Aunt Freda

I saw my dear Aunt Freda yesterday.  Well, she’s not really my aunt.  She’s my first husband’s dad’s mom’s brother’s wife.  We’re only related through marriage on both sides and both our husband’s have died.  So she’s really no relation at all.  But I call her my aunt.

During podiatry school, while most of my classmates were partying on Saturday nights, we’d often drive the 40 minutes to see Gib and Freda.  We’d sit in their living room watching reruns of Hee-Haw and The Lawrence Welk Show.  It’s not that we were great fans of Lawrence Welk, but that’s what they liked to do, so that’s what we liked to do because we liked to be with them.

Then we’d listen to stories.  Ones we’d heard before, but we’d hear them again and smile.  Stories about country school houses and the things the students had done.  Or how they’d managed through some hard times.  Or a grand travel adventure that Freda had gone on to a big city.  Or how Gib milked the cows during all kinds of weather.  Or of tractors getting stuck.  Or raccoons in the feed.

There was usually an art show to be appreciated.  Sometimes we had to look behind the china cabinet or a chair.  Sometimes in the bedroom or kitchen.  We were searching for the latest painting Freda was working on.  She had so many that she was running out of places to stash them in their small home.  She was always involved in a class or project – keeping her brain active and her social calendar full.  We’d get to hear the latest song she was learning to play on her organ.  Then she and I would go to her back porch and make sure the stray cats had enough food.  And I’d listen to more stories about the latest kitty antics that had amused her during the week.  And we’d whisper about girl things that the boys didn’t need to know – like how much she spent on cat food in a month.  We had secrets.

We never left hungry.  Usually Freda had some salads and sandwich makings she’d get out of the fridge for us.  If it could be made into a salad, Freda would make a salad.  We had pasta salad, fruit salad, jello salad, any salad you can think of.  Sometimes we’d go to the local small-town diner where Freda knew everyone.  “Oh, I taught him from 3rd grade to 8th grade, then I taught his son, too.  Now his son is a grown man himself.”  And she’d wave and say hello.  Gib would just sit quietly and smile.

She fretted about Gib a lot.  Was his chair comfortable for his back?  Had he gotten all his medicine that day?  Was his hair combed well?  Was he wearing the right suspenders to go to town?  We worried about her when he died.  At Gib’s funeral, Jeff figured we might have seen Freda for the last time.  Then when she fell and broke several bones including a hip, again we thought we’d seen her for the last time.  Eventually Jeff saw her for the last time.  But not because Freda died, but because Jeff did.  Life is strange.

I caught up with Freda a bit yesterday.  As I sat beside her, she put one arm around me and with the other hand she squeezed mine.  She pressed her soft cheek against my face and spoke encouraging words.  I treasure that.

She told me how she loves waking up every morning. She’s been on dialysis for six months now.  She’s made friends with the others who take the two-hour bus ride to dialysis three times a week.  She reads the morning devotions at the dialysis center.  She brings activities like stringing beads for the patients to work on while they sit in their chairs tied to the machines.  She still plays her organ in her room at The Village where she lives. The resident cat who adopted her still lives in her room.  He’s 15 years old now.  She writes for The Village paper every month.  She helps the activities director keep the other residents busy.  Her eyes sparkle.

My dear Aunt Freda, you are an inspiration to me.  Thank you for sharing your zest for life.  I love you.

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1 Comment

  1. Holding On

     /  September 11, 2011

    What a Blessing of Comfort from your savior. Everyone needs an Aunt Freda.

    Reply

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