I can't remember ever having felt more welcomed.
That was several years ago. Edna was one of my grandmother's younger sisters.
One of my earliest memories is of being at church. The walls were turquoise and I was running. I threw my arms around stockinged legs (I wasn't much more than knee height) thinking I had found Grandma. When I looked up, I realized that it was not Grandma I had caught, but one of her sisters. I think it was Edna who was the recipient of my spontaneous hug that day. She had laughed and bent to hug me back.
Grandma Christena passed away when I was six and several of her sisters became my favorite aunts. Aunt Esther was the one who had owned and lived in our house, the one I grew up in, before my family bought it several years before I was born. Aunt Evelyn was a reflexologist and spoiled me early for foot rubs. My Grandpa Sam and I would stay at Aunt Henrietta's house when we went fishing sometimes. Those three lived far away, but Aunt Edna lived in town and I saw her frequently.
I remember one time she came out to our house to visit. We spent the afternoon sitting in my mother's flower garden chatting and listening to Aunt Edna's stories. I always thought of Edna as quiet when I was young, but as I got older she got more talkative. My mom had rescued this set of monkey bars from an old school playground and had turned it into a trellis. When Aunt Edna realized what the trellis was, she said, "I used to be able to chin myself. I wonder if I still can." She proceeded to reach up and grab the bars above her head and easily lifted herself all the way up. I was blown away. I could barely do a chin up and I wasn't too many years past being a gymnast at that point. When I marveled out loud, she said, "Well I lift my hand weights every day you know," and flexed her bicep for me.
Aunt Edna passed away last night. I get this type of news via Facebook these days. It's a good medium for family news since my mother is no longer living to keep those of us who are no longer there informed by phone. Although it would have been nice to have seen her more often these last few years, I have no regrets about my final visit with Aunt Edna. It does make me stop and think, however, about the rest of the family and how deeply rooted I was as a kid. There was a time in my life when it seemed like the whole world belonged to me. Every other neighbor was a relative, or related to a relative. I could name every member of the church we attended by proximity to family.
Sometimes it strikes me that I live in that same kind of town, but in this place I don't have the history. I am new here. There are no cousins to categorize by generations once removed, twice removed, three time removed... There are no great aunts down the road or around the corner to make me imagine that this is what my own grandma would have been like had she lived to die of old age.
My Great Aunt Edna lived a long and full life. She has many grandkids and great-grandkids, as well as nephews and nieces (like me) who loved her dearly. She will be missed and remembered fondly.
Edna Misegadis Dirks
October 17, 1915 - April 9, 2011