 1980's, Arlene's home.

Christmas at Momma's in Allen.

Aunt Opal and grandchildren, Christmas late 1980's.

Aunt Opal with her daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
2013 Christmas gathering.  Santa, Mom, Aunt Opal and newest great grandson.

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